Today's column is the first in a two-part series of my most severe officiating blunders on the mats: The Wrong Number and The Point of No Return.
The Wrong Number
In the late '80s, high school wrestling had what was known as "The Overtime Criteria System" to determine the winner if a tie occurred in a match. I studied that section of the rulebook long and hard, and memorized the order of each and every criterion . . . or so I thought.
The procedure was quite simple. After the regular match, if the score was tied, the wrestlers would be given a minute's rest and then wrestle three more one-minute overtime periods. Should the score still be tied after the overtime bout, the referee, referring to the overtime criteria, would determine the winner. Now on to the story.
The incident occurred during one finals match in a Christmas tournament. The match went into the overtime bout, but in the end the match was still tied.
I knew that Wrestler A had the first takedown (Overtime Criteria #9), and thus I was prepared to declare him the winner. My assistant suggested I look at the overtime criteria in the rulebook to be sure. I said I was sure and then confidently went out on the mat, had the boys shake hands, and very confidently raised Wrestler A's hand. No one questioned the decision. The tournament later concluded with no further overtime matches or problems of any kind.
The next morning, as I was jogging, I began to think about the match. It occurred to me that I might have warned Wrestler A for stalling. If so, the warning for stalling is Overtime Criteria #7; thus, Wrestler B should have won the match. If such was the case, there was nothing that could be done about it after the tournament was completed. I hoped that my thoughts were unfounded.
Upon returning home after the run, my wife informed me that Wrestler B's coach had called . . . and I had a pretty good idea why. I immediately called the coach, told him I thought I knew why he called. Unfortunately, I was right. I quickly informed the coach that it was ALL my fault, and not my assistant referee, who insisted that I double-check the rulebook. My over-confidence and stubbornness, alone, caused the grievous error.
The coach also tried to blame himself for not questioning the call at the time. I said I would hear none of that. It was my responsibility and I failed, costing the wrestler a tournament win. At the end of our conversation, I asked the coach for Wrestler B's phone number. I wanted the parents to know from me that I was the only one to blame.
It was, without question, the most difficult phone call I had to make in my officiating career, and I was prepared to take a verbal brow-beating . . . and accept every bit of it. This time I was wrong. After explaining to them my extreme act of stupidity, costing their son the match, they acted with extreme graciousness. I was amazed. Had it been my son, I am not so sure I would have been as understanding. But they were, and I will never forget what they taught me that day - forgiveness. They were true Godly people, who practiced what they believed in.
I learned something else that day as well. It comes from a Bible verse (Proverbs 16:18):
"Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall."
The fall (or pin) terminates the match and no individual match points are necessary. In a dual meet, the winner's team receives six points and during tournament action the victor's team receives two additional points. A fall occurs when both shoulders are forced to the mat for a period of two seconds in high school and one second in college bouts.
Normally, the offensive wrestler (the man in control) scores the fall but if the offensive wrestler's shoulders are somehow forced to the mat for the required time, his opponent would win with a defensive fall. It's rare, but it does happen.
A fall may be indicated when parts of both shoulders are in-bounds, or one shoulder is completely in-bounds.
Q: Wrestler A, the offensive wrestler, catches Wrestler A in a cradle pinning combination. However, as Wrestler B attempts to fight off his back, Wrestler A rolls completely out-of-bounds. Only the tops of Wrestler B's shoulders remain in-bounds on the mat. What's the call?
A: If Wrestler B was held in that position for the required time, Wrestler A would secure a fall. The match would not be stopped because Wrestler B's shoulders (now considered his supporting points) are in-bounds.
OVAC Joe Thomas Wrestling Warrior
Coach Joe Thomas OVAC Wrestling Warrior of the Week is Oak Glen's 140-pounder, Jessie Mahan. Most recently, the Golden Bear posted a championship at the Brooke Classic and was runmner-up at the St. Clairsville Invitational. Jessie's present record for the season is 19-1.
Mahan's past accomplishments include a 140-pound 2005 West Virginia AA Regional and State Championship performance. He was a 2005 OVAC 3rd Place finisher and St. Clairsville Invitational Champion as well. Jessie has placed in the OVACs and West Virginia states for the past three years. His career record is 125-26, the quickest Oak Glen grappler to reach the 100-win mark.
Congratulations are extended to Jessie Mahan - this week's OVAC Wrestling Warrior.
The Deaton-Regis Weekly Dual Meet Predictions
There are no dual meet predictions this week because of the gigantic Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Tournament to be held at the Wesbanco Arena on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
"To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first."
-- William Shakespeare
(Dr. Bill Welker can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Updated March 25, 1999