INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Wrestling Committee is recommending a new rule that would allow the offensive wrestler to grant an escape to his opponent and choose to start in a neutral position.

Committee members believe the change will speed up the action.

“It will save time in positioning wrestlers,” said Bob Bubb, who is completing his term as NCAA wrestling secretary-rules editor (he will be succeeded by Ohio Northern wrestling coach Ron Beaschler). “This way, you eliminate any cautions that may occur, and it should speed up the match.”

High school wrestling adopted this rule recently, and it has received favorable reviews from referees and coaches at that level.

Some in the wrestling community equate the change to an intentional walk in baseball or softball. If a wrestler feels his chances are better from a neutral-position start, then the option to grant the escape saves time.

That recommendation and others made during the committee’s annual meeting April 11-14 in Indianapolis must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets via conference call on May 11. If approved, the recommendations will go into effect for the 2011-12 season.

The committee also recommended new criteria that better define the stalling rule and help ensure its consistent enforcement.

Stalling is defined as one or both wrestlers attempting to avoid wrestling action as an offensive or defensive strategy.

Wrestlers who consistently retreat to the edge of the mat, make no effort to move back into the wrestling area and fail to initiate action will be cited for stalling.

The rule will be applied in the following instances:

• A wrestler must only move forward or in a circular motion on a neutral start before making contact. A participant who steps backward is stalling unless it is to sprawl from an opponent’s takedown attempt.
• A wrestler is not permitted to back away from the opponent without creating action.
• A wrestler near the edge of the mat cannot step out of bounds unless it is to sprawl from an opponent’s takedown attempt or when interlocked. A participant will be called for stalling if he kicks out from a lower leg hold when this action results in the defending wrestler going out of the wrestling area.
• A wrestler who flees or attempts to flee the wrestling area as a means of avoiding being scored upon will be called for stalling. The committee considers fleeing as an attempt by a wrestler to avoid wrestling action; thus, it is considered a form of stalling and should be similarly penalized.

Wrestlers must make an attempt to sustain active wrestling and remain in the circle. The offensive and defensive stalling positions include:

• An offensive wrestler who does not aggressively attempt to break down the opponent will be called for stalling.
• Either wrestler pushing his opponent out of bounds to prevent scoring will be cited for stalling.
• The offensive wrestler grasping the defensive wrestler’s leg(s) with both hands or arms will be called for stalling, unless such action is designed to break down the opponent for the purpose of securing a fall or to prevent an escape or reversal.
• Any wrestler who repeatedly grasps or interlocks his hands around a leg without attempting an offensive move will be called for stalling.
• A defensive wrestler must initiate action to escape or reverse the opponent, or he will be called for stalling.
• A wrestler who repeatedly applies the legs while in the rear-standing position is stalling. An exception to this is when the defensive wrestler is in a standing position, the offensive wrestler is allowed reaction time to attempt to bring the opponent back to the mat.

“Now the first violation for stalling will be a warning, and then it will be a one-point penalty for a second violation,” Bubb said. “The third and subsequent violations will be one point, plus the opponent will be given the choice of the starting position.”

There is no longer a disqualification penalty involved in the stalling rule. The referee should no longer feel pressured to stop the match due to stalling.

Injury timeouts
The committee has become concerned that wrestlers have been using the injury timeout rule as a strategy to avoid wrestling action or being scored on.

Members are thus recommending that a wrestler who signals for an injury timeout that requires the 90-second injury clock to start should be penalized one point. It will be up to the official to determine if the one-point penalty should be applied.

The committee supports the current position that only a referee may call a timeout and has the prerogative to stop a match to determine whether an injury has occurred.

The rule change is not intended to change how officials are determining injuries.

Flagrant misconduct
Another recommendation involves the suspension of a coach or institutional representative for flagrant misconduct in the prematch, in-match or postmatch periods.

Persons cited for flagrant misconduct will not be allowed to participate in the team’s subsequent event. If flagrant misconduct occurs during the last event of the season, the suspension carries over to the first event of the next season. If someone from the medical team is cited, the coach would have to serve the penalty.

The referee will alert the NCAA national coordinator of officials as soon as possible after the match that a flagrant misconduct violation occurred.

“If a flagrant misconduct is called against a coach or institutional representative, that person has to leave the premises,” Bubb said. “The coach or institutional representative will be reported to the NCAA. It will come to the chair of that particular division for possible reprimand.”

In addition, the offending contestant will not be credited with points earned before the incident, nor will he receive placement points or an individual tournament award.

Other contestants will remain in their respective positions. In dual-team advancement tournaments, the flagrant misconduct penalty points are deducted only for the session in which the offense occurred.