At the conclusion of a recent PSAL Wrestling Tournament, fifteen gold medals were awarded to each of the fifteen weight class champions. There were also fifteen silver medals, and fifteen bronze medals slung over necks. The rarer prize on the day was the Orange Whistle, five of which were informally awarded by the five referees officiating the tournament.
In NYC wrestling it’s become known as “Wearing The Orange,” an initiative aimed at improving sportsmanship. What began as an experiment during the 2014 Beat The Streets Junior League season has expanded and is now a regular feature of all PSAL Boys and PSAL Girls Wrestling tournaments. “The idea,” stated BTS Programming Director and PSAL Wrestling Commissioner Ken Bigley, “is rather than penalizing poor sportsmanship, let’s start recognizing exemplary sportsmanship. Since warnings and penalty points for poor sportsmanship are a part of the job of the referee, let's make rewarding great sportsmanship a job of the referee as well. Let’s see if we can incorporate positive reinforcement to move the needle on sportsmanship.”
“It definitely helps promote sportsmanship,” said Francis Lewis senior Elisia Montalvo, who was one of the first Orange Whistle recipients of the 2016 Girls Freestyle season, “it’s really hard to get an Orange Whistle.”
The concept is simple. For every tournament each referee has one whistle on an orange ribbon. If the referee witnesses an exemplary display of sportsmanship during the tournament by a competitor or coach, the referee presents the individual with his or her Orange Whistle.
Thomas Edison sophomore Mariano Barrera was the recipient of an Orange Whistle at a tournament near the end of the Boys’ season. Mariano lost his semifinal match. He lost at the very end. He had his opponent on his back in a near fall position, but time ran out and the near fall points were not enough to earn a victory. At the buzzer Mariano stood up. He extended his hand helping his opponent off the mat and to his feet. The gesture earned him an Orange Whistle “I was surprised,” said Mariano, “I wasn’t expecting to be the person to get recognized for good sportsmanship today.”
Wrestling Referee Rich Martinez stated, “the kids really take pride in the Orange Whistle. The kid I gave it to today wore the whistle for the whole tournament. I’ve seen a change in the sportsmanship. They really look forward to winning a whistle.”
The Orange Whistle is not limited to student athletes. Coaches can also be recognized by for exemplary sportsmanship. This past winter Bryant Head Coach Peter Cardone received the Orange Whistle from Wrestling Referee Jorge Cabrales. Coach Cardone said, “after every match all of my wrestlers are directed to shake hands immediately with their opponent and their coach. Also, win or lose I always encourage my wrestlers to help their opponent up off the mat after a hard fall or at the conclusion of the match.”
Referee Jorge Cabrales concluded, “I always get a smile when I give out my Orange Whistle, so that’s a positive thing.”