By JIM HEINTZ
MOSCOW — Wrestling’s governing body hopes rule changes designed to make matches more exciting and easier to understand will get the sport back in the Olympics.
The federation, known by the acronym FILA, is also changing its constitution to include a female vice president and will increase the number of women’s weight classes if it remains in the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee’s executive board recommended in February that wrestling be removed from the 2020 Games.
The move brought about a crisis within FILA, forcing the resignation of president Raphael Martinetti. Nenad Lalovic took over in an interim capacity and undertook modernizing initiatives, and he was elected president at an extraordinary congress meeting in Moscow on Saturday.
“We got out of this congress with decisions needed for our sport to remain in the Olympic family,” Lalovic said.
Wrestling is among eight sports vying for the open slot at the 2020 Olympics. The other contenders are sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, karate, wushu, roller sports and a combined baseball-softball bid.
They will all make their case to an executive board meeting in late May in St. Petersburg, Russia. The final decision will be voted on by all the IOC members in September.
FILA’s bureau formulated the rule changes Friday and presented them to the congress a day later. They include changing matches to two three-minute sessions instead of three two-minute periods, with cumulative scoring rather than the previous two-out-of-three system.
“Cumulative score incentivizes the wrestlers to score more often and consistently,” FILA vice president Stan Dziedzic said. “In addition, or equally important, the total score is easier for the spectators to understand. It’s difficult for a spectator, not to mention the athletes, when one wrestler wins the first period 5-0, loses the next two periods 1-0 and loses the match.
“The common view was that two minutes was not sufficient time to execute the requisite tactics and strategies to provide an exciting match. What’s more, it deprives the viewing audience of witnessing the will of the wrestler.”
The changes also refine how to penalize wrestlers who try to “game the rules” by passivity. If an official determines a wrestler is being passive, he receives a verbal warning. If there’s a second offense, the action will be briefly stopped and the offending wrestler will have to score a point within 30 seconds or his opponent is awarded a point.
Dziedzic said the aim is “to restore the authority of the officials to incentivize the wrestler to take more risk. The onus must be placed on the wrestlers to win the match.”
Congress deliberated at length when to implement the chances. Some delegates argued an immediate change would be difficult to adapt to, while others said FILA needs to show it’s changing in order to persuade the IOC to keep wrestling in the Olympics.
Dziedzic said FILA would work to have the world championships in September run under the new rules.