Wrestling rules committee meets soon

The NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee is set to meet in April 17-19 to discuss potential rule changes for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 seasons. The NCAA publishes a new rule book every other season, so major changes can only occur during rule book years. This coming season is a rule book year, so major changes can be made. Any rule changes proposed by the committee then need to be passed by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP).

The rules committee is made up of nine members. A secretary-rules editor and four DI representatives, two DII representatives, and two DIII representatives. The current secretary-rules editor is Chuck Barbee, though he announced yesterday that he will step down from the position when his term ends in August. Here is the rest of the committee.

DivisionTitleName & InstitutionConferenceTerm
FBSExecutive Associate Athletics Director/CFOJonathan Reeder
Appalachian State University
Sun Belt ConferenceAUG 2023
FBSHead Wrestling CoachChris Bono
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Big Ten ConferenceAUG 2025
FBSHead Wrestling CoachColeman Scott
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Atlantic Coast ConferenceAUG 2026
DIHead Wrestling CoachJohn Hangey
Rider University
Metro Atlantic Athletic ConferenceAUG 2024
IIHead Coach- WrestlingAustin DeVoe
Colorado School of Mines
Rocky Mountain Athletic ConferenceAUG 2023
IIHead Men’s Wrestling CoachDeral Brown
Newberry College
South Atlantic ConferenceAUG 2025
IIIHead Men’s and Women’s Wrestling CoachDuane Bastress
York College (Pennsylvania)
Middle Atlantic ConferencesAUG 2026
IIISports Information DirectorRobert Fox
Waynesburg University
Presidents’ Athletic ConferenceAUG 2024

Coaches, officials, and administrators were sent a survey concerning potential rule changes. Here is an incomplete selection of the most interesting proposals. Respondents were asked if they support these possible changes.

  1. Remove headgear requirement (the rules committee passed this change in 2017 as well, but the PROP did not let it go through)
  2. Assign a wrestler a loss for the first medical forfeit in a tournament (currently, a MFF counts as a win for the winner but not a loss for the forfeiting wrestler)
  3. Remove traditional stalling from list of reviewable calls
  4. Reducing points scored by wrestlers in the consolations rounds (no specific change described)
  5. Adding language to rules requiring the top wrestler to work for a near fall or pin
  6. Adding a step out rule that gives a point to a wrestler who forces his opponent to step one foot outside the circle when in the neutral position
  7. Mandatory stalemate before calling either wrestler for stalling in the top/bottom position
  8. Standardize weigh-in time for all competitions (several options given including 2 hours, 1.5 hours, or no change)
  9. Allowing the use of saunas any time except 48 hours prior to competition

Of this list, the step out is the change that would cause the most drastic change on the mat and would push the sport in the direction of freestyle. There would need to be a significant amount of explanation and interpretation for a step out rule. Would there be a “grounded” rule like in freestyle? Would a wrestler who secures an escape near the edge and then immediately steps out be penalized? Will wrestlers be permitted to continue to work for a takedown on the edge, or would a foot out of bounds immediately result in a whistle?

Removing the requirement for headgear usage would be a big change as well. As stated above, this came close to happening six years ago but was shot down by PROP. If the rules committee hopes to get this change approved in 2023, they will need a convincing rationale. The other in-match changes are mostly related to stalling and are understandable given the current frustrations with the way stalling is called, especially on the mat. Based on the current rules as written and a clarification that was circulated earlier this year, a wrestler in the bottom position will get called for stalling if he is unable to escape, regardless of what else is happening in the match, and a top wrestler will only be called for stalling in the most extreme circumstances.

The final noteworthy change is allowing sauna use except in the 48 hours before competition. This is intended to let athletes experience the supposed benefits of sauna usage without allowing use for weight loss just before competition. Sauna use is currently prohibited during the season at any time and for any reason. PROP will surely want to weigh in here if this proposal is approved by the rules committee.