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  • Photo: Larry Slater

    Photo: Larry Slater

    Seven Wild, Hypothetical Rule Changes for Greco-Roman

    G'Angelo Hancock at the 2020 Olympic Games (Photo courtesy of Larry Slater; LBSPhoto.smugmug.com)

    There really isn't anything wrong with Greco-Roman wrestling. However, whenever the World Championships or Olympics roll around, fans flock to Twitter with ideas on how to “fix” the sport. Due to the style, matches with a lot of points scored on the feet are rare. When some of the best competitors in the world face-off, it can be hard to put up any sort of points. UWW has been open to changing the rules before, so InterMat decided to make a few suggestions. The following are some wacky and not-so-wacky potential rule changes for Greco-Roman wrestling.

    Smaller Circle

    The current UWW wrestling mat is a 12 meter by 12 meter square with a circular wrestling area measuring 8 meters in diameter. The introduction of the step-out point has added scoring to both freestyle and Greco, and many fans are desperate to see it added to folkstyle as well. While the best Greco wrestlers are incredibly hard to move around the mat at all, step-out points are a viable way to put up points. By making the circle smaller, UWW could make that path to points all the more accessible.

    The argument against the smaller circle is that Greco could become similar to sumo and end up being a shoving contest. However, wrestlers already fight to hold position in the center of the mat in hopes of a passivity call. Also, sumo is pretty damn exciting. Who would not want to watch Hakuho versus Mijain Lopez?

    Par Terre Innings

    Many matches simply turn into stalemates in the neutral position, and both wrestlers wait for their opportunity to get on top in par terre. Since this is already happening with regularity, why not make it part of the rules. Hypothetical a match could take place as follows.

    The match starts with a three-minute period, much like under the current system. After the end of the period, the wrestler with the lead, or the winner of a coin flip in the case of a tie, gets an entire 30-second period to score as many points as possible from the top position in par terre. If the bottom wrestler escapes or reverses, the match is restarted with the original wrestler on top.

    After the 30-second period, the other wrestler gets their opportunity to score from the top. This continues for another two rounds. Thus the match is still scheduled for six minutes and consists of one three-minute period and six 30-second periods. Obviously, with an entire 30 seconds allowed on top, the superiority rules would need to be adjusted as well.

    This match format would maximize scoring opportunities in par terre, which is where most of the scoring in Greco happens without eliminating neutral wrestling entirely.

    Eliminate Tie-Breaking Criteria

    While the previous suggestion might be a bit too extreme for purists, the innings idea could easily be adapted to use as a tie-breaker instead of criteria. There is a lot of split among fans about criteria or overtime being superior. However, you would be hard-pressed to find someone satisfied with a 1-1 victory. China's Walihan Sailike won a bronze medal at 60 kg and three of his four matches ended with a 1-1 score. Perhaps criteria can stick around but only apply to matches with a two-point score? It would be an improvement for sure.

    Ippon Throws

    In judo, the competitors can win the match at any time with a throw that has “considerable force and speed” and lands “largely on his/her back.” Regardless of the score, a feet-to-back throw can end the bout. At times in Greco, a four or five-point lead can seem almost insurmountable. By instituting the ability for a wrestler to win the match with four or five-point throws could give the bout a bit of excitement and encourage more dynamic offense.

    On the other hand, anyone who took the opportunity to watch some judo during these Games knows that the sport has its own fair share of plodding defensive contests.

    Free Activity Clock

    In freestyle, a wrestler called for passivity is put on a 30-second activity clock. If the competitor fails to score during that 30 seconds, the other wrestler is awarded a point. What if this worked the opposite way in Greco? After a wrestler is called for passivity, the other wrestler is given a 30-second clock where only he/she can score. This would allow that competitor to go for a variety of wild attacks without fear of counters or repercussions. It would still be hard to score against some of the top wrestlers, but it would certainly make for exciting matches.

    Different Par Terre Starting Positions

    Currently, the top position wrestler in par terre must have both hands on the opponent's shoulders, but they can be standing or have their knees on the ground. To increase scoring, UWW could allow wrestlers to choose a variety of different starting positions. For example, if a competitor was able to start with a reverse lock, there would almost certainly increase scoring. On the other hand, this might open scoring too much and make it nearly impossible for the defending wrestler.


    While many of these rule changes would not cause dramatic changes to the sport, the same can't really be said about this suggestion. Allowing joint locks or choke would drastically change Greco-Roman wrestling. In theory, it would open up a lot of opportunities to finish and scoring. However, it is extremely unlikely to happen since it would pretty much eliminate the essence of the style. For the combat sports nerds, It would certainly be interesting to see the impact of submission in a sort of test event.

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