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Reffing Theory Part IV

Prologue: Reffing Theory is a series I write to hopefully provide more dialogue to the challenges of officiating wrestling and certainly not a "I know everything" lecture. If you have any questions or want to add anything, please email me at koatig@yahoo.com 


I wrote three parts last summer and wanted to write some more now that June is here, but was struggling with some writer's block. I reached out to Twitter and got some prompt replies so I guess this has turned into a mailbag. Here goes my first attempt at such a thing. 

Increasing officials will always be tough. It's not an easy task, and it is dangerous to have people inexperienced with Wrestling trying it as often a ref needs to step in to protect the wrestlers. With coaches (and sometimes parents) right on the corner of the mat adding to the stress, getting $60 for a dual that you had to drive 30 minutes to get to doesn't sound too great. I do think pay needs to increase. Michigan isn't bad, but I have heard some really low numbers from other states. I would like to see college coaches encouraging reffing to their wrestlers. It's good extra money for young people and they can find out it's really not that bad and then fun when you get comfortable with it. Take away the competitors vs refs, "us vs them" mentality. That would be a great first step. 

One pet peeve of mine is too many officials basically decide to stick with a style that suits them no matter what the rule changes are or constructive criticism. These are the stubborn and lazy refs that are usually not in the top tier, but it causes confusion among the wrestlers and coaches when a ref calls things how they are actually supposed to be called. There are wives' tails in wrestling like "free move with locked hands" and "5 seconds to return the bottom guy" that have a lot to do with these refs who refuse to adapt. In their defense, a lot of refs are old guys who like Wrestling and will do a few dates a year, but really aren't interested in learning 12 different rules a year. They have full-time jobs, run small businesses, and a lot of them couldn't tell you who Jason Nolf is. Until more younger and more talented people get into officiating, we are stuck with them. 

One of the best parts about gaining experience reffing that I found is that I have a comfort level that really allows me to enjoy myself no matter the environment. Some refs do hold grudges which is too bad. The kid is out there working hard and deserves a fair shot no matter how much of an ass the coach or the dad may be. I've written before that you can't umpire a charity softball game without someone disagreeing with a call so expect some chirping. I expect it walking into the gym so maybe that helps too. 

I don't know if increasing scoring is really the best thing, but understand the argument. Two seconds for a near fall count does seem to be a lot more inconsistent then it should be. More refs should work on what a second is as silly as that sounds and should practice with a stopwatch. I have. It feels dumb, but I think it has helped. 

This is a tough question. I'm not a big bottom stalling guy, and if it's a match where a guy is rallying for a comeback how often do you see a late turn be the difference? 20 seconds can be a very long time though if the bottom wrestler is just not wrestling. 

This is another tough one (thanks Jeff, lol). I often want to call stalling for kids doing this more often than I do, but before I have an opportunity to do so the opponent walks right into a shot. I try to coach my guys to stalk and not chase to show the ref that the opponent is running away, but there really isn't a set standard. I had a tough match last year where one kid shot probably 8 shots to 1, but twice backed up and did not engage until the other guy followed him all the way to near the edge so I called him for stalling. It's a tough, awkward spot as the ref. 

If you're going to your back, my hearing isn't very good. However, safety first often puts the ref in a tough spot. Please remember that when criticizing the zebras. 

I do not. I think part of the increase of calls in the postseason is the better officials and the better wrestling makes it more evident and obvious. I do wonder if refs try to get noticed more too, which is unfortunate if true, but I am not sure.

This may be meant to be more of a joke than serious, but I am constantly amazed at the objections that refs get that aren't rules. Also, if you're a coach you should learn the rules. You should be doing everything you can to help your wrestlers and that should mean knowing when to argue something and when not to. Not pissing off an official for something unless it's an actual rule interpretation is paramount. Also, if young officials are getting feedback/objections about rules and not just insults, they may develop and improve rather than just quit once they don't need the secondary income anymore. 

Home mat advantage sometimes includes every butt in the seats rooting for every call to go their teams way i.e. how fast bottom stalling calls fly against people wrestling against Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye. As a ref, in the situation you describe the away bench is cheering so loudly too so it's a bit of a wash. It's also part of looking like you know what you're doing that helps avoid the eruptions. Often it's kind of funny. You make a routine call and the gym goes nuts. Sometimes it's tough not to laugh. 

There are many reasons for this.  On the domestic side, people see a lot more folkstyle wrestling in their lives than freestyle/greco, the rules have changed significantly a few times in the last 15 years, they're essentially volunteers, and the sheer amount you need for an event when you have 20-plus mats. Hosting events in Fargo & Vegas probably doesn't help this. Even so, if someone told me that I need to grab 30 refs in the Grand Rapids area for a high-level national event, I would be incredibly scared. I don't have 30 high-level refs in this area. Then I'm hoping high-level officials will be on vacation that week to come volunteer their time? I know this explanation is a bit disheveled, but it is not a recipe for success. On the international side, they want neutral countries reffing the matches which of course makes sense there isn't a Japanese official for Yoshida vs Helen. However, that means a lot of the Wrestling power countries have the better refs so finding neutral refs can make it tough. Latvia has refs, but their refs aren't reffing the summer schedule American refs are. Getting refs on the same page in a state is tough let alone the world with language barriers. 

Below is a pic from Latvia's Junior Championships this year. The picture itself doesn't install much confidence. 

latvia refs.jpg