Foley's Friday Mailbag: Jan. 18, 2013
T.R. Foley, InterMat Senior Writer
email@example.com, 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? Access archives.
Housekeeping note: Take a listen to this week's Back Points podcast with Troy Letters. He's a genuine and entertaining guy who talks about everything from hunting grouse to coaching at Penn State. We even wax poetically about our 2004 match at Grace Hall, which he won 5-4.
The Manti Te'o fake girlfriend story is pure insanity. At worst the Te'o situation is a grotesque prank played out by a football player once exalted for his forthright character. At best, it's a complicated stew of partial lies that has raised serious ethical questions about the behavior of the leis-draped Te'o.
Whether or not Te'o knew the truth about his girlfriend seems secondary to the online cackling about a sports media willing to forgo the basic tenants of journalism in helping to create a Notre Dame legend. The common refrain from around the Internet is where the New York Times and Wall Street Journal failed to search for the non-existent death certificate of this young girl, Deadspin.com and their cast of plucky reporters did the grunt work.
That's only partially true.
Deadspin is wonderful entertainment for the sports fan who love snark and photos of Brett Favre's member. What they've done with the Te'o story is impressive, but only doable because of their positioning in the marketplace. They inhabit a purgatory of journalism where some of their posts are taken seriously, and others are chalked up to being a blog. Without question their journalistic practices are miles south of the New York Times, but on occasion their reporters work leads and produce entertaining content. The New York Times relies on a double sourcing process that is unbendable; Deadspin uses editorial judgment sprinkled with potential publishing implication (Their Te'o story has received more than three million page views.) Fake Internet personalities and photos of private areas might seem important, but know that the staff at The Grey Lady is still undertaking the real reporting, whether it's Juliet Macur covering Lance Armstrong, or their exposure of the concussion crisis in football.
What does the media's role in the Te'o debacle have to do with wrestling? In the outcry about the lack of suitable coverage, there is a lesson to be learned about our sport's media. Journalism isn't infallible, and the halfwits from smaller papers who had access to teammates, coaches and Te'o himself who didn't smell a rat -- or worse, did and failed to say anything -- are indictable for bad business practices and losing the rust of their readers. These reporters lived, worked, and survived in the bubble of Notre Dame athletics. Nobody wanted to tarnish the image of Knute Rockne's Notre Dame, so nobody piped up to an editor that maybe the Great Hawaiian Hope's story was as manufactured as SPAM.
Deadspin did. The site has always maintained an adversarial relationship with the Golden Domers and when tipped off about the fake relationship was primed to report on the star player's fantastical hubris. But as well-written and shocking as it was, the piece was still takedown journalism -- the article carries a stench of indictment from anonymous sources who were "80 percent" sure that Te'o was in on the gaga, but provided no concrete evidence. Who says 80 percent?
By compulsion the culture of wrestling is as self-promotional as Notre Dame athletics. We subsist on a diet of two-degree relationships, which means that for the most part we protect each other's failures from becoming public. I'm a journalist, but even I'd to keep it that way -- I think that loyalty is what makes our sport one the most enjoyable subcultures in the sporting world. But realistically, as we gain more national attention we'll have to deal with more negative news stories, some potentially harmful to programs and individuals.
Of course, the Te'o mess is on another stratosphere from anything that goes on in wrestling. However, on the chance that something this major ever does occur in our modest and insulated media world, I hope we'll remember the controversy and understand that our journalists will need to report it (double-sourced) to preserve their job and your trust. We all want to enjoy a media supported by the bedrock tenants of journalism, but to do that we'll need to protect those willing to report the truth.
On a related note, there will now be much more extensive background searches done about any secondary member of an athletics program who is discussed in the media by a player or coach. The SIDs at major colleges are locked in a room right this second updating their student-athlete handbooks to reflect what will become a lockdown on discussions of the athletes personal life without prior consent from the athletic department.
OK, let's wrestle ...
Q: Just saw the new USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division I Coaches Poll. It said Penn state received all ten first-place votes. So, who are the ten who vote? Ten seems a little low.
-- Jason R.
Foley: Amateur Wrestling News is in charge of the polling content and has chosen to keep quiet the names of the ten coaches with first-place votes. I've talked to Jason Bryant, the editor of AWN, and gave him my opinion that adding a few more votes could prevent tampering, or at least eliminate any doubts readers might have. They might be considering an expansion next season, but as JB mentioned before, and what I know from my work at ESPN, collecting polling data is a monumental pain in the rear. It's a tight ship and I'm sure they'll keep fine tuning the process.
Though I prefer the tournament polling of InterMat, it's tough to argue with dual meet rankings when my Virginia Cavaliers creep their way up to a best-ever ranking of 11th ... Wahoowa!
Q: It seems that the rivalry between UVa and VT on the wrestling mat is heating up largely in part to both programs marked improvement on the national level in the past few years. In general, it has not seemed that is a rivalry with "bad blood" but I have heard recurrent references at matches and in interviews from Coach Dresser about UVa intentionally wrestling "at the edge of the mat." Most recently he said this after the Virginia Dual final and referred to Virginia as "sneaky" and again accused them of intentionally wrestling at the edge. Is this just trying to stir up bad blood or do you think this really IS something the Cavaliers do intentionally for strategic purposes?
-- Merris S.
Foley: Dresser said that?! (Paints face, mounts steed, unsheathes sword)
Dresser is a competitor, and as an Iowa-trained guy he doesn't have much patience for anything but straightforward wrestling. That style is working well for his team, who is once again in the top ten after winning last weekend's Virginia Duals. Just like his guys have a style that includes pushing forward, the Virginia guys have their own style which is funky, but certainly not retreating.
When Dresser refers my Wahoos as "sneaky" I have to assume that he means they score back points in non-traditional positions and wrestle with a lot of funk at the center of their defense. As to playing the edge, there is no question that Va Tech was more offensive which in turn put Virginia on its heels at times. Even so, Garland is NOT teaching the Virginia guys to play at the edge of the mat. Like all coaches he wants them in the center scrapping, and if happened that they weren't able to do that against Va Tech this time, then it's only circumstantial.
Q: I just watched the movie "Legendary." Do you know if the actor Devon Graye did his own wrestling or has been a wrestler?
Foley: Oh, I added that to my Instant Queue on Netflix, but it's stuck behind the second season of Locked up Abroad. Here's a hint to anyone traveling to SE Asia or Peru: Don't try to smuggle any drugs or currency into or out of the country. You WILL end up on television with a British accent crying about how it felt when you failed to receive the Kings Pardon for the fourth straight year. Thailand will literally sentence you to death for possessing even a gram of heroin.
I just googled that kid and he used to play the teenage version of Dexter on Showtime. Showtime>HBO ... Believe it!
Based on Devon Graye's Wiki profile he spent four years attending high school in England, which eliminates any chance he wrestled since the country is almost completely absent of youth wrestling. That's a sad realization when you realize that our folkstyle is of direct lineage to the Cornish and collar-and-elbow style popular around the UK from the 16th century until the mid-20th.
Q: Why was there no Division I National Duals? I'm sure I missed something.
Foley: They're coming, brother! From what I gather Feb. 17 is the regional round with 16 teams competing in four regions, and the finals are being held on February 22-23 at the University of Minnesota.
Q: Do you know what happened to Jeromy Davenport from Sallisaw, Oklahoma? He verbally committed to the OU Sooners in 2011. He was a four-time state champion. He is not on their roster. I have look on all Division I rosters and can't find him. I was just wondering if he is wrestling anywhere?
-- Jim S.
Foley: Davenport wrestles for Labette and is currently ranked second in NJCAA. Last year he placed fifth for Labette wrestling at 149 pounds.
Q: Do you think Joe McFarland and his University of Michigan staff are disappointed in Eric Grajales and his four-year career so far? So far his body of work is weak. No Big Ten championships and no All-American honors. I thought being in Joe McFarland's program he would thrive.
On TV, when I watch this kid, he wrestles "not to lose." He is a bore to watch. On Friday night, at home, during the Nebraska dual, it came down to Eric. Last match the team needed a major to win the meet, and he crapped the bed. I swear -- even the Big Ten Announcer mentioned, "He seems like he does not want to be here." I concur. I think he is disinterested in wrestling and is just hanging around getting a great education; I have no patience for this and would broom him.
-- Paul L.
Foley: I think that we'll need to see what happens with him at the NCAA tournament. College wrestling ain't easy, and though some guys make the jump with ease, others don't. I met him in 2006 when he was still a youngster in high school and remember him being very kind and with great manners. Tough to be hard on the kid, though I agree I'm sure he and his coach have wanted more production.
I'm a betting man, so I won't tell you what I think will happen at NCAAs, but let's just say I'm pulling for him to finally make the podium.
Did you know that Grajales was the No. 2 overall recruit coming out of high school (by InterMat), behind only David Taylor and ahead of Kyle Dake, Ed Ruth, and Chris Perry? That's pressure.
Q: How do collegiate wrestlers interact with Clubs/ RTCs? Is Metcalf wrestling with St. John and Evans every day? Do they have to do it with no coaches present? Not during the season?
-- Bryan R.
Foley: Good question. The rules change every year, but last I checked Olympic-level athletes training at regional training centers were allowed to wrestle with the collegiate athletes anytime outside the arranged practice time. This translates to some members of the team getting their training in with the club guys on certain days, and their teammates others. Still, legal or not, it's common for club guys to be present at official practices.
There are a plethora of positives in having access to these top-level athletes. Their presence enriches the program by increasing the available knowledge base and by allowing for practices to be held by coach-quality athletes before the official season even begins.
Talking to Jake Herbert and other athletes at regional training centers I find it obvious that the RTC program is improving the U.S. National Team's performance in international tournaments. Some schools might have a competitive advantage, but they're mostly locked in the Big Ten Conference and forced to compete with each other.
Yes, Metcalf is in the room and is wrestling with DSJ and Evans almost every day.
The project continues ...
Don't worry, it's Daniel Cormier's ...