The new rules are finally here. Everyone knows what they are for, and everyone knows who they hurt (people who don’t have forward pressure on their feet, stalemate to ride, or play the edge), and everyone can think of a few wrestlers who passed up a lot of their competition overnight. However intrigue still remains, because rules have unintended consequences, and this set will be no exception.
Dropping to leg as a means of riding was somewhere between a hobby and an obsession for a handful of NCAA wrestlers, but now with that referees may be instructed to swipe a five count against them (ironic since some of the professional ankle grabbers have probably never seen a referee make this motion), it’s going to be the bottom man’s turn to stall.
Consequences: Mat returns will be elevated from a scenario where anyone can be a one trick pony, to a huge point of emphasis involving coaching systems as opposed to individual moves.
If the aforementioned rule is implemented, the top man will no longer be allowed to “hold on for dear life”. This was formerly the most common scenario in a ride out.
Consequences: Wrestlers are going to brush up on their shot finishes, mat returns, intentional releases, or spend a lot of time frustrated.
Downblocking and Position
Now that wrestlers “who step out of bounds with both feet” will be hit with stalling, edge playing is going to take a hit. Assuming the NCAA will pick up where Fila left off and not allow dropping to your knees as a solution, wrestlers with their back to the edge will be taking a lot of shots.
Consequences: The USA will be honing it’s down blocking skills and we will see a lot more quick scores from those scenarios.
This Iranian’s gameplan is a perfect example of how the pushout rule created action while developing positioning and forward pressure.
Fringe Benefit: America will have the best wrestling team in the world within ten years.
Riding to Ride
The rule allowing the top wrestler to release his opponent without forfeiting a point is the most difficult to imagine of the proposed changes. The ins and outs of how it will work and what constitutes a “natural stoppage” are eagerly anticipated, but the takeaway is this, riding someone without the intention of turning them just got a lot more dangerous.
Consequences: Wrestlers who ride to ride will spend a lot more time on their feet. Why risk riding someone who could potentially score an escape when you can release them free of charge? People will still work for riding time, but we won’t see as many matches with five minutes of it and zero back points.
Also, getting reversed just got uglier.
Takedowns on the Edge
Since going out of bounds was the listed example of a natural stoppage, any toe dragger will afford the attacking wrestler two points and the opportunity to release his opponent without surrendering a point. A takedown on the edge is now potentially worth more points than one in the center.
Consequences: Wrestlers fending off takedowns on the edge of the mat may start running towards the center as opposed to away from it. Kicking out now only works if you land in bounds (two feet out of bounds is an automatic stalling call), and in close matches the risk of losing the opportunity to escape will have the smart wrestlers fighting to stay in bounds.
Regardless of whether these rule changes fall flat or elevate the sport (as FILAs did), it is important to remember that they express the wrestling community’s dissatisfaction with the product that the NCAA was putting out. If wrestling fans themselves weren’t pleased with the status quo, how could we recruit new ones? So whether the journey ends here, or if this is the first of a few painful steps, the wrestling community should stay focused on the question of what the sport means to them, and what they want it to mean to other people.
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