Grapplers working on familiar moves, new rules

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Seoul American 215-pound senior Jack Barnes tosses Connor McKnight during Wednesday's practice. Barnes is one of three returning Far East champions from last year; a fourth, Ryan Vasconcellos, won in 2013 for St. Mary's International. (Joe Pak-Blyzniuk/Special to Stars and Stripes)
From Stripes.com
Seoul American 215-pound senior Jack Barnes tosses Connor McKnight during Wednesday's practice. Barnes is one of three returning Far East champions from last year; a fourth, Ryan Vasconcellos, won in 2013 for St. Mary's International. (Joe Pak-Blyzniuk/Special to Stars and Stripes)

Grapplers working on familiar moves, new rules

by: Dave Ornauer | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: December 05, 2014

Rule changes are becoming old hat in Pacific high school wrestling, and for the second straight year, coaches and wrestlers are grappling with more new rules that again will change the face of the sport:

Three- and five-point throws are out. Any “feet to danger” throw regardless of amplitude is now worth four points.

Wrestlers now must accumulate 10 points for a superior decision/technical superiority. A season ago, it was seven, which many coaches complained was not enough and made too many bouts too short.

In the event bouts end in a scoreless draw, the overtime clinch is out. It’s replaced by a 30-second overtime period in which the wrestler who scores the more points or is deemed the more aggressive in the referee’s judgment is declared the winner.

Water breaks are now permitted between periods, giving wrestlers a chance to hydrate during the one-minute breaks.

All those changes were adopted over the summer by international freestyle wrestling’s governing body. Even that body’s name has changed: What was the Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associées, or FILA, is now United World Wrestling, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Most Pacific coaches surveyed agreed with the changes, saying that it gives wrestlers more of a hand in deciding things and makes things safer for them.

“I’m good with them, I know the impetus and the background and I know what the wrestling federation is trying to accomplish,” said Steve Schrock, back for his 13th season as Kadena coach after taking four seasons off and refereeing during that time.

Justin Edmonds, in his 11th season coaching defending Far East Division II champion Robert D. Edgren, says it helps align the sport more with collegiate folkstyle rules used in the States and DODDS Europe.

“It should have been this way all along,” Edmonds said. “It means the kids will wrestle more and it brings us more integrated with the way wrestling is done in the United States.”

Doing away with the overtime clinch is a huge win for wrestlers, Schrock said. In the past, when a bout ended 0-0 after regulation, the referee would toss a coin, red on one side and blue on the other, and the toss-winning wrestler would then get to clinch his opponent’s leg. Most times, the wrestler with the clinch would win the bout in short order once the whistle blew to start the action.

“It minimizes the amount of chance and puts it in the wrestlers’ hands,” Schrock said.

UWW’s reasoning for not allowing water breaks in the past was the chance that bottles could be spiked with performance-enhancing substances, something almost unheard of in Pacific high school wrestling, Schrock said.

“It’s nice for them to have a splash of water at the break,” he said.

The 10-point technical superiority is something defending Far East Division I freestyle champion St. Mary’s would have liked to have had last year, coach Shu Yabui said. Three of his wrestlers, Ryo and Riku Osawa and Ryan Vasconcellos, lost in Far East title bouts by seven-point superiority.

“I think at least one of them could have turned the match around or at least given more chance to wrestle and had a better match,” Yabui said.

He gives his Titans a good chance to pile up medals at lower weight classes this season, especially Vasconcellos, a junior, “but we’re very thin in upper weights,” said Yabui, a former three-time Far East champ.

Kubasaki and Kadena of Okinawa have been given permission to return on a self-funded basis to the Nile C. Kinnick invitational “Beast of the Far East” tournament they missed last season. “It makes it easier to prepare” for Far East, Dragons coach Ron Geist said.

Far East is scheduled for Feb. 12-14 and will be at Osan for the first time. Cougars coach Duke Allen says he has the most numbers he’s had in his four seasons, including veteran Sam Kim and three transfers. “With a solid core of tough kids, this could be the strongest Osan team in several years,” Allen said.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

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