According to the NCAA's release, these are the rules they'll be asking for coaches to discuss at their annual meeting this summer:
1. "... wrestlers who step out of bounds with both feet while in a neutral position. In this scenario, the referee will call stalling on that wrestler."
2. "... from a kneeling starting position on the mat, the wrestler in the top position drops to a lower extremity or uses a side headlock. In either of these situations, the referee will make a visual five-second count using his arm. If the wrestler who started in the top position doesn't make an attempt to engage in action before the referee reaches the count of five, the referee will call stalling."
3. "... a wrestler earning a position of control, such as a takedown or a reversal to earn the top position, and the action comes to a natural stoppage. An example of a natural stoppage would be when the wrestlers go out of bounds. In the proposed experimental rule, instead of beginning in a kneeling position on the re-start, the wrestler who earned the top position can indicate to the referee that he elects for the next action to begin in the neutral position. (No point would be awarded for the escape)"
Nahshon Garrett and Jesse Delgado battle in the NCAA finals (Photo/Simon Jimenez, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)There are plenty of scenarios to suss out, and many, many ways for craftier wrestlers to exploit the rule changes. It's not too difficult to see there will be some belly-aching should a wrestler make an attempt at a takedown on the edge, but end up being pushed out for a stall call. What happens if both feet go out during a scramble? Will restarts where the top wrestler pushes out the bottom wrestler be called stalling?
A discussion of what might happen is sure to progress through the comments section, but what about the bigger questions? Why are we not addressing what it is we want the wrestlers to accomplish on the mat? We're missing the bigger picture on what we want from the sport of American wrestling. Do we want takedowns and points? Or do we want falls? Do we want action? Or do we want the illusion of "fairness?"
It's obvious (to me) that in order to please more coaches and fans, the committee has intentionally blurred boundary lines -- both physical and temporal -- to compensate for a lack of desire to make concrete decisions. The 32-foot circle use to be the steadfast out-of-bounds demarcation, as in literally out-of-bounds, but recently the committee sought to create action by making that line irrelevant and extending wrestling to virtually all wrestle-able surfaces. There is still an out-of-bounds, but now it's sort of an amorphous conglomeration of judgmental boundaries that includes hardwood floors, other mat space, scorer's table and simple referee discretion.
Compare this to the international set of rules which treats the out-of-bounds line like a ring of fire. That hardened approach to the boundary has created massive action in the center of the mat. Scoring is up by almost 200 percent across all styles and though pushouts occur regularly, they do so mostly as a penalty to defensive wrestlers and draws them into creating scoring actions.
The NCAA's rules want to address this problem, but instead of getting to the heart of any matter, they simply come up with a patchwork of solutions -- each as susceptible to gamesmanship as the rules that preceded their implementation.
The NCAA has also grayed the lines with the idea of what a match has become in terms of time. International rules don't have overtime, and that's because at some point wrestling -- when decided by points, not pin -- must come down to some criteria or else simply run into perpetuity. The calculation of the international community was to make athletes compete in the time given and level out the time of the match so that everyone knows what to expect. No gamesmanships is available to a wrestler who doesn't have the one shot miracle takedown in overtime. Remember the ball draw? The elimination of overtime also eliminates playing for coin flips in OT or riding out a leg. Six minutes, get it done or don't.
The NCAA is trying to address their own failures in creating definitive ends to boundaries and matches by eliminating the side headlock and dropping to the leg. These are without question the two most popular moves in rideout scenario, and yet instead of addressing the problem that rideouts exist at all, the committee chose to quasi-eliminate the overuse of popular moves.
At the center of the rules interpretation is something much more disturbing. The NCAA Wrestling Committee is now the head for all wrestling rules in the United States and yet they have no oversight and accept very little influence sans annual reports from the convention.
Scholastic style is the traditional wrestling style of the American people and whether or not we like it, the NCAA has hijacked our ability to determine what type of matches we want to see. The NCAA takes a beating for a lack of transparency (as they should) but instead of just restricting food intake, they are now leading a traditional sport in whichever direction they choose without clearly stating their guiding principles or intentions.
What is their operating motivation? TV Ratings? Scoring? Pinning? What do they wish to accomplish in changing the rules each year?
The NCAA doesn't govern the universal rules of football, basketball, baseball or soccer. Their rules are mostly static. Why should we let wrestling's largest stakeholders and those deciding the future of the sport be appointed and approved through a largely opaque process with no accountability? Why can't there be an independent body able to look at these matters with clear eyes and a bent towards the history of the sport?
Say for example these rules fail, or more accurately that the last set of rule changes proved to be a detriment to the sport. What is the fallout for those who manipulate the rules? Are they kicked from the board? Are they asked to resign their post?
Also, just how diverse is this committee? Are there any student-athletes on the committee? Any press? Anybody who lives outside the oligarchy of Oz? What does the NCAA Rules committee handle, and what does the Championship committee cover? Who is the overseer of both?
Nothing about the organization is clear, and the more power they assume the less that the coaches and those invested in the sport can provide influence. Our fans have great ideas on what wrestling can become and though we live in a democratic society the rulers of our sport are appointed.
Look around the world and you'll find traditional wrestling styles that have been unchanged for hundreds and even thousands of years. The outfits, rules and dance that surround their style have importance within the culture. The choices they made, the people they've become, the people they want to be. Wrestling is a mirror on their cultures.
I hope that's not true in America. The America I enjoy is one that elects decision-makers, that opens the floor to debate and that sets out clearly-defined goals. Right now the America that I see reflected in our wrestling style is soulless, profit-focused, reactionary and exploitative bureaucracy accountable to nothing and nobody.
The rules will change. People will either enjoy them, or hate them, but at the end of the day the process is run by the same dozen people, none of whom are elected and none of whom are accountable.
To your questions ...
Q: Can anyone stop Logan Stieber from becoming a four-time NCAA champ? If so, who?
-- Gregg Y.
The other answer is "Logan Stieber" but he doesn't strike me as self-destructive. The only things keeping Stieber from winning four straight titles is an injury. That's about it.
Q: Do you think Jason Tsirtsis has the skills to be a four-time NCAA champ?
-- Gregg Y.
Greg Jones (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)Foley: Having the skills to win it as a freshman guarantees that you have the skills to win it three more times. However, the odds of him winning three more titles are pretty slim.
Look at Greg Jones, arguably the most dominant freshman wrestler to win a title in the past 20 years. Jones looked like he'd cruise to four titles after an impressive freshman campaign, but he failed to place as a sophomore, losing to Ralph Everett (Hofstra) and Rashad Evans (Michigan State). His junior and senior seasons were laughable. He was hardly challenged en route to rattling off back-to-back titles.
In addition to the odds working against Tsirtsis, the middleweights see a lot of talent get trafficked through and for Tsirtsis that means guys like Hunter Stieber who come off redshirt seasons hungry to win a title.
Q: What are your feelings on the job Bob Patnesky is doing at Davidson? He's had four NCAA qualifiers in the past four years compared to two the previous 40, and three SoCon champs compared to zero since the late 60's. As an alum, I'm thrilled with the progress the team has made under his leadership. What, in your opinion, will it take to get Davidson from the bottom tier of the SoCon to consistently getting NCAA qualifiers?
-- Jason D.
Bob PatneskyFoley: I think it's likely that Davidson will stay near the bottom for a few years to come. Finding recruits is difficult at every school, and though Davidson is having more success, the separation between the haves and have nots is only widening. As you noted, Coach Patnesky is doing a great job with what he has, but for now that'll be the pace of growth until he gets a big star to help draw in more interest, fans and alumni support.
There is hope. Take a look at Franklin & Marshall and what they've been able to accomplish over the past couple of years. With the addition of Richard Durso's All-American plaque the program is likely to see more support both financially and in support from high school coaches sending their athletes to college.
Prove you can win and the talent will follow.
Highlight film from the European Championships
Citadel Highlight Film (Go, Turtog!)
Q: What are you hearing on the coaching search at West Virginia? Who would be a good fit?
-- Jim A.
Foley: There have been whispers of it staying in-house, but since it's a national search I'd expect to see at least a few big names to apply and think that Virginia Tech's Tony Robie would be a regional selection with some pop. Sammie Henson is the best coach in the country and though he seems cozy in Mizzou could be compelled to make the move for the type of head coaching position he deserves. Also keep any eye out on some of these Big Ten assistants who might be looking to start their own program.
Q: I'm looking at the new weight classes for this year's Worlds, and my basic takeaway is that there is really just one new weight class, which is 70 kilos (154 pounds). So what do you know about who will be competing at the different weights this freestyle season? Anyone you think was a tweener before, but might break out at a new weight class this year?
-- Brandon J.
Foley: The big name for the American side is Nick Marable at 70 kilos. He's shown that he can beat anyone in the world at 74 kilos, so having him at 70 kilos, I think, makes him a favorite to place at the World Championships. How to populate that weight class is still being figured out by coaches around the world, but early gold medal contenders include Turkey's GOP and Ruslan Dibirgadzhiyev of Azerbaijan.
Q: I have been licking my chops at the potential showdown between J'den Cox and the human cyborg known as Kyle Snyder. This rivalry is Dake vs. Taylor in its potential for epic-ness, and as fans we could get to see play out three times! Do you think J'den will make the jump to heavyweight next year? If this ends up happening I feel that the wrestling community should ban together, not unlike they did with the Save Olympic Wrestling campaign, and petition to make sure we see this Goliath vs. Goliath matchup at least once over the next three years.
-- Craig F.
J'den Cox defeated Nick Heflin in the NCAA finals (Photo/Simon Jimenez, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Foley: I hope you're right. To see those two battle all season long would be something for fans to follow all season. They're tremendous talents and pushing each other will not only make them better wrestlers. Remember, it's Cox who owns the last victory over Snyder. Though Snyder is certainly training to win an NCAA title, it's his freestyle that has been the most impressive part of his young development.
I actually favor Cox in the matchup. He's the right mixture of talent and poise and having already been in the college ranks he gets the idea of how to escape and ride when necessary. Still, this could be a three-year battle for supremacy and if the wrestling stays exciting, it would be a treat for the fans.