Wrestling’s Governing Body Changes Rules in Hopes of Keeping Sport in the Olympics

FILA, wrestling’s international governing body, adopted several rules changes designed to make the sport “more exciting,” and hopefully re-secure a spot in the Summer Olympics. According to an Associated Press report, FILA also made some adjustments to it’s constitution to include a female vice president and add additional women’s weight classes if they are accepted back into the Games.

Back in February, the International Olympic Committee recommended that wrestling be removed from the core 25 sports, a decision that received a tremendous amount of criticism from the sport’s community and Olympic traditionalists—wrestling essentially defined the Games from their ancient beginnings and has been a mainstay in the modern-day version.

In order to regain their spot in the Games, FILA will have to out-impress seven other sports, all vying for the one remaining spot. The sports include sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, karate, wushu, roller sports and a combined baseball-softball bid.

More on the rule changes from AP:

FILA’s bureau formulated the rule changes Friday and presented them to the congress a day later. They include changing matches to two three-minute sessions instead of three two-minute periods, with cumulative scoring rather than the previous two-out-of-three system.

“Cumulative score incentivizes the wrestlers to score more often and consistently,” FILA vice president Stan Dziedzic said. “In addition, or equally important, the total score is easier for the spectators to understand. It’s difficult for a spectator, not to mention the athletes, when one wrestler wins the first period 5-0, loses the next two periods 1-0 and loses the match.

“The common view was that two minutes was not sufficient time to execute the requisite tactics and strategies to provide an exciting match. What’s more, it deprives the viewing audience of witnessing the will of the wrestler.”

The changes also refine how to penalize wrestlers who try to “game the rules” by passivity. If an official determines a wrestler is being passive, he receives a verbal warning. If there’s a second offense, the action will be briefly stopped and the offending wrestler will have to score a point within 30 seconds or his opponent is awarded a point.

Dziedzic said the aim is “to restore the authority of the officials to incentivize the wrestler to take more risk. The onus must be placed on the wrestlers to win the match.”

Congress deliberated at length when to implement the chances. Some delegates argued an immediate change would be difficult to adapt to, while others said FILA needs to show it’s changing in order to persuade the IOC to keep wrestling in the Olympics.

Dziedzic said FILA would work to have the world championships in September run under the new rules.

FILA will make their case to the IOC at an executive board meeting later this month in St. Petersburg, Russia. The final decision will be voted on in September.

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