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Gable: What ever forced FILA to change, it was the perfect time to change
Editor’s Note: Dan Gable, who wrestled and coached to gold medal performances at both previous World and Olympic tournaments, was in Budapest, Hungary, for the 2013 Worlds. He spoke to WIN editor Mike Finn after the Worlds about the IOC decision to retain wrestling in the Olympics and the impact of the new FILA rules on wrestling.
WIN: Looking back, what are your thoughts on the threat to Olympic wrestling?
GABLE: When you work off a win, 99 percent of the time it’s better than working off a loss. But the loss wrestling had in February was a loss that wrestling needed. We couldn’t wait any longer. We were heading into a direction that was worse. Could we have pulled it out with the way FILA was structured before? It showed that wrestling can rally and had some great people step up, including those who were not involved in our sport and couldn’t understand how an original Olympic sport like wrestling was in this position. Most people didn’t know how bad FILA’s relationship was with the IOC.
WIN: Why did wrestling win?
GABLE: Because wrestling was humble. Our new leader admitted the wrongs of FILA. People in wrestling pulled it together. The ones that did not got shelved. But I also believe because of what wrestling has been in the Olympics since Day One is another reason why wrestling got back in. Wrestling is a sport that people associate with the Olympics.
WIN: Should wrestling actually thank the IOC for affecting changes to wrestling that FILA could or would not on its own?
GABLE: You could go as far as saying that even though the IOC is not perfect. There may have been better ways of handling it earlier. If you are blind-sided, there must not have been much communication in the first place. There should have been more feedback to the extent that either you do this or you fail. There was stubbornness on both sides. Sometimes things have to go a certain direction and this may have gone too far for either side to sit down at a table and talk about it.
WIN: Among the questions that FILA president Nenad Lalovic did not answer from the IOC Congress dealt with previous corruption within FILA. He did later comment to the media that there was no proof of the corruption and would not comment. Is that not something that FILA should deal with, especially when it comes to subject officiating?
GABLE: International officiating has tried to separate itself from FILA, but even in this year’s World Championships, there were questions about some officiating calls. Can FILA do better in dealing with corruption? I think so. You can’t change culture overnight, but you can start on it and I think that’s what we are doing. I’m not convinced there aren’t 100 different things that we can do in helping wrestling after watching the World Championships.
WIN: What are some of those changes that you would recommend?
GABLE: You could change some of the rules and the administration of the tournament. They could have simply of opened the doors to the arena an hour ahead of time, instead of ten minutes ahead of time. It’s not like they didn’t have something for them to do outside. Maybe they wanted the fans to go to the vendors more.
It was also hard to tell who was on each of the four mats. There were no start sheets. We had a group from who will head up the 2015 Worlds in Las Vegas. I’m sure they will change some things that were not good for the sport and will be better. I’m sure our people will put on a good championship. The modernization of wrestling goes beyond the rules. It also deals with spectators.
Also with the old FILA where you’d receive black marks for losses, when you went overseas to wrestle in the Worlds, you would wrestle more than one match. Even if you got pinned in your first match, you’d still have a second match at a time. Almost half of the wrestlers in the current Worlds only wrestled one match. FILA did not like double elimination. At least you could take those wrestlers who lost to a finalist to those who lost in the quarterfinals into repechage. I don’t think you’d add a whole lot more matches.
WIN: What did you think of the new rules. What still needs to be done?
GABLE: We have to continue to refine the rules, but there definitely was more action and fans enjoyed thatmore than “ball pulls” and 1-0 matches. Regarding technical falls, I was probably set against seven-point differences. I thought it should be a ten-point difference. I don’t know now. I’m not sure. The two three-point throws, I also feel more confused.
I did feel that wrestlers were more aggressive and officiating on the edge of the mat was so much better, but it needs to be refined a little bit more.
WIN: Jordan Burroughs got put on a 30-second shot clock for passivity at least three times against opponents who were not very aggressive. How does that happen?
GABLE: I think people overseas really emphasize the center of the mat. Setups by wrestlers like Jordan Burroughs and John Smith were about circling and side-to-side, which takes them out of the center and officials look at that as a form of stalling and not a set-up motion to get your opponent to come to you. Rules are subjective and sometimes I don’t think to officials really now.
WIN: Regarding Burroughs, how do you rank him against the all-time best Americans, considering he won on a broke ankle?
GABLE: He’s right up there. I think his undefeated record is unique. One still needs to look at (World/Olympic) titles and longevity of someone like John Smith or Bruce Baumgartner. The big thing I noticed is that he dominated the tough matches. I do believe he dominated this tournament. There was a couple times duringh the tournament where he had to turn on his scramble ability to prevent from getting scored on. He’s doing really well and it’s important to have a leader like that. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if he wrestled first, won and how the others would have wrestled. The fact that he won a medal after the other six got shutout showed his abilities.
WIN: What should other American wrestlers take from Burroughs’ matches and abilities?
GABLE: His scoring offense. What I liked about him is that he believes, “I shoot, I score” and “he shoots, I score.” That philosophy overwhelms his opponent. The others have to decide whether they have the ability that he does; the natural explosion and the ability to counter a situation.
WIN: Is Burroughs’ ability natural or trained?
GABLE: He uses both but the think that is amazing is that he is getting better, which means he’s already had his natural ability and learning and training and understand how to make adjustments from practice. If he continues to do what I just said, he will continue to get better.