By Prof. Harold Tüennemann
The FILA Athletes commission held its annual meeting at the 2011 Junior World Championships in Bucharest, Romania. Among the many topics discussed were rule changes from an athlete's perspective. The committee suggested providing a platform to give wrestlers a voice regarding the rules of our sport.
This is not a simple task whereby each National Federation polls its athletes and then proposes the most popular set of rules or criticizes the current rules. The process must be more thoughtful and thorough. All, including members of the FILA Bureau, find fault with the current rules. The limited number of technical points scored in the recent Greco-Roman World Championship demonstrates the problem. But changes often have unintended consequences when put into practice and must be thought-out carefully. There are guidelines, constraints and trade-offs that must be taken into account when deliberating.
For instance, some in the worldwide wrestling community would prefer two-3 minute periods cumulative-score-bouts to the current best-of-3, two-minute/period format, yet so far no one has provided a viable way to accomplish the change without adding to the total wrestling time or reducing action. If two-3 minute periods guaranteed scoring--thus eliminating the need for par terre in GR and the ‘clinch’ in FS--it could fit in the time construct. Unfortunately, experience cautions us that two-3 minute periods, cumulative-score bouts push scoring to the last minute, render less scoring/minute and in many cases produces scoreless bouts. In contrast, best-of-3 matches instill a sense of urgency each period, and have resulted in more scoring/minute. Any rule change suggestions should seek to reduce both the number of days and total time spent wrestling per day--while not limiting the number of entries. There were 900 competitors representing 104 different countries seeking not only to win a medal in the 2011 World Championships, but also to secure their participation in the 2012 Olympic Games. Wrestlers from 22 countries qualified for the 2012 London Olympics in GR, 16 in FW and 19 in FS. This demonstrates the diverse development of our sport worldwide and heightens the appeal to the Olympic movement. Unfortunately, seven days and roughly 8 hours each day of wrestling seems to have reached the endurance limits of the spectators and wrestlers. Any additional time will require more mats, additional days and/or reducing the number of wrestlers via a qualifying system. FILA, in its duties as the International Federation responsible for the advancement of the sport of wrestling, would be remiss if it denied developing countries the opportunity to participate in the World Championships.
Any suggestions must consider the potential trade-offs, constraints and envision potential consequences. Providing statistics that back-up recommendations would be helpful and improve the chances of any particular recommendation being considered. The challenge is to devise a set of rules that promote activity--defined succinctly as action points/minute with an emphasis to rewarding the more spectacular.
As Dr. Harold Tunnemann's enclosed analytics (available on the right side) reveal, following major rule changes there is a spike in activity, but the wrestlers adapt quickly. I refer to this as the new-rule-phenomenon. As a vivid example take the Greco-Roman reverse-body-lock introduced in 2004. In the aftermath of this then new reverse-body-lock rule, the number of points/minute skyrocketed, as did the quality of points with an unprecedented number of 5 point throws. More points/minute were scored at the 2005 Greco-Roman World Championships than at any other time in modern wrestling history. But too soon the points/minute and quality of points tumbled quickly as the bottom wrestlers became proficient at defending the reverse-body-lock. A similar outcome occurred in Freestyle in the late 1980's, when a forced par terre was substituted for a caution. Following the change, points/minute increased, but the number of takedowns decreased. The wrestlers scored in par terre until the world adjusted and became proficient at countering turns.
When formulating a set-of-rules, a long-term point of view is essential. This will allow wrestling to solve its year-to-year problems, yet maintain more consistency in its rules. In Freestyle, the best-of-three format and 'clinch' seems to have stood this test-of-time. Points/minute have steadily increased since the best-of-three format was introduced and the 'clinch' increasingly is less of a factor in matches involving the best wrestlers. In Greco-Roman no such consistent trend has occurred and may require a more dramatic change. It is important to test any rule modifications in competition. The early part of 2013 provides us an opportunity to test any suggestions before implementing rule changes for the next quadrennial. Immediately following the Olympic Games in London, the wrestling community will have a short window to access rule changes that will enhance our sport. Continuing to evolve along with the global community is necessary if wrestling is to maintain its importance in the Olympic movement.
Many of the national wrestling governing bodies already employ the on-line network or social media to communicate with its membership. In order to provide meaningful suggestions, FILA recommends that each National Federation use the social media or on-line network to convene a group of the most thoughtful current and ex-wrestlers in order to generate substantive ideas. This page will help manage, interact and monitor the conversation around rule modifications. It also is an excellent tool to display the athletes' insights and make the process more transparent and robust for your membership. To assist the process and to leverage what the social network offers and enhance the dialogue, FILA has added an Athletes category on its website. This page will help manage, interact and monitor the conversation around rule modifications. It also is an excellent tool to display the athletes' insights and make the process more transparent and robust for the FILA membership.
Next week, each National Federation will receive a user and a password by email. In addition, a link to Dr Harold Tunnemann's data compiled and presented at the FILA Coaches Clinic will be included.
Each Federation will receive only one password. After establishing a consensus of the best rule modifications, please use your password and post only the few most thoughtful modifications. Once FILA receives the suggestions, a committee comprised of FILA Bureau members--Mikhail Mamiashvili, Daulet Turlykhanov, Csaba Hegedus, Tomiaki Fukuda--and I will catalog the suggestions and bring them to the entire Bureau for discussion.
Chairman FILA Hall of Fame/Athletes Commission