West Virginia Wrestling


compiled and edited by William A. Welker, Ed.D. WVSSAC Rules Interpreter

In recent years, the ranks of wrestling officials and whistle-blowers in all sports have gradually dwindled. Thus, this topic was the thrust of our West Virginia Wrestling Interpreters' Meeting at the beginning of the 2002-2003 season. We were very resolved in our efforts to develop new official "recruiting and retaining" strategies.

Those in attendance freely shared the following in-depth ideas and suggestions for new official recruitment and retention tactics:


1. Attempt to recruit former wrestlers or wrestling enthusiasts who possess high ethical standards.

2. Create programs in local official associations to encourage high school seniors and college students who wrestled to join tike officiating ranks.
(Note: Officiating is a very positive athletic-oriented endeavor for college wrestlers to earn extra money.)

3. Contact physical education departments of area colleges to see if they could incorporate a "wrestling officiating class" in their curriculum. Should this be possible, persuade the physical education professors to invite local experienced referees to present classroom lectures on the topic.

4. Entice former wrestling coaches to join the corps of referees. (Note: We have witnessed many mat mentors who have demonstrated an innate talent for officiating the mat sport.)

5. Do not resist recruiting women into officiating wrestling. You will be pleasantly surprised by their ability to do the job, especially under pressure.

6. Assist in producing public service announcements regarding recruitment of wrestling officials on regional television and radio stations as well as local newspapers.

7. Conduct television or radio round-table discussions on recruiting (as well as retaining) officials in the sport of wrestling.


1. See to it that coaches offer the new officials the chance to officiate pre-season open tournaments and practice room wrestle-offs.
(Note: This gives the new officials exposure with the coaches they may work for in the future.)
Likewise, the coaches will undoubtedly express helpful suggestions of their own, having witnessed these young officials in action for the first time.

2. Make a concerted effort to get young officials matches at the youth, middle school, and junior varsity levels. This further allows novice officials to display their refereeing skills in front of wrestling coaches at various competitive levels.

3. Create a "Mentor" or "Adopt a Ref" program. To begin with, the new officials should be allowed to assist veteran officials at dual, triangular, and quadrangular meets. Afterwards, the experienced referees could explain to the younger referees the reasons why they made the tough calls they did.

Secondly, veteran omcials should take the time to observe and critique the novice referees in action. Then later, the senior evaluators would tell the beginning officials where they excelled and what they needed to improve upon in terms of obviating mechanics.

4 Suggest to local school districts that they schedule wrestling competitions later on weekdays, permitting officials who work the opportunity to referee. (Note: We often lose officials because they cannot leave their place of employment to oversee matches during the week.)

5. Teach young officials techniques on how to handle irate coaches and how to react to unruly fans when close calls are made.

6. Explain to your new officials that it is part of being human to make mistakes at times. In doing so, stress the important: of not being "defensive" on such occasions. When possible, correct your officiating mistakes during a match. Most coaches respect officials who "own up" to their errors and correct them. (Note: I once witnessed a wrestling official wipe off a "fall" when he realized that one shoulder was not even close to touching the mat. Neither coach said a word because they knew that it was to: right thing to do under the circumstances.)

7. Approach your state athletic associations and ask them to consider a "rotation system," affording younger, highly-qualified wrestling officials the opportunity to referee state tournaments. This approach will give these officials a "goal" on which to set their sights.

Unfortunately, too many younger officials leave the refereeing ranks out of frustration, feeling they will never be selected to obviate states.

In reality, the wrestling official should be perceived as the "top point" of the wrestling triangle, which is comprised of the participant, the coach, and the referee. The official must always be there to serve the coaches by fairly and consistently enforcing the rules and regulations of the mat sport. Just as important, he must also be there to protect the contestants by keeping them out of harm's way.

Concluding Remarks

Officiating is a noble avocation that can be both a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Likewise, it allows us to become an integral facet of scholastic and collegiate athletics. Hence, veteran wrestling officials must constantly pursue innovative avenues for recruiting and retaining new referees.

(Editor's note: The preceding information on official recruitment qnd retention SCSI the result of the combined thoughts conveyed by local wrestling interpreters and other interested parties throughout the state of West Virginia.)
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