2014 US Open

Let Common Sense Prevail: Eliminate Criteria, Implement OT

Let Common Sense Prevail: Eliminate Criteria, Implement OT

Apr 23, 2014 by Christian Pyles
Let Common Sense Prevail: Eliminate Criteria, Implement OT
Eliminate Criteria, Implement Overtime
Christian Pyles

10-10, you win. 12-12, you lost.

I’ve seen enough.

I’m referring to the way FILA has decided to end matches that are ending with tie scores. Just because the current match structure is preferable to the dreaded “ball draw” era, doesn't mean we should be thankful or accepting. I gladly acknowledge that FILA has taken some steps in the right direction: Two, three minute periods with cumulative scoring? Love it. Attempting to simplify the scoring system? Wonderful. However, the idea that ties have winners based on complicated criteria is illogical, confusing and disingenuous. The criteria is difficult to keep up with in the heat of battle, we don’t necessarily crown the best wrestler the winner and we are confusing fans on a regular basis.

I was watching a hotly contested FILA Jr quarterfinal. The match was close, and a late 1 pointer ‘tied’ the match up. As time ran out, one wrestler furiously worked to score, while the other backed away. The wrestler who believed he needed a point failed to score and ‘lost’ 4-4. They raised the other guys hand and we went on our way.

One problem. They raised the wrong guys hand. The Mat Chairman, confused by the criteria indicated red was the winner, the official raised his hand, and everyone went on their way. Until one of the coaches, who thought about it some more discussed the ruling with the official a few minutes later. Only then was the Mat Chairman consulted and told he had indicated the wrong winner by not following the criteria correctly.

So to recap: In this scenario we had a D1 wrestler, who had D1 Coaches in his corner, a star high schooler with extremely knowledgeable coaches in his corner, and 3 officials. None of them knew the criteria(initially), including the very people whose sole purpose is to know it so the proper winner can be named(officials). So the kid who thought he won had to be told he lost, and vice versa. 10 minutes after they left the mat.

I’ve seen it said that the responsibility is on the coaches and athletes to keep track of criteria. That clearly is a 'pie in the sky' statement considering officials themselves are having a difficult time tracking and appropriately applying criteria. That an athlete in a high scoring bout (as we are hopeful these rules will produce) would be able to do the check list of “Ok, we have the same amount of 4’s, but I think I have more 2’s but I didn’t see if my 2nd 2 was confirmed by the chair and judge because I kept wrestling and I looked up and it was 12-12. Gee I hope my coach knows, wait how many cautions does he have? Does that matter yet? Oh wait, I just got 4’d again because I’m doing math and not wrestling.”

Makes tons of sense.

Match after match, I saw officials taking extra time to sort out which athlete had criteria. I saw needless challenges extending the match time at the end of tied matches. Time wasting in the name of criteria that could be spent wrestling overtime and deciding an actual winner.

I’ve seen it suggested, even by my buddy Willie Saylor, that last score criteria is the way to go. I abhor this equally if not more than the current criteria. There is nothing about the order in which you score that indicates superiority. Only the points tabulated and the difference between them truly shows which wrestler is better. Just because something is simpler to understand, doesn’t necessarily make it a better option. I mean we could flip a coin at the end. It’s simple, but it doesn’t give us the better guy. Call me idyllic but I believe 'let the best man win' and I believe that is only achieved with overtime.

Some suggest that if overtime were to exist that we’d have more and more low scoring bouts, with guys satisfied to go to OT. However, there is not one available metric that aligns with that thinking. It’s an opinion. One that I believe is incorrect.

I stood there with Willie after the Anthony Valencia v. Isaiah Martinez match a bit stunned. I felt like I did a bad job commentating. Anthony Valencia won, and I didn’t know why, neither did Willie. Well, neither did Mark Perry or I-Mar, so I guess we were in good company. Even Anthony, when interviewed afterwards said he initially didn't realize he was ahead until his coaches notified him. I truly felt bad for the fans, maybe we had a casual/new fan listening. How the heck can I explain what I personally didn’t know?

If they’re going to continue with this system, I have a request:  If the score is tied, can there not be a simple ‘dot’ next to the person's score who has criteria? Does it really need to be a secret who is winning to both the wrestlers and the crowd?  

Adam Tirapelle, one of the most respected voices in the wrestling community often talks about simplicity and how imperative it is going forward for our sport. He had this to say about criteria:

“Simplify criteria or preferably go OT. Fans have to know who is winning the match. Easiest way to do this make one guy have to have more points than the other (duh).... This counting of higher point value moves is not only unnecessary, but confuses everyone as to who is actually ahead. I can’t see a way in which this type of dynamic criteria will ever work.”

These are the best wrestlers on the planet. Why are we attempting to rush through these matches like they’re a little league tournament? If you don’t want overtime with the younger kids and little league types, understood.  
Let’s have criteria then, sure. However, when we have the world’s best wrestlers on the stage, let’s take our time and get it right. If it means a few extra minutes of wrestling (God forbid) to let the wrestlers decide, wouldn’t it be worth it? 

In the Senior US Open last week 9 of the 390 matches came down to criteria, only 2.3%!  At FILA Jr's it was only 13 of the 699 matches that went to criteria, only 1.86%! (Thanks to Britt Malinsky for the data) The idea that this will drastically extend the length of tournaments is patently false.   

I'll leave you with some thoughts from PSU Head Coach Cael Sanderson:

"Criteria doesn't make sense in our sport (or any sport for that matter.) I believe it is more of the international FILA members that believe in criteria.

I sent a few tweets about this but wrestling needs to be a simple sport. Criteria is complicated and makes the sport confusing to fans, and potential fans. Points are given out based on the value of a technique. A five point throw is awarded five points because that is the predetermined value of the move. A push out is worth one point. That is predetermined. It makes no sense to then go back and say a five point throw is worth more than five 1 point pushouts. It's like saying one dollar is worth more than four quarters. Can you imagine football, basketball or baseball using criteria? It doesn't matter if you score more touchdowns than field goals or more 3 pt shots vs 2 pt shots. All that matters is the final score, not how you scored your points.

I have heard people say that the "criteria" is why more points are being scored. I disagree. More points are being scored because of better scoring as well as cumulative scoring across both periods. Better scoring because now a takedown is worth two. Before it was one. One nanosecond back exposure was worth twice as much as a takedown. Actually 3x as much in previous rules because one back exposure was worth two takedowns and if the score was tied the back exposure wins the match/period. So with a better reward being given for a takedown, we get more attempted takedowns.   A takedown being worth two points is huge for increasing action in freestyle wrestling. It's great.  The cumulative scoring as opposed to periods resetting is self explanatory as to why that would decrease action. There is no incentive to score any points after you have the lead.

You get what you reward."