Are Matches Really Too Short?by Rob Teet on 10/04/15
After the completion of the 2014 World Championships in Greece, United World Wrestling (UWW) President, Nenad Lalovic, made the following statement about the possibility of beach wrestling being included in the Olympic Games:
“You never know… It’s an interesting discipline, so why not? But we are far from that now. We have to improve it first, as its matches are too short. They can be over in 20 seconds. They do not show enough of the technique of the wrestlers, this is the problem. It has got more to do with strength.”
In the aftermath of this statement, UWW has created an international board of directors for this emerging style of wrestling. The board made some noticeable changes early in 2015, which included extending the amount of points need to win a match to 3 (instead of 2) and also slightly increased the size of the wrestling ring to encourage takedowns instead of push-outs. Oh yeah, they also changed the international rules (which were interpreted differently among participating countries around the world) so wrestlers score points for a takedown (some countries used takedowns as a means to score, while others used a “sumo-style” touch rule instead).
During my assistance for the Michigan USA Wrestling season, the amount of points was further extended so that 5 points was needed for a wrestler to emerge victorious. This was to address the problem that wrestlers, coaches, and parents believed that the matches were too short. The perception of short matches discouraged potential athletes from travelling to beach wrestling tournaments, and the modification used by the Michigan branch of USA Wrestling seemed to do the trick. Roughly one out of 8 matches lasted the entire 3-minute duration.
But are the matches really too short? If so, how would you recommend we correct the problem?
I believe that the move to 5 points was a good call to address the problem of encouraging wrestlers to travel for beach wrestling events. But I wouldn’t extend it any further. If you’ve ever wrestled on the beach in 90 degree heat, then you already know that the body fatigues quickly. Between the heat and the sun, which also reflects off of the sand, 2 minutes into a match can quickly compare to the exhaustion of wrestling in double-overtime round during a scholastic (American folkstyle) match.
These shorter matches (when compared to mat styles of wrestling) provide a huge opportunity, especially at the Olympic/World Championship level, that I believe is being overlooked.
Currently, over 200 countries are affiliated with UWW, meaning all of those countries are eligible to participate in the Olympics and World Championships. But with the qualification process, each weight class during the Olympic Games only consists of 18-20 wrestlers per weight class. And the wrestling powerhouse countries, such as the United States and Iran, have wrestlers in every weight class, year after year. What about the other countries, those that aren’t powerhouses in the sport? One problem that wrestling currently faces is that the growth of our sport is hindered by the lack of opportunities in most of the world.
True, beach wrestling matches are shorter in duration. Heck, many matches last less than half the time a freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling match would last. The opportunity that lies within those shorter matches is larger tournament brackets for each weight class. What would be more prestigious; winning the gold medal in a weight class with 20 wrestlers or winning the gold in a 64-person bracket? Expanding the number of Olympic wrestlers can rejuvenate the sport, especially in countries that already embrace beach wrestling but don’t have much of a presence in the current Olympic styles (such as France, Brazil, and Australia). The style of beach wrestling might just be the seed we need to get our sport growing again.
Not to mention this style is easier for the general population to understand compared to other styles. And we sure do need more spectators to keep our rightful place at the Games.