Riordan's Roundup: June 11, 2013

Over the last few days, the outcry of the wrestling public over FILA's newly published rules for Olympic wrestling has been intense. FILA has promulgated rules which include seven-point tech falls, and throw rules where matches end by a single five-point throw, or two three-point throws (so long as the wrestler is winning after the move). These rules diverge a bit from those agreed upon at the recent FILA congress, and wrestling fans feel a bit betrayed.

Some feel that FILA has taken a step back after many steps forward. I'd rather look at it as a shirt with another wrinkle left to iron. Progress is being made, but invariably we will encounter some difficulties. One can be happy about two things. First the rules as they stand now are still better than the old rules, and second, those responsible for creating these rules are making overtures towards transparency, something heretofore unprecedented among the higher ups at FILA.

While the seven-point tech fall does bother people, I think the majority of the issue is taken up by the throw rules. The idea that a single well-executed throw can end a match is a concept native to judo. At wrestling's most fundamental center lies the idea that the ultimate end of a match is the pinning of a competitor's back to the mat. While rewarding what are now referred to as "grand amplitude" throws (rather than "high amplitude," though I think the qualifier "grand" is an old term in the sport that has been resurrected) with instant victory may incentivize more aesthetically pleasing throws, it takes us farther away from the idea of the match-ending pin.

I should also note that the introduction of the throw rules skew noticeably in favor of Greco-Roman, which may need to resort to radical measures, such as these throw rules, to increase its appeal to viewers on the Olympic level. I'm sure the throw rules were introduced with visions of poster worthy throws dancing in the heads of the authors. This is a clear attempt to use the rules to engineer excitement in the sport. The problem is that freestyle, even under the previous rules, wasn't really in need of excitement. Its rules just needed to be streamlined. Greco is the sport which suffers from rampant inaction and a dearth of scoring. I have to imagine that the throw rules were included almost exclusively to benefit Greco.

Previously I alluded to the gesture of transparency which accompanied the publication of the rules. FILA vice president and former World champion Stan Dziedzic produced a document on Facebook defending each of the rule changes item by item. We should be encouraged by this, this shows that FILA takes seriously the need for openness and accountability. That said, Mr. Dziedzic's attempt at clearing the air ironically generates its own murk. I notice three issues in the document which could use additional explanation.

First Mr. Dziedzic's discussion of the HERACLES system ...
Some of the suggested changes, unfortunately, required too much time to reprogram the HERACLES system and possibly would require previously signed venue contracts to be renegotiated. Therefore, because of these logistical problems, it was agreed to table these changes for further discussion at a later date.
I am a simple fan. I don't know what the HERACLES system is. I assume it is some sort of scoring software. This makes me wonder, why would changes in software constitute material enough changes to necessitate the renegotiation of venue contracts? Furthermore, I really believe that Mr. Dziedzic ought to have taken this opportunity to explain exactly which suggested rule changes had to be tabled.
Allow me to make it clear; none of the suggestions is either Mikhail Mamashvili's or mine. Instead, they are the collective views of spectators, media; AND MOST SIGNIFICANTLY, some of the BEST WRESTLERS and COACHES in the WORLD -- past and present.
I never suspected that Mr. Mamashvili exerted any undue influence over these rule changes, that is, until this denial of his undue influence was issued in Mr. Dziedzic's statement. This passage raises the additional process question. We have input in the form of opinions from a world's worth of great coaches and athletes, and we have the output in the form of these new rules; what methodology was put into place to change the input into output? One would like to know the answers to several questions. How were the opinions collected? How were they tabulated? Was the same weight given to each opinion?

Stan Dziedzic (Photo/Larry Slater)
Simply stating that the opinion of many others was involved in a decision without explaining how does not provide transparency, it actually fosters opacity.

My last issue with Mr. Dziedzic's statement has to do with an omission rather than an assertion. Nowhere in the document does he address the most radical and controversial aspect of the new rules -- the throw rules.

The problem with publicly defending one's actions lies with the fact that the entirety of the actions must be defended; picking and choosing undermines the rest of the defense. I like the fact that FILA is trying to explain itself. I am optimistic that the substance of these explanations will improve in the future.


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cptafw163 (1) about 5 years ago
I am a wrestler that practices Judo, so I like this change (On the flip side, I didn't like the judo change to take out leg attacks). You have to remember that in the definition of a grand amplitude throw, you must throw someone and have them land forcefully to their back. That will cause a TOUCHFALL, so the 5 point throw/win rule is not bad at all. And freestyle, prior to any rule changes, was only minimally LESS boring to watch than Greco. Look at how many 1-0 and 1-1 periods there were at US nationals.
m_riordan (1) about 5 years ago
I'm disagree, I found the freestyle wrestling in the Olympics and last few world championships to be quite exciting.

Low scores are not necessarily dispositive. A 1-1 period could mean two takedowns in two minutes, a rate which would translate to twelve total points over a current match length.
m_riordan (1) about 5 years ago
I meant to say "I disagree"
cptafw163 (1) about 5 years ago
About the touchfall, I want to clearly state that a 5 point throw would most likely end up in a touchfall. Not that every 5 point would be a touchfall.
m_riordan (1) about 5 years ago
Page 28 of the FILA rules, and this is not a new revision-

"The instantaneous fall does not exist" (discussing throws to the back)

There is no such thing as a touchfall in freestyle or Greco, the FILA rules are clear in that regard
howiefartz (1) about 5 years ago
I honestly have mixed feelings about the 5 point rule. At the same time, its not like you see many in freestyle anyway. If I understand correctly the match would be over after such a move as long as that person is ahead? Most 5 point moves in freestyle that I have seen (or attempts anyway), tend to come at the end of matches when such a move is absolutely necessary. The only difference now would be that the match is over?
Curious, do you think this will change matches much? Will we see guys drilling more throws and attempting them on a regular basis? This can only add excitement in my opinion. But, you guys are the experts so please shed some more light on this.
cptafw163 (1) about 5 years ago
Howie, a 5 point wome will end the match reguardless of the score. However, executing two 3 point throws will end the match so long as you are winning after the execution of the second throw. That means that if the score is 6-6 after the second throw, they will continue to wrestle.
cptafw163 (1) about 5 years ago
Howie, in terms of how it will change the matches here is my take. On 5 point moves matches won't change much because we hardly see 5 point throws as they are largely opportunistic in nature. However, we will see more 3 point throws and takedowns than we have been seeing as people will go back to drilling them more often (prior to the last rule change).
cptafw163 (1) about 5 years ago
BTW, I have heard All-Americans from the last US nationals say they liked the period rules because they said, "If you have a bad period and get teched, you can still win the match." That is not in the spirit of the sport. I just want to see less non-action until the mast 20 seconds of a period where people go for a push out or takedown to clinch the period.
howiefartz (1) about 5 years ago
"However, we will see more 3 point throws and takedowns than we have been seeing as people will go back to drilling them more often (prior to the last rule change)."

I cant foresee how bigger point attempts is a negative. There are going to be times of course where perhaps a more skilled wrestler gets caught but that is what wrestling is all about and what makes it exciting! Somebody like JB with his blast dbl taking guys to their backs, I would think this is a great thing for him.
howiefartz (1) about 5 years ago
Just to clarify, I'm not saying that you thought of it as a negative, just sharing MY thoughts.
cptafw163 (1) about 5 years ago
I understood you. MR's argument was that the new rules drift away from pinning your opponent, however you only see pins in 1 of every 10 matches in freestyle/GR. How many pins were there in the finals of the Olympics? I can't recall one, but there may have been 1 or 2. Pins seldom happen at the high levels, so lets just reward throws that happen only slightly more than pins. It gives the fans more to look forward to.
cptafw163 (1) about 5 years ago
Zeke jones was spot on when he said that the rules need to be tailored so a spectator with NO wrestling experience can follow a match with relative ease. Then we can develop a fan base of people who have no emotional ties to wrestling.