Some initial reviews are in and the new wrestling rules look to be a success.
"I think the changes were great," said American 147.5-pound wrestler Veronica Carlson, who competed in the Battle at the Falls women's wrestling event Friday. The United States downed Ukraine 16-13 in the first dual meet before Canada topped Ukraine 20-11 and the U.S. 18-10. "You have to be more aggressive which makes the matches more exciting."
Matches are now two three-minute periods instead of three two-minute sessions, with cumulative scoring rather than the previous two-out-of-three rounds system.
The three dual meets in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada was only two days after the International Olympic Committee Executive Board placed wrestling, along with baseball/softball and squash, on the short list of sports to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics. The final vote, by the 101-member International Olympic Committee, is Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires.
In February, the IOC executive board recommended wrestling be cut as a core Olympic sport in 2020.
Wrestling's international governing body, FILA, recently made rule changes to make the sport more spectator-friendly. Friday's meets were the first time the U.S. women, including many who train at the Olympic Training Center, competed under the new rules.
Under the old system, a wrestler could dominate one round but drop the other two by a slim margin and lose the match.
"Cumulative scoring means you can wrestle your way back into the match," national 121-pound runner-up Katherine Fulp-Allen said. "That is why we saw a lot more takedowns, reversals and throws."
That approach kept the new passivity rule from being called often. If a referee determines a wrestler is being passive, they receive a warning. If there's a second offense, the match will be stopped temporarily and the offending wrestler must score a point within 30 seconds or their opponent receives a point.
FILA plans to increase the number of women's Olympic weight classes to six, up from four, while trimming the men from seven to six. The move could help the sport long-term, Carlson said.
"It's great, especially with gender equity being one of the reasons the IOC recommended the elimination of wrestling," said Carlson, the U.S. champion. "The women's gain may take away from men but it is better than being out of the Olympics entirely."