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A Look at Art Griffith’s ‘A New Style of Amateur Wrestling’



When I applied for this job and started writing here I really wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I had always been a big OSU wrestling fan but I really had no idea what the writing part would bring. It’s been a lot of work at times but as a whole I’ve enjoyed it. Whether it be sharing info with experts that are very knowledgeable on the sport and follow it closely or getting casual fans that are new to it a little more interested and in the loop on things, or even just having people that just drop in on my stories from time to time out of boredom. I really have enjoyed getting to cover wrestling for you all.

With that this is probably one of the cooler things I’ve had the opportunity to write about. Doug Shivers who, if you’re into OSU sports nostalgia and history, has one of the best OSU accounts on Twitter sent me this article recently.

It’s from the “Athletic Journal” in December 1946 and the title of the article is “A New Style of Amateur Wrestling” by Art Griffith.

Athletic Journal Art Griffith

To start I basically couldn’t find this anywhere online. I’m not the supreme “Googler”, I’m usually pretty good at it though and the only place this magazine was available that I could find was hard copies and on microfiche in a few libraries. That’s with Doug approaching me and showing me the magazine and article as a reference point to search for it. I didn’t know it existed.

In today’s world, who’s going down to the library to look something like this up? It’s probably not happening and even with that I’m not sure any of these libraries have this exact copy with this article from Griffith. I was just able to confirm they have copies of the “Athletic Journal” and the microfilm was not accessible online. Add to that how many people knew Griffith wrote this? I know I didn’t.

I say all that to say what Doug came across isn’t something that’s very readily available and there’s probably not many other copies of this out there. It likely would have basically been “lost” to most of us had he not came across it. Is it as rare as something like the “Rules of Basketball” that were featured on 30 for 30?  No, but is this a very cool find if you’re an Oklahoma State fan or just a wrestling fan in general? Without a doubt.

Let’s dive in

Art Griffith was Ed Gallagher’s pupil as well as his successor. He had been the coach at one of the most successful high school programs in wrestling history at Tulsa Central then took over at OSU and continued their dominance.

Even with all his success he saw the bigger picture with NCAA wrestling and that with the rules the sport had they were was losing participants and it really wasn’t getting a lot of fan interest, so he pushed for changes.

This is from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Art Griffith and his impact on wrestling.

But it was not the wins and a room full of individual champions that was Griffith’s greatest legacy. Prior to 1941, the winner of an NCAA wrestling match had to record a pin or win by time advantage. Griffith, who had gotten a point scoring system adopted for Oklahoma high school matches in the late 1930’s, made the presentation to the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee in 1940 that was key to the introduction of bout scoring the following year. [National Wrestling Hall of Fame]

Bob Dellinger calls it one of the two most significant rules changes of the century, along with changing from a boxing ring to mats.

Ultimately, many credit him with saving collegiate wrestling in that era. Sports in that time period needed participants to survive. Prior to the scoring being implemented newcomers to the sport simply weren’t willing to do it. He outlines why here, but they just couldn’t win over more experienced guys. Rule changes allowed people to specialize in areas and learn techniques that could keep them competitive even if they weren’t the stronger, more athletic guy.

This article “A New Style of Amateur Wrestling” is Griffith breaking down and assessing his own rules and point scoring system that he recommended and was put in place in 1941. The rules went into effect right before World War II and like most sports NCAA wrestling didn’t happen during the war. So this was really only the second year of these rules even though the rules were put in place in 41 and this article was written in 1946. It’s really pretty incredible when you think about it and its significance in wrestling history.

Athletic Journal Art Griffith1

Athletic Journal Art Griffith2

Athletic Journal Art Griffith3

The incredible thing is that you still see remnants of many things he discusses here in wrestling today. Stalling is still probably the most controversial topic in the sport. It’s vague and some refs call it different than others. It’s still debated by fans and people that cover wrestling everywhere.

His points on being successful by “specializing” in certain areas is still a thing. Preston Weigel legitimately could win an NCAA title because of how good he is on top, which is something Griffith was hoping for. You see a lot of guys, more so at the youth and high school level than college, that figure out a handful of moves and can be reasonably successful in the sport by specializing in that area. It keeps them sucked in and interested in the sport whereas before this they never would’ve been.

Are the rules perfect? No, they never will be. They’ve been changed and refined constantly since these were put in place. But, the sport legitimately may not exist if it weren’t for these changes and it’s pretty amazing to see his own thoughts on them in writing.

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