West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on Wrestling's Sudden Death

I think the present "sudden death" procedure for determining a winner is great . . . except for what I consider to be one weakness. Let me explain. As it stands right now, if two wrestlers tie at the end of the regular match, they go immediately to sudden death. It begins with a two-minute overtime period in the neutral (or standing) position. If no points are scored, the 30-second tiebreaker comes into play.

Here's were I believe "chance" often determines the final outcome. Since the tiebreaker starts in the referee's (or down) position, the referee must flip the disk to see which matman has the choice of top, bottom, or defer. I can honestly say I never saw a wrestler won the toss, lose the match. I'm sure it's happened, but rarely. So, I say drop the tiebreaker and just have the overtime period with no time limit. The first matman to score point(s) wins the match. My grounds for this train of thought are as follows:

  • 1. I don't think any knowledgeable wrestling enthusiast will disagree with the fact that the "takedown" is the most important aspect of the mat sport. No one can argue the point that our greatest wrestlers have always displayed superiority on their feet. Thus, he that scores the takedown would win.
  • 2. Conditioning is another important component of wrestling. Sooner or later the better conditioned contestant will prevail. Whether it be by a takedown or by his opponent being penalized for stalling due to fatique, the wrestler with superior physical training will come out on top.
  • 3. Some of my readers might be thinking, "Isn't stalling a judgment call that could win the match for one wrestler?" Yes,, but let me tell you as a veteran official, it is much easier to recognize stalling in the neutral position . . . for too many reasons than I have space to explain here.
  • 4. Others might be wondering, "Won't the match last too long?" I feel it is highly unlikely. First of all, most overtime matches rarely reach two minutes. Secondly, by the time it takes to set up and wrestle the tiebreaker, the match would probably be finished in the extended overtime period. Finally, even if some overtime matches did last longer, I truly believe the "endurance duel" would be that much more exciting for the fans.
  • 5. One final point. This is the basic procedure used in world-class "freestyle" wrestling to determine the winner. Probably, the most attractive feature about this proposal is what I emphasized at the start of the article . . . we would eliminate the "luck of the flip" factor. Personally, I think it's the "fairest" way to decide who is the superior wrestler. What's your opinion?
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    Updated November 17, 1997