Foley's Friday Mailbag: March 1, 2013
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? Access archives.
Three work weeks have passed since the announcement that wrestling might be eliminated from the Olympics in 2020, and slowly more information is coming to light about how we plan to pursue the problem.
Everyone with a voice box has sounded off about the indescribable lunacy of the decision, but the leaders of USA Wrestling and the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) are taking a more measured approach. FILA didn't do its job, and it's our task to do more than just direct anger at the IOC's executive board, but listen to what the IOC wants from wrestling. Is it rule changes? More women? More action?
The process is tedious -- effective lobbying takes time and relationship building. No amount of greased palms can deliver you what you want when votes are cast. That comes from personal relationships, and more investment in the Olympic movement. Right now America doesn't contribute any money to the IOC, and while that might seem justified, a more proactive and generous approach might've helped keep our interests in consideration.
The IOC consists of former athletes and business people from 79 countries. That's 79 interests, needs and wants. The business of changing their mind won't come from making the most trouble, or being the loudest advocate for the sport of wrestling. It'll take diplomacy, patience and consideration. We'll need to create media events in their countries that highlight the importance and history of wrestling. Gentle guidance, not head snapping.
But mostly the lobbying process will mean relaxing our throats to give our ears the chance to hear what needs to be done to repair our relationships and save our sport. That's true Cauliflower Diplomacy.
To your questions ...
Q: Why do we have riding time in college when it is not in middle school, high school, or the Olympics? And what other sport gives you a point for possession? I thought the name of the game was to PIN your opponent, not ride 'em bronco.
-- Joey B.
Foley: Because you asked a question that asks for a peek behind the curtain of history, I'm going to wind you around for a minute.
The goal in most traditional wrestling styles is to pin your opponent. In the American style of the sport, first popularized in the early 19th century by Irish and Scottish immigrants in New England, the pin was the only way to win a wrestling match. However, as life outside the barn halls of Vermont got more hectic and the sport increased in popularity (wrestling was arguably the most popular sport in America in the first two decades of the 20th century) promoters and rules committees at school boards began to shorten matches for the fans and added times as well.
Those rule changes have expanded to govern all types of scoring situations, moves and boundaries. American wrestling was once the wild collision of men filled with bull testosterone hashing out grudges. Today it's a friendlier, more accessible sport that rewards technique and trickery more than aggressiveness.
But we're not alone. After 600 years with no significant rule changes the Kirkpinar wrestling tournament added a time component to their oil wrestling competition. They've since added scoring, which has alienated traditionalists inside the country. The longest continuously competed athletic event in course of recorded human history is adding rules for the sake of fans. I like pins, but it's apparent that we need to understand that fan interest is what keeps us afloat.
Tune into this coming week's Back Points podcast and listen to Coyte Cooper recap what more we can do to promote fan-friendly rule changes.
Until then, "Ride 'em Bronco!"
Q: Based on your travels, what do wrestlers from other countries think about American folkstyle? Do they watch it? Do they know about the NCAAs? How do you think the top level Russians/Iranians would do in say the Midlands? I think a lot of them would be fine on their feet but hate all the funk rolls and eventually end up getting killed on bottom. I'd argue the wrestling community should push for it but the injury
What are your thoughts?
-- Bryan R.
Foley: The Russians and Iranians would be an awesome addition to any American-styled wrestling tournament. I'm sure that many of them wouldn't have to worry about what happens on bottom, since they on average have some of the best neutral attacks in the world.
The majority of wrestlers that I've met around the world want to know how I've done at the international level. In India this month there was little understanding of folkstyle's existence and no accommodations made for success at the NCAA level. I was even introduced at tournaments, and while many fans and wrestlers recognized the cauliflower ears to mean that I'd competed, it was my journalism that was mentioned. No terms existed to quickly inform the crowds of time spent as a wrestler or coach.
Mongolians have a better sense of American folkstyle. They keep a very close eye on the wrestlers who've come to America and have watched Turtogtokh, Ugi, Ganabayar and Minga compete through YouTube and Flo. Most of the talented wrestling population lives in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, so as you progress into the countryside there is less certainty about the American style (even as freestyle schools remain).
The best question is to ask yourself what you know of other traditional styles and how success is gauged in their competitions. Some Indians are contented to only wrestle Kushti. They receive money and acclaim and eventually they earn coveted jobs in the military, police force and working for the railroad. There are plenty of NCAA-obsessed wrestlers in America that follow a similar path.
Q: Do you think we will ever see women's wrestling at the college level? Has there ever been a women wrestling in college? Will we ever see a women's NCAA wrestling championship?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: My man, we HAVE a women's wrestling at the collegiate level and it's growing every year. The Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association boasts 22 women's programs, with more coming every year! The WCWA even has a national dual team tournament. The women compete using FILA's freestyle rules.
Wrestling is the fastest growing women's sport at the high school level and the NYC public school system just announced a 16-team league complete with 12 weight classes.
Women are hitting the mats and making all wrestling fans proud.
Q: Why does Penn State shy away from the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals, and how do they remain No. 1?
Foley: They remain No. 1 because they are the best team in the country in terms of individual performance at the NCAAs. They choose not to wrestle the National Duals, and the reasons might change year to year, but I just don' think they see the upside. They have talents. They already wrestle the big teams and they're two-time defending NCAA champions. Why give up their edge?
Agree or disagree, they are doing what they feel is right for their program. If the National Duals become a compulsory NCAA event then they'll attend. Until that time, they are without question the top team in the country. If there are people who really think otherwise I know that Joey Odesssa will be setting lines for the team race for several sites. I suggest you lay down a mortgage payment and make some cash.
Q: Everyone is dying to see Kyle Dake and David Taylor go head-to-head once more in the NCAA finals. Any chance that either one of them is too focused on their third match and gets tripped up before the finals?
-- Tim M.
Foley: The temptation is to agree and give you a trope about how you can't look ahead, but I'll save you the speech. Kyle Dake and David Taylor will be in the finals. They're on that different planet, and unless they suffer a catastrophic injury in training, they'll be the two in the finals.
Gotta love a leader with a heart for the sport, and the passion to dismiss diplomacy in favor of full-throated attacks on referees. (We've ALL been there.)
Link: Bethlehem mayor ejected from wrestling tourney
Fortress CEO and longtime wrestling philanthropist Mike Novogratz took to CNBC to discuss his position within CPOW, an organization formed to lobby members of the IOC.
Link: Fortress' Novogratz 'wrestles' with Olympic Committee
Q: With Ed Ruth being a junior and king of the weight class, could you see Minnesota's Kevin Steinhaus trying to bulk up to 197 and switching with Scott Schiller in the Gopher lineup next season? Seems he would be a favorite for a title there.
-- John M.
Foley: Most college coaches aren't going to ask for one of their most talented wrestlers to move weights in order to dodge a tough opponent. However, I don't know that we've seen anyone as dominant as Ed Ruth, and to be honest depending on how things play out at NCAAs there is a chance that the Minnesota wrestler could make that decision in the offseason, giving the "Bear-Jew" time to bulk up and win an NCAA title.
Steinhaus is an absolute stud and one of the favorite wrestlers to discuss on the BP podcast. He deserves an NCAA title, and if he decides that bulking up is the best way to win, he'll have the support of the fans.
Q: It seems to me that Kyle Dake is getting far less attention than Cael Sanderson did four years ago despite the fact they are both going for No. 4. Is this a product of the fact that Cael was undefeated and Dake has several losses, or other factors such as program, personality etc.?
-- Josh Z.
Foley: Two is a couple, three is a few, and four is several, but it still feels wrong to read that he has "several" losses.
The wrestling media is larger than it was in 2001 so I think that Dake's quest is receiving much more attention overall. However, you're right in thinking that Sanderson was afforded more national media attention due to the fact he was both undefeated and the first wrestler capable of winning four titles since Pat Smith.
Should Dake win his fourth title he'll be lauded in the mainstream media for his achievement and possibly be mentioned as the better wrestler given his ability to win it across four weights.
As for personality and program, as a writer I think both favor Dake in terms of appeal and storyline.
Q: Given all the things that make our sport unique, do you ever see the advanced stats craze making its way into wrestling? Things like PER for basketball, WAR for baseball and DYAR for football are now routinely discussed whenever debates about MVPs and All-Stars come up. Because wrestling is an individual sport with only four ways of scoring, I don't believe it ever will but I'd love to hear your take.
-- Dan L.
Foley: The advanced stats craze has made its way into MMA, so it's difficult to write that we'll never see them appear in wrestling. I was recently contacted by a man who has been following interesting stats from the past ten years, and was impressed with things I didn't know, like how many wrestlers who placed at the 2012 NCAA tournament hadn't won a state championship. The answer is six.
Statistics make sports more accessible, and I'd welcome any meaningful role they could have in helping promote the sport to a new demographic of fan.
The problem with statistics is their applicability to on-the-mat results. Stats are a great way to justify an inkling you have about the habits of a wrestler, but as a predictive measure -- in MMA, and wrestling -- they'd fall short of forecasting future behavior. Nothing can overcome the weight with which we learn to value certain positions, opponents and timing. All takedowns aren't equal. Hitting a successful double leg against Ed Ruth in the second period is much different than hitting a first-period takedown against the fourth stringer from a tiny DIII school. Statistics haven't yet made an accommodation for that type of human computation or pattern recognition.
Q: I know you have answered plenty of questions when it comes to rankings ... so here is one more! Why is it that when wrestlers do not compete they hold on to their rankings? Many athletes suffer illness, injury, and even giving up forfeits during the last match of a dual if the match is no longer in contention ... examples of this has been Mike McMullan and Andrew Compolattano, both have missed several matches against ranked opponents or have been out of the lineup due to injury but both remain in the top 15, at least on the InterMat site.
-- Confused Big Ten Fan
Foley: I think it would be foolish to assume that either of the wrestlers you mention in your question were ducking opponents in order to preserve a ranking, or a seed at NCAAs. McMullan placed third at NCAAs last season and Camp is a legitimate stud. It's much more likely that they were managing small setbacks, like ankle tweaks than actually dodging opponents. Tough to penalize them in the rankings for suffering from injuries that could happen to any wrestler.
Q: Was looking through the InterMat rankings and see that at 174 8 of the top 10 ranked wrestlers are in the Big Ten. I'm interested in your breakdown of the Big Ten tourney at 174. So many interesting matchups and more than one possible champion. This is going to be a great bracket!!!
-- Tom G
Foley: Your exclamation marks say it all. Let's get to the wrestling already! Anything could happen once the shoes hit the Resilite, but we know that the quarterfinals should break into something like this (expected seeds):
No. 1 Logan Storley (Minnesota) vs. No. 8 Dan Yates (Michigan)
No. 4 Nick Heflin (Ohio State) vs. No. 5 Matt Brown (Penn State)
No. 3 Bob Kokesh (Nebraska) vs. No. 6 Jordan Blanton (Illinois)
No. 2 Mike Evans (Iowa) vs. No. 7 Lee Munster (Northwestern)
No. 1 Storley vs. No. 5 Brown
No. 2 Evans vs. No. 3 Kokesh
No. 5 Brown vs. No. 3 Kokesh