As soon as news came down a couple of weeks ago regarding the elimination of forced par terre for Senior Greco Roman athletes by United World Wrestling, many in the US celebrated, especially some of the wrestlers themselves. It isn’t too difficult to understand why — par terre, particularly par terre defense, has been a notorious weak spot for Amercian Greco Roman competitors in recent years. Since the perception is that US Greco wrestlers are more adept on their feet, a higher rate of success should be expected. No more worrying and waiting to have to table out and “present yourself” for no good reason. The athletes can just focus on working their ties and getting to the body. Right? Right?
Not so fast. Because while there is no doubt ordered par terre being taken away can be advantageous for Americans, the trouble is officials still wield an overwhelming amount of power. The same rule-set that will now be in play for Seniors has been in effect at the age-group levels for a couple of years, and there has been plenty to complain about in that regard. That is what is confounding about fans giving each other high fives over all of this — many of the folks jumping for joy are the same lot who were railing about how some of the Juniors got the short end of the stick at the Worlds a few weeks ago. Over the identical rules. The same in-match governance. The same, the same, the same.
Not that there aren’t positives here. It is just that there are negatives, too. Let’s examine both sides of the aisle that way when action resumes for Seniors stateside next month, there won’t be a ton of surprises.
He just waits for par terre. A familiar term referring to wrestlers who didn’t show much offensively because all they wanted to do was take advantage of their first cracks on top. That phrase, thankfully, is now gone. There will be no more waiting games or “wrestling under presumption.”At least, there isn’t supposed to be.
Is it unreasonable to think that well-traveled Seniors who sport international medals will all of the sudden start going to a more open style? Probably. But at the same time, the greater impetus on activity standing up should lead to more concrete attempts which morph into scoring chances. The best Greco Roman wrestlers in the world over the last few years under the previous rule-set still managed to attack when standing. So while it is unlikely guys will constantly clinch up waiting to see who could throw first, you can certainly expect to see athletes legitimately digging inside more rather than just pretending to.
In this current generation of Greco Roman athletes, pace is one area that perhaps obviously, stood as the most inconsistent. A lot of that has to do with the various rule-sets over the previous two quads. It’s funny — every rule update has been meant to encourage action and naturally, competitors found ways to adjust their approaches and grind things down to a halt when necessary. That won’t magically change now that forced par terre has been erased.
But one thing fans won’t have to dread is the inevitable stoppage so that the official could put a wrestler down. This pause in action was a big part of in-match gamesmanship, with wrestlers using the time out to walk around in a circle to catch their breath. By extension, false starts, jump starts, and cautions — all mechanisms that slowed down the proceedings, are also no longer a problem.
It’s very simple: with more chances comes more opportunities for everyone to witness an enjoy the dynamic throws that attract people to this sport. And right now, all of wrestling needs that, not just Greco.
Because the Cadets and Juniors have operated under this rule-set for the better part of two years, age-group wrestlers will see a smoother, more comfortable transition. They are already well-versed in what is expected and how to navigate their tempos, their “feels” for execution. On the American side of things this is an even bigger deal, as this country’s more prolific talent may be more inclined to stick with Greco going forward than they were previously.
There is no doubt that throughout history, officials have played just as large of a role in the outcomes of matches as the combatants. It’s just a fact. An entire database of examples could be devoted to the subject, sort of a Lexis-Nexis for doubters to look up everything up case-by-case so they could have precedence to work with. So let’s just keep this nice and easy — officials may not be able to speed up the endings to matches now, but their collective amount of power has not been diminished in any way, shape, or form.
What this rule change does is give referees the muscle to drastically alter match flow in high-stakes events. Whether we are talking about officials who are potentially influenced by nefarious activity or just plain ole’ favoritism, this is going to be an issue. Passivity was not intended to be subjective yet it is absolutely blindingly so to the point where it needs a complete, simplifying overhaul in order to be executed at a passable level. Good luck with all that.
Outrage will remain part of the program. Wrestlers being penalized when they don’t deserve to be can still be counted on. The finals of major Senior events will on and off still be subject to widespread criticism. Some might argue that par terre being taken out provides officials with more power and for what it’s worth, they probably aren’t wrong.
Defense is and will always be the hallmark of top-level Senior Greco Roman competition. So just like two decades ago when there was no ordered par terre and wrestlers would clam it up and relentlessly deflect each other’s attempts, that will be the case more often than not here, too. Get ready for that. Yes, there are more opportunities for scoring therefore, we should see an uptick in flowery, beautiful throws and jaw-dropping exchanges. But for every match contested at a frenetic pace will be ten that are likely to be tenuous, grinding battles. That’s okay for the hardcore, maybe not so much for the casuals.
If you perform a count, there are more perceived positives than negatives. It just so happens that one of the two negatives, the officials’ roles, carries with it a lot of weight.
It might take a little getting used to. The 2016 non-Olympic Weight World Team Trials will be the first opportunity the new rule-set will be on display in the US. And the Golden Grand Prix a couple of weeks later stands as the first major international Senior event. Adjustments by athletes will be worth noting, especially for those whose styles are well-known. One way or another, there is a lot on the periphery that is compelling enough to pay close attention to.