West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on the Life of a Wrestling Official

Often over the years, local wrestling fans have told me, "I really enjoy your 'Mat Talk' columns in the newspapers, but your ability as an official is lacking." Although I always responded in a congenial manner (not wanting to hurt anybody's feelings), I now believe it's time to "critique the critics."

I have been writing this series since 1978. Moreover, at times I have criticized certain aspects of the sport, including the area of officiating. Of course, it is easy to sit back, observe, evaluate, and finally make judgments. But I am one commentary-writer who has taken it a step further. I have experienced, firsthand, every topic I have discussed on these pages.

As a competitor of 18 years, I have felt the elation of victory and the dejection of defeat. During my 20-year coaching stint, I have tutored kids of all ages, from pee wee to high school. In my role as a father sitting in the stands, I have felt parental highs and lows while witnessing my sons' successes and failures on the mats. And wearing the black-and-white striped shirt, I have made some courageous calls, as well as blatant blunders. Thus, the fact of the matter is - I have personally endured everything I write about in this series.

Now back to my original point, which is how do I really feel about critics of my officiating expertise? Well, they paid to watch the matches, so they can voice any negative remarks they wish to, as long as they're not vulgar or abusive. But I have my rights, too. When it comes to rational criticisms from coaches, wrestlers, and fellow officials, I am all ears and very receptive. However, such is not the case with many of the spectators, who I can easily sense have never stepped a "Tiger-shoed" foot on the mats in their lives. If they had, these individuals would not be nearly as critical, because they'd have a better understanding of just how difficult the job is.

In essence, when coaches and tournament directors stop hiring me, this referee will know it's time to hang up the whistle. However, have I (or any of my officiating colleagues) ever seriously considered the criticisms and complaints of partisan fans? "Naaah!!!"

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Updated September 3, 1997