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  • #Wrestling Wednesday: Faulkens opens up about wrestling


    Y2CJ41

    By STEVE KRAH

    stvkrh905@gmail.com

     

    Robert Faulkens is the face of wrestling at the Indiana High School Athletic Association office.

     

    As an assistant commissioner, he administers IHSAA wrestling (as well as football and boys and girls track and field).

     

    Faulkens, who also sits on several National Federation of State High School Associations committees, oversees an annual online rules meeting for IHSAA wrestling officials and coaches.

     

    He also likes to take advantage of face-to-face opportunities, like the recent St. Joseph Valley Officials Association gathering in Granger. There, Faulkens got a chance to address a roomful of mat referees and area coaching staffs.

     

    Faulkens, who defines his job as someone who must be equitable to all 4,000 wrestlers and all 309 programs in Indiana and not just the elite, covered many topics and had a dialogue with those in attendance. Much of the discussion were on areas relating to participation.

     

    “Wrestling’s been in a decline for about four or five years,” Faulkens said of dropping participation numbers.

     

    He said the only thing propping up participation in Indiana is girls wrestling, which had about 300 competing on boys squads throughout the state last season. It’s a number too low to make it a separate sport. But if the numbers continue to rise it could happen in the future.

     

    “My guess is we’re eight or 10 years from pulling girls out and making it a separate sport,” Faulkens said. “the number of teams that have girls wrestling is very small. There are pockets of girls wrestling (currently, Lafayette Jeff and Crispus Attucks each have more than a dozen girls in their programs). Either you have them or you don’t. Very rarely do you have one girl wrestling. Normally you have four or five.”

     

    Faulkens sits on the national rules writing committee for the National Federation. The committee met last April and considered and approved a new two-piece uniform with a tight shirt and shorts. The rules regulators at the next level turned down the proposal, saying there was no uniformity in the specifications nor was there time to approve the change by October.

     

    “In April (2017), we’ll probably do it all over again and have to be more specific,” Faulkens said. “I think we’re about three years away (from the two-piece uniform).”

     

    What’s wrong with the singlet?

     

    “Kids are not wresting because they are a little bit embarrassed to wear the singlet,” Faukens said. “Participation numbers have dropped and that’s one of the reasons kids have decided they don’t want to wrestle.”

     

    What are some of the other reasons?

     

    The long weekend events have become a grind to many young athletes.

     

    Faulkens noted that there no joy in spending all day on a Saturday and losing five times and wrestling all of six minutes.

     

    “Why as a high school kid would I give up seven weekends to not have fun?,” Faulkens said.

     

    Many schools have schedules made up mostly of Saturday super duals or tournaments. The suggestion has been made from some in Indiana to increase the number of weeknight dual meets.

     

    Another reason is parents don’t want their kids to wrestle because they equate the sport with brawling.

     

    “They see wrestling as MMA or as Ultimate Fight Club,” Faulkens said. “As scholastic wrestlers we’re trying to distance ourselves from those two entities because of the negative connotation.”

     

    That’s why he resists calling the lower part of the two-piece uniform “fight” shorts.

     

    Faulkens talked about the relationship between football and wrestling — a natural partnership in some communities, but not in all places.

     

    He is a fan of multi-sport participation.

     

    “Those schools that share kids among sports are normally the ones who are successful over a long period of time,” Faulkens said. “We have some hard-headed football coaches that believe a kid should just play football in the fall and lift weights in the winter and spring.

     

    “It goes against everything we know about kids. They need to do different sports at different times of the year. If they do the same thing all the time, they risk burnout and injury. Those two things are not good for any kid.”

     

    The assistant commissioner noted that 75 percent of the teams in the IHSAA football state championships have athletes who participate in another sport.

     

    At schools where wrestling coaches are having a hard time getting football players (or those specializing in one sport) to join their teams, Faulkens said their must be a conversation between the coach and their athletic director and and principal.

     

    Faulkens pointed out the differences in the gridiron and mat, noting that football is anaerobic and wrestling is aerobic “and never the twain shall meet.”

     

    “If you try to get a kid to go from quick bursts and a lot of rest to a sport that’s a continual expenditure of energy, it’s very difficult,” Faulkens said. “Wrestling is not an easy sport. We’ve got a group of kids that don’t want to work that hard. They really don’t. They’re going to take the path of least resistance. It’s just the mindset of our kids.”

     

    While many will argue that more mat time is always a good thing, Faulkens sees a trend coming from his involvement with the National Federation’s sports medicine advisory committee that calls for a reduction in the number of matches.

     

    “What we know is that at a certain point, there’s no return on improvement,” Faulkens said. “It’s likely that in a few years the maximum number of regular-season matches allowed per wrestler will be 25.”

     

    This will mean an adjustment in how schedules are made. There may not be as many two-day super duals with teams competing eight to 10 times in a weekend, knowing that they may be getting close to the maximum in a very short time period.

     

    A point of emphasis for Faulkens at each online rules meeting is the importance of being vigilant against infectious skin diseases.

     

    “Don’t share razors or soap and wash yourself everyday and wash your mats,” Faulkens said.

     

    Faulkens said showering after each practice and competition is suggested. But if coaches can’t enforce that they should at least have a bucket of antibacterial wipes for exposed skin when wrestlers get off the mat.

     

    Ideally, checking for skin lesions would be a daily occurrence, but every athlete should be checked at least once a week.

     

    A year ago, Faulkens said 70 schools had cases of infectious skin disease on their teams and five schools reported five or more cases.

     

    “Parents are not going to stand for it,” Faulkens said. “If you get a MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection) in your room, that’s going to cost the parents $40,000. If they don’t have insurance, chances are they are not going to get the treatment that they need.”

     

    Faulkens notes that though he may come across as harsh when making his points about matters like this and with the proper administration of the weight management system (he got the athletic directors and athletic trainers involved four years ago), there’s a method to his madness.

     

    “We can’t lose wrestling because we can’t lose the lessons that wrestling gives us,” Faulkens said. “As coaches, you are in control of that.”

     

    As for the state of the sport as Faulkens heads into his seventh state tournament series, he likes what he sees.

     

    “We’re in good shape,” Faulkens said. “I love where we’re are in wrestling in the state of Indiana. I really do.

     

    “My job is to do what’s best for everybody.”



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    25 match limit...  

     

    Curious, what is your schools average match count heading into sectionals?  Is this a big shake up?

    Most teams are in the mid 30's right now.

     

    As I stated on another thread I think we should do two things

    1. 6 duals

    2. Two-day tournaments are worth 4 points after the first one.

     

    That would make the total match limit 41 matches. Most teams would get low 30's though.

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    The worry was of getting over 40-50 matches, including state. Because this is were injuries from their data increases. 3 ish% make it to state and 6 - 7 ish% make it to Semi-state. If a wrestler doesn't make it to Semi-state than its an extra 4-5 matches after regular season. Out of those "ishes" a lot do off season wrestling accounting for an unknown number of matches (that I would guess) effecting this injury count. From what I'm getting the thought process is simular to baseball pitchers and pitch count.

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    I'd say around 35 matches a years is a reasonable number.  To me 25 is a little to low.

    Unfortunately our sport is an individual one that is strictly one on one for a short time.  So it will take several matches and opponents to get he same mat time and face the total number of competitors compared to most other individual sports. 

     

    Not that its the exact same but just to do some comparisons with  other individual IHSAA sports:

    Tennis get a lot more court time in due to the amount of sets they have in a match.  Golf get a lot of additional time due the the number of holes they participate on in each course.  So those sports basically gets multiple competitions in each of their meets.  If you added up their total number of matches per game/hole it would be very high.  

     

    Track, cross-country, swimming, gymnastics and golf also can have multiple athletes compete in a meet all at the same time.  Which means they can get a lot of competition with less total meets.  If you would add up individually how they feared per competitor each heat/apparatus/hole it would be ridiculously high.

     

    The limit of our sport being constrained to short one on one competitions means several matches would need to take place to reach a similar amount of competition time and number of competitors compared to most other individual sports.  

    Edited by MattM
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    Surprised a minute or period limit per week wasn't proposed like the quarter rule in football. I can see it coming in the future.

     

    Here in Texas there is a match limit. Students are limited to 5 matches at a given tournament or super dual. 

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    Here in Texas there is a match limit. Students are limited to 5 matches at a given tournament or super dual.

    Just for those certain events I assume? I'm talking about all events in a week. Maybe you'd have 2 duals with one on Tuesday and one on Thursday and then a super dual or an invite on Saturday. I can see them putting 15 periods/30 minutes limit on that time frame when you could have 21 periods/42 minutes to wrestle.

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    Here in Texas there is a match limit. Students are limited to 5 matches at a given tournament or super dual.

    Yes the same rule exists here. 5 matches per day limit. That is why some of the larger tournament or multi-duals are two days long.
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    Here in Texas there is a match limit. Students are limited to 5 matches at a given tournament or super dual. 

    There is a 5 match limit for any day of wrestling, that's an NFHS rule

     

     

    Just for those certain events I assume? I'm talking about all events in a week. Maybe you'd have 2 duals with one on Tuesday and one on Thursday and then a super dual or an invite on Saturday. I can see them putting 15 periods/30 minutes limit on that time frame when you could have 21 periods/42 minutes to wrestle.

    I could only imagine telling a kid, "Johnny better him this period or you'll have to forfeit." Then going to the seeding meeting and explaining a loss that he was leading and had to default because of a period limit.  That would be a disaster.

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    Surprised a minute or period limit per week wasn't proposed like the quarter rule in football. I can see it coming in the future.

    One difference is you can you sub someone in during a football game. What happens when you hit your period limit in the 3rd period of a match? Do you FF? How would OT periods work into the time or period count? There are a few additional situations that come up when trying to implement that type of rule into an individual one on one sport. Edited by MattM
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    One difference is you can you sub someone in during a football game. What happens when you hit your period limit in the 3rd period of a match? Do you FF? How would OT periods work into the time or period count? There are a few additional situations that come up when trying to implement that type of rule into an individual one on one sport.

    Not saying I'm for it, but knowing the IHSAA, they would promote it just like the quarter rule in football which is 5 per week depending on what level they're playing. JV/Freshman quarters aren't treated the same. My guess for the idea that could come up, is to make coaches shift lineups or forfeits. I also thought about the OT periods and assume they'd be treated as counting in addition to what had been logged. Hopefully coaches would veto it. Just thinking worse case scenario.

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    They'll stick with a point system most likely. A hard match limit would be difficult and could lead to teams having forfeits at the end of the season and purposely "over scheduling." There was a state a couple years ago that had issues with forfeits due to a hard match limit and teams forfeiting to save matches for other events.

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    One difference is you can you sub someone in during a football game. What happens when you hit your period limit in the 3rd period of a match? Do you FF? How would OT periods work into the time or period count? There are a few additional situations that come up when trying to implement that type of rule into an individual one on one sport.

    I'm not saying i'm for this type of policy, but it would not be hard to implement.  Either you can't start a match where you have less than 3 periods of eligibility left OR you are always permitted to start a match as long as you have at least one period of eligibility left.  And, overtime wouldn't have to count against you in any situation in your total since it's rare and the amount of time wrestled is so variable.  

     

    Another possibility would be to count minutes of mat time.  Round up when you begin a new minute of wrestling.  150 minutes of mat time allowed pre-sectional (approximately 5 minutes times 30 matches). You could then include overtime but also not penalize a kid a whole period of wrestling for needing 20 seconds in the second period to get the pin.  Top kids would never approach 150 minutes even with 45 matches.

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    The talking points of this article are ideas of getting higher participation in wrestling, from what I gather. I don't think making more mid-week duals will help that in the least bit. In fact, it will probably hurt it. Kids don't want to make weight two and three times a week. Most wrestlers I know like the Saturday multi-dual events. They make weight once and get to wrestle up to 5 times.

    As far as the uniform change - I don't particularly like the idea of the two-piece uniform - but I'm not resistant to it either.

    I'd say declining numbers aren't so much about how the sport is currently ran, as it is the culture of the kids in school. Used to be, where I'm from, there would be 20 kids cut from the basketball team each year. Now they are looking to get kids to go out for the team. Football participation is down, as are many other sports. A lot of kids simply don't want to put in the work it takes to be good at wrestling.

    If numbers are your end game - go to two day a week practices and promise kids they won't have to run. As it is, the kids that want to wrestle enjoy the hard work, the long Saturdays and even the uniforms. The kids that don't want to wrestle, generally, are the ones that wouldn't want to as long as hard work is involved.

    End of long rant.

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    The talking points of this article are ideas of getting higher participation in wrestling, from what I gather. I don't think making more mid-week duals will help that in the least bit. In fact, it will probably hurt it. Kids don't want to make weight two and three times a week. Most wrestlers I know like the Saturday multi-dual events. They make weight once and get to wrestle up to 5 times.

    As far as the uniform change - I don't particularly like the idea of the two-piece uniform - but I'm not resistant to it either.

    I'd say declining numbers aren't so much about how the sport is currently ran, as it is the culture of the kids in school. Used to be, where I'm from, there would be 20 kids cut from the basketball team each year. Now they are looking to get kids to go out for the team. Football participation is down, as are many other sports. A lot of kids simply don't want to put in the work it takes to be good at wrestling.

    If numbers are your end game - go to two day a week practices and promise kids they won't have to run. As it is, the kids that want to wrestle enjoy the hard work, the long Saturdays and even the uniforms. The kids that don't want to wrestle, generally, are the ones that wouldn't want to as long as hard work is involved.

    End of long rant.

     

     

    Mid-Week duals get kids wrestling in front of their peers and community.  People are much more likely to turn out to watch one round of matches on a Tuesday evening than they are to watch multiple rounds of wrestling (much of which will be kids they don't know) on a Saturday.  This is especially true when that means driving more than 45 minutes.  When young athletes get recognized and their hard work is observed by people they care about, they are more likely to begin and continue participating in an activity.  Additionally, the coaches can take some responsibility over weight-management through the week.  If people are adhering to the spirit of the weight-management rules as they are supposed to, making weight for the next class up to a degree that weight could still be made on Saturday should not be a consistent issue.  People have a had the same complaints about teenagers since the beginning of civilization.  Complaining that kids aren't tough enough doesn't really solve the problem.  Some are tough enough, some are not.  We need to make sure we have a system in place that makes the ones that are feel like their efforts are worth it.  We can't expect them to appreciate the lessons of a sport that can't be truly understood until it is performed.

    The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

     

    - Socrates

     

    Kids haven't changed.  We just became grown ups. 

    Edited by Galagore
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    I've never understood the "More Weeknight Duals to Increase Participation Numbers" argument.  If it's about limiting matches and injury prevention, I totally understand that argument and support it 100%. 

     

    From a participation standpoint, however, the weeknight dual is not a brand new concept that will suddenly make wrestling more popular and save the sport.  I'd bet that nearly every single school that sponsors wrestling in this state already has at least one weeknight dual at home on the schedule.  

     

    I've traveled the state watching wrestling over the years and can tell you that the packed gym of community members and peers that is so often described to watch a wrestling match is the EXCEPTION, not the rule.  There are a few top notch programs in this state that can pack a gym when they wrestle another top notch program.  There are even some smaller schools that do a nice job of promoting their matches and getting people to come out and support (i.e. Bellmont and Prairie Heights).  However, most duals around the state are attended only by the parents of the athletes competing.  I was at a dual last year that began at 6:00pm and was over by 6:09pm.  There were 3 matches (all first period pins, 7 forfeits, and 4 double forfeits).  You mean to tell me, that if we have more of those, that will raise participation at that school?

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    Mid-Week duals get kids wrestling in front of their peers and community.  People are much more likely to turn out to watch one round of matches on a Tuesday evening than they are to watch multiple rounds of wrestling (much of which will be kids they don't know) on a Saturday.  This is especially true when that means driving more than 45 minutes.  When young athletes get recognized and their hard work is observed by people they care about, they are more likely to begin and continue participating in an activity.  Additionally, the coaches can take some responsibility over weight-management through the week.  If people are adhering to the spirit of the weight-management rules as they are supposed to, making weight for the next class up to a degree that weight could still be made on Saturday should not be a consistent issue.  People have a had the same complaints about teenagers since the beginning of civilization.  Complaining that kids aren't tough enough doesn't really solve the problem.  Some are tough enough, some are not.  We need to make sure we have a system in place that makes the ones that are feel like their efforts are worth it.  We can't expect them to appreciate the lessons of a sport that can't be truly understood until it is performed.

    The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

     

    - Socrates

     

    Kids haven't changed.  We just became grown ups. 

     

    It's called enabling.

     

    #Merica

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    Mid-Week duals get kids wrestling in front of their peers and community.  People are much more likely to turn out to watch one round of matches on a Tuesday evening than they are to watch multiple rounds of wrestling (much of which will be kids they don't know) on a Saturday.  This is especially true when that means driving more than 45 minutes.  When young athletes get recognized and their hard work is observed by people they care about, they are more likely to begin and continue participating in an activity.  Additionally, the coaches can take some responsibility over weight-management through the week.  If people are adhering to the spirit of the weight-management rules as they are supposed to, making weight for the next class up to a degree that weight could still be made on Saturday should not be a consistent issue.  People have a had the same complaints about teenagers since the beginning of civilization.  Complaining that kids aren't tough enough doesn't really solve the problem.  Some are tough enough, some are not.  We need to make sure we have a system in place that makes the ones that are feel like their efforts are worth it.  We can't expect them to appreciate the lessons of a sport that can't be truly understood until it is performed.

    The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

     

    - Socrates

     

    Kids haven't changed.  We just became grown ups. 

    In theory, yes, mid-week duals will get more participation from fans. But that's not reality in most cases. I'd say in larger populated areas you can get a dual with two full-lineups and put on a pretty good show. But in lots of smaller populated areas the duals end up being a bunch of forfeits and then it's over. I know last year we went to a dual out of town and the other team - a 3A school, had five wrestlers. We paid the entry fee, got concessions and then before we could even finish the popcorn the dual was over. I don't think that helped promote anything.

    I love rivalries, and know those will help the sport's participation. But I still think in weekend duals we know who we might be up against and what good matchups there might be. It's never a guarantee. But I'd rather drive 45 minutes on a Saturday and maybe get three real matches than drive three times during the week and maybe get one.

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