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Reffing Theory Part II


This is my 2nd installment in "Reffing Theory". It's not a "I know everything about reffing" series, but basically an attempt at helping curb the lack of articles written about officiating wrestling and technique involved. Please feel free to send questions or feedback as I do think there should be more dialogue. 

Reffing Theory Part II: The Count

Counting near fall points seems easier than what it is. The goal is consistency and here are a few things to work on. 

1) What's actually a second?

- Sadly, looking around any tournament at any level and you will see a pretty wide varying range of what a second is. I've noticed a lot of refs have really fast one counts and then slow down as they go. A second is actually a long time. Get out a stopwatch (or your phone) and count in the mirror. This should make you more confident on what was a 2-count and what wasn't. 

I actually think my count is slower than most, but actually had a guy say he liked how mine was quicker and more accurate than "older refs". That confused me a bit, but I have worked on timing mine up with a stopwatch so I feel confident in making these calls consistently. 

2) The count is in your head

- An accurate count of near fall is in your head and the hand signal is for the crowd. We discussed this on the podcast a few weeks back when Kevin said he saw a highlight replay on Big Ten Network of the Midlands final between Martinez (Illinois) and Walsh (Rider). He said Walsh got robbed on the near fall. 

Right at 50 seconds into the video, Walsh gets the merkle and exposes Imar. The ref appears to only give a one-count. The ref appeared to be getting down into position, and possibly does not give the 2-count because he is busy using his hands to lower himself to the mat. 

While difficult sometimes, the accurate count is in your head and not with your hands. You can look for a pin or get yourself in position while counting in your head. It's not ideal, but this situation is definitely a count that should have happened. 

The ref below while watching Dylan Ness do his patented awesomeness isn't really bothering to hand signal (much at all). The more important thing is to get into position, and then give the appropriate points later. 

3) Try to use two hands

- When someone gets a takedown or reversal right to a count, it's tough for the ref to get into a position to call the pin, give the signal for the takedown/reversal, AND count near fall visually. I absolutely cringe at seeing refs give "2...reversal....one...." and then not give near fall. They are so busy giving the reversal signal and somehow think they can't start counting near fall until they're done signalling to the table that there has been a reversal or a takedown. It absolutely drives me nuts. 

Of course, the previous point of the count being in your head and hand signals for the crowd certainly applies here. My (humble) advice is to use both hands in the "feet to back" situations. Give the two with the correct wristband and then count with the other hand. If there really isn't a pin to look for yet, keeping on your feet and making the right visual call will help keep the table accurate and the coaches off your back for whether or not there was near fall. 

4) Give the near fall at the right time. 

- This is a less common situation, but I find it helpful. If a wrestler is on their back long enough to give up points and then bucks off and now has created a scramble (for example: guy was on his back and now has a single leg), give the points as soon as you can. Don't hold on to those points on the floor if the situation is over. 

A) You can lose the table help. They are probably wondering if you gave it already or not, and maybe already posted it assuming you gave it and they missed it. Giving the points before the defensive wrestler has earned an escape or reversal gives the table time and less things for yourself to get lost as well. 

B) Worst case scenario is green has earned 3 NF, red bucks off and now has a single leg, and green hits a new move (like a cradle or whip over) and puts red on his back. Now the ref has to panic and give 3 NF green AND start a new count for green. 

While these situations are uncommon, a few of these can make your day very difficult when it's an easy fix. 


For coaches, fans and wrestlers.....try to give these guys a break. Counting near fall is not the easiest thing in a lot of situations. In the Kaid Brock pins Brewer video below, look at how much these guys spin all over with the throw and action. Trying to call the takedown, count near fall, look at the pin, and keep up is not an easy task. Plus, think about if this was part of a 10-hour tournament.