Freestyle or folkstyle wrestling: Which should DODDS Pacific use?

One of the topics at last month’s DODDS Pacific athletics directors’ video conference was whether collegiate folkstyle wrestling should be adopted in the Pacific theater. This would bring Far East high school wrestling in line with DODDS Europe and high schools in the States, each of which use folkstyle.

Since the inception of DODDS Pacific-sponsored Far East tournaments in 1976, the region has used international freestyle. That might seem odd, until you consider that most referees in theater are either indigenous, local folks in Japan and Korea who have wrestled at international and Olympic levels and are familiar only with freestyle or Greco-Roman, or GIs who’ve wrestled at the All-Armed Forces and International Military Sports Council level; freestyle and Greco are used there as well.

That tradition has held up all the way until today. But some Pacific teams, believed to be four in number, Osan American, Matthew C. Perry, E.J. King and Robert D. Edgren, would prefer to switch to folkstyle as early as next season. DODDS Tokyo-area schools, which wrestle freestyle against three international-school members of the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools, are among those pushing back. The rest, observers say, are neutral.

One of the more vocal opponents of freestyle, Justin Edmonds of Edgren, argues, correctly, that the Pacific isn’t using a true international freestyle format. Certain holds and moves, which Far East athletics council members believe dangerous, have been banned in the Pacific; most involve high-wire throws that score five points for the victor and could spell danger for the vanquished.

To break it all down, starting with freestyle:

Pro – It’s the style that most coaches and programs in the Pacific are familiar with and has been in use out here since 1976. The referees, local and GI, are more familiar with it as well. Should our Pacific wrestlers ever wish to compete at the international or All-Armed Forces level, freestyle and Greco Roman should be their style of choice.
Con – Freestyle is all about throws, which creates more dangers than folkstyle.  Converting from freestyle to folkstyle in the event one PCSes from the Pacific to the States or Europe is harder than going from folk to free; you have to learn new things, different ways to break down opponents, reversals, escapes, riding time, etc.

Now, the pros and cons of folkstyle:

Pro – It’s the style used and recognized by high school systems from sea to shining sea and is also used with minor modifications at every level of the NCAA and NAIA. Should one ever desire to wrestle at the collegiate level, this is the style you should pursue. It is far less dangerous than your freestyle counterpart, you can use back moves such as the Granby Roll, the Split Scissor and others without costing yourself points. And there’d be no style conversion should you transfer to Europe or the States.
Con – It would take at least one season to make the conversion, and it would have to be gradual, perhaps wrestling some dual meets and tournaments using freestyle and others using folkstyle, so that officials, coaches and athletes could get up to speed, particularly understanding that some things that are legal in freestyle aren’t in folkstyle. The toughest aspect will be finding enough qualified officials to do both styles as they’re making the conversion; it can’t be done overnight. And you’ll get quite the pushback from international school invited guests at Far East meets who likely will not make the conversion. In fact, no other country in the world uses folkstyle except the States, sort of how the States is the only country to not use international rules in basketball and instead chooses to with NCAA, NBA and National Federation of State High School Association rules. Lotta learning to be done there.

Though I consider myself a proponent of international freestyle, I’m OK with whichever style DODDS ultimately goes with; the matter is to be discussed again at the next DODDS Pacific ADs VTC next month.

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Ornauer on AFN


Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)


Sept 28:Dave Ornauer is back with the latest on the Pacific sports scene.

May 22:Yokota has dominated in first year at D-II spring championsihps.

May 8: Dave Ornauer highlights a few athletes who are participating in the Kanto Plains track and field finals Saturday.