Illini coaches and wrestlers have different reaction to new NCAA wrestling rules

By Alex Wallner

Tweet: [email protected] new rules receive negative reactions from @IlliniWrestling coaches and wrestlers

On June 10, the NCAA announced that it was going to make changes to the wrestling rulebook for the 2015-16 season.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a drop-down and neutral position stalling rule.

A referee will start a five-second count for stalling when an offensive wrestle positions himself with either or both hands below the rear of a defensive wrestler.

“The referee will stop the count when the offensive wrestler improves his position, moves his hold above the buttocks of the defensive wrestler or releases the hold,” the NCAA said in an article that was released about the rule changes.

Both rules were debuted during the 2014-15 season as an experiment. Now, the rules are permanent – along with a few tweaks made with the hope of making things clearer to officials.

If an offensive wrestler hasn’t moved his hold to the correct spot on the defensive wrestler before a five-count, then the offensive wrestler would be penalized with stalling.

Along with that rule – if the offensive wrestler were to lift the defensive wrestler’s leg off of the mat and both wrestlers were to reach the standing position, then an official would halt the five-second count.

Illinois wrestling head coach Jim Heffernan said he wasn’t thrilled with the new rule changes Saturday but did need to see the rules in action more before he came to a more reasonable conclusion.

“I think there is a ton of confusion and that’s the problem,” Heffernan said. “It’s not clear, you know, and anything that’s not clear, you can’t prepare for. I just saw of lot of inconsistencies and our guys saw a lot of inconsistencies. Until that’s kind of cleared up — until it’s more uniform — there’s going to be problems.”

Heffernan added that his wrestlers had a very negative response toward the new changes and how referees were calling them.

The most recent rule is the neutral-position rule, which was instituted in November 2015 at the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic.

After the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee viewed the new rule in action last season, it came up with a conclusion that had three possible outcomes.

The first outcome was that one or both wrestlers could be called for stalling if they left the wrestling area. The second outcome is that stalling could be issued for pushing or pulling the opponent out of bounds and the third outcome is that a regular wrestling move could be administered. 

Redshirt senior Jeff Koepke said that the rules were weird and needed to be practiced before he felt comfortable with them.

“I feel like we just have to work on them a lot because we don’t really know how they’re going to be called,” Koepke said. “We got to see how they’re going to be called more during the matches this weekend and we’ll see how they go.”

As for reigning undefeated national champion Isaiah Martinez, he said the rules didn’t matter to him and that all he had to do was stay aggressive.

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