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A thorough guide to the 2014 World Freestyle Wrestling Championships: Primer

September 8-14, 2014 approaches and brings with it FILA's World Freestyle Wrestling Championships. Bloody Elbow presents a primer to the coming week of weight by weight previews.

Harry How

I love the Freestyle Wrestling World Championships. I also dread them. From a fan's perspective this tournament feels like playing no-limit hold 'em for the highest stakes imaginable; you'll either leave the table flush with riches, or totally crushed and destitute.

The World Championships have no mercy, and any moment could feature an athlete squandering a lifetime of preparation to a single mistake. Making matters even more difficult, the field features twice the number of entries as in the Olympics, so even the kindest of draws will see extremely accomplished and dangerous opponents standing in each wrestler's path.

Conversely, the World Championships offer far more potential for unlikely competitors to make miraculous runs to glory.  Nations do not need to qualify wrestlers for this event, therefore every country on Earth may send a single wrestler in each weight class. Sometimes this results in horrifying mismatches, but every now and then an athlete from a totally unsung nation finds himself wrestling for a medal.

Also unlike the Olympics, the World Championships crown a team champion. If a wrestler places in the top ten of his weight class, he then scores team points for his nation. The nation with the most of these team points at the end of the tournament becomes the team world champion (first-place wrestlers receive ten points, second-place nine, third-place eight, fourth place seven etc.). This year, just like last year, Russia and Iran will compete closely for the team championship. The next tier of elite teams, including Azerbaijan, Ukraine and the USA, will vie for third.

The Dates: Though the World Championships in all three styles (men's freestyle, women's freestyle, men's Greco Roman) will last from September 8-14, men's freestyle competition will take place only on Monday, September 8, and Tuesday, September 9.

The Place and Time: This year's championships will take place in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The medal rounds will begin each day at 7 pm in Tashkent, which translates to 10 am Eastern Standard Time.

The Weights: The World Championships holds competition in eight weight classes, which is two more than the next Olympics, and one more weight than any World Championship in the last decade. The inclusion of the 70 kg class has reinvigorated the careers of some notable wrestlers.

The men's freestyle weights, in kilograms, are as follows: 57, 61, 65, 70, 74, 86, 97, 125. Each weight competes in its entirety in a single day.

Viewing the Tournament: There will be a free webcast with respectable production value. Bloody Elbow will have live threads each day, and, if possible, embeds of the broadcast.

The Rules: I cannot stress enough just how great the wrestling product has become due to the new rules. The current rules do not include every change I'd like to see, but they are pretty darned good:

  • Takedowns are worth two points.
  • All throws or takedowns which bring an opponent from the feet to the back are worth four points.
  • If a wrestler exposes the back of a wrestler from neutral while that wrestler is on his knees, then that exposure is worth two points, even if it results in a takedown for this exposing wrestler. However, a takedown and subsequent exposure is worth four points. Americans find this highly counterintuitive (for good reason).
  • Push outs, only while the pushee is standing, are worth one point. The entire foot must step outside the line.
  • Reversals are worth one point.
  • If a wrestler attempts a throw, but in the process falls to his stomach and his opponent falls on top of him, then the ref may call this as a "slip throw" and award no points to anyone.
  • All back exposure from the par terre position is worth two points. The exposed wrestler can reduce this to one point by going "hand to hand" (I had thought this rule was gone but I have seen referees call it).
  • Appreciation points, aka the "near takedown", supposedly no longer exist.
  • Passivity incurs a warning the first time the ref calls it. The second time, the ref puts the passive wrestler on the "shot clock", and if the passive wrestler fails to score in thirty seconds his opponent receives a point.
  • Ties are broken by criteria. First, if a wrestler scored a higher value move then he wins, and if move values are equal, the last to score prevails.
  • Matches consist of two three-minute periods with a rest between them. Matches end when time expires, when one wrestler pins the other, or when a wrestler achieves a difference in score of ten of more points.

With absolute certainty, I have forgotten some of the rules, but this should do for the freestyle uninitiated.

Finally, just a few notes about the coming editions of this weight by weight preview:

  • FILA, the governing body of international wrestling is rebranding itself and changing its name to United World Wrestling (UWW) . I like the change, but some find it too similar to a name that would be used by Olympic wrestling's distant, scripted and professional cousin. This tournament remains under the FILA moniker
  • This guide will not address women's freestyle and Greco-Roman. I have nothing but love for both these styles, but have limited time and resources, and love freestyle more.
  • This guide will focus on the American team more than any other country's delegation. I am an American and love my country's team.
  • International wrestling has long had a problem getting participation information to media members, but this situation is changing for the better now that FILA has a dedicated, professional communications division. It appears that an accurate list of competitors is already available; however, please be understanding if it turns out that we see one or two differences between the wrestlers I discuss and those who appear on the mat.