InterMat Wrestling – Winning team determined by singlet strap penalties

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It’s not necessarily the kind of official’s call that will generate the level of mainstream media coverage and social media discussion of, say, December’s incident where a New Jersey high school wrestler had his dreadlocks cut off by a team trainer so that he could wrestle the match, per the mat official’s instructions that he have his hair cut, or forfeit the match.

That said, there is some consternation on the part of some in the amateur wrestling community regarding a referee penalizing two wrestlers from one high school team dropping the straps of their singlets which helped change the outcome of the final team score.

At a high school dual meet Thursday night between Hershey and Red Land in central Pennsylvania, two Red Land Patriot wrestlers were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for lowering the straps of their singlets while still on the mat, ultimately costing their team a dual meet victory.

Here’s how PennLive.com — website for the Harrisburg Patriot-News — described what happened:

“The Patriots held off Hershey for an apparent 36-34 victory, but they were called for two instances of unsportsmanlike conduct after the teams shook hands and walked back toward their benches. Two Red Land wrestlers removed the straps of their singlets while still on the mat, which were unsportsmanlike violations (referee Braxton) Ditty said he couldn’t overlook.

“Ditty explained the decision to a stunned Red Land coach Brian Baglio at the scorer’s table. And as Baglio pleaded that the dual was over, Ditty added that the match wasn’t complete until he signed the home and visitor scorebooks. That hadn’t happened when Ditty spotted the two Red Land wrestlers.

“Team points were deducted for each instance, tying the match at 34 and sending it to criteria. Hershey won on Criteria A for fewest team points deducted for flagrant or unsportsmanlike conduct.”

The Patriots’ Baglio was incredulous over the mat official’s call.

“I still can’t believe it was called,” Baglio told the Patriot-News. “The lights are on. The match is over. Parents are already on the edge of the mat. Everybody does it. I guess it’s my responsibility as a coach, so I’ll take it. But my kids weren’t being unsportsmanlike.”

Here’s how the 2018-19 NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) Wrestling Rule Book addresses the issue in Section 4, Conduct of Contestants, Article 2:

“Unsportsmanlike conduct involves physical or nonphysical acts and they can occur before, during or after a match. It includes, but is not limited to, such acts as failure to comply with the direction of the referee… failure to keep shoulder straps up while on the mat and failure to comply with the end-of-match procedure…”

InterMat asked Fred Feeney, long-time Ohio wrestling referee, to weigh in on the matter of charging team penalty points when wrestlers lower their straps while on the mat.

According to Feeney, “There are two schools of thought here:

“1. Rules are rules. It is a rule and refs can’t really pick and choose which ones apply.

“2. A ref who is watching COULD say, ‘Keep your singlets up’ as easily as ‘that’s a penalty.’

“I am not a fan of the idea that magically, when one second before a ref signs the book, that something is illegal vs. it being OK after a signature.

“Pick your battles.”





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