Foley's Friday Mailbag: Aug. 3, 2012
T.R. Foley, InterMat Senior Writer
firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @trfoley
InterMat senior writer T.R. Foley answers reader questions about NCAA wrestling, international wrestling, recruiting, or anything loosely related to wrestling. You have until Thursday night every week to send questions to Foley's Twitter or email account.
Do you want to read a past mailbag? View Archives.
I know you're sick of hearing women teething at the sight of Ryan Lochte's abs, so I'm submitting for your viewing pleasure a brief respite from the Man-Candy Olympics by linking you to a photo essay on the gold medal winning Dutch field hockey team. Orange you glad I did that?
Buttered up? Back to wrestling.
Q: OK, I go to the NCAAs. I try and catch a Division I or II match as often as possible. But now we're into the Olympic season. When Iowa takes on Penn State, I can pretty well tell you who will wrestle, but in London, I really don't know. Can you help me to understand who the competition is for our guys when they head to London this summer? Who are the Russians, the Kazaks, the Chinese that we should be aware of? Who are the top-ranked wrestlers in each weight class in the world today? And, most importantly, what are our chances of bringing home some gold?
-- Jason G.
Q: So I have read every article and watched every video on each American wrestler, I have my "Got Doubles?" Jordan Burroughs T-shirt ready to wear for a week straight and I have my alarm set for 5 a.m. next Friday (I am on the West Coast) to start watching coverage. Being an ardent wrestling fan, I would love to know what international wrestlers I should be watching for. Who are the multiple Olympic/world medalists? Any storylines I should be following?
-- John P
Foley: Let us take a moment to congratulate you on the decision to not only wake up at 5 a.m. to watch wrestling, but to announce it in a public forum. If you have a wife, fiancée, or serious girlfriend you are giving her valuable ammunition as to why YOU should get out of bed and tend to the crying mound of soft flesh in the other room. "You can get up to watch wrestling, you can sure as HELL get up and take care of our child!" Sucker. (Shudders)
Is this the appropriate place to plug InterMat's newest venture? We'll be starting a weekly podcast and are breaking it in next Monday the day after the 55 kilos and 74 kilos Greco-Roman men compete, but well before the freestyle action starts. I'll be your host and joining me will be joined by brain-turned-wrestling-computer Michael Riordan (I'm a lawyer!). The first show will cover all the ins and outs of all the Olympic weight classes, the matchups, the betting lines, etc. Later shows will feature guests in a casual conversation format. All knowledge, all the time.
Because I'm a good man, I'll go ahead and give you a pre-podcast sampling for free right now. I'm like a drug dealer in that way (except the podcast is also free).
The Russians, Iranians and Azerbaijanis are very talented freestyle wrestlers and should be competing with the USA for a place on the medal stand. The Georgians, Uzbekis, Japanese, Cubans and both Koreans have serviceable teams that will compete well across all weights for which they are qualified.
Some of the top Greco teams are Iran, Georgia, Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, America and Armenia. There is also at least one Cuban scary enough to prompt more than a half-dozen emails.
The women side is ABSOLUTELY DOMINATED by the Japanese. After that it's the Russians, Americans, Bulgarians, Chinese and Mongolians.
Here are the Olympic Games wrestling predictions by the leading wrestling journalists. Unfortunately many of these writers forgot to check the results of Russian nationals where favorite Viktor Ledebev was ousted from the Olympic team by Djamal Otarsultanov at 55 kilos. It's OK ... I chose two Mongolians
Check out the Olympic Games wrestling schedule.
Ever heard a poem about wrestling?
Channing TatumYou might be undecided on the casting of Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz in the upcoming Bennett Miller movie, "Foxcatcher," but know that when one of the world's most photographed people wears the logo of your governing body, it has an impact.
Himbo Tatum has been seen around the NYAC mats and even stopped in and grabbed wrestling tips from two-time Hofstra All-American and undefeated UFC middleweight Chris Weidman. For now, I'm giving Magic Mike some props for learning the techniques. The dedication of an actor like Tatum gives me confidence not just in his performance, but in the overall quality of the film -- Miller must be pushing the right buttons.
Q: While I love the idea of Harry Lester winning a gold I am amazed that you don't have any Georgians in your medal winners for Greco... Namely "The Other Manuchar" (the first being the monster known as Manuchar Kvirkvelia. May I submit this. At 120 kilos in Greco the Cuban Mijain Lopez has to be the favorite, the only way he loses is when he gets bought. He is a beast out there!
-- Larry L.
Q: If Mijan Lopez (CUBA) did freestyle, he would easily be one of the best in the world.
Foley: Mijan Lopez is a total stud, and the "Other Manchur" made Lester look weak, which he most certainly is not.
Lopez is as much a lock to win the gold at 120 kilos in Greco as Michael Phelps was to come away from London with the all-time medal count. The Cuban wrestler has a Karelin-like intensity and with the loss to the Turk seemingly meaningless (Was he bought?), Lopez will cruise.
Q: Who was the last wrestler to wrestle both Greco and freestyle in the Olympics? The last wrestler from the United States to do it? The last wrestler to medal in both during the same Olympics?
There is a lot of Wikipedia involved in this answer. The consensus for the first and ONLY person to ever win an Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman and Freestyle is Ivar V. Johansson of Sweden who pulled it off at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. His freestyle weight was 72 kilos while his Greco was 79 kilos. No mention as to when they weighed in, or how many days separated the competition.
I'll go ahead and submit a nomination for Johansson's double gold to be included in any top ten list of Olympic wrestling achievements. Others??
Q: Do you think that either Taylor Massa or Jason Tsirtsis will make an impact next year?
Foley: Freshman are all the rage. Taylor Massa will be at Michigan under the tutelage of Sean Bormet and Donny Pritzlaff. Though it's tough to know for certain if he'll start, Massa will be a multiple time All-American and a title contender. Out of the box AA? Maybe, maybe not. I just see him as a guy ready for a great career.
Jason Tsirtsis would be a top 15 wrestler within a month of starting the season, but is expected to redshirt this coming season at Northwestern. He recently had surgery on his labrum and can't be on the mat for a few months.
I'm excited to watch both these guys.
Q: How good was the 1984 U.S. Olympic freestyle team? Obviously the U.S. winning seven golds and nine total medals is not something we will ever see again. However, the Soviets, Bulgarians, East Germans, Cubans, Poles and North Koreans, all of whom had World champions in '83 and/or '85, boycotted the games. I know wrestlers peak for the Olympics and often retire after winning gold, so how do you think the U.S. would have done on home soil with the wrestling heavyweight countries in attendance?
-- John P.
Foley: More than most sports, wrestlers that appeared in the 1984 Olympics and won medals have to wonder what would've been. As I've covered earlier, and as you put in your question, many of the top wrestling nations in the country boycotted the Olympics in 1984. This wasn't Brazil, Argentina and Peru missing the action, this was the best team in the world and three more that were in the top ten. Obviously the Americans wouldn't have won as many medals had those countries competed.
However, they didn't compete, meaning we simply can't say with certainty. On the positive side of the argument you have the case of Dave Schultz who won gold without facing the Soviet, but who beat the Soviet the very next time they wrestled. It's not admissible in a court of law (Speculation, Your Honor!), but it's safe to assume he could have done the same in 1984.
Let's leave it there. Let's walk away with warm feelings about how well our team did in 1984 and the knowledge that should he have faced his Soviet nemesis, Dave Schultz would've prevailed. Because let's all agree, Dave Schultz was the man.
Q: I was wondering what you know about the fact that two people get bronze medals at the Olympic/World championships these days. It looks like the first time they did this was at the 2005 World Championships. Do you know why FILA started doing this? Judo and Boxing have been awarding two bronze medals as well, but why is it only these combat sports that have two third place winners? This whole thing just doesn't make sense to me. Does it have something to do with the repechage system? Why wouldn't they just have the two wrestlers who win bronze in the current system wrestle each other for the actual 3rd place?
-- Dave B.
Foley: I feel totally fine with the idea of two bronze medals. Though I don't think every place deserves a trophy, I do think that an additional few medals doesn't invalidate their significance.
You did well to point out that judo has been doing this for years, and the reason FILA adopted the idea is simple enough. Wrestling as a two-day event, which meant another weigh-in for the athletes and a more expensive and less friendly viewing experience for fans. The new format is quicker. With repechage the action can take place within a six-hour day giving fans the finality they're seeking, and doesn't force any extra meaningless weigh-ins. Also, didn't pool wrestling just kind of FEEL ridiculous? We're not soccer.
I Facebooked with Jason Bryant of USA Wrestling about the system and his thoughts were a little meatier, "There was a lot of match throwing when guys were 1-1 in the round-robin pool. There were guys not showing up as to give their opponent more classification point." He added, "I don't care for the repechage and it wouldn't be so bad if they actually seeded the tournament."
Seeding would be difficult and the current system does allow for some perilous first-round matchups, but overall the system seems to be putting the right wrestlers on the medal stand.
Enjoy the Olympics and please send in any questions you have and I'll try and get to them in each mailbag. Also, be on the lookout for the podcast. With some luck we'll be doing them once-a-week starting in September and running through the collegiate season.