West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on the Personal Priorities of a Wrestling Interpreter

The 1998-99 wrestling season marked my tenth year as the clinincian and state rules interpreter for the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission. In this position, I have had the pleasure of nurturing many new friendships with fellow officials, coaches, wrestlers, parents, fans, and members of the news media throughout the state. These associations and personal mat experiences in this capacity over the last decade have assisted me in setting priorities for scholastic wrestling in West Virginia. Permit me to share them with you.

There is nobody more important in the mat sport than the wrestlers. It has always been my primary mission to expose them to a safe and "fair" environment. Thus, I have always supported initiatives that would promote a fair playing arena for all matmen in the state.

One innovation was the introduction of the five-minute, blood-time limitation in 1993 which has been a National Federation rule since 1996. It allows all wrestlers the same amount of time to care for blood injuries. In the past, there was no set time-limit for bleeding. Thus, some wrestlers received more time than others, depending on the judgment of the match official. Now it is fair.

The weight certification program in the Mountain State also emphasizes equality for our wrestlers. A minimum weight class is now mandated for each wrestler. Furthermore, wrestlers must have 50% of the weigh-ins at their minimum weight category, or they must move up for the post-season, state-tourney eliminations. Years ago a wrestler could wrestle at a higher weight all year and then move down for regionals. Today it is fair for all. We have made strides.

Rapport with coaches is my second area of concern in West Virginia wrestling. I have made myself accessible to all mat mentors at both the middle and high school levels. Every coach is important to me!

As the wrestling clinician, I inform the coaches of the new rules and clarify old ones at our pre-season meetings. The coaches have every opportunity to question me at these sessions on a variety of wrestling matters.

During the year, I can be contacted by phone at any time regarding rule interpretations. If I don't know the answer, there are no bluffs. I simply tell them I will research the answer via the National Federation and get back to them as quickly as possible.

I can also be reached through my e-mail address on the WVMAT internet website. Here I also answer legitimate wrestling questions from coaches and fans in my "Making the CalL.. " website column.

At the state tournament in Huntington, I am there largely to listen to the coaches and their insights pertaining to the competition. In fact, last year I spent a very early Saturday morning over coffee discussing a match that was unsettling to one coach. As I said, I am always there to listen and consult any coach who requests my input.

I have been haunted by the dilemma of "official consistency" since my coaching days in the early 1970s. And yes, I have made it a personal mission to instill consistency for all West Virginia wrestling referees.

For example, I spent a year in the mid 90s developing a computer-assisted, training program for both novice and experienced officials. This program has been distributed to every wrestling officials' association across the entire state. Should anyone have questions, they only need to contact me.

With the help of officiating colleagues, I also produced a video entitled "A Baker's Dozen of Difficult Calls in Wrestling." This tape was given to each officials' association with the hope of improving agreement among referees in making those tough decisions in the mat sport.

Yes, official consistency is very important in athletics, and we are working very diligently in the sport of wrestling with this goal in mind.

In conclusion, we are presently investigating the very subjective area of "stalling." It has always been a taxing problem for the wrestlers, coaches and officials. Hopefully, we can make some substantial gains. As for me, the stalling-dilemma is a personal challenge to which I will never succumb ... for the sake of our wrestlers, not just in West Virginia, but everywhere!

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