Getting out the rulebook
Rules changes have fans and some officials scratching heads
Even the wrestling-savvy fans of longtime power Oklahoma State showed that not everyone gets the memo.
During the top-ranked Cowboys’ dual meet against Arizona State on Jan. 20, Sun Devil 285-pounder Levi Cooper injured his shoulder during a flurry that led to a takedown by opponent Alan Gelogaev. After Cooper’s brief injury timeout, Gelogaev was given his choice of starting positions. The crowed heed and hawed, thinking Gelogaev, after securing a takedown, should have started in the position of advantage in the referee’s position.
Coaches on both benches had a good laugh.
New rules state that an opponent is given his choice of positions after the first injury timeout. All subsequent injury timeouts result in a point. The change is one of a handful that mat fans are starting to get used to as March draws near.
Another noticeable change includes the elimination of a rule that allowed what many referred to as 'kissing your sister,' or more formally, dual meets that end in a tie. It wasn’t the first tie of the season, but the Jan. 7 Oklahoma State and Iowa slugfest in Iowa City sent many scrambling for the new NCAA guidelines.
The rivals ended in a 16-16 stalemate on the team scoreboard with each squad winning five bouts, including a major decision for both teams.
What was the next tiebreaker? Some fans thought near fall points; others takedowns. Rule 3.15.3 shows total match points accumulated throughout the dual meet will determine the winner in the case of a tied team score after all bouts are completed.
“You don’t think about some of that stuff until it happens,” Oklahoma State head coach John Smith said. “But, as a program, we take pride in scoring points. So, if it comes down to breaking some sort of tie, then the team that scores more points should be the winner.”
The majority of dual meets that have ended in ties have gone to the third tiebreaker. Wyoming edged Oregon State, Rutgers beat Navy and Cornell edged Binghamton under similar circumstances. Division III No. 1 Wartburg’s lone blemish came against DI Wisconsin, but only after the two teams wrestled to a 16-16 draw.
Wrestling has added some additional drama post-match: fans' waiting and adding points in their heads while officials count individual bout totals. Everyone was scrambling in Vestal, N.Y., on Jan. 14. Binghamton had a pin, a technical fall and a major decision. Cornell, likewise, had one pin, a tech and a major.
Following the rules by throwing out the pins and technical falls, Binghamton totaled 41 in individual match points, Cornell 44.
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Did you know?
One of the stars of the recently released movie Red Tails is former wrestler Nate Parker. A state champion in Virginia in 1998, Parker started his collegiate career at Penn State before transferring to Oklahoma where, in 2002, he was a fifth-place finisher at the NCAA Championships. Parker has also appeared in the films The Secret Life of Bees, The Great Debaters and Pride.
Iowa wrestlers woke up on Jan. 7 with an 84-match unbeaten streak. Oklahoma State ended that streak with a 17-16 victory in Carver-Hawkeye Arena later that evening. Two weeks later, the Hawkeyes put a 39-match Big Ten streak on the line on the road at Ohio State. The Buckeyes handed Iowa a 21-9 defeat. Two days later 2011 NCAA champion Penn State made it three consecutive losses for Iowa with a 22-12 victory. The last time Iowa lost three consecutive matches was in 2006. The Jan. 24 NWCA Poll had Iowa ranked No. 7. Coach Tom Brands’ squad hosts No. 3 Minnesota Sunday.
What are the odds?
Oklahoma State and Iowa State, two of collegiate wrestling’s top mat programs, met in Stillwater on Jan. 22. The top-ranked Cowboys easily beat the Cyclones 33-6 but the win had a bit more significance. The two programs each entered the dual with 1,013 all-time victories dating back to pre-World War I days. The win put the Cowboys in the top spot despite 167 fewer duals than the Cyclones. Oregon State ranks third with 966 duals wins. Iowa (901), Minnesota (885) and Navy (847) round out the top six.
"There was a lot of confusion," Binghamton head coach Pat Popolizio said. "I got a couple of calls from some people later that night telling me they thought we won the dual; that I should go back and look at some things. The rules don't make it so easy and the officials didn't seem too sure of things.
"They are going to have some stuff to talk about when the season is over."
Rule 3.15.2 states: Combined total of falls and technical falls.
The next section, 3.15.3, includes total match points.
Major decisions are not mentioned anywhere in Rule 3.15.
Changes for starting positions and tiebreakers are mostly cut and dry. However, there are still some sticky points officials have to deal with, mainly wrestling on the edge of the mat.
Usually during the course of a match wrestlers get tangled up near the edge of the circle with one in a better position than the other. It used to be called 'fleeing the mat or hold' and was called infrequently. New rules dictate no more 'fleeing the hold' to get off the mat, but a stalling call instead for the athlete who does not make an attempt to keep wrestling inside the circle. It will always be a matter of interpretation.
"We do not have a push-out rule," official Pat Fitzgerald said. "And some interpret it as being that. It's still about interpretation and officials have struggled with that as much as anybody. Fans, coaches and wrestlers all have their opinions. The next [NCAA Rules] Committee meeting will have some discussion."
Another noticeable sore spot has been something as simple as a clean start from the referee's position.
The bottom wrestler is set. The opponent is then set. Whistle blows. Start wrestling. But some officials delay a little longer than others when blowing the whistle, forcing false starts by one competitoror the other. A handful of duals, including the Iowa-Oklahoma State dual, had a match that was determined by the inconsistency of a whistle.
"You've got two guys ready to explode, so getting a clean start can be difficult," Fitzgerald said. "One coach thought it would be good to do away with the second 'set' and, as long as the top guy isn't floating through the position, blow the whistle.
"Again, officials do things differently."
Getting them as close as possible, as far as interpretation, will continue to be the challenge.