A national rules reminder in wrestling for the 2014-15 season is the required safety mat area surrounding wrestling mats during competition. This has become a rules reminder because the safety mat area rule is not being followed in all situations. A high school in another state and its state association are currently in the midst of a legal battle because a wrestler suffered a catastrophic injury during competition when the safety mat area rules were not being followed. Everyone is a loser in this situation! The wrestler has permanent severe functional disabilities. As a result, the school, officials, and state association are being sued for not following NFHS wrestling rules. Many dollars are being spent because of this catastrophic injury, but the end result is that there is a young man who has permanent disabilities because the rules were not followed.
This is intended to state the rule and clarify how it shall be enforced in Iowa for interscholastic competition in grades 7-12.
NFHS rule 2-1-2 states, “The wrestling area of the mat shall be a circular area a minimum of 28 feet in diameter. Surrounding and secured to the wrestling area of the mat shall be a safety mat area of approximately 5 feet wide.” This means there shall be approximately 5 feet of safety mat area from the out of bounds circle to the nearest obstacle, i.e., bleachers, walls, tables, chairs, etc. The wording “approximately 5 feet” is used because as mats age they may shrink slightly, which could reduce the safety mat area slightly. The wording is NOT meant to allow less than 5 feet of safety area because the gym is too small for the number of mats being used.
* If a section of one, or more, mats is removed in order to fit all mats into the gym, the approximate 5 feet safety mat area rule CANNOT be ignored.
* If a mat is rolled part way up a wall, the approximate 5 feet safety mat area rule CANNOT be ignored. Even if the wall is padded, there MUST be an approximate 5 feet safety mat area from the out of bounds circle to the padded wall.
Rule 2-1-2 is far different from other sections of Rule 2-1 that address the team benches and scorer’s tables being 10 feet from the edge of the mat, where facilities permit. The approximate 5 feet safety mat area is mandatory in ALL facilities.
Diagrams below show what is legal and what is illegal according to rule 2-1-2.
If this rule is not met, meaning there is not a safety mat area of approximately 5 feet wide secured to and surrounding all mats, competition CANNOT be held until there is compliance with the rule. Compliance with this rule is the responsibility of meet management and shall be enforced by the official(s).
The Athletic Association understands the challenges this may present for some events in some facilities, but this safety rule CANNOT be ignored. Officials ‘blowing the action short’ due to the facility not meeting the approximate 5 feet safety mat area rule is not acceptable and does not comply with the rule.
If you have questions don’t hesitate to contact Alan Beste at 515-432-2011, please do not ask for an exception to the rule. Exceptions that violate NFHS safety rules cannot be granted.