With an eye to make the sport commercially appealing, wrestling bouts at international tournaments will be held over a period of two days instead of wrapping up all the bouts in a particular weight category, from qualification to finals, in one day, a practice which is followed currently in all competitions. If the proposed two-day format comes into affect, wrestlers will have to weigh in twice for the same competition and not once, the procedure currently followed. With this new system, United World Wrestling (UWW), the world governing body for the sport, hopes that the grappler won’t be forced to lose a huge amount of weight before the weigh-in. Moreover, the organisers will be able to promote the final and other medal bouts. The two-day format is likely to effect a change in the weight-loss process of a wrestler. Presently, the grapplers weigh in a day before competition and complete all their bouts the next day. With the new rule, the wrestlers have to maintain their weight for two successive days, but get a two kg allowance for the second day.
The new rule is likely to come into affect from January 1, 2018 if UWW clears the two-day format, which will be tested at the upcoming Cadet European Championships in July and the Cadet World Championships in September. With 17 out of the 19 UWW Bureau members voting in favour of the two-day format, the change seems all set to be enforced from next year.
Apart from the two-day format, UWW has also decided to increase the number of weight categories from eight to 10 at senior, U-23 and junior levels. The new categories will be announced at a meeting after the 2017 World Championships to be held in August in Paris. The other rule changes proposed include bringing back the five-point move in freestyle wrestling and seeding the top four wrestlers in every category at World Championships. The changes were suggested by UWW’s Technical Commission and put before members of the Bureau.
This is the second time after the 2012 London Olympics that UWW has brought significant rule changes in the sport. Earlier, it had scrapped a few weight categories and changed the best-of-three rounds system to decide the winner. The earlier rule changes were made after wrestling was in danger of being dropped from the Olympic programme after the 2016 Rio Games.
“The good part about this rule is that it gives wrestlers time to rest before the final bout as it will take place on the next day. The repechage guys will also get rest as the medal bouts happen the next day. Overall, it is the same for everyone,” Kuldeep Malik, national coach of the Indian women’s team, says.
But Malik feels the rule change may put Indian wrestlers at a disadvantage, as they “reduce more weight than other wrestlers.”
“While I have no issue with the new rule, it will be a difficult one to adapt as far as Indian wrestlers are concerned. They cut around seven to eight kilograms before a competition. Now they have to maintain a certain weight for two days instead of cutting the weight once,” he explained.
Earlier, the weigh ins were done a day prior to competition but if the new rule comes into effect, the wrestlers will have to weigh in on the morning of the competition and if they qualify for the final or repechage rounds, they have to weigh in again the next day.
India’s national Greco-Roman coach Kuldeep Singh also raised concerns regarding the proposed changes.
“It used to happen in our time that you wrestle and then weigh in the same evening if you win. It is difficult to not eat and wrestle. Our wrestles have good conditioning, but this will affect them. Earlier, they cut weight and then ate a lot after weigh-in. Now, if they eat after the first day, they will be over-weight and have to cut weight again which will be a tiring process given they had wrestled the same day,” he says.
The Indian wrestlers reduce more weight for a competition as they take part in fewer meets. Hence, they find it difficult to maintain weight over a period of time. In contrast, the wrestlers in the United States maintain their weight at a constant level as they participate in more competitions in a similar period. East European wrestlers also reduce minimal amount of weight for competitions, but have superior body strength.