The NCAA is proposing three new experimental rules to address ongoing complaints about stalling and a lack of scoring action, and plans to take them for a test drive at the 2014 NWCA All-Star Classic, the organization announced Tuesday.
Pending the approval of the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel in June, these rules will be put to the test for just one event – the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star event, traditionally featuring matches with the top two wrestlers in each weight class – to be held Nov. 1 at the University of Pennsylvania.
If the experimental rules prove effective in encouraging action and reducing stalling, the NCAA may then seek to implement the changes throughout college wrestling, not just for the All-Stars.
Two of the experimental rules specifically address the ongoing issue of stalling. The first rule focuses on wrestlers who step out of bounds with both feet while in a neutral position. That wrestler would be called for stalling. The second experimental rule involves situations when the top wrestler in a kneeling starting position drops down to a lower extremity (a knee, for example) or uses a side headlock, a strategy employed by a number of current college wrestlers to preserve a lead. When either situation occurs, the referee will start a five-second count with his arm. If the top wrestler fails to start action before the count of five, stalling will be called.
As in the past for stalling calls, there will be a warning for the first offense, and a point awarded to the other wrestler for the next offense. A wrestler can be disqualified once his opponent has been awarded stalling points a total of three times.
The third experimental rule change for the All-Stars would provide more rewards for a wrestler who has earned a position of control. For example, when a wrestler scores a takedown or reversal to earn top position, and the action comes to a natural stoppage point – for instance, when the wrestlers go out of bounds – the top wrestler can choose the option of resuming the action in the neutral (standing) position, rather than an automatic kneeling position as presently mandated.
In addition, with this experimental rule, there would be a change in scoring procedure. In cases where a wrestler has earned control, instead of automatically awarding a point to the opponent of the wrestler making the choice, no point would be awarded. In situations where position of control has not been earned – for example, at the start of the second or third period – a wrestler can elect to release his opponent after a break in the action, and the opponent will receive a point.
What’s the NCAA’s thinking behind these experimental rules which may make their one and only appearance at the 2014 NWCA All-Star Classic?
“The Wrestling Rules Committee is trying to be forward-thinking in their approach to potential new rules,” said Ron Beaschler, the NCAA secretary-rules editor for wrestling and the head coach at Ohio Northern. “The committee is looking at ways to ensure there is action during matches to make it fun and exciting to watch and easier to understand to the casual fan, yet easier for the officials to officiate.”
Addressing age-old problems
It could be argued that discussion of issues such as stalling and less scoring is as old as the sport of wrestling itself. Look at newspapers and amateur wrestling publications of 30 or 50 or 80 years ago, and there were columns and articles complaining about lack of action and lack of scoring.
In February, a number of wrestling writers took on the topic. One was Andy Hamilton, award-winning columnist for the Des Moines Register, who provided a detailed analysis of the state of college wrestling on Feb. 12, writing, “College wrestling is becoming tedious. Scoring is down. Inactivity is up." Hamilton then cited specific examples to back up his claim.
InterMat colunnist T.R. Foley, wrote in his Foley's Friday Mailbag of Feb. 14, “Wrestling has gotten stale at the NCAA level, even as it has become arguably the most exciting it's ever been at the international level… For the first time ever FILA's rules seem to work better than the NCAA's at creating scoring and excitement.”