Sports Shorts

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Opinion

By DAN BRAWNER

Tribune Sports Staff

Last week I talked about the new ruling by the Arkansas Activities Association to allow schools in the state to now offer wrestling. Once again, for clarification, this is not Jerry Lawler's form of "wrasslin." It is truly competitive and is one of the most exciting "real" sports that is offered in schools anywhere.

Also, just like football, basketball, etc. full scholarships are offered to some of the most talented participants. And unlike some other sports, a person can compete in the Olympics in either free-style (which most people are familiar with) or Greco-Roman wrestling.

Collegiate wrestling, the form of free-style which most colleges and high schools use, emphasizes gaining points more than registering a pin. For the wrestler and the fans, the pin can be the most exciting, but on a team level, points are what matters.

Also, for clarification, a pin in high school is when one wrestler holds his opponents shoulder blades, not shoulders, to the mat for only two seconds. The pin counts for six team points and the wrestler gains the win.

If no pin is registered in the match, then the points earned by each participant decide the winner. Points are awarded for the following:

* Take down (2 points) - From the neutral position, one wrestler brings the other down onto the mat and establishes control over him.

* Reverse (2 points) - A wrestler who is being controlled takes control from his opponent.

* Near-fall (2 point version) - A wrestler exposes his opponent's back to the mat for 2 to 4 seconds.

* Near fall (3 point version) - A wrestler exposes his opponent's back to the mat for 5 seconds or more.

* Escape (1 point) - A wrestler who is being controlled manages to escape from his opponent into the neutral position.

* Penalty (1 or 2 points) - A point can be awarded by the referee for various penalty situations, such as illegal holds, unsportsmanlike conduct or stalling, After two penalties a wrestler is disqualified.

For team points, a technical fall is won when one wrestler has 15 points more than his opponent. The match ends and the team gains five points. A major decision is when a match ends with one wrestler winning by 8-14 points. The team gains four points for this. Three points are gained by the team for a win of eight or less points.

This just gives you an idea of the excitement which a wrestling match can have when two opponents are evenly matched and the score see-saws back and fourth.

And where basketball has Jordan, football has Montana, hockey has Gretsky, the collegiate wrestling world has Gable, Dan Gable.

For the uninformed, Dan Gable compiled a 182-1 record through high school and college at the University of Iowa. His only defeat came in the last match of his college career. Nevertheless, he was three-time All American.

He then went on to the Olympics and in1972 won the gold medal without giving up a point in any of his matches much less losing any match.

He then came back to Iowa in 1977 as head coach, retiring in 1997 with a 355-21-5 (.932) record. In that time, he developed 45 individual National Champions and won 15 national championships.

Clearly, Gable deserves to be named with the aforementioned superstars and would have been remembered as they are if real wrestling were as popular as the soap opera version seen on television. Oh, and by the way, superstar Tom Cruise, a wrestler in high school, told Esquire Magazine in an article some years back that Gable was his greatest sports hero.

Anyway, I'm excited about wrestling coming to Arkansas, as you might have guessed, and just hope it's picked up by the local schools. Then if they do, to coin an old phrase, try it, you'll like it.

So that's my opinion for the week for what it's worth.

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