Why Johny Can't Score

Why is it so difficult to accurately score a wrestling match?

Referee Roles

After athlete safety, getting the score correct should be the referee’s #1 priority. In this light, referees should signal scoring in a prompt manner, using official hand gestures persisting long enough for recognition by the scorer. When there’s a quick flurry of activity and lots of scoring, the referee should communicate with the table to verify that all the scoring was accurately recognized and reflected in the score.

Prior to an event, a good referee will discuss with the scorer their responsibility — “recording points scored by each contestant when signaled by the referee” — and procedures for fulfilling that responsibility (NFHS Rules 3.1.4.e and 3.1.5.e). A great referee will be in frequent contact with the official scorer to insure all is well .

Scorer Role

The scorer’s primary role is to get the score right by recording the scoring events signaled by the referee. If there’s confusion or disagreement about the score, the official scorer should ask the referee for assistance and resolution. To translate the referee scoring signals into a recorded scoring event, the official scorer should be familiar with the “Referee’s Wrestling Signals” in the NFHS rule book. Proper notation helps, too, when reconstructing from the scorebook what happened on the mat and “Scoring Symbols” are documented in the rule book.

Event Manager Role

The event manager (or home team for a dual) should assign qualified staff to the scorer’s table. For this discussion, we’ll set aside the timekeeper and assistant scorer both of which, per the rule book, have important responsibilities.

What Really Happens

In practice, the implied contract between the referee and official scorer is almost never fulfilled. I’ve yet to witness a referee instruct the official scorer to forcefully stop the match (at an activity break) if there’s any scoring confusion. In practice, scorers frequently lack the confidence to stop a match and call the referee to the table.

In addition, scoring hand gestures are often confusingly and quickly presented by the referee. Sometimes non-standard signals are employed. Compounding this problem is the referee’s apparent desire to move the action along at Mach 5, creating the improper impression that match pace is more important than accurate scoring. It is not and that behavior can lead to disastrous outcomes as in the case of Ian Miller at the 2015 NCAA Championships.

Rule Book

The rule book is an old, expansive, intricate document conceived of and written by committee. It is often difficult to interpret and is subject to annual revisions for clarity and rule changes. Certain sections of the rule book are no longer relevant and are routinely ignored in practice. These sections aren’t culled over time as they should be so that the book is confusingly bloated with vestigial passages.

Finally, wrestling rules yield "corner-cases" -- infrequent scoring sequences -- that trip up even the most experienced. The net result is scorers, coaches and officials do not — and probably can not — have full command of the rule book and its application in all possible situations.

Technology Helps

A carefully engineered digital scoring solution will drastically improve scoring (and clock) accuracy by embedding the rule book into the scoring interface. Here are few examples of how Takedown Scoring and Stats can help your scoring table:

  • Uses standard scoring symbols

  • Prevents illegal scoring sequences, e.g near fall for defensive wrestler, escape for offensive wrestler, escape/reverse/near fall not allowed in neutral, etc.

  • Presents 2nd and 3rd period choice for correct wrestling

  • Implements the penalty table including accumulation to disqualification

  • Starts/maintains injury timer for each wrestler

  • Maintains blood, recover timers for each wrestler

  • Implements choice on restart as appropriate

  • Records each scoring notation offset from previous for easy readability and reconstruction of scoring activity

  • Implements overtime periods

  • College: automatically stops/starts riding time clocks with change in control and calculates riding time advantage

  • In dual meet, automatically calculates team score.

These are just some of the ways that Takedown will help your team improve scoring accuracy. In addition, Takedown offers a full range of benefits for team administration, statistics generation and fan engagement.

Download Takedown Scoring and Stats from the App Store.


* Surprisingly (at least to me) the timekeeper is responsible for recording accumulated injury and blood time, and monitoring recovery time. Also, the assistant scorer — not the official scorer — is responsible for keeping the dual meet team score.



Takedown Scoring and Stats is a single-team focused, mobile app for scoring wrestling matches, recording video, creating stats, managing teams and rosters, and engaging fans via social media. Download from the App Store.

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