Letters to the Editor
"Problems with the Junior
Folkstyle Wrestling Tournaments in Utah"
This is Coach Unsworth at Kearns Junior High. We are new
to wrestling against the state junior high teams because
of District policies that I
choose to ignore this year. But, I see a problem with
the junior folkstyle wrestling tournaments in Utah.
One, there are NO paid, trained officials that are
Refereeing our matches, just high school boys that do
not even know all the rules. These tournaments are
bringing in a lot of cash to pay officials — in which
officials should be used and the rest can go to the
Two, coaches that do not go by a set of guidelines like
NFHS rule book. I see a lot of freestyle move that
are being used and injuring a lot of kids at these
meets. I also see a lot of illegal holds. For
instance, in the
NFHS rule book they have pictures of all the illegal
moves. For example: (7-1-7) the over the top head lock
while standing or the throwing an opponent to the mat
without placing a knee down on the mat first.
Three, coaches that are coaching wrong techniques for
NFHS rule book.
Four, organization of tournaments and placing of kids in
the tournaments. Listen to the coach — he/she
should know the abilities of his/her athletes and where
to be placed.
Glen Kawa at Kearns High School can help find officials
for tournaments and for questions. We need these rules
to become more effective at hosting tournaments and
cutting down injuries.
Kearns Junior High would like to host a Tournament next
year. What are the guidelines to go about this?
Kearns Junior High
Respond to this Letter
Coach Unsworth brings up some very valid
The reason we go with high school refs are
Cost. We have tried to keep costs down. If
we were to add certified refs we would need to charge fans
and/or up the sign up fee from $10 to $15. Currently, at
these tournaments, we get what we pay for. Ten bucks and
no charge for parents is a pretty good deal.
Availability of refs. I remember a few
years ago trying to get certified refs. I ordered 10 and 5
showed up. It might be better now and Unsworth urged more
people to get certified. Perhaps dads who are going to
stay at a Jr. tournament all day might want to get
certified and earn a pay check.
Are Jr. High tournaments too much like
combat pay? They are hard on the refs. It is a long day
with many matches, with emotionally changed fans. (So then
we let high school refs go through it).
If we as a state want to go with certified
refs, then there would need to an understanding of the
costs. Tournaments might not be as big. There are so many
things that we like as wrestlers and trade offs are hard.
Currently ending time is the top priority.
Keep talking wrestling, Utah.
Spanish Fork Junior High
Respond to this Response
I agree with much of
what you said about mat officials. Having untrained
officials at tournaments is a big problem in Utah.
In traveling out of state for wrestling tournaments, I
can't tell you how many times people have come up to ask
me, "Is it true that in Utah, you pull referees out of the
stands?" Although this is not the norm, it has
happened. I've seen it. In fact, I've even
done it myself, calling on people who I know are good
officials to come out of the stands to officiate.
There are training and certification programs out there
where parents and other supporters can become good mat
officials. But those programs, by and large, are not
For instance, at the
Mountain Top Classic last year, I
required that all mat officials be certified. I
thought it was a good step in the right direction,
requiring certification. Then the rest would follow.
However, as a result, people who usually officiated on a
weekly basis flat out refused. Some even went
to the extreme of confronting me over it, saying that they
give enough to the sport, they shouldn't be expected to
become certified, as well.
It's a big problem for this state.
Wyoming, which has the smallest population per square mile
of any state in the country, is one of the top three
states in the country for number of certified mat and
pairing officials. There, it is not only expected,
it is required. And going to tournaments in Wyoming
is a real pleasure, because the officiating is, in
general, excellent. But people seem unwilling to
draw that hard line in Utah, so we continue with status
quo, where standard operating procedure is to allow things
that should not be allowed, taking matches away from the
winning wrestler and, in general, making a tournament a
less enjoyable experience.
Thank you for voicing your frustrations.
It's only by bringing problems to light that they can be
dealt with and improve wrestling in Utah.
Respond to this Response
I, too, agree with some
of the points made by the above coaches. It is one of the
reasons I have been very reluctant to allow my son to
wrestle in the freestyle tournaments. I don't blame the
officials who, for the most part are kids, some still in
elementary. Not only do these kids not know all the rules
and regulations, but they are bombarded by overbearing
and, in some cases ill-tempered parents. I've seen kids
change a call simply because they were pressured to do so
by a screaming parent. What you get is a two-fold problem:
A kid potentially getting injured on the mat and another
kid getting verbally abused by a parent. The experience
should be an enjoyable one for all involved. Wrestling has
an "just suck it up and go out there" attitude. That's
fine when the playing field is even, or in this case safe.
It's truly a credit to the outstanding coaching that many
of these kids receive that no kid has been seriously
injured. When a serious injury does occur, and it seems
almost inevitable, the argument over not needing certified
officials will be an empty one. We should be proactive
rather than reactive.
Kearns High Wrestling Coach
Grappler's West Wrestling Club
Respond to this Response
Well stated. I
just wanted to clarify a couple points.
Although there are some
young mat officials at freestyle tournaments, they are
usually pretty knowledgeable. If they were not, then
the head official(s) would not have allowed them to
officiate. Also, young officials are not supposed to
officiate matches unless the wrestlers are in age groups
below them. So, for example, a Novice wrestler (ages
11 and 12) officiating a match, should only be officiating
matches for Midgets (ages 9 and 10), Bantams (ages 7 and
8) and Flyweights (ages 6 and under). This is
intended to help prevent the wrestlers from outstripping
the official's experience. The head officials are
fighting an uphill battle to get good mat officials and
are trying to use this as a training ground to bring up
good officials, experienced and trained.
However, this does not preclude the
intimidation factor you mentioned. I once had a
young mat official who was actually very good. He
knew the rules and, in this case, knew that the opposing
wrestler was trying to injure my wrestler, because he
could not win the match within the confines of the rules.
Even worse, the wrestler did what he did because he was
instructed to do so by his coach. The official (who
was probably 12 years old), stopped the match and
penalized the offending wrestler for brutality, called for
a Caution, and awarded my wrestler a point. The
opposing coach then proceeded to blow a gasket, marched
out on the mat and proceeded to yell at him until the kid
was intimidated into changing the call. It was very
disappointing, because this individual is the head coach
at a high school with one of the most successful programs
in the state. (It was a very disheartening
experience, to say the least.)
So I can certainly
sympathize. And, again, all I can ask is that
parents take a more active role in running tournaments.
Not only is the help necessary, but certification and
training is a must. Although we as coaches and
tournament directors certainly appreciate all the time and
sacrifice parents put in, it's simply not enough to
volunteer your time ... it needs to be done right.
As you said, Coach Falcon, not only does it put the
athletes at risk, but it prevents parents from bringing
their wrestlers out to tournaments. Neither of which
is anything any of us wants.
Thank you for stating
that so well and taking the time to articulate your
thoughts and contribute to the improvement of wrestling in
Respond to this Response