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 2019-20
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." 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.
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.
Wrestling is an aggressive endeavor and should be coached and executed in that manner. It is expected that wrestlers stay inbounds and compete. There is no passive wrestling. There are no provisions in the rules to allow a wrestler to rest. Backing off the mat out of bounds, pushing or pulling the opponent out of bounds, hands locked around one leg of an opponent without the intent of taking him/her down or preventing the opponent from scoring is considered stalling. Regardless of the position – top, bottom or neutral – stalling is not acceptable. The referee shall be firm and consistent in enforcing the letter and spirit of the rule. The referee shall be unwavering in penalizing a stalling infraction without warning or hesitation.
Concussion Evaluation Time Extension
We have modified the injury time-out to incorporate more time to evaluate any head, neck, cervical column and/or nervous system. When an appropriate health-care professional is present, he or she has the authorization to extend the time to evaluate the wrestler’s condition to a maximum time limit of five (5) minutes. If a subsequent similar injury occurs during the same match, then the injured wrestler shall default the match. When this provision is used, the time consumed for evaluation of the injury shall not affect time used or available for other types of injuries.
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.
Importance of Hydration with Body Fat Assessment
Assessing hydration status prior to body composition testing is the cornerstone of establishing body fat percentage, fat free mass and a healthy minimum wrestling weight. Studies show that dehydration may significantly overestimate the percentage of body fat when assessing with skin calipers, bioelectrical impedance and the BodPod. There is also no evidence regarding the accuracy of ultrasound testing when determining body composition in dehydrated individuals. In addition to concerns regarding reliability of body fat percentage measurements, it is essential to weigh the wrestler in a well-hydrated state to ensure that the minimum weight calculation starts from a safe and healthy weight. If the wrestler is dehydrated when weighed, then that wrestler is starting from a “lower than normal” weight and will thus be certified to wrestle at a potentially unsafe weight. While it is recognized that there may be some difficulties in obtaining a urine sample, hydration testing prior to weight certification is vital to the health and safety of the wrestler.
2019-20 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 – Will again be held in Green Bay on Nov. 2nd in conjunction with the annual WWCA coach’s clinic. This is a great event – be there if possible. You will be contacted with more information. Association leaders, please encourage your membership to attend.
Assistant referee - The AR has been utilized in the post season the last 5 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, as Wade mentioned we will now abide by their rule. In the past we allowed a maximum weight increase of 1 pound regardless of how many consecutive days of contests or school cancellations. The only difference is now we get 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, 112 would be 114.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.
Dehydration vs. hydration - There were some questions last year regarding H/DH in the WI facility. You may never do any dehydration activities at any time in the WI facility. You may drink or eat in the facility, but you may not do so once you step on the scale, or step off the scale in an attempt to make min / max weight on another scale. So hopefully this clears that up.
Rule 5-15-2c - New Wisconsin interpretation - In a pinning situation, if the defensive wrestler’s shoulders/scapula are in NF criteria beyond the 28-foot circle, a NF or a Fall shall be earned if the feet including toes and/or heels of the offensive wrestler are the supporting points, and the offensive wrestler’s knee(s) are on, or inside the boundary line, whether in contact with or above the mat. We have been requiring the offensive wrestler to have both knees within the cylinder; however, the rule has always said KNEE(S). So, you only need one knee within the cylinder, not two to score NF points or a fall. This again rewards aggressive wrestling and enforces the intent of the rule! We will try to put an illustration in the resource center in the near future.
5 feet of safety mats - NFHS rules require approximately 5 feet of safety mat surrounding the wrestling area. This means that in a tournament setting, adjacent mats ideally would have wrestling areas 10 feet apart. Whenever possible, let’s try to be vigilant in attemptingto meet this standard.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct vs. Flagrant Misconduct - If a wrestler is disqualified from an individual bracketed tournament due to USC, he / she will not be eligible to place in the event (rule 9-2-3) and would be removed from the premises. The only points they will maintain would be advancement and pin points. If a wrestler is disqualified for FMC, they will lose all points earned and would be removed from the premises. If this same situation occurs in a dual event, they will not be able to score any team points for that dual. If they won their match, there would be no winner for that match. The appropriate team points would be deducted and they would be removed from the premises.
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.