West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on Improving the tiebreaker for our wrestlers

How do we solve the "infamous Tiebreaker" problem when matches go down to the wire?

The big dilemma with the 30-second Tiebreaker is the flip of the disk. Why? It is because winning the flip not only involves luck, but more often than not, determines the winner. The wrestler who has the choice in the Tiebreaker invariably chooses down over 90% of the time, scores, and wins.

Furthermore, during this last 30-second period, the official is ONLY thinking of the top man in reference to stalling. This is an inherent bias in which the referee could end up deciding the match on a highly judgmental "stalling" call, instead of the wrestlers.

There are some alternative "Tiebreaker" possibilities out there, two tested and one suggested. Let's take a look at them.

The NCAA Approach

Recently, collegiate wrestling has been enforcing a novel approach. If a match is tied a the end of the third period, before the Overtime Period, the referee flips the disk to determine who will have the choice in the Tiebreaker should it reach that point.

The rationale behind this strategy is that in the Overtime Period the wrestlers will know who has the choice in the Tiebreaker. Thus, it may entice the wrestlers to go at it with more vigor in the Overtime Period, especially the matman who lost the coin toss.

Again, the major problem is the "luck factor." Good fortune rather than ability on the mat could decide the match. What do you think?

The Stall Procedure

The "Stall Procedure" was a two-year pilot study in West Virginia (1998-2000) for the National Federation (NF). The experiment included not call any stalling at all in the Tiebreaker. Instead, quick "stalemates" were indicated when it appeared that the top man was stalling.

There was little support by the NF regarding this aspect of the study. In a letter dated May 19, 1998, Mr. Fritz McGinness, editor of the NF Wrestling Rulebook, expressed the concern that if stalling was not called on the top man during the Tiebreaker, the bottom wrestler would never win, even with quick stalemates indicated.

His thoughts were unfounded. Wrestlers were still choosing down and scoring as much as they did when the top wrestler was hit with stalling in the Tiebreaker. Moreover, when asked their opinion of the approach in a questionnaire after the two-year study, 88% of the WV coaches and officials surveyed preferred stalemates to stalling calls in the Tiebreaker.

Although this procedure made it much fairer for the top man in the Tiebreaker, we were still faced with the "luck of the draw" dilemma -- winning the flip was usually the passport to victory. Don't you agree?

The "Riding Time" Paradigm

At the conclusion of the 1999-2000 season, I received a phone call from Bill Foster, a John Marshall (Moundsville, WV) High School wrestling enthusiast. We had a long conversation about the Tiebreaker situation and came up with a model that would remove "Lady Luck" from the picture. Consider the following.

Phase One: My Solution

Bring back riding time for the purpose of determining who gets the choice if the bout reaches the Tiebreaker. The wrestler with the most accumulated top time earns the honors through effort, not through the fortunes of fate.

The chance of both wrestlers having the same riding time advantage, especially with today's precise, one-thousandth of a second stopwatch technology, is virtually nonexistent.

Phase Two - Bill Foster's Addendum

Should the nearly impossible occur, Foster suggests two 30-second Tiebreakers with each matman taking turns on top, again clocking riding time to determine the victor if necessary. As with the "Stall Procedure," fast stalemates, rather than stalling, would be indicated when appropriate at this stage.

"Failure is not our only punishment for laziness: there is also the success of others."
-- Jules Renard

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