West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on "The Wrestling Official's Power"

Last year a West Virginia wrestling coach approached me and stated candidly that he believed officials in the mat sport have too much power. I must admit, to some degree, he has a point. Allow me to explain.

The New Contagious Disease Rule
It is very important in wrestling that if a wrestler is infected with a communicable skin disease (say ringworm or impetigo), he should be removed from participating. However, a coach can no longer say, "I want that individual (from the opposing team) removed from competition because I suspect him of having a communicable skin disease." Only the official can make the final decision as to whether or not a wrestler can compete. If he also questions a skin condition, the referee can ask the opposing coach to produce documentation from a doctor that the skin irritation is not contagious. On the other hand, if he thinks there is no problem, the official can allow the wrestler to compete. Personally, I don't like being put in this position as an official. Oh, I have a doctorate, but it's in education. I'm not an expert in dermatology. So I don't like this added pressure placed on the referee's shoulder, especially when you realize very few of us are qualified in this area. Point one.

The New Unsportsmanlike Conduct Rule
As of this season, officials can penalize a wrestler for an unsportsmanlike conduct match point if he thinks the matman is simply indicating he is injured in order to get out of a situation where he is being placed on his back or almost being pinned. When did we become mind readers? Oh, we may suspect it, but how can we actually prove it with 100-percent certainty, especially to the matman's coach. But there's more. Now should a wrestler ask for an injury time-out after going out of bounds, we, as officials, are required to oblige his request, even if we have the same feelings as the above circumstances. Isn't this a contradiction of the first situation? I think we are given too much undue power under this ruling. Although such problems (in truth) ultimately involves the coach's ethics, the officials are the ones who must make the arbitrary, final decisions. Point two.

In conclusion, there is one statement in the high school wrestling rulebook I believe that every mat sport official should always keep paramount in his mind. The regulation (Rule 3-1-12) reads as follows:
"The referee shall meet promptly and in the spirit of good sportsmanship with any situation developing unexpectedly."

By using common sense, listening to the coach when he has a legitimate concern, and embracing the above rule, I believe we will never usurp our power as wrestling officials.

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Updated February 16, 1998