West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker, National Wrestling Hall of Famer
and Rick Welker

"An Open Letter to an Aspiring Wrestling Official"

by Dr. Bill Welker

In this article, I want to share with you my open letter of advice to an individual who sincerely wants to be a successful wrestling official. Read it carefully.

Hi Eric,
So you want to be a wrestling official. First and foremost, you must contact your local wrestling officials' board secretary to find out what he needs you to do. If you don't know who he is, then contact your state high school athletic association office. They will tell you who to contact in your area and what it entails. Below are the officiating tips you requested:

My Ten Personal Tips to Succeed as a Wrestling Official
1. Read the rule book (including photos) and case book in detail from cover to cover.
2. Study and rehearse, by a mirror, all the official "signal" mechanics illustrated in the back of the rule book.
3. Make it a point to watch experienced, successful officials and take notes. Furthermore, when you do start refereeing, have these same officials critique your performances on the mat.
4. Before the season starts, go to various schools and referee wrestle-offs. Then ask the coaches how you did and if there are areas in need of improvement.
5. Start off officiating at the junior high/middle school level. Unlike the youth level, you will be dealing with coaches who have state association "rules of conduct" they must follow. Too often at the youth level, you have father coaches who go "ballistic," don't follow rules of conduct, and often chase young officials away from the refereeing ranks.
6. When making close calls as an official, never look at the coaches for approval.
7. If you award points too soon, it's okay to wipe them off. Good coaches admire officials who do so.
8. If you totally "blow" a call you can not fix, do not become defensive with the coach when he asks for a conference at the score table. In fact, your best bet is to admit the mistake. Not only will the coach respect your admission, but he will respect your honesty.
9. Keep in mind, no two officials will ever call stalling in the same manner; it's too subjective of a call. The key: "Be Consistent" when signaling stalling; in other words, don't call it quick one match and slowly the next bout. There is one exception - Heavyweights - they wrestle much slower and often it is best just to allow them to decide the match. Consistency is also important in all areas of wrestling: takedown and reversal control, line calls, falls, etc. In essence, you must demonstrate overall "consistency" throughout the entire match.
10. Finally I believe in the "Three Fs" - Be Friendly, Be Fair, and Be Firm. If you follow the above suggestions, you will most definitely enjoy the avocation of officiating wrestling.

Bill Welker, EdD
2002 National Official of the Year
Wrestling USA Magazine

The Assistant Referee

An assistant referee may be utilized during competition, usually during tournament action. He is allowed the same mobility around the mat as the match official.

Furthermore, the assistant referee may talk to the main official during the match, and assist the main official in making calls if the main official asks him for help.

The assistant official can also signal the technical violation of locked hands on the mat or the grasping of clothing.

Although all other calls must be made by the main official, the assistant official is allowed to make the main official aware of various infractions.

If there is a disagreement between the two, the main official will have the final say regarding the situation.

Note: Coaches are not to address the assistant referee during the course of a match.

Mini-Mat Quiz

Q: In the second period of the bout, the assistant referee warned Wrestler A for stalling. Immediately, Wrestler A's coach approached the scorer's table and argued that the assistant referee had no authority to make that call. Was he right or wrong?
A: The coach was correct. Only the main official of the match is allowed to designate stalling.

Mat Message

"Trust in God and do something."
- Mary Lyon
(Dr. Bill Welker can be reached via e-mail at: mattalkwv@hotmail.com)
Return to the West Virginia Mat Thoughts Index Page
Return to the WV-Mat front page