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Thread: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

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    Redshirt DoubleGrapevine's Avatar
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    Electric!! Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    So we all know that the primary way to win a wrestling match (in freestyle, Greco, and folkstyle) is to pin your opponent's shoulders or shoulder blades to the mat for 1 or 2 seconds (a.k.a. the fall; the pin; or if you really want to go back far enough, the pin-fall). Duh.

    My question is: in the history of wrestling, how did that particular way of winning, the pin-fall, emerge as the prime victory condition in Western (particularly American folkstyle) amateur wrestling?

    I know that in many European (and some Asian) styles, you could simply get your opponent to fall to the ground on any body part besides his feet, or get your opponent's two hips and a shoulder, or two shoulders and a hip to fall to the ground, etc., and that would be it. In judo, a pinning hold also scores a win, but the opponent has to be held down for 25 seconds, and they also allow submission wins. Other wrestling styles, seem to allow a win by submission, and real Greek and Roman wrestling didn't seem to have the pin-fall as a way to win.

    Of course, there was also the touch-fall (closely related to the pin-fall, but not quite the same), that was prominent in the early days of Olympic-style wrestling.

    It doesn't seem that the pin-fall emerged as a victory condition until the late 19th-century/early 20th-century at the earliest, am I wrong? If I'm right, why did the Western wrestling tradition choose/invent this way to win for wrestling above all the others that were common?

    1) Did the pin-fall emerge out of battle tactics, ground fighting, early professional wrestling, or even judo? I mean if we're talking about battle tactics or ground fighting, a submission by armbar/triangle choke would probably be a better way to disable an opponent, than simply sticking his shoulders/scapulae to the ground.
    2) Did people decide that the pin-fall would cater to wrestlers of all sorts of folk styles when organized amateur wrestling emerged on the world scene in the late 19th century/early 20th century?
    3) Was the pin-fall more "humane" than other ways of winning (e.g. someone getting choked out in submission wrestling today)?

    Thanks in advance for reading and considering all of this neophyte's questions.
    Last edited by DoubleGrapevine; 08-26-2008 at 08:56 AM.

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    Default Re: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    Oops, he said pin-fall. Somebody's not gonna like that...! ;-)

    Mark

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    Redshirt DoubleGrapevine's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    Quote Originally Posted by ideamark View Post
    Oops, he said pin-fall. Somebody's not gonna like that...! ;-)

    Mark
    Hehe. Well actually, I was going through some of the NCAA wrestling guides on the National Wrestling Hall of Fame site, and the early ones actually did mention the word "pin-fall" specifically, and prohibited "flying and rolling falls" (I have no idea what these are, can someone please explain them to me?).

    I know no one in his right mind uses the word "pin-fall" today, unless he or she is some confused news reporter, or is thinking too much about wacky pro wrestling and connecting that with the sport.

    I still would like to know what was the big deal about sticking someone's shoulders to the mat for a win as opposed to choosing some of the other winning conditions in wrestling history. Thanks.
    Last edited by DoubleGrapevine; 08-26-2008 at 08:57 AM.

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    Default Re: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleGrapevine View Post
    I still would like to know what was the big deal about sticking someone's shoulders to the mat for a win as opposed to choosing some of the other winning conditions in wrestling history. Thanks.
    Just a guess, but I would say that it represents putting someone in a submissive position. You often turn your back against a harmful force, but your belly is your vulnerable side. When your protective side is on the ground and your weak side is exposed, you are most defenseless, at least symbolically.
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    Default Re: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    I think the fall (no, I am NOT going to succumb to temptation and use that other term!) represents the absolute pinnicle of control. I have taken you to the ground, rolled you to your back, and held you - with both shoulders down - against the ground for a given period of time.

    R.I.P. Cyrano and Roxanne.

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    Default Re: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    Quote Originally Posted by M Richardson View Post
    I think the fall (no, I am NOT going to succumb to temptation and use that other term!) represents the absolute pinnicle of control. I have taken you to the ground, rolled you to your back, and held you - with both shoulders down - against the ground for a given period of time.
    But you could use the same reasoning to define a fall by holding someone's chest to the ground while they try to fight to their back.
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    Default Re: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    Now that I provided a jerky response, let me try to contribute something of value...

    From my understanding of early, organized amateur wrestling in the US -- early 1900s into the 1930s -- there were only two ways to win a match: with a pin (which, back then, was a full THREE SECONDS with shoulders to the mat!), or with what was then referred to as "time advantage" and is equivalent to today's riding time. There were no points for takedowns or escapes, so there were no numerical scores. In other words, results of a match might be "Palmer fall Sanderson 1:23" or "Palmer TA (time advantage) Sanderson 1:32" -- meaning Palmer had controlled his opponent 92 seconds longer. The point-scoring system made its appearance in US college wrestling in the late 1930s.

    As for the submission/humane aspects -- from my research, it seems that US amateur wrestling has been on a steady tragectory of becoming safer, and less about submissions. Nearly a hundred years ago, it seems that even in HS and college, it was OK to try to get your opponent to submit. Not necessarily in the "tap out" thing like in today's MMA, but perhaps using a punishing hold that hurt so much, you were either forced to your back and got pinned, rolled onto your back to end the match in a pin. Over the years, a number of punishing holds/actions have been eliminated, one at a time. (For example, the "Koll rule" about dropping to one knee before bringing an opponent from over your shoulder to the mat -- implemented after Bill Koll graduated in '48, known for his overhead bodyslams that knocked opponents out cold.)

    I hope this helps answer a small part of your question... and that others may have additional insights to share.

    Mark

    PS As for the "pin-fall" thing -- we have a respected poster here who is on a quest to eliminate the word from amateur wrestling reporting. In addition to being used in pro rasslin' commentary (esp by the late Gordon Solie), it was used in old-time newspapers and student yearbooks to describe the act of putting your opponent's shoulders to the mat for a victory.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    Ideamark - it sure is a lot of fun showing my young wrestlers some of those moves that were mainstays for me that are no longer legal. I especially like to demo them when I have one of my guys that is dogging it a little in practice.
    By the way, does anybody else here pick "demo" partners by who has recently been in grade or behavior trouble with their teachers? You would be amazed at how often I have a teacher "drop by" practice after they have told me someone is being a jerk in class, and I promise to deal with it in practice. It really cements the relationship with the staff - and the kid gets a little lesson in appropriate classroom behavior.

    R.I.P. Cyrano and Roxanne.

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    Default Re: Why did the pin-fall get chosen as the main way to win a match in (Western) amateur wrestling?

    Quote Originally Posted by M Richardson View Post
    Ideamark - it sure is a lot of fun showing my young wrestlers some of those moves that were mainstays for me that are no longer legal. I especially like to demo them when I have one of my guys that is dogging it a little in practice.
    By the way, does anybody else here pick "demo" partners by who has recently been in grade or behavior trouble with their teachers? You would be amazed at how often I have a teacher "drop by" practice after they have told me someone is being a jerk in class, and I promise to deal with it in practice. It really cements the relationship with the staff - and the kid gets a little lesson in appropriate classroom behavior.
    Isn't coaching wonderful?
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