What is wrestling, anyway?

May 4, 2010

PLAINVIEW – So you think you want to wrestle?

It has been evident since Coach Johnny Cobb set foot on the Wayland Baptist University campus that wrestling evokes a passion among its fans unparalleled by any other sport. But what is it about the sport that draws those emotions from not only those directly involved, but also those on the periphery?

“It’s basically a controlled fight,” Cobb explained. “You don’t want to go out there and lose that fight, and the fans get equally enthralled with that.”

Cobb should know. He’s been fighting since his dad died when he was a 13-year-old boy. His attempts, however, were mostly unsuccessful.

“I guess I had a little chip on my shoulder. I was doing a whole lot of asphalt wrestling,” Cobb said. “I was not very big, as you can see. I had this little, ‘You want some of me,’ kind of attitude that was absolutely stupid. It’s 20/20 hindsight that I look back on now, thinking how dumb was I that I had to go try to prove something.”

On his first day in high school, Cobb ran into a teacher who had been a friend of his dad. The teacher looked at his schedule, rearranged it and sent him off to the office to make sure he was properly enrolled.

“He messed with my schedule and changed everything then told me to go fix it because I was wrestling in first period,” Cobb said.

Not knowing a thing about wrestling, Cobb questioned the decision.

“Basically, what he told me was that I was going to have to go out and under a set of rules whip somebody’s butt who was my size,” Cobb said. “That had never happened before in my life.”

Now, sitting in his newly renovated office in Hutcherson Center, Cobb is trying to impart that passion into a new group of wrestling fans in a college and community setting that is unfamiliar with the sport. Wrestling, he said, is probably the oldest and purest form of athletic competition in existence.

“It is such a one-on-one physical battle,” Cobb explained. “It requires a tremendous amount of conditioning. Every single muscle you have in your body is being pulled, used and strained in every direction. Comparatively speaking, within a 60-minute football game, there are about eight minutes of live action. In a wrestling match, there are seven minutes of non-stop live action.”

The point of each mach is fairly simple: Pin your opponent. A pin fall is awarded when a wrestler’s shoulders or shoulder blades come in contact with the mat for two seconds. At that point, the match is over.

While trying to pin their opponent, wrestlers also register points for other techniques and accomplishments throughout the match. Two points are awarded for a takedown that occurs when the wrestlers are standing on their feet and one wrestler takes the other one down to the mat and has control of his/her opponent.

Two points are also awarded for a reversal, which occurs when one wrestler is in a down position and is being controlled by the opponent, and the wrestler then reverses the situation whereby he/she is now the one in control. Wrestlers are awarded a single point for an escape that occurs when a wrestler who is being controlled in a down position gets up and away to the neutral standing position.

Two or three points are awarded for near pins that occur when a wrestler puts the opponent in his/her back. If the hold is for two seconds, two points will be awarded. If a wrestler holds the opponent on his/her back for five or more seconds, three points will be awarded. Penalty points may also be awarded for rules infractions such as illegal locking of the hands, illegal holds, stalling and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Wrestlers at Wayland will compete in collegiate style wrestling. Collegiate is different from freestyle or Greco Roman. Although the term Greco Roman has been used to describe wrestling, Cobb said it is a very rare form that just isn’t practiced much any more. Greco Roman focuses mainly on the upper body and does not allow for lower body attacks and takedowns. Wrestlers score with upper-body throws.

Most of the world participates in freestyle wrestling, with the United States being the only country to offer collegiate wrestling. The main difference between the two is that it is more difficult to score for back exposure in collegiate wrestling. A wrestler must have control and hold it in order to earn points for back exposure in collegiate wrestling. In freestyle, simply exposing the back and rolling across it will earn points.

The other difference is that freestyle wrestling begins each round with both wrestlers on their feet. In collegiate wrestling, the first round starts with both wrestlers on their feet. The two subsequent rounds begin with one wrestler down in a “referee’s position” and the other wrestler on top in a controlling position. The goal for the bottom wrestler is to escape while the wrestler on top tries to maintain control and pin his opponent. The grapplers switch positions in the final round. The first round is a three-minute round with the other two lasting only two minutes.

Wrestlers compete in weight divisions ranging from 97 to 196 pounds for women and from 125-285 for men. The weight limits break down into a total of 10 divisions. A wrestler must weigh in at or below the weight at which he/she competes. Cobb explained that maintaining weight is a difficult part of wrestling.

“Not only is the sport so physically demanding, but you have to watch your weight at all times,” he said. “You have to be on that weight or under it, and they cut you no slack.”

Wrestlers weigh in approximately one hour prior to their individual events.

Cobb has been recruiting hard to bring wrestlers to Wayland and has talked to athletes from California, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Louisiana, as well as Texas. He has officially signed four wrestlers and has verbal assurances, although he wouldn’t go so far as to say commitments, from many others. Cobb would like to bring in 30 men and 30 women to compete in the inaugural 2010-11 season. Wrestling seasons run through both semesters similar to the basketball season.

“I think we are going to have a really good group,” Cobb said. “But I’ll sure feel better when I actually see them in wrestling shoes in August.”