A new look for athletes will show up on the wrestling mat next fall.
An alternate two-piece uniform consisting of compression shorts or shorts designed for wrestling — as well as a form-fitted compression shirt — has been approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) for the 2017-18 high school wrestling season, replacing the traditional singlet. Wrestlers will have the option of the new two-piece uniform or the traditional one-piece singlet.
"The wrestling rules committee did another phenomenal job in taking the necessary strides to promote participation by approving a two-piece alternate uniform to be worn," said Elliot Hopkins, director of sports and student services for the National Federation of State High School Associations.
According to the NFHS, shorts designed for wrestling will be school-issued and have a minimum four-inch inseam that does not extend below the knee. The form-fitted compression shirt will not cover or extend below the elbow and will have a minimum three-inch tail. The shirt may be worn under a singlet or with compression shorts or shorts designed for wrestling.
Specific language was developed regarding undergarment requirements for female contestants wearing a one-piece singlet or a form-fitted compression shirt, as well as for male contestants wearing shorts designed for wrestling.
The committee approved use of the alternate two-piece uniform in the hopes of increasing boys' and girls' participation in the sport after receiving favorable results from experimentation and positive comments from schools, students coaches and officials.
Wrestling ranks seventh in popularity among boys at the high school level with 250,653 participants nationwide, according to the 2015-16 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey. In addition, 13,496 girls participate in the sport.
The committee approved several rules related to minimizing risk of injury in the sport. Rule 4-5-3 now prohibits any activities that promote weight loss or weight gain when an athlete misses weight on his or her first attempt on the scale. In addition to activities that promote dehydration or drinking fluids to gain weight, the rule now prohibits activities such as cutting hair, modifying clothing, etc.
Another change designed to reduce risk of injury was elimination of the straight-back salto, regardless of which body part (head, neck or shoulder) hits the mat first. The straight-back salto in the rear-standing position that brings the defensive wrestler straight back with feet in the air is intended to have the defensive wrestler's head, neck or shoulder(s) hit the mat first — and is now an illegal move.
In addition, added to the list of illegal holds and maneuvers in Rule 7-1-5 was a front flip and front hurdle over an opponent in the standing position.
"The attempt to flip or hurdle an opponent from a neutral position is not only an elevated risk to the wrestler attempting the maneuver. It also places the opponent in a disadvantage position as he or she is not only left to counter the scoring attempt, but is placed in a position of responsibility for not reacting in a manner that may cause a slam or unsafe return to the mat of the wrestler who actually initiated the maneuver," said Hopkins.
The committee approved two changes in Rule 5-11 related to falls and near falls. In 5-11-1, the shoulders or scapula of the offensive wrestler no longer must be inbounds to earn a fall. Committee members agreed that wrestling should continue if the offensive wrestler's supporting parts remain inbounds and no body part of the defensive wrestler goes off the mat. In 5-11-5, "unless any part of the shoulders or both scapulae of the defensive wrestler is inbounds" was eliminated. If wrestling is continuing during a match, near falls and falls will be awarded/earned regardless of the out-of-bounds line.
In a related rule, Rule 5-15-2b, c was changed as follows: Near-fall points or a fall shall be earned while the supporting points of either wrestler are inbounds.
"The committee agreed that offensive wrestling should be rewarded," Hopkins said. "If wrestling is continuing, as allowed by current rules, and points for escapes and reversals are allowed, the ability to earn a fall or near fall should be there as well, with no deference to the out-of-bounds line."