A Complete Guide to the 2014 Freestyle Wrestling World Championships: Primer

I love the freestyle wrestling world championships. I dread them too. From a fan’s perspective, this tournament feels like playing limitless hold’em for the highest stakes imaginable; either you will leave the table at the level of wealth, or totally crushed and destitute.

The World Championships have no mercy, and at any time an athlete can waste a lifetime of preparation for just one mistake. To make matters even more difficult, the field has twice as many entries as at the Olympics, so even the nicest draws will see extremely accomplished and dangerous opponents standing in each wrestler‘s path.

Conversely, the World Championships offer much more potential for unlikely competitors to make miraculous races to glory. Nations do not need to qualify wrestlers for this event, so each country on Earth can send only one wrestler in each weight class. Sometimes that results in horrific lags, but every once in a while an athlete from a totally unrecognized nation finds himself struggling for a medal.

Also unlike the Olympics, the World Championships crown a team champion. If a wrestler is in the top ten in his weight class, then he scores team points for his nation. The nation with the most team points at the end of the tournament becomes the team world champion (first place wrestlers receive ten points, second nine, third eight, fourth seven etc.). This year, just like last year, Russia and Iran will compete in the team championship. The next level of elite teams, including Azerbaijan, Ukraine and the United States, will compete for third place.

The dates: Although the world championships in all three styles (men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle, men’s Greco-Roman wrestling) will take place from September 8 to 14, the men’s freestyle competition will only take place on Monday, September 8 and the Tuesday, September 9.

The place and time: This year’s championships will be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The medal rounds will begin daily at 7 p.m. in Tashkent, which corresponds to 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Weight : The World Championships host competitions in eight weight classes, two more than the next Olympics and one more weight than any world championship in the past decade. The inclusion of the 70kg class has re-energized the careers of some notable wrestlers.

The men’s freestyle weights, in kilograms, are: 57, 61, 65, 70, 74, 86, 97, 125. Each weight competes in its entirety in one day.

Tournament visualization: There will be a free webcast with respectable production value. Bloody Elbow will have live chats each day and, if possible, will integrate the show.

The rules: I cannot stress enough the quality of the wrestling product thanks to the new rules. The current rules don’t include all of the changes I’d like to see, but they’re pretty darn good:

  • Takes are worth two points.
  • All throws or eliminations that bring an opponent from the back feet are worth four points.
  • If a wrestler exposes the back of a wrestler from neutral while that wrestler is kneeling, then that exposure is worth two points, even if it results in an out for that exponent wrestler. However, a withdrawal and subsequent exposure is worth four points. Americans find this very counterintuitive (for good reason).
  • Pushes, only when the push is standing, are worth one point. The whole foot should come out of the line.
  • Reversals are worth one point.
  • If a wrestler attempts a throw, but in the process falls face down and his opponent falls on top of him, then the referee may call this a “slip throw” and not award any points to anyone.
  • Any rear exposure from the down position is worth two points. The exposed wrestler can reduce this to a point by going “clinch” (I thought this rule was gone but saw referees call it).
  • Points of appreciation, aka “near takedown”, would no longer exist.
  • Passivity results in a warning the first time the referee calls it. The second time around, the referee puts the passive wrestler on the “shot clock”, and if the passive wrestler fails to score in thirty seconds, his opponent receives a point.
  • Ties are broken by criteria. First, if a wrestler has scored a stroke of higher value, he wins, and if the stroke values ​​are equal, the last to score wins.
  • Matches consist of two three-minute periods with a rest between them. Matches end when the time expires, when one wrestler pins the other, or when a wrestler reaches a score difference of ten or more points.

With absolute certainty I forgot some rules, but it should be fine for those uninitiated to freestyle.

Finally, a few notes on future editions of this weight-for-weight preview:

  • FILA, the governing body of international wrestling, renames itself and changes its name to United World Wrestling (UWW). I love the change, but some find it too similar to a name that would be used by the distant, scripted, professional cousin of Olympic wrestling. This tournament remains under the nickname of FILA
  • This guide will not cover female freestyle and Greco-Roman. I only have love for these two styles, but I have limited time and resources, and I love freestyle more.
  • This guide will focus on the US team more than the delegation from any other country. I am American and I love my country’s team.
  • International wrestling has long struggled to get participation information to members of the media, but this is changing for the better now that FILA has a dedicated professional communications division. It seems that a precise list of competitors is already available; However, be understanding if it turns out that we see a difference or two between the wrestlers I’m talking about and those who appear on the mat.

Robert J. King