Foley's Friday Mailbag: July 20, 2012

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.

Q: The UFC is going to ruin wrestling.
-- Steven R.

Foley: In addition to being pilloried by the wrestling community for mentioning jiu-jitsu, a few of you have also contacted me with your disdain, or lack of appreciation for, mixed martial arts. You say you don't like the UFC because it "definitely" tugs away our wrestling studs from the mats. The evidence, you say, is in just how many of our top competitors have ended up inside the cage. Lance Palmer, Bubba Jenkins and Steve Mocco all have enjoyed success on the mat, but stepped away from wrestling to sign contracts and become cage fighters. Palmer and Bubba J are undefeated and have a very good chance of being brought into the UFC within the next six months. Mocco is just getting his start, but many people expect big things.

The exodus of this trio and others does indicate that there is less talent available to our teams at the international level, but does fewer wrestlers mean that we are going to experience a downturn in results? And does the attraction of MMA mean fewer wrestlers entering into college programs?

Let's take a look at the USA's golden boy, World champion Jordan Burroughs. He is a DECENT wrestler and will likely hold down the 74-kilo spot for the next four years (likely challengers to the throne include Tyler Caldwell and Andrew Howe). Knowing they'd never start, would it then be ridiculous for a fourth or fifth string 74-kilo wrestler to leave the pipeline and take a payday in the cage? Would you fault Tyler Caldwell for doing the same? I wouldn't, and if that wrestler-turned-fighter does well inside the cage and makes headlines for the sport -- as many of our college wrestling alums do -- that should equate to recruiting young fight fans into wrestling. As Bellator lightweight champion Mike Chandler told me, "When kids ask me how to become a good fighter I tell them to wrestle their way through college, and then think about fighting."

The results for Team USA have also never been better (h/t Zeke Jones). Team America placed third at the World Cup in May and is in position to finish among the top three teams at the Olympic Games, which would meet or surpass most any of our finishes in history. No downturn there.

I do get it, the sport of MMA, and the popular promotions like UFC can seem like too much: Too much blood, too much trash talking, too much bullshit. But there are limited resources in wrestling and until that changes SOME of the guys you see competing in the NCAA tournament (less the .01 percent) will turn to MMA. That's about the same number of wrestlers who leave the sport to sell medical supplies. They are both wealthier than journalists.

If you want to subject yourself to a compelling sales pitch, listen to the
Guy on Girl podcast featuring Aisha Tyler and UFC President Dana White.

It's a long and annoying interview, but fighting newbie Tyler asks basic questions which allows White to open up on the differences to boxing, his love of jiu-jitsu and YES his admiration for college wrestlers. Here's the gist, Dana White took the red pill and so should you.

Foley: Question to readers: What would be your reaction if Strikeforce heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier dropped to 205 pounds? See article.

Q: From what I have read online about "Foxcatcher"the focus of the movie is on the life of John du Pont rather than on the life of Dave Schultz. Will "Foxcatcher" actually be a wrestling movie or will wrestling take a back seat? Also, I enjoyed reading "A Season on the Mat" by Nolan Zavoral. What are your favorite wrestling books?
-- John T.

Foley: I think you are right. The compelling story is about the madness of John du Pont and what USA Wrestling did to endorse his behavior in exchange for cash. That's going to be in the movie, and I think it should be as it proves to be a powerful lesson in the power of money to corrupt and endanger ideals, and in extreme cases a human life.

John du Pont was a crazy shithead, to that we all agree. What the movie is sure to depict is that countering crazy was the large, warm heart of Dave Schultz. Every good story has a conflict between good and evil and Dave is certain to be on the other side of du Pont's evil. If the script is written in the way I imagine then it won't matter if the movie has a ton of realistic wrestling scenes, the heart of Dave Schultz, the thing that most people remember about him, will come through on screen.

There will likely never be a movie about wrestling that does justice to the severity of the sport's physical and mental anguish and the character that develops from sacrifice. With Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," the scenes of wrestling might even be questionable to poor in realism (Channing Tatum, has started training at the NYC for his role as Mark Schultz), but moviegoers will get a chance to feel the courage, struggle and empathy of one of our sport's biggest names. For me I'd rather have audiences attach to themselves to the story of Dave Schultz than have a movie with realistic wrestling scenes. It'll be a story that we'll be proud to share with friends outside of wrestling.

I was reading the Zavoral book at the same time I was watching Iowa: The Season on ESPN. If you love pull quotes (and I do) you'll especially like this one from then assistant coach Tom Brands on Josh Budke after the latter lost his wrestleo-ff, "Don't feel sorry for him ... He doesn't deserve anything. The only thing you deserve is what you earn."


I can't remember who it was, but we had a guy on our team who used to bust his ass but never quite crack the starting lineup. His nickname: Budke. I'd love to know what the real Budke is up to now. Please email if you know!

Favorite wrestling book? Hmm. "Vision Quest" or the aforementioned "A Season on the Mat." However, "Vision Quest" was about sex and religion, but we'll have more on that in a special pre-Olympics mailbag.

Q: Jordan Burroughs vs. Lee Kemp ... who takes it?
-- Jim R.

Foley: I love the intensity of Lee Kemp and they have a similar style, but nothing is stopping Jordan Burroughs. All he sees is GOLD!

Q: Watching some old Fargo highlights. What's the deal with the rubber chicken? Any other teams have that tradition?
-- Jesse

Foley: In my saddest admission of guilt, I've only been to Fargo twice, once to recruit and the other time to catch some sleep on a 24-hour road trip from western Montana back to Chicago. That trip was pretty epic in its own right. I was traveling with two college teammates, and facing the dread of 24 hours in a car together we stopped at a Barnes and Noble and purchased the newest version of Trivial Pursuit. We bet $5 a point, with each number of correct answers more than the next guy counting in your favor. We went through EVERY SINGLE QUESTION and when we arrived back in Chicago my roommate was forced to visit the ATM and make a handsome withdraw. I was able to pitch in for gas, but the money-making wasn't over.

A few weeks later my roommate and I were able to hustle a few friends when they saw Trivial Pursuit under our coffee table and challenged us to a game. Losers picked up the tab for beers and dinner. Playing on the same team was the most unfair thing I've ever been a part of. And it was MARVELOUS.

Them: "What name did the meaner of Cinderella's stepsisters call her in the story by Charles Perrault?"

Me: "Are you kidding me? Wow, that's tough as shit! I'm gonna go with my gut on this one, 'Ashputtle?'"

Them: "What the ..."

The Maryland team would throw the rubber chicken on the mat every time one of their wrestlers won Fargo. They no longer follow that tradition.

Q: Mike Zadick was recently replaced by Ryan Morningstar on the Iowa coaching staff. I never thought I'd see the day Tom Brands replaced Zadick on his staff. I imagine it wasn't easy, just like I'm sure it wasn't easy when Joe McFarland replaced Kirk Trost and Mike Kulczycki on Michigan's coaching staff. Zadick was quoted in an article written by Andy Hamilton as saying, "It's kind of like I was walking around the backside of a horse and he kicked me. ... I've been kicked by a horse before, (and) that's kind of the way I feel." Were you surprised by this move? And have you heard whether Zadick is going to stay in Iowa City or join a different coaching staff?
-- Mike C.

Foley: The change of coaches at Michigan ended up paying off. Sean Bormet and Donny Pritzalff turned a program that had recently soured into the landing spot for top-ranked recruit Taylor Massa, a slew of Olympic-level talent, and not to mention an improved performance at Big Tens and the NCAA tournament. McFarland was in a terrible predicament, but I can all but guarantee you that Kirk Trost is excelling in his new career and that the two of them have maintained their friendship. Kulczycki is running the Wrestling Factory in Cleveland, and according to one parent I talked to, things seem to be going pretty well. His words were flattering, "It's the best club in Ohio."

Mike Zadick was recently replaced on the Iowa coaching staff (Photo/Tony Rotundo,
A week after removing Zadick from the coaching staff Tom Brands signed a five-year, $1.25 million contract extension with the Hawkeyes. (That's NOT including incentive bonuses.) You don't have to be brilliant to know that there was some give-and-take during the contract negotiations. It's conceivable, though not confirmed, that the AD asked Brands to make some changes to his staff. The team hasn't won the NCAA team title since 2010, which signals to higher-ups that a change, even a minor re-composition of the coaching staff, is needed in order to generate new results.

I don't think Brands made the decision lightly, but I also don't think he thought he owed anything to Zadick. Remember ... "Don't feel sorry for him ... He doesn't deserve anything. The only thing you deserve is what you earn."

Pop Culture/Hate Mail Halftime

Wrestling is in Fargo this week and because I know that you can't think of our beloved host city without conjuring up an image of Peter Stormare shoving a leg into a wood chipper ... (NSFW)

Foley: Readers respond to my prediction that Anthony Robles would beat Jack Cuvo. Here are a few responses ...

"As always, I LOVE your mailbag column on InterMat. However, you are CRAZY if you think Robles would ever beat Cuvo. If you ever saw Cuvo wrestle, you'd know that he would run Robles into the ground, GUARANTEED!! Cuvo wins, 10-6, in a good bout."
-- Mark S.

"Wow. Cuvo vs. Robles? Remember Cuvo was a beast on his feet. How does he take Robles down? I gotta go with my fellow PA brethren."
-- @CoachPrebes

"Cuvo may have been the best conditioned collegiate wrestler ever. He always found a way to win. Down by 8 going into the third period it was a win for him. However he wasn't able to get out on bottom at times. That makes this a great match up. Could come down to the coin toss, when Robles gets on top and how a ref calls stalling."
-- gutfirst

Q: What do you think of this graph?
-- @Derek_Sickles

Foley: The first thing I noticed was how short the financial indicator is for the future success of wrestling. I'd bet that the exact opposite is true, that the likelihood of excelling in wrestling is correlative to a LACK of money. Every team I've been on has had wealthy kids in the lineup and they typically don't make it nearly as far as the guys who had less growing up. Not to say they aren't as tough, its just that there is less to fight for when the cards come up ACES regardless of how well you do on the mat or in the classroom. That bleeds into their wrestling output.

The graph is a little misleading. Each host country in wrestling is given at least four spots in the Olympic wrestling portion of the games. There is a lot that can factor into performance at the Games, but putting a decent athlete into the wrestling portion, especially at weaker weight classes with random draws, and you're bound to get a few place-winners. That likelihood increases when you consider that three of the last four Olympic Games were in countries with strong wrestling credentials (USA, Australia, Greece and China.) Home crowd, less travel, weaker weights, random draws and kinder officiating will help most host countries, though the British are TOTALLY SCREWED.

Q: I know I am late to the game on this since changes are constantly being made to allow "more champions" in high school sports, but what do you think of states adding additional classes in a sport like wrestling? I am from Illinois and a few years back we went from two classes to three and I didn't even like the idea of two classes. Wrestling at its core is an individual sport and most of us remember our career marks much more vividly then we remember our team records. I just can't get behind a state saying that a kid from a bigger school has an advantage in a sport where team size has nothing to do with anything. Not to mention the muddying of the recruiting waters by adding more "state champions" every year. (As a disclaimer I went to a high school with under 600 students total.)
-- Eric C.

Foley: Everyone being a winner is what will eventually lead to the implosion of America. China, India, and Russia are not nearly as dangerous as our own decadence and apathy towards excellence.

At one misguided point in my life I was pursuing a Ph.D. in higher education -- the pedagogy of learning and all that nonsense. I'd already earned the master's degree, but two weeks into my new program I knew that it wasn't right when I had the following exchange with my professor:

Prompt: Several of the 10-year-old boys in your school are suffering from weight issues. What steps can be taken to curb their weight gain while also making sure that they feel confident in their body image?

Prof: Does anyone have any ideas on programs we could introduce at this school?
Me: Strap them to a treadmill and push the "INCREASE" buttons.
Prof: Well that isn't going to show him how to live a healthy life ...
Me: Yes it will. He'll lose weight.
Prof: He'll hate running and lose self-confidence.
Me: He really shouldn't have too much self-confidence; he's an obese fifth-grader. And who the hell doesn't like running around when they're in fifth grade?
Prof: Nothing is possible without self-confidence, Mr. Foley.
Me: Maybe. But we can't hand this kid a pill for skinniness. He's consumed too many calories and now he needs to work them off. This isn't complicated.
Prof: Well what do you ...
Me: (interrupting) I know plenty of self-critical people who've done just fine. I like miserable people.
Prof: Anybody else with ideas on how to make sure our fifth-graders don't find themselves losing self-confidence or getting bullied.
Girl: We could construct a series of marginal goals and give him a consistent diet of affirmations ...

Affirm ... what?! (head explodes)

I shut my laptop and never came back to class. No official dropout, no explanation, I just never came back. It seemed I was being indoctrinated into the idea that education wasn't about learning new things or correcting behavior, but it was about making sure we taught the kids to lie to themselves. Fat? No, sweetie you're a big-boned victim. Bad at math? We'll give you easier questions. Oh, and here is your day's Ritalin.

We don't need more divisions for wrestling or any sport. I can see that the playoff system might become a little difficult, but making it higher on the rung would just take on more meaning rather than devaluing the title of "state champion."

You are NOT a snowflake. You are NOT special.


Login or Register to post a comment

toddnat (1) about 5 and a half years ago
I think the Iowa AD is reacting to what they will be looking at for the next 4+ years in the Big10 alone, with Minnesota, OSU, and PSU all coming back fairly loaded from some great successes last year. The days where Iowa walked through that meat grinder are gone at the present time, but I'm extremely excited to see how Tom Brands and company gear up and attack this challenge.
olyfarmstead (1) about 5 and a half years ago
Seriously, just write a book already so I can read it. As much as I love learning about wrestling I enjoy your writing style even more. And, for the record, even if I had played an entire game of Trivial Pursuit prior to a second playing I wouldn't remember 7/8 of it.
dob092095 (1) about 5 and a half years ago
Love the mailbag articles. But can u please go back to including a link each week back to the page with the list of all mailbag articles to date so I can get to the list easily? Thanks.
cswatcher (1) about 5 and a half years ago
vulture (1) about 5 and a half years ago
Real stupid thing to say Foley. Tom Brands runs the team. The AD doesn't. If a change was needed then Tom made the decision.
TforTexas (1) about 5 and a half years ago
Foley - I currently teach in a professional program at a university, and I am SO going to use Brands's "you deserve nothing" this fall! Keep it coming. I am relatively new to college wrestling and love these history lessons.