Sunday, February 18, 2007

The internet is in an uproar over the tossing of an 11-year-old boy during a kids' wrestling tournament in Aurora, IL. That's the video of the news story.

Here's the original story from ESPN.com, which details how Ray Hoffman, the father and assistant coach of one of the teams, bolted from the sidelines and knocked a boy off his son.

You can also find more background information on the story in the Chicago Daily Herald's follow-up story.

There's no excuse for what the father did, but having covered serious youth wrestling for some time, I think the father thought his son's shoulder was going to be popped out of socket.

You have to see one of these kids' tournaments to believe it. There can be as many as 10-12 matches going on at any given time in the space of one basketball court, and the referees are not only charged with handling the match, but also must stop it if their wrestlers appear to be coming close to contacting another bout. It also doesn't help that this particular tournament is called the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." Nice choice, folks.

A quick look at some wrestling rules (and my own personal experience) shows the referee can stop the match for anything he deems as "unnecessary roughness." There is no pin here. The ref's stopping it because the controller wrestler is either making an illegal move (pulling the arm up behind the back beyond an acceptable degree) or there's clearly going to be some kind of injury to the controlled wrestler.

The reaction of the father and repeated viewings of the video make me think this is what happened (warning: this is a guess, nothing more): The controlling wrestler, once behind and scoring his two points for the reversal, clearly grabs the controlled wrestler's right arm and wrenches it up behind the back. The controller's also leaning hard, pushing it farther and farther toward the controlled's neck.

This isn't legal. It's absoutely acceptable to take control of the arm in an effort to roll the wrestler to his back or for other control issues, but the referee is obviously signaling a potentially dangerous hold (that's why his one hand is on the back of his head -- check here for a list of referee signals), one that I think had already gone beyind "potentially" dangerous.

There's another thing to consider here. Most of the kids and clubs see one another several times during a season, and may have wrestled in years past coming up. I have seen kids with a reputation for hurting other kids. If this is the case, I can understand the father's reaction.

This is in no way an indictment of youth or amateur wrestling, or these tourneys (although I think they could think about cutting down the number of matches going on at any given time). Youth wrestling turns out some great boys (and girls), and as a guy who wrestled one season in high school and had his ass handed to him constantly, there's no one on Earth tougher than a dedicated wrestler.

I'm not saying I condone this. Hoffman should never be allowed to coach again, as it puts him too close to the action. Bf you can say you wouldn't make a move to stop your child from being seriously hurt in any situation where you had the chance to do so, I don't know what to say to you.

1 comment:

Scrap said...

Well thought out and insightful. I used it my site more for the humor than anything. It's what I do. Your points are all valid though and make you think. Nice job.