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.
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In last week's mailbag I mentioned the possible outcome of a folkstyle match between Cornell's Kyle Dake against David Taylor. The dustup surrounding their potential matchup was given some additional fuel at the Olympic Team Trials when Dake earned a fall over Taylor in the 74-kilo wrestlebacks.
These guys can create quite the reader response. In honor of their to-be-wrestled match I've decided open up the floor for some interesting prompts, angles and questions about the most anticipated match/hypothetical rematch in recent memory.
It's Memorial Day weekend, take some time with your family, burn some cow, and drink too much. If you're feeling like this guy then you probably deserve a few days off.
Q: Two thoughts on David Taylor's loss to Kyle Dake: 1. The toss that Dake used would have been illegal in folk wrestling, yes? One cannot lock the hands in the center of the back. 2. That toss, from what I saw, injured Taylor, and affected the way he wrestled the rest of match. I hope the two wrestle each other many more times.
-- Gregg B.
Foley: I'm not sure if Taylor was injured in that first scramble. It's entirely possible he was just discouraged, though some type of physical hiccup wouldn't have been unimaginable -- 'twas an awkward position.
The lock looked folkstyle legal. I've never seen any wrestler attempt anything similar in competition, but I don't see why you couldn't execute a double chicken wing meets bear hug from the front. The thing is, I would bet you tickets to the Belmont Stakes that there is NO CHANCE we see Dake try that move in the rematch, or if he did that Taylor would fall for it. Seemed like it might have been one of those, "I didn't WANT to lock my hands, but since you offered ... "
I guess what the move left me questioning was just how Taylor could allow himself to fall into such a terrible position. Under no circumstances are you scoring by giving up that position, so why allow it to transpire? Overall, I think the scramble is a great anecdote about the styles of both wrestlers and possibly gives us a trailer into how their matchup next season might play out -- if they matchup at all.
Dake punishes opponents for making mistakes. No matter how innocuous the errors seem ("I choose down!"), the three-time NCAA champion has made his legacy about scoring in bunches. While there are some consistent high-scorers in wrestling -- guys like Purdue All-American Jake Patacsil who scored thousands of points from his tilts, or takedown specialists like Ed Ruth who rack up a dozen +1 encounters in seven minutes. Dake plays defense first and is patient for large-format scoring opportunities.
Where Dake capitalizes on mistakes, Taylor has a habit of starting slowly and getting in trouble when hanging out in bad positions. His often incredible offense (Cael's ankle pick series) seems to come to a halt when he reaches an uncomfortable spot. That hesitation, however brief, has left him to make a few questionable decisions, two of which have cost him high-profile losses (2011 NCAA finals vs. Bubba J).
Dake scored his fall, which only would have been called in freestlye, from a fairly common kick back defense from Taylor's single. When Taylor didn't react well, Dake struck. Maybe he was hurt, maybe he was taken aback and it won't happen in the folkstyle match, but that type of scoring in bunches is what makes Dake a once-in-a-generation type wrestler, and in my opinion would give him the upper hand.
Q: The world seems to be highly anticipating the 165-pound class next year with Caldwell, Howe, Taylor, and the possibility of Dake entering the fray. Based on what Dake has accomplished as a three-time NCAA champion, it would seem highly likely that he would crave the competition in the 165-pound class in his final year, capping off a historic career with an exclamation point if he were to win his fourth title over this caliber of competition. However, when questioned about the future weight class he prefers, Dake said he would do "Whatever is best for Cornell". While 157 is probably an easier road for his fourth title, and almost guarantees more championship points for the team, winning at 165, while perhaps less of a "certainty" also would block points from PSU, the clear team favorite for next year's NCAAs. How would you decide which weight would be best for the team?
-- Brian G.
Foley: I like that you took the team angle. What Dake can accomplish next year by becoming the third four-time NCAA Division I champion AND all at different weight classes seems incredible, and maybe slides him into consideration as the best ever. However, as you noted, Cornell has an outside chance to challenge Penn State for the NCAA title, especially if Dake secures the title at 157 pounds. Right now so much is uncertain about Dake and Howe (whose ACL/MCL tear might have him out until December making an appearance at 174 pounds seem more likely) that it's tough to line up and ask each coach what is best for their team. Cornell head coach Rob Koll is in an interesting situation with where to direct Dake. I think he'd prefer for him to happy and healthy first and if Kid Dynamite is cutting too much weight, he'd certainly encourage him to bump up to 165 pounds. But that is far from a certain outcome. (I hear new rumors every day.)
The real question is what Mark Cody plans to do with Andrew Howe. The kid is a cold-cocked killer, but after an ACL repair he might have trouble trimming off the body fat and getting lean and mean for 165 pounds. Why not put him at 174 pounds? If I'm Mark Cody it's plausible that I push him up for what has to be a better shot at the NCAA title. From a team perspective the coaching staff in Norman has to think that they can get no worse at 174 from Howe than they would at 165 and likely they'll get more return on their investment should he get bumped up. Assume Howe wins it. Now assume Kendric Maple dorks up a bunch of people and earns five straight technical falls at the tournament on his way to an NCAA championship. If you add in a few more AAs like Travis Rutt and the Lester boys, and suddenly Oklahoma is in the hunt for top-four finish at the NCAA tournament. Like Koll, Cody will do what is best for Howe, and match his wrestler's needs with that of the program. Were this a video game I'd tell Howe to make the jump, but there is a lot of things that still need to happen between now and making that decision.
Q: Bring Back The Robes! (And the moxie!)
Remember when a team was good and they knew it and all the fans either for or against them knew it. Before all the PC and unemotional changes in wrestling. Can't you picture Dan Gable and Chris Taylor in those cardinal and gold robes? Half the fans cheering and the other half booing. I remember in high school that if a team was brave enough to wear silk robes and had matching headgear, you could either get intimidated or psyched up to bring them down.
The closest thing we have now is probably Iowa and Penn State. You are either for or against them, not much in-between. Iowa wears the black, and Carver-Hawkeye is like a pit. Penn State is trying but those uniforms look like they came off the Steel Pier in Atlantic City with the diving horse. Cornell/PSU is heating up also.
Remember some places where you used to wrestle when there was only a spotlight on the mat or the fans were so close you could smell them? Since you and the staff get around a lot, which are the most intimidating places and teams to wrestle and the things that make them that way.
Foley: I love this question! The robes should be brought back. Imagine if we could get Kyle Dake and David Taylor to wear one of these suckers for their maybe-never-going-to-happen match next season. I think that they won't don them for a myriad reasons, but none more than what you noted, the bland, unemotional state of college wrestling.
Wrestling is a traditional sport and as such we think that whatever is going on now, AT THIS VERY SECOND, is that way it always was and the way it will always be. We are scared (rightfully at times) that we might bastardize our sport into some type of poor man's WWE. That type of professionalism in amateur, or openly competed wrestling, has happened across the world. In China the Han had street wrestlers who would openly compete for money, but over time they lost out on fans (and money) because there wasn't much of a flash to all the matches (sound familiar?) Soon they changed to choreographed matches and plotlines and business flourished. Save the street performance the same thing happened in America in the 1920's right before the amateur and the professional ranks first made their significant separation.
Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson both wore robes at one timeSo ... robes? I think we can get back to some of that flair. Hell, like you wrote, Dan Gable wore a robe. Also, to be honest, robes keep you warm. To the fans who don't like robes, I ask you this: When you get out of the shower in a nice hotel, or treat yourself to a massage, what do you wear? A robe! Why? Because it keeps you warm when you ain't wearing a lot. Not sure if you've ever stood in a cold gym wearing nothing but a half-pound piece of lycra but it's not going to get you through the long, cold winter.
On to your other brilliant insight which is that save a few schools, the college wrestling dual meet as an event can be pretty hokey. I like what Penn State and Cornell do, and I've heard that Minnesota can put on good show. Of course Carver-Hawkeye is one of the more intimidating places for anyone to wrestle. Also deserving credit for putting a lot of energy into their dual meets is best-dressed coach Tom Ryan who had a record crowd for Ohio State's dual meet with Michigan. I lost three dual meets in college, one to injury, one to someone who had my number, and one to Troy Letters at Grace Hall. I remember that place was rocking, but I never felt intimidated. I was actually MORE excited to wrestle, possibly because the fans there didn't seem to have a vitriolic disgust for the other team as much as an appreciation of effort. However, as a coach, I remember Cornell being the most intimidating place to wrestle. The fans are LOUD and they are right on top of the mat. There was the Redman guy doing pushups, music blaring, and they were wailing us. Overall it's probably pretty similar to what it feels like to be tortured. I'm sure that there are others that I'm missing, but for now that'll have to do. (I'm betting Michigan will also be rowdy in a few years!)
Q: Jon Jones just got a DUI. Do you think it will affect his fighting career and endorsement deals?
-- Lilly L.
Foley: The action of young sports stars is one of the most popular topics in many other mailbags, and for good reason. There is NOTHING that people enjoy more than seeing the captain of the football team take a nose dive. We are culture that builds up personalities, seemingly so we can turn around and tear them back down. (You should definitely blame the media and Internet for this behavior.) But what Jon Jones did last Saturday morning wasn't some betrayal of trust for all the 6-year-old fans in America, it actually showed us two important things: 1. He's an idiot. 2. The media was already interested in your question almost without considering what could have happened to the passengers in the car.
Jon Jones (Photo/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)I'm not a preacher (Jones' dad is), but let me riff for a second about the seriousness of drunk driving. People die. People die every day, in fact they die every 10 minutes because they or some bozo can't call a cab. It's obnoxious behavior for anyone, but especially somebody who could've afforded to call-in a helicopter to lift his Bentley from point A to point B. It's selfish and ignorant behavior for anyone, but for the rising star of the UFC it was extra careless.
To your point, no he won't lose out on endorsement deals in the long term. Nike and Gatorade will come knocking in a few years to have him endorse their products. I guess he'll either become more real (his lack of genuine behavior irks fans) or he'll become more religious and be "humbled" by the experience.
Honestly, I don't care if he signs with GEICO, for now he will have to suffer the PR fallout that directly assaults his character. Jones deserves it, he deserves ten-fold, but in the end we will all forgive him, because the only thing we like more in this world that to see the jock stumble, is to see him rise again.
Q: Ivan Drago vs. Conan the Barbarian.
Foley: Location: Our combatants meet deep in the Ural Mountains, in a valley so narrow that the trees on the hillsides obscure it from being discovered by satellite. The property is owned by Alexander Karelin and the year is sometime mid-Hyborian. In case you were wondering, Karelin is also capable of time travel and brought along his dear friend Drago for the epic fight.
Rules: No swords. No steroids. Hand-to-hand
Roundup: Conan is NOT superhuman, though, according to Wikipedia he has killed scores of men with his back against the wall. That is not to say that he also hasn't been defeated, and even took a drumming at the hands/paws/mitts of Thak the Ape Man. Conan's popularity is likely derived from that fact that while he is physically gifted, he also excels as a tactician and wins battles by intelligence.
Drago is a man-killer. His brutal slaying of Apollo led to his eventual downfall, and to that of the entire USSR. (How would we have recovered as a nation had Rocky lost? Answer: Poorly. We'd all be wearing the Hammer and Sickle, not just the 99-percenters.) Drago's power comes from drugs. He's an artificial creation, a lab rat.
The fight starts with Karelin killing a Russian black bear with his bare hands as Vladimir Putin stands shirtless chanting poems he wrote as a grade-schooler (As I'm sure you know, Putin is nothing but Karelin's political puppet). With the blood of the black bear spilled on his land, Karelin asks the fighters to march forward. Conan bows in appreciation of Drago. The boxer returns with nothing but a nose-wrinkled snarl and grunt.
Alexander Karelin is a man-killerThe fight is bare-knuckled and neither combatant wants to risk an early knockout, so they dance around each other for several minutes. Drago, under the encouragement of Putin, throws a haymaker with his right which Conan blocks with his left arm. The warrior then reaches down his back and unsheathes a sword which he then uses to lop off Drago's head then screams "Conan doesn't play by anybody's rules by Conan."
Disappointed in the actions of his guest, and suffering from the loss of his friend, Karelin reverse lifts Conan dropping him mid-throw and breaking his neck.
Winner: Alexander Karelin
Wrestling in Hollywood: Joaquin Phoenix's new movie, The Master, has a clip of a beach wrestling tournament. Cool.