Foley's Friday Mailbag: April 13, 2012
T.R. Foley, InterMat Senior Writer
email@example.com, Twitter: @trfoley
You have questions, we have answers. InterMat has launched a new feature called Foley's Friday Mailbag. 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. Answers will be posted in Friday's column. Keep the questions challenging and insightful!
Foley's Twitter: @trfoley
Foley's Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You guys play rough.
Many of the questions I received were about the movements inside particular programs. Some of you wanted to know which wrestlers would be transferring and which coaches might be shifting to new teams. That's always tough information to verify. Others had questions about Penn State's lineup, the future of the Big 12 and even the toughness of past NCAA tournaments. Regardless of the question, almost all of the submissions were challenging.
My only complaint is that there were no pop culture questions. I'll entertain anything so long as there is has even the loosest connection to wrestling. Maybe we can play the game, "Do you think (name actor) wrestled?" or "Who wins in a folkstyle match between Channing Tatum and the kid from Twilight?" I'm ready to provide a minute-by-minute breakdown of their hypothetical match (Tatum maj. dec. Lautner, 13-4).
There were dozens of awesome questions, but only so much space, so some of the questions were bumped. Next weekend is the Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City so I'll be writing a special OTT Mailbag (plus pop culture).
Management has also decided to reward each week's best question with an exclusive InterMat T-shirt. The winner will be highlighted below and contacted.
Q: I enjoy looking through old NCAA Division I brackets and happened upon a very interesting weight class, which may go down as the most decorated (and likely toughest) in history -- the 149-pound weight class in 2008 in St. Louis. This weight consisted of six eventual national champions (Brent Metcalf, Jordan Burroughs, Dustin Schlatter, Bubba Jenkins, Darrion Caldwell, and J.P. O'Connor) and three others who lost in the national final (Ryan Lang, Josh Churella, and Lance Palmer). Furthermore, all eight All-Americans at 149 in 2008 appeared in a national final and six were national champions (1) Metcalf, (2) Jenkins, (3) Burroughs, (4) Churella, (5) Caldwell, (6) O'Connor, (7) Schlatter, (8) Palmer.
Six of the eight All-Americans at 149 in 2008 were eventual national champions (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)The question: Can you think of another weight class that meets or exceeds six eventual national champions or nine finalists (the previous year (2007) at 149 comes closest in my findings with five national champs and eight finalists)? Has there ever been another weight were all the All-Americans appeared in a national final? Do you think the 149-pound weight class in 2008 would qualify as historically the toughest?
-- Sid V.
Foley: Love this question. My roommate and I wrestled at Virginia and though we are approaching Bert and Ernie living status we've stayed together because we thoroughly enjoy these types of superlative discussions. Your question actually starts with a pretty compelling statistical analysis, one that's hard to objectively refute -- six eventual NCAA champions and all eight All-Americans were finalists! That's insane. If you look down the bracket you find that two of the All-American round losers were eventual All-Americans, Adam Hall (Boise State) and Jake Patacsil (Purdue). The other two were tough-as-nails starters who never placed, Brandon Carter (Central Michigan) and Will Rowe (Oklahoma).
Does anyone object to making them some type of honorary All-American statue? Can we whittle them a small wooden plaque? Tough draw.
The only additional point to make about the bracket is that wrestling is a sport where competitors tend to get better as they get older. Though all the guys eventually showed the talent to be in the NCAA finals, they weren't necessarily at the same level as freshman and sophomores that they were when they climbed the stairs as seniors. I think that wrestling historian Jay Hammond probably has a weight class he feels was the toughest ever and I invite him to throw in his opinion for next week. My gauge would be which weight class had the most dominant set of competitors, regardless of eventual placing.
Using that metric, the toughest weight class in history might be next year at 165 pounds. Expect the mailbag to be flooded with what-if's should Andrew Howe, Kyle Dake, Tyler Caldwell and David Taylor all end up in the same weight class.
Q: Who are the leading candidates to join the ISU coaching staff?
-- George J.
Foley: It's difficult to say who the candidates are until something is announced, but my guess is that Kevin Jackson is pursuing Sammie Henson. He's the best available assistant coach and if he lands in Ames the Cyclones will have an NCAA finalist in 2013. Sammie has his critics, but I ain't one of 'em. If he and Coach Jackson get along and the Iowa State administration is willing to find the money, then this is Sammie's job.
If not Henson, then I'm left a little stumped on who else would make a significant enough impact to redirect the program. Iowa State needs something to get excited about, and hiring Sammie would definitely get the fans, the wrestlers, and the media pretty jazzed up.
Q: There are a lot of quality wrestlers that took a redshirt last season who are believed to be looking at transferring or committing to different schools (Andrew Howe, Tyler Caldwell, Travis Rutt, Destin McCauley, etc.). What light can you shed on this?
-- Kevin W.
Foley: Let's start with Destin McCauley because he seems to be set on wrestling for Iowa State in the fall. Kevin Jackson and Yero Washington (who has since left to start Beat the Streets: Los Angeles) successfully recruited him after he took what amounted to a gray shirt year in 2011-2012. He signed his NLI, and I haven't heard anything about him stepping out of his commitment, especially if Iowa State can get the money together to woo Sammie the Bull.
Tyler Caldwell was scheduled to wrestle for Nebraska, but if Sammie were to make the commitment to Iowa State I'd be shocked it Caldwell didn't attempt to make the jump. However, I don't know the particulars of his transfer and whether or not he's enrolled at Nebraska. If he is, I doubt that the NCAA would let him transfer to a third Division I school, particularly if the only compelling reason he can provide was to follow an assistant coach (great as he might be).
Travis Rutt and Tyler Graff are the last two big question marks in Madison. They're playing their cards close to the chest, but if the online roster is any indication they're leaving. Neither is an active member of the program right now. Rumor has been that Graff may leave, but where he ends up is anyone's guess. Rutt has fewer years remaining on his eligibility and may have to weigh transferring with potentially losing a year.
Andrew Howe seems to be in a particularly weird situation. From what I understand transferring to Michigan is possible, but he'd need two years to finish school and only has one year of scholarship available. I'm sure that Joe McFarland, Sean Bormet and Donny Pritzlaff would love to see him in the lineup next season, but it might be tougher than just changing singlet colors. While he'll almost certainly remain in the Michigan room in some capacity I wouldn't be shocked to see him make the short commute to Eastern Michigan. Just guessin' ... but I feel confident that coaches Derek DelPorto and David Bolyard wouldn't mind getting him into school and graduated in one year.
Q: My question is how many scholarships are given on average year to year for the sport of wrestling. I'm not talking "books" and the kid is paying $30,000 and telling everyone he is on scholarship. How many legitimate scholarships are out there for Division I (minus the Ivy League), II, III, NAIA, junior college. How many Division I schools out of the 78 are fully funded with 9.9 scholarships, and what schools are they? Same for Division II, III and NAIA, JUCO?
-- Wrestling Mom
Foley: Not taking it easy on me, are you?
There are a few points to remember about wrestling scholarships. First, very few schools give out full rides anymore. With the possible exception of Taylor Massa and Destin McCauley (and eventually Chance Marstellar), the common thinking among Division I head coaches is that incoming freshmen don't get more than 70 or 80 percent, which I think is good business practice. There are maybe five wrestlers a year that you can feel confident will be three-time All-Americans, and maybe one or two you can assume will make a national finals. The rest have an increased element of risk. Scholarships are a powerful thing and you'd hate to waste one on a wrestler who doesn't perform.
For head coaches in charge of 9.9 scholarships there is an enormous risk in giving, for example, the sixth-ranked 145-pound kid a full scholarship headed into his freshman season. Not only might that wrestler not make his own team, but as freshman they tend to have difficulty getting out from bottom and generally learning about college life ... neither of which lends confidence to the idea that he's placing out of the gate. I say better to give him 70 percent and incentivize his performance. The remaining 30 percent can be put towards a quality backup.
The exception to this rule might be heavyweights, which many coaches are willing to spend more on because it tends to be a weak weight class. Good heavyweights score dual team points and tournament points and they tend to be really good when they're young. If they're growers (coming up from 160 pounds as a high school freshman) they may even be athletic enough to become a dominant heavyweight. Not to put too fine a point on the quality of competition, but Pitt's P.J. Tasser was a 174-pound wrestler who bumped up and made NCAAs at heavyweight. If this were a financial market, the largest profit area is with the big boys.
How many schools have the full allotment of scholarships? Yikes. Programs tend to keep this information confidential unless they are fully funded and use it as a selling point with recruits.
Some quick writer-math: There are 78 programs, meaning there is a potential for (roughly) 780 full scholarships. We know that all the Big Ten and Big 12 are fully funded, as are five schools in the ACC, three schools in the Pac-12, probably six in the EIWA, and another four or five in the CAA and EWL combined. Add in another half dozen between the West Region and SoCon and you have something like 45 schools with full scholarships, or 450 individual scholarships. The remaining schools could cobble together another 150. Let's assume a 10 percent cut to accommodate my typically Pollyanna assessments of such things and you end with about 540 potential full scholarships in NCAA Division I wrestling, or roughly 70 percent of the potential maximum.
Now there are several points to make about that number. Most schools don't allow for all their scholarships to be out-of-state. For example, if I were the head wrestling coach at Alaska State-Fairbanks and my school agrees to give me the full NCAA allotment of 9.9 scholarships, they wouldn't necessarily give me the amount of money equal to 9.9 out of state scholarships. Let's say full out-of-state tuition at Alaska State-Fairbanks is $38k (we're nasty on top, by the way), the athletic department doesn't necessarily hand me $380k. More likely they give me $250k, a slap on the butt and say bring home some medals. With limited funding, I now have to recruit within Alaska because at say, $20k in-state tuition local wrestlers become a much better value. I can get better kids by setting up a card table at the Pennsylvania state tournament and handed out scholarships like Hershey Kisses, but I won't have a full team. In fact, I'll only have 6.5 kids on my team. While the PA studs might occasionally be worth the investment, if I do that too many times I'm assuming too much risk by not filling out my roster. I'd also tick of the administration who would likely want to see native Alaskans on the roster.
Back to your question: Getting books paid for is a big deal! I was a walk-on in college and only earned a partial scholarship after I won the ACC tournament and two matches at NCAAs. I was the top returner headed into the next season and still only got an 80 percent scholarship. That was a tremendous help, but averaged over four years it came out to roughly 20 percent per year, roughly the cost of books and meals at a state school. My fifth year was full and that was admittedly pretty incredible. Overall, I probably earned $25k for five years of college wrestling.
Parents love to brag on their kids, and if my offspring were offered money for being one of the best in the country at slamming other humans to the ground, I'd probably share it with poll booth operators, second cousins and my gastroenterologist.
Though I don't have children so I really can't say that for certain.
Q: How do you see West Virginia competing in the Big 12 next year? Do you expect this move will improve their recruiting?
Foley: I like the idea of WVU in the Big 12 because the conference needed the team. However, I'm pretty concerned about the distance traveled. Someone posted online that Caracas, Venezuela is actually closer to Morgantown than any of their Big 12 opponents. I'm sure that's an exaggeration, but it hammers home the point that travel costs are going to rise, which means other parts of a likely static budget will suffer -- possibly the recruiting budget.
Overall, the Mountaineers are probably going to take a few lumps in their first few seasons. Hopefully as recruits see that they can earn bids from Morgantown through the Big 12, the coaching staff might find some top-level recruits.
My biggest concern is if the football team wins (or loses) the Big 12 Conference championship game, West Virginia students have been known to torch cop cars for far less.
Q: Who would win in a folkstyle match, Ed Ruth or David Taylor?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Why do this to me? Answer: Fans.
Q: Brian Smith has done an excellent job at Mizzou over his tenure. With the move to the SEC in all other sports, does the replacement for exiting assistant coach Matt Pell need to be a "name" hire? Does this program need a bit of juice to get over that next hump and back into the top five again?
-- Tim B.
Foley: Top five is not an easy charge for any coach right now. You have Penn State, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Cornell with very talented, very young teams. It almost seems like the sport has gained parity, but in two tiers: Them and Not Them. (Oklahoma State would be a sixth team.)
Missouri could get back in the mix, but it will take a while. I don't know that role of the assistant coach in the Brian Smith system, but I can say that the success of his program in the last decade had a lot more to do with Ben Askren than my friend Matt Pell. Askren's skill and presence made those around him better and drew in recruits, without him the program has been in a lull.
Q: After their worst performance in modern history, what should the Big Eight do to stop their decline? How should their conference tourney be constructed so as to be more competitive? Should they align with another conference? If so, which one?
-- Hank B.
Foley: I love that you called it "The Big Eight." It's like when I call Sean Combs "Puff Daddy" in front of my niece.
Conference realignment is bullshit. Football has polluted the relationship between academics and athletics/physical fitness. It's a numbers game now and the entirety of college sports rests on the whims of wealthy college board members looking to swindle a few extra bucks from consumers. Wrestling shouldn't have to deal with these types of questions, but we do. (sigh)
I think the Big 12 is committed to keeping Missouri in the conference tournament for wrestling. Adding in West Virginia gives the conference a fifth team which recertifies its pre-existing exemption with the NCAA. However, someone should look to for a deep-pocketed donor to start up a team at another program and see if that doesn't create some competitive jealousy among the schools.
Please steal this idea: Get Alabama to reestablish its wrestling program, have Nick Saban endorse it, and watch the rest of the SEC start ordering Resilite. Trust me, they are as bad as the Ivy League when it comes to measuring contests.
Q: This is the same in most sports, not just wrestling, but why do you think some of the top coaches at other levels, such as DII, DIII or NJCAA or NAIA, are not usually hired for the DI openings? Every spring DI jobs open up and it doesn't seem if there are many coaches who switch divisions throughout their careers, or are even considered. Why do you think this is? Do you think coaches at the other levels pursue the DI jobs? Why or why not?
-- Matt from Minnesota
Foley: You're mostly correct, though there have been a few exceptions. Drew Pariano came to Northwestern from Cornell College (though I guess he was an assistant for a few years). Kevin Dresser was the coach at Christiansburg High School before moving over to Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion's Steve Martin was the coach at Great Bridge High School. In some respects wrestling has been abnormal. How many other sports promote directly from high school? Not many.
I've always wondered why the most successful DII and DIII coaches didn't get DI jobs, though I also don't know if they even applied. Does winning several DIII championships at Wartburg mean something less than winning a Division I title at Oklahoma? Maybe not. It's a personal decision for a lot of these guys and some just like where they live and are content winning at home.
Q: Does PSU have any kind of inside track in recruiting Chance Marsteller?
Foley: Cael Sanderson. Chance Marsteller. Sounds about right.
Q: Do you think PSU can repeat as national champs next year?
Here is an example of the type of article I should have been forwarded, but wasn't. Next time I suppose: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/cultist/2012/04/competitive_underwater_leg_wre.php.
For the record, I'd count this as a "real" sport and look forward to it replacing trampoline in the 2024 Olympics.