Uniforms Part of NFHS Wrestling Rules Changes for Next Season

Photo by Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

With more girls and women taking up the sport, and with manufacturers making uniforms that facilitate their participation, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee 2020-21 high school wrestling rules changes are headlined by significant adjustments to uniforms, weigh-in protocol and appropriate hair-length requirements.

In all, 11 rules changes were recommended by the committee to take effect next school year. All rules revisions recommended by the Wrestling Rules Committee were approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“These rule changes are some of the most prolific modifications in the history of high school wrestling,” says Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services and liaison to the Wrestling Rules Committee. “The rules committee made necessary, drastic changes to attract more young people to our sport without sacrificing the health and safety of the participants.”

Among the rules changes:

The weigh-in procedure was altered through a combination of changes of the Wrestling Rule Book. Following an amendment to the legal uniform rule, which now permits female wrestlers to wear a form-fitted compression shirt that completely covers their breasts in addition to a one-piece singlet and a suitable undergarment, the rule was rewritten to require that a legal uniform be worn during weigh-in and that no additional weight allowance be granted.

An additional clause prohibiting shoes and ear guards during weigh-in was also written. Weighing-in with a legal uniform allowed the committee to break down more gender barriers with subsequent changes to other rules. Previously, weigh-ins consisted of shoulder-to-shoulder lineups of each contestant that were separated by gender, took place a maximum of one hour prior to competition and required supervision by a referee of each respective gender.

With the institution of the legal uniform (one-piece singlet or two-piece), male and female wrestlers are now able to weigh-in together in the same lineup, allowing gender-specific language to be removed from all three rules. Additionally, the form-fitted compression shirt offers females a more suitable uniform for post-weigh-in skin checks, which are typically done by male officials.

“The change to the weighing-in process is remarkably timely, as schools have struggled in the past to identify adult females to weigh-in the female wrestlers,” Hopkins said. “This action accommodates transgender children as well; it respects their rights and dignity and addresses any modesty concerns for any affected children. We anticipate that the entire weigh-in process will be expedited and more efficient.”

Significant changes to the hair-length rule (Rule 4-2-1) were also linked to the committee’s focus on inclusion. Previously, a wrestler’s hair could not “extend below the top of an ordinary shirt collar” in the back, below earlobe level on the sides or below the eyebrows in the front. Those confinements, along with the requirement that a hair cover be used for hair that exceeded said limitations, were deleted.

“Removing the hair-length rule is a monumental change,” Hopkins said. “It is important to embrace the current culture of young boys and girls who are expressing themselves through their appearance, making this the perfect opportunity to extend wrestling to young people who otherwise would not be attracted to our sport. While the hair-length restriction has been removed, the requirement that hair-control devices/treatment items cannot be hard, abrasive or sharp remains. If a hair cover is used, it shall be attached to the ear guards. Additionally, the barring of oils, or greasy substances on or in the hair is still in effect.”

Another modification to the wrestling uniform came through Rule 4-1-3. In order to curtail participants from intentionally lacing their shoes too loosely to cause a stoppage in the action and potentially thwart an opponent’s scoring opportunity, a technical violation will be assessed in any instance where a shoe comes off, and the injury clock will be started to correct the situation. This change is made under the assumption that a wrestler is, in fact, properly equipped to wrestle when the match begins, as a wrestling shoe that is properly laced and secured will not typically come off.