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Wade Schalles

Conversation with a celebrated male wrestler about women's wrestling and women

Wade Schalles

All photographs are reprinted from the site "Wade Schalles"

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Wade Schalles in wrestling actions.

Wade Schalles in actions Wade Schalles in actions

Wade Schalles with American presidents - Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton

Wade Schalles with Gerald Ford Wade Schalles with Bill Clinton

Wade Schalles, Orlando, Florida, USA. Former wrestler (1970s, middleweight), one of the most famous, celebrated and honored American male wrestlers. He is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most wins and pins of anyone who has ever wrestled. He has won fifteen national and two international championships in five different combative disciplines: Judo, Sambo, Freestyle, Folkstyle and Greco-Roman wrestling and holds three major American pinning records. Currently, a sports official, administrator, coach, journalist and author. Sports Illustrated called him, "The Most Exciting Wrestler to ever step foot on a wrestling mat!" Dan Gable said, "He's the best pinner I've ever seen." He is known for creating and perfecting a radically different pinning hold, which he named the "spladle."

You probably were an active wrestler or a trainer when girls started storming wrestling mats? What did you feel at that time about their efforts to cross the traditional border? What other wrestlers thought about that? Please be honest.

I'm unfortunately a little older than that ... women in wrestling was unheard of then. When it finally began to happen I was very pleased. There isn't too much a man can do that a woman can't and visa-versa. Of course, there are physical limitations both ways . . . from flexibility to raw power, emotional consistency to anxiety issues; the list is endless. Women can be as clumsy or slick as any man and on all counts as ruthless and cunning.

You very well know that close intensive body contact in wrestling includes clutches, throws and intimate areas grasping. Do you see a problem for women here?

I would imagine, if I understand the question right, that women are no different than men in this regard. The object is to win and regardless of what is necessary to do to win, intimate contact is the furthest thing from anyone's mind.

In her interview, the prominent female wrestler and wrestling enthusiast Helen Von Mott admitted that she turned on by a wrestling match; she said, "I bottle [the emotions] up and use the energy to add fire and life to the session."

Times are really changing: I remember that in the past, an opinion was strongly supported by the majority of doctors and medical scientists, that too hard physical stress is harmful for female organism with respect to women's health and reproductive function. What do you think?

As far as tenacity is concerned, the man who underestimates a woman in any regard has the word vanquished next to his name in the history books.

In your opinion, what combative style is more appropriate for women? Would you advise women not to play certain sports?

No more or less than I'd try and tell men they should stick to being doctors and forget the nursing profession, own restaurants but never be a chef, wrestle but don't try cheerleading. The question lies, where does one have passion? If one follows his or her heart, regardless of societal opinions, they will be both happy and successful.

I understand your sarcasm but some preferences definitely exist. For instance, men seem not to be interested in rhythmic gymnastics or synchronized swimming, so who cares!

Why, all the same, women happened to fall in love with wrestling activities (besides widespread college teams, many women wrestle outdoor and privately just for fun and pleasure)?

Wrestling is the most natural of all sporting activities. Young boys and girls at the earliest of ages, if you leave them alone for 5 minutes they will end up rolling around on top of one another. Then there is always the human need for physical contact which pulls people together, be that a hug of affection, encouragement or bear.

Do you consider wrestling to be a right thing for an average woman? How about an average man?

Some people do great things in the sport and for the sport and then others receive great from the sport. Who's to say which is better or right? Sure, I wanted my children to win when they competed but the most important aspect of competition is the qualities one learns through the struggle and overcoming adversity. Average men and women take different things from the sport than those who either win or lose all the time. A vast majority of all the great men I know who are corporate Presidents, Leaders, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, Oscar Winning Playwrights, Grammy Award Winners and the like were all average wrestlers. So is average good or bad, are they winners or losers, achievers or underachievers?

I was wondering if wrestling was a right thing for the majority of women or men and what themselves feel about the sport. Helen Von Mott also regards wrestling as an excellent activity for women but she told us the following: "...every woman ... can [wrestle, however,] most women are intimidated by just the thought of it. They don't want to get hurt and they don't want to be put in a position where they feel powerless or weak, so they just won't wrestle at all."

As a wrestling insider, you know why wrestling attracts boys and men. Are the same reasons attracting women?

Why do some people say lemon meringue pie is their favorite while others prefer hot fudge sundaes? People are attracted to wrestling for many reasons, none of which has anything to do with the sex of the individual. For some, it's just being able to say they belong to a team. For others, it's being accepted into a group of their peers that are viewed by classmates as being tough, able to fend for themselves, something like being able to say they are a Ranger or Navy Seal in the military. Yet others wrestle because they feel drawn in by the need to test their physical, mental and emotional skills in competition.

I guess, it is just the chemistry, which determines whether you prefer lemon meringue pie or hot fudge sundaes. You can't disclaim that some female "chemistry" is quite different form some male "chemistry".

Do you agree with the statement than physical combat is inherent for men whereas women have to train in order to subdue their natural non-combativeness?

If a woman is non-combative, I would think that has more to do with her environment than heredity. If little girls find toy guns to play soldier with instead of dolls under the Christmas Tree, footballs instead of make-up and kitchen sets, I believe we'd be asking different questions here.

By the way, I just read about two interesting studies accomplished by psychologists. Gerianne Alexander from McGill University examined monkey and concluded that although they had no concept of a "boy" toy and a "girl" toy, they still showed the same gender preferences in playing with the toys. That is, compared to female monkeys, male monkeys spent more time with "boy" toys, and the female monkeys, compared to their male counterparts, spent more time with "girl" toys, she notes. Another study of 5-year-olders choosing music instruments proved that boys favor drums and horns, whereas girls flutes and violins. Why don't you think that inborn instincts (like motherly instinct) cause a certain behavior pattern?

I still have my own way and stand my ground.

I guess, it is just the chemistry, which determines whether you prefer lemon meringue pie or hot fudge sundaes. You can't disclaim that some female "chemistry" is quite different form some male "chemistry".

What do you think about coed wrestling teams and boy vs. girl wrestling matches?

Ultimately I believe that women should compete against women and men against men in competition. Nothing is really gained when the genders are mixed in that way unless strategic placement of the hands was the original goal. But that's not to say there is anything wrong with coed workouts. To the contrary, working together is absolutely necessary in one way, a good thing in another. Absolutely in these early developmental stages of women's wrestling. Without having availability to the male's wrestling rooms, women have no where to workout and no one to workout with while their numbers grow to levels that will support women's teams and schedules. It's a good thing when both sexes are able to work out with one another and encounter different body types, levels of power, varying degrees of flexibility and cunningness. All this encourages personal development.

In fact, women always liked brave and strong men and wrestling was one of the best manly manifestations being descended from mating duels in the wild animal world. So, it's obvious why women get excited seeing men's physical contest (especially, the most peaceful form of it - wrestling). Why then are men so excited about women's combat?

Women are probably attracted to brave and strong for two reasons, neither having much to do with being brave or strong. Society has always looked favorably toward those who have outstanding skills or traits, be they mental, physical or social. And the easiest of the skills to identify then are those that center on combative activities and more visually with today's media, sport stars. Winners, champions and achievers have always been revered and what male or female isn't attracted to someone of the opposite sex that is successful or attractive?

Most of all this is found in man's genetic code as we are all attracted to things of beauty . . . just as a doe only allows the strongest and most dominant buck to mate with her, humans too are attracted to the firmer, slimmer, more attractive of the species. Runway models and athletes come to mind. As an example, how many heads turn when two attractive bodies walk along the beach or are running side by side on treadmills at a gym? So, is that combat related or just one gender being attracted to another, as I would imagine God intended it to be. Procreation is paramount to man's survival and the most important function we engage in during our 80 so years of life. For humans to keep up with evolutionary challenges, our offspring have to adapt to new climates and new threats. With this in mind the typical pattern would be for the strongest, most dominant males to mate with the strongest, most dominant females. Our code drives us in that direction . . . it's called survival of the fittest.

However, it is female animals who have "rights" to choose mates depending on their behavior in mating fights - such is indeed the case: in the wild nature males always physically compete over females - not the other way around - that's what mating games are about!

Why are you interested in women's combative activities? Just because it's your sport or there are some other reasons?

I enjoy the sport immensely, especially the part of competition where one athlete not only has to out maneuver his or her opponent but win as a result of intellectual superiority and a stronger more comprehensive game plan. Wrestling is truly a physical chess match between two competitors and as a spectator, being able to compete from the stands though observation and arm-chair quarterbacking I find extremely stimulating.

Now when you throw women into the mix that adds several new elements to the strategy of the sport and the number of pieces on the board. Women are typically weaker pound for pound than their male counterparts, but certainly more flexible. They aren't quite as fast either but can be extremely more cunning than their male counterparts, which adds several new dimensions to the strategy. Overall, the two sexes are quite different in many ways, but similar in others.

When these differences and varying elements are introduced, the gamesmanship of competition from the perspective of those in the stands becomes more complex. All this is very stimulating and why the NCAA, NFL, NBA etc. have pre-game shows, to educate the viewership to the point where they become enamored by the broadcasts and games.

Then for me, there are two other reasons, equally as important. I happen to believe very strongly that women have been kept out of sports and competition for so long that we have a responsibility to assist anyway we can to help women both enjoy and receive the benefits men have enjoyed over the centuries. Then of course there is that other thing, that genetic code aspect of sport where one sex enjoys watching the firm and skilled bodies of the other sex in competition.

You seem to be egalitarian. Do you believe in "total" equality despite obvious physical, functional and mental differences between the genders?

I am aware of the great differences as were given us at birth but refuse to support any thought pattern that suggests one sex should receive more or be less respected than the other due to his or her plumbing.

Why freestyle wrestling became the most officially celebrated form of wrestling for men and for women? Why not submission style which is widely popular in amateurish matches?

Two thoughts . . . the USOC, NCAA and National High School Association have far deeper pockets and interest in Freestyle wrestling as the sport of choice than society has interest in the more brutal forms of wrestling. It's marketing and societal conditioning which determines what becomes popular.

What do you think about professional wrestling?

Great fun, a physical soap opera form of entertainment where the bizarre always comes true.

You have invented the famous pinning technique called spladle. What is it?

The spladle is a mix of a split scissors and a cradle. I took the first two letters from the word split and the last 5 letters from the end of cradle and made spladle. It's a counter to a single leg that ends in a pin. The spladle is considered a "rogue" or "funky" move. Something out of the ordinary, seldom seem, but it's very basic and easy to learn. It's considered a little more a collegiate move only due to the conservative nature of our national freestlye coaches. By the way, I don't think I've ever seen a spladle being thrown by a woman; not that they couldn't do it - it's rather easy to execute.

Do you consider a street fighting to be appropriate for men under certain circumstances? For women?

I don't approve of fighting in any circumstance but I'm not that naive to think there are not instances when it's necessary. Male or female, when your safety is at risk or that of your family, then the gloves come off.

Wade Schalles signature

Thank you very much for your time -- we are aware how busy you are. We wish you great success with all your activities and spheres of actions!

December 10, 2005

Exclusive of the Female Single Combat Club

All photographs are reprinted from the WEB site "Wade Schalles"

Wade Schalles in the Hall of Fame

Wade Schalles in the Hall of Fame

"Spladle". Sculpture by Randy Fox


Wade accomplishes spladles.
Top: at the beginning of the move
Bottom: in the final stages of completion.



Wade Schalles with his adopted son Chris

Wade Schalles with his adopted son Chris

Wade's daughters, Kristie and Tara



Wade as a trainer



Wade Schalles is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and National AAU Hall of Fame; he was selected during his years in the sport as the country's "Athlete of the Year;" was named "National Coach of the Year" by USA Wrestling. In 1976 in Tbilisi he was voted "World's Greatest Wrestler" by coaches from around the globe for pining all of his opponents at the World Cup. In 2005 he was selected by the NCAA, out of over a half million wrestlers, as one of the top fifteen collegiate wrestlers of all time.

As a writer, he has authored two best selling books on the sport and his video series on wrestling has sold more tapes than any other instructional program in the sport today. In 2002, he was named Man of the Year by the Amateur Athletic Union; in 2003 named Sportswriter of the Year by the National Wrestling Media Association and during the 1990's was one of the highest rated wrestling officials in America. Currently Wade is the country's most popular and only syndicated columnist in the sport.

The native Pennsylvanian has recently accepted the position of Executive Vice President for iSEEsports headquartered in Houston, Texas, a subsidiary of Continental Vista Broadcasting Group. In this position, he is responsible for the day to day operations of the company's new east coast office based in Orlando, Florida.

Wade and his wife Deb have six children: Tara, Kristy, Ryan, Jacob, Chris and Adam (the last two are adopted).

Main WEB resources by Wade Schalles:

Wade Schalles
Wade Schalles network
The Schalles Award
STAR Awards Program

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