The NCAA wrestling rules committee is recommending proposals that would allow wrestlers to compete in shorts, and would remove rules regarding hair length.
Committee members recommended the changes in the interest of making the sport more inclusive. "We're opening up to be more progressive in the sport," committee chairman and Penn associate athletic director of student development Matt Valenti said in a release. "This should give everyone more freedom of expression, and hopefully, make the sport more inclusive. We have our eye on the future with the thought that this could help the sport grow."
Under current rules, wrestlers have two uniform options: traditional singlets or form-fitting shirts and shorts. The shorts rule would allow for loose-fitting shorts to be worn with form-fitting shirts as a third option. Current rules also prohibit wrestlers from having hair extending below the level of an ordinary shirt collar, or past the earlobes on the side of the head. If that rule is eliminated, wrestlers will still need to keep their hair free of oils or greasy substances.
Allowing for varied uniform options could help boost interest in the sport. That was, in part, the reasoning behind a 2017 decision by the National Federation of State High School Associations wrestling rules committee to allow a two-piece uniform alternative to the traditional singlet.
Loosening restrictions around hair could also be seen as a progressive step, especially after a late 2018 incident in which a high school wrestler was forced by an official to cut his hair or risk forfeiting the match — a decision that drew national outrage.
If approved by the NCAA playing rules oversight panel, the changes would go into effect for the 2019-20 academic year.