2020-21 High School Wrestling Rules Changes Address Weigh-In Procedures, Hair-Length Restrictions
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As the result of a concerted effort to accommodate the growing number of female wrestlers, the 2020-21 high school wrestling rules changes are headlined by significant adjustments to weigh-in protocol and appropriate hair-length requirements.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee met April 5-6 and recommended 11 rules changes to take effect next school year. In accordance with current health safety guidelines, the rules meeting was held in an online format. All rules revisions recommended by the Wrestling Rules Committee were approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
“These rule changes are some of the most prolific modifications in the history of high school wrestling,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services and liaison to the Wrestling Rules Committee. “The rules committee made necessary, drastic changes to attract more young people to our sport without sacrificing the health and safety of the participants.”
The weigh-in procedure was altered through a combination of changes to Rule 4-5 (Weighing-In) of the Wrestling Rule Book. Following an amendment to the legal uniform laid out in Rule 4-1-1c, which now permits female wrestlers to wear a form-fitted compression shirt that completely covers their breasts in addition to a one-piece singlet and a suitable undergarment, Rule 4-5-7 was rewritten to require that a legal uniform be worn during weigh-in and that no additional weight allowance be granted. An additional clause prohibiting shoes and ear guards during weigh-in was also written into 4-5-7.
Weighing-in with a legal uniform allowed the committee to break down more gender barriers with subsequent changes to Rules 4-5-1, 4-5-2 and 4-5-4. Previously, weigh-ins consisted of shoulder-to-shoulder lineups of each contestant that were separated by gender (4-5-2), took place a maximum of one hour prior to competition (4-5-1) and required supervision by a referee of each respective gender (4-5-4).
With the institution of the legal uniform (one-piece singlet or two-piece), male and female wrestlers are now able to weigh-in together in the same lineup, allowing gender-specific language to be removed from all three rules. Additionally, the form-fitted compression shirt offers females a more suitable uniform for post-weigh-in skin checks, which are typically done by male officials.
“The change to the weighing-in process is remarkably timely, as schools have struggled in the past to identify adult females to weigh-in the female wrestlers,” Hopkins said. “This action accommodates transgender children as well; it respects their rights and dignity and addresses any modesty concerns for any affected children. We anticipate that the entire weigh-in process will be expedited and more efficient.”
Significant changes to the hair-length rule (Rule 4-2-1) were also linked to the committee’s focus on inclusion. Previously, a wrestler’s hair could not “extend below the top of an ordinary shirt collar” in the back, below earlobe level on the sides or below the eyebrows in the front. Those confinements, along with the requirement that a hair cover be used for hair that exceeded said limitations, were deleted. Considerable support for this rule change from coaches and officials was generated by an initiative of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, which successfully experimented with relaxed hair restrictions this past winter.
“Removing the hair-length rule is a monumental change,” Hopkins said. “It is important to embrace the current culture of young boys and girls who are expressing themselves through their appearance, making this the perfect opportunity to extend wrestling to young people who otherwise would not be attracted to our sport. While the hair-length restriction has been removed, the requirement that hair-control devices/treatment items cannot be hard, abrasive or sharp remains. If a hair cover is used, it shall be attached to the ear guards. Additionally, the barring of oils, or greasy substances on or in the hair is still in effect.”
Another modification to the wrestling uniform came through Rule 4-1-3. In order to curtail participants from intentionally lacing their shoes too loosely to cause a stoppage in the action and potentially thwart an opponent’s scoring opportunity, a technical violation will be assessed in any instance where a shoe comes off, and the injury clock will be started to correct the situation. This change is made under the assumption that a wrestler is, in fact, properly equipped to wrestle when the match begins, as a wrestling shoe that is properly laced and secured will not typically come off.
Technical violations were the subject of change in Rule 7-3-1 as well. To avoid penalizing a participant twice for the same sequence of events, wording was added to 7-3-1 declaring that points will not be awarded to a wrestler whose opponent has fled the mat if that wrestler has already scored for a near-fall or takedown.
Under Rule 8-1-4, a match will now automatically be stopped and restarted in the event a wrestler commits a fourth stalling violation. Previously, if the offender was called for a fourth stall of the match while in the defensive or neutral position, there was no guarantee his or her opponent would be awarded choice of position through a restart if the violation occurred during the third period.
“This rule remedies that if the fourth stall occurs in the third period there might not be an opportunity to restart before the end of the match,” Hopkins said. “This rule change assures that the offending wrestler is held accountable and subsequent points are awarded to the opponent.”
Based on the hair-length changes, Rule 5-29-1, which addresses unnecessary roughness, was edited to include “pulling an opponent’s hair” as an additional example of the offense.
Finally, a new article was added to Rule 8-2 dealing with participant injuries. Rule 8-2-9 has been designed to discourage wrestlers from requesting injury time from the official as an attempt to stop an opponent from scoring. If the referee determines a wrestler would have scored had the injury time-out not taken place, the injured contestant will be charged an injury time-out and applicable points will be awarded to the non-injured party.
According to the 2018-19 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, wrestling is the seventh-most popular sport for boys with 247,441 participants in 10,843 schools. In addition, the number of female wrestlers increased by almost 5,000 participants in 2018-19, as 21,124 girls competed in 2,890 schools.
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Release by NFHS Communications
NFHS Wrestling Rules Book 2020-21
The NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee and the NFHS Board of Directors believes there are areas of interscholastic wrestling that need to be addressed and given special attention. These areas of concern are often cyclical, some areas need more attention than others, and that is why they might appear in the rules book for consecutive editions. These concerns are identified as “Points of Emphasis.” For the 2020-21 high school wrestling season, attention is being called to: wrestler’s equipment, particularly the coach’s verification that the wrestler is properly equipped and in proper uniform; the inspection of such equipment by the referee; the compliance of NFHS Rules; the appearance and wearing of the wrestling uniform; cleanliness of uniforms, pads and mats; hair rule enforcement; sportsmanship enforcement; and proper weigh-in protocol. When a topic is included in the Points of Emphasis, these topics are important enough to reinforce throughout the academic year because they are not being given the proper attention needed.
The head coach has the obligation to ensure that each wrestler is properly equipped and in proper uniform. Furthermore, he or she is the adult who is responsible that each wrestler’s skin, nails and hair are suitable and compliant for competition. Regarding the uniform and wrestler’s appearance, we are experiencing modesty challenges which reflect negatively on the sport. Both genders shall wear suitable undergarments that completely cover their buttocks and groin area. Especially, when the school-issued uniform is light-colored or white; once wet from perspiration, the uniform can become transparent and without the proper undergarment, it makes the wrestler feel self-conscious and anyone around the area feeling uncomfortable. We are encouraged that wrestling is inviting to so many girls; however, we have to ensure that their breasts are completely covered and supported for the vigorous rigors of interscholastic wrestling.
Cleanliness of Uniforms, Pads and Mats
Communicable diseases are a major concern in the sport of wrestling and any infectious disease outbreak has the potential to end a team’s season, or even suspend the sport across an entire state. It is imperative that ALL school officials, coaches and wrestlers continually use best practices to control the spread of communicable diseases.
A major aid in preventing the spread of communicable disease is to properly clean all wrestling mats and wrestling equipment. Mats in the wrestling room should be regularly maintained. They should always be inspected, cleaned and dry before storing. Clean and disinfect all hard, non-porous gear and surfaces such as wall mats, floor surfaces. Cleaning wrestling mats two or three hours prior to each use is highly recommended. An effective disinfectant is 10% bleach (mix 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water). There is no advantage of using a stronger chlorine bleach and water solution than what is recommended above. Commercial disinfectant products are also available. Be sure that any product used states that it is effective against viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Typically, the label will state the cleaner is bactericidal, fungicidal and viricidal. Please follow the directions on the label closely for the best effectiveness. When cleaning wrestling mats, it is recommended to walk backwards while mopping in an effort to minimize contamination from the shoes.
Likewise, it is imperative to clean all wrestling equipment and clothing daily. All workout gear should be cleaned after each practice. This includes towels, clothing, headgear, shoes, knee pads and any bags used to transport this equipment. In addition to cleaning wrestling equipment and wrestling mats properly, a few basic steps must be taken by all involved in the sport in order to minimize the risk of spreading communicable diseases. Communicable diseases are preventable. Following these steps will decrease the risk that these communicable diseases will be spread among the athletes in the wrestling room and/or during competition.
- Educate coaches, athletes, referees and parents about communicable skin conditions and how they are spread. (http://www.nwcaskinprevention.com/webinar/)
- Maintain proper ventilation in the wrestling room to prevent the build-up of heat and humidity.
- Emphasize to the athletes the importance of showering immediately after each practice and competition. Soap must be used. If shower facilities are unavailable, athletes should clean all exposed skin with “baby wipes” immediately after practices and competitions.
- Wash all workout clothing and personal gear after each practice and competition.
- Coaches or athletic trainers should perform daily skin checks to ensure early recognition of potential communicable skin conditions. Athletes must not be allowed to practice or compete if an active infection is suspected, even if the infection is covered. Any suspicious lesions must be evaluated by an appropriate health care provider prior to an athlete practicing or competing.
- Athletes must not share practice gear, towels or personal hygiene products (razors) with others.
- Athletes should refrain from any cosmetic shaving (chest, arms, abdomen) other than face.
- Athletes should clean hands with an alcohol-based gel prior to every wrestling match to decrease bacterial load on the hands.
- Make certain that athletes and coaching staff are current on all required vaccinations (MMR, Hepatitis B, Chickenpox, etc.) and strongly encourage yearly influenza vaccination
Hair Rule Enforcement
While the hair length rule no longer exists, those who choose to wear a hair covering for cultural, religious or personal hygiene reasons still have to adhere to the existing rule that the covering shall be attached to the ear guards, must be of a solid material and non-abrasive. A bandanna, scarf or loose material is not considered a legal hair cover. The legal hair cover is considered special equipment and the wrestler must wear it to weigh-ins, have it checked with it being worn by the responsible person facilitating the weigh-in process and remove it prior to stepping on the scale. If a referee is not present at weigh-ins, the hair cover must be checked by the meet referee upon arrival at the site.
Additionally, if any hair control items are used, they cannot be of a hard material, sharp or abrasive such as beads, bobby pins, barrettes, hair pins or hair clips.
Education-based athletics plays a tremendous role in the development of our young people. Each person associated with high school wrestling is responsible to teach, model, support and administer good sportsmanship. Without good sportsmanship, we lose everything we are trying to accomplish, and the young person is failed and let down by the very same adults that he/she trusts. Coaches should promote good sportsmanship in their coaching method and be an appropriate role model. The referee shall enforce NFHS sportsmanship rules, from opening handshakes to making stalling or fleeing-the-mat calls. The lessons learned on the competition mat are the supports and underpinnings of developing a young person into a conscientious and responsible adult. Finally, the wrestler is ultimately responsible for his or her behavior and decorum. To gain a victory by using poor sportsmanlike moves or techniques only masks the temporary exhilaration of the win. The success becomes hollow and the person eventually loses the joy of competing, which is not the purpose of high school athletics. Working collectively by promoting good sportsmanship, we can increase the number of opportunities for more people to participate in the sport at various levels of engagement.
Contestants are now allowed to weigh-in a legal uniform. This change will simplify the weigh-in process for meet managers and officials. By having all the competitors in the same area wearing their legal uniform, this will greatly reduce modesty and gender issues. By rule, skin checks (which is a separate process) can now be performed by the referee or verified that they have been done by a designated, on-site meet appropriate health-care professional immediately prior to or immediately after the weigh-in. There is no requirement to perform this examination while wrestlers are wearing only suitable undergarments.
2020-21 WIAA Points of Emphasis
Our need for officials – We all realize that Wisconsin is in dire need of young officials. As in the past, I encourage all officials' associations’ state wide to adopt a mentoring program to help develop young officials. In addition, all high school coaches should encourage their athletes to consider obtaining a Limited-Restricted license. This will allow them to officiate all youth through JV level wrestling events. There is no fee to be paid by them for this license.
Officials’ clinic – Because the WWCA clinic has transitioned to virtual this year there will not be an in person clinic this fall. We will be offering two zoom meetings available to all officials and coaches. The dates for those will be Tuesday, November 10th from 8-9:30pm and Tuesday, November 17th from 8-9:30pm. Our major goal is to have uniform officiating across the state and this clinic has helped bring us together. I encourage all officials and coaches to attend. Registration will begin in Mid-October.
Assistant referee - The AR has been utilized in the post season the last 6 years. We must continue to use it whenever possible. Repetition creates confidence and excellence. Certification in its use can again be obtained by watching an on-line power point through the WIAA website. You will be expected to view this short power point by Jan. 1, to be considered eligible for post season assignments. There is a handout on the responsibilities of the AR that is found on the officials’ resource center of the WIAA website. To avoid misconceptions and misunderstandings, coaches as well are encouraged to watch it.
Website - It is very important that all officials visit the website frequently throughout the season to keep up to date on interpretations, situations and answers to a variety of questions. This is the best way we can communicate and keep everyone on the same page. Also, check out the great variety of available resources and see if anything new has been added. The website will be updated prior to the beginning of the season.
Consecutive Days of Competition or school cancellation - To get in line with the NFHS rules we will allow a growth allowance for consecutive days of competition of 1lb per day to a maximum of 2 pounds. So if you have a dual on Wednesday and Thursday, and a school cancellation on Friday, followed by a tournament on Saturday, you get two extra pounds on Saturday. For example, if the weight is 106 on Wednesday, it would be 107 on Thursday, it would be 108 on Friday and it would stay 108 on Saturday. You may never exceed the 2 pound allowance during the regular season and you must give your opponents(s) a 48 hour notice prior to the event. The 48 hours is required for consecutive days of competition, not for school cancellations. But they must be notified. The appropriate persons to notify would be the coach, AD or principal.
Rule 7-1-5n Leg Block (cutback): The leg block is an illegal hold due to the amount of sudden pressure and force that is placed on the opponents lower legs and knees. It is dangerous and it often happens very quickly, which makes it very easy to miss as an official. Watch a video demonstration here. As you can see from the video, this happens from the side with one leg/knee. It happens quickly and can severely injure a wrestler and we need to be award of it and eliminate it from the sport.
Rule 7-1-5w Back and Front Flips from a standing position: While both wrestlers are on their feet it is illegal for a wrestler to perform a back flip OR a front flip, this includes but is not limited to a front hurdle. The rationale for this is to simply eliminate the potential for serious injury to either wrestler. The front flips have been occurring more often and have not been consistently penalized.
Stalling vs. Fleeing the Mat: Remember the rule change from last year; fleeing the mat can only be called if the wrestler is avoiding imminent scoring situation. If no imminent scoring situation is present then stalling is to be called
Supporting points - We need to improve our line calls when it comes to interpreting what are the supporting points. They include the knees, side of the thigh, the buttocks, the head and the hand(s). We are not consistent particularly when it involves the hands. Take a look at the illustrations regarding SP’s that can be found on the website in the resource center.
2-3-4 Pt. Near-Fall – 2016-17 Season
The logic of the rules clarification is to not allow a defensive wrestler the opportunity to commit an illegal hold, technical violation, unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike act in order to negate a possible fall or near-fall. This supports the philosophy that the defensive wrestler should not be able to profit through this action.
Whenever a match is stopped, the addition of a near-fall point(s) and the penalty point shall be awarded. Stoppage is defined as: 1) stopping the match due to the penalty (the match need not be stopped during the near fall unless the referee finds it necessary to do so to protect the wrestler); 2) going out of bounds; or 3) period ends; 4) the near fall situation has ended.
When near-fall criteria are imminent, and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be two points for imminent near-fall and one point for the penalty. Should near-fall criteria be met for a period of 2-4 seconds, and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be three points for meeting near-fall criteria and one point for the penalty. Should near-fall criteria be met for a period of five seconds and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be four points for meeting the five-second count and one point for the penalty. Also, if the referee is making a delayed penalty call and the defensive wrestler maneuvers out of criteria (such as bellying down) or the offensive wrestler continues on to earn a two or three-point near fall, the penalty point is to be awarded, as is the additional near-fall point.
The offended wrestler may receive a minimum of two near-fall points and a penalty point, three near-fall points and a penalty point, or a maximum of four near-fall points and a penalty point for a total of five points. Should the penalty sequence come into play, the offending wrestler may also be disqualified.
Near Fall Points – Rule 5-11-2 – The NFHS interpretation of this rule has changed a number of times over the last 3 years. As a result, this has caused some confusion and misinterpretation. Keep in mind that it is not the intent of this rule to take the defensive wrestler off his back unless you feel it is necessary in order to prevent injury to either wrestler. Proper communication by the official to the wrestlers will usually avoid stopping the match during the near-fall situation. Should you have to take a wrestler off his back due to repeated unnecessary roughness or repeated unsportsmanlike conduct, the official could easily be justified in calling flagrant misconduct at that point.
If wrestling is stopped just prior to near fall criteria being met, then the offensive wrestler has earned a 2 point NF in addition to the penalty point (3 points total). If wrestling is stopped once criteria has been met for 2-4 seconds, then the wrestler has earned a 3 pt. NF in addition to the penalty point (4 points total). If wrestling is stopped after a 3 pt. NF has been earned (five second count), then a 4 point NF will be awarded in addition to the penalty point (5 points total).
The majority of time the official will not stop the match once criteria is met. In other words, when the near fall situation has ended, then the match will be stopped and the points will be awarded as described above. Just because you did not take the defensive wrestler off his back does not nullify this rule. They have earned and will be awarded the maximum number of points as described above. The defensive wrestler may have profited from this action, no matter how minutely it may have been.
Wisconsin wrestlers will now follow the NFHS 1.5% per week weight loss plan. Once the minimum weight for wrestlers is established, they will be allowed to lose 1.5% of their body weight to reach the minimum weight. Coaches will enter the wrestler's weigh in from each competition into TrackWrestling and a new plan might be established.
For details, click HERE. For Frequently Asked Questions, click Here.
For Weight Loss Plan information, steps to enter your matches, and printing the Weigh-in sheet on Trackwrestling, click HERE.
For DXA or Hydrostatic Weighing appeals - Coaches MUST change the wrestler's Consent flag (parental permission weight) in Trackwrestling to Y - BEFORE printing the weight loss plan for the wrestler to bring to the appointment. If the wrestler weighs less than the plan allows for the date the test is done, it will be denied.