West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

Qualities of a Great Wrestling Official

Having retired after 27 years of refereeing wrestling, I would like to share with you some of my final thoughts regarding the qualities of a great wrestling official. The wrestling official has an important place in the mat sport hierarchy, but it's a supporting role. Allow me to explain. I will use a "three-step ladder" analogy.

The wrestlers must always be positioned on the top step. They are the athletes who train hour upon hour to perfect their moves, so they can perform their very best on the mats. They are the ones who put their skills on the line, and must take full responsibility regarding the outcome of matches in which they compete. And most importantly, they are the reason people attend dual meets and tournaments.

The coaches are on the middle step. It is their job to see it that each and every wrestler is given the best "technique" instruction possible to succeed on the mats. Likewise, they must develop a training environment that will create highly conditioned athletes, which ultimately allays injuries. The coaches must also teach proper eating habits as well as practicing good hygiene at all times. Furthermore, they must teach their wrestlers self-control and good sportsmanship characteristics. In truth, the coaches are responsible for the total physical well-being and character of the contestants in the practice room and during competition.

On the lowest step are the officials.

First (and I know this is a clique), an official must be "consistent" in correctly enforcing all the rules and subtleties of the mat sport. No wrestler or coach likes surprises during the rigors of a match.

Second, and just as imperative, the official must at all times concern himself with the wrestlers' safety during a match. To error on the side of safety should always be the referee's "number one" concern.

Third, the official must know his role in a match, and that is a subordinate one. He should demonstrate confidence when making each and every call. But never confuse confidence with "arrogance." Officiating arrogance has no place in any sport.

Finally, one of the most important postures an official must possess is that of anonymity: whenever possible, stay out of the match!

As the West Virginia supervisor of the state tournament officials, I have always emphasized the place of the officials in this extremely important championship. I explain to the state referees that they have had the fortune to be selected to oversee the state tournament.

In truth, there are at least 20 officials out there who are just as capable of competently doing the same job as them. On the other hand, those wrestlers who ultimately become state champions have left behind them 20 mat-men they have defeated.

As the West Virginia state interpreter for nearly two decades, I must say we have been blessed with some of the finest officials in the country. They know their place in the "big picture" and perform in a very professional manner.

Thank goodness, I have only had to witness a couple of officials who attempted to "dictate" matches, rather than "arbitrate" them; they did not return to the state mats. A wrestling referee (or any official for that matter) should never take center stage; that is for the "stars" of the show . . . the athletes themselves.

These are my final thoughts on wrestling referees in particular, and officiating in general.

The Takedown
The objective of wrestling is to pin one's opponent, and a takedown is usually the first step toward this goal.

Statistics, for decades, demonstrate that the wrestler who successfully executives the first takedown in a match wins the bout 85 to 90 percent of the time. What is a takedown?

To set up a takedown, the wrestlers must be working from the neutral or standing position, a situation where neither wrestler has control. A takedown is scored when one of the wrestlers gains control over his opponent. The determining factor is causing his opponent's supporting points other than his feet - knees, thighs, buttocks, or hands - to come in contact with the mat under control beyond reaction time (as judged by the official). Supporting points are defined as the area or areas in which most of the wrestler's body weight is carried. A wrestler can be awarded a takedown as long as he or his adversary is in-bounds. Remember, the line around the wrestling area is out-of-bounds. It is also important to understand that a takedown can now be awarded if the scoring wrestler's feet are in-bounds and touching the mat. The wrestler who scores the takedown is awarded two match points for the maneuver. Note, the double-leg takedown, single-leg takedown, fireman's carry, arm drag, snap-down and pancake are just a few types of takedown moves.

Mini-Mat Quiz
Q: Wrestler A shoots a double-leg takedown on Wrestler B. At the completion of the takedown, Wrestler B is completely out-of-bounds and only Wrestler A's feet are in-bounds on the mat. Would Wrestler A still be credited with a takedown?
A: Yes. Since both of Wrestler A's feet remained in-bound, he is considered in-bounds and can score the takedown.

OVAC Joe Thomas Wrestling Warrior
Coach Joe Thomas OVAC Wrestling Warrior of the Week is Wheeling Park's Bryce Rush, who wrestles at the 135-pound weight class. The Patriot wrestler has a record of 13-5 this year. He finished 3rd in the Brooke Classic, 3rd in the Hoppel Invitational and 4th at North Canton Holiday Invitational. Coach Doyle says, "Bryce has been very impressive this year after having to endure with a serious back injury for many months." Congratulations are extended to Wheeling Park's Bryce Rush - this week's OVAC Wrestling Warrior!

The OVAC Mark Gerrity Wrestling Fan of the Week is CINDY RUSH, a Wheeling Park enthusiast for many years.

Mat Message
"Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability."
-- Roy L. Smith

(Dr. Bill Welker can be reached via e-mail at: mattalkwv@hotmail.com)

Return to the West Virginia Mat Thoughts Index Page
Return to the WV-Mat front page