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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Vacations are relaxing and my tropical excursion is a welcome respite from the blazing hot Chicago summer and the repetitiveness of a weekly schedule. Here in my undisclosed location I can snatch up a tan and unapologetically imbibe drinks with tropical fruits hugging from the rim of the glass. It's my chance to really explore the full bar menu without the dissent and judgment of my peers.
I think that you folks have sensed my relaxation, or maybe the discussion of the wrestling season is just getting more serious, but the tone and volume of your inquiries has gone from light and steady to full-throated and en masse. So I'm setting aside the fresh mahi-mahi and Miami Vice I just ordered to answer your inquiries and possibly add some much-needed context to some poorly covered topics.
As always, be sure to leave your comments below! It's always great to hear what you head-snappin' fools have to say!
Q: Zain Retherford didn't have a school to wrestle for last year. Nonetheless, he has had himself a pretty good summer. What are your thoughts on not wrestling his junior year, and then wrestling this well this summer? Also, any inside information on where he might go to college?
-- Bobby L.
Foley: For those who didn't catch the news, Zain Retherford won the Cadet World Championships last week, meaning that among the young folks he's quite the shining light (as is Marina Doi, who won on the women's side). Retherford didn't compete in high school last season, but has landed at Benton High School where he was last year but was declared ineligible last season after transferring.
Assuming he finishes out his high school career undefeated, the Cadet World champion will be one of the top recruits of this season. As of now the word is that he'll be making trips to Oklahoma State, Cornell and Iowa. Penn State and Lehigh are also in the mix (David Taylor also tweeted him that he'd "look good in Blue and White.") It's tough to see him landing outside of the schools listed, and though we have him as our No.7 overall senior recruit he has a legitimate argument for the top spot, ahead of Ohioan Bo Jordan.
Retherford gets top billing in my book, and like you I'd love to see where he goes. My money says that he remains in Pennsylvania.
Q: There has been a lot of press on the woes that have befallen Wisconsin as of late, yet no program seems to have fallen farther than Iowa State. Why has a program that was so successful before completely failed to produce any talent that was not coached by Cael? Does this really highlight the difference that coaching can make on the DI level or is there more here than meets the eye?
-- Jimmie D.
Foley: You're asking me if the poor performances of the past three seasons are entirely attributable to Kevin Jackson. It's tough to know all the circumstances surrounding the past three seasons, though they are sure to include the arguments of youth and inexperience, and the promise of next season (and that Cael took some talent with him to Happy Valley). The truth has always been and will always be that the head coach of a Division I wrestling program is the CEO, meaning that when the team does well he gets the praise (e.g. Zeke Jones, USA Wrestling) and when they do poorly he catches the blame.
My feeling is that Coach Jackson is plenty accepting of his shortcomings and looking forward to this season as his chance to place several guys at the NCAA tournament and try to make up for the last few seasons of mediocrity. If he's unable to significantly improve on last year's performance than he will almost certainly not be retained. That's the reality for a sport that is gaining more attention everywhere, and no state media puts more pressure on their wrestling programs than Iowa.
As for the role of coaching in a program's success, there is nothing more important. The head coach decides which wrestlers are recruited and which are signed. He's in charge of how they develop technically and mature physically. In many circumstances the head coach is also responsible for the program's fundraising, which itself filters into the decision about which tournaments and duals to host and how much revenue they can regenerate. The wrestling team becomes a representation of the individual at the helm. Jackson has coached at the highest levels, but he needs to make sure that this season shows he's done all the things necessary to win. If not the Cyclones will be shopping for a new head honcho.
Q: Did you watch any of the prime time wrestling? I know in your podcast you mentioned you streamed them. Coleman's bronze match wasn't even televised. I was in shock, guy wins a medal and they don't show it. I thought the coverage stunk. All of Burroughs' & Varner's matches were on TV -- probably because they won gold. But the second day it was an eight-hour slot and they only showed three matches, I believe. I am pretty sure it was both of Hebert's and only one of Coleman's, and it wasn't even his medal match. If anything the medal match should have been show above another they picked. You win a medal, you should be on TV.
-- Frank C.
Foley: There was recently a compelling review of ESPN's coverage of NBC's Olympics written by the Poynter Institute that points out many of the frustrations faced by viewers of the Olympics. One of the most interesting was that many media outlets who wished to show highlights of the action, and just how much Olympics there was to cover.
NBC did not air Coleman Scott's bronze-medal match at the 2012 Olympic Games (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Wrestling was one of the first sports to be in the Olympics, and yet you're right it received next to no coverage on NBC's flagship channel. Part of the issue has to do with how many of us watched online versus how much the American people care about wrestling. Coleman Scott earning the bronze was an enormous accomplishment, but to the average sports fan it probably seemed blah, especially placed next to the more marketable stories of Olympic gold medalists Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner. Even Clarissa Chun's bronze was more marketable to the general public based on her gender and the mind-spaz many people have seeing women (GASP!) wrestling in the Olympics. I agree that Scott should have been given some airtime, but I can also understand WHY the network didn't feel compelled to air his match.
As for why they aired Jake Herbert's match? Likely because there was the stench of an international conspiracy behind Herbert's loss to the Azerbaijani and the suits at NBC all want to sell you the viewer some extra drama to go with your sport.
Tangential to all this talk of coverage, is a quote I recently read that kinda stuck. It was an aside about the corruption within African sports administrations, that I only remember in paraphrase and of which I can't find the original document.
"Wrestling was fine until they decided to turn a game into a sport."
Wrestlers cringe when we hear our sport referred to as a game, because we associate basketball with being a game, and thus the word "game" becomes frivolous. But really all communities started with wrestling as little more than a game. Wrestling in the purest form was a GAME well before it was ever a sport. Tribal communities use wrestling as they do dance, as a way to represent certain aspects of their culture's values. Compare the expressionism of a tribal GAME with the structure and profiteering within a SPORT and you can see the distinction.
Football is the biggest SPORT in America because it makes the most money and has the largest audience and media following. Wrestling is the most popular GAME in the world because every person on the planet has, or will at one time, participate in their own way. It's the struggle we face in getting more air time on NBC or respect at the NCAA level, wrestling is such a stripped-down version of a sport it's difficult to add enough marketing to the event to make it turn a profit.
Q: I knew that the countries of the former Soviet Union dominated international wrestling, but didn't realize how much until I looked at the medal count from London.
-- Matt L
Foley: Former Soviet Union (all): 7/18 gold; 10/18 silver; 17/36 bronze; 34/72 total
Former Soviet Union (men): 6/14 gold; 9/14 silver; 14/28 bronze; 29/56 total
Q: Usually wrestlers are hit with stalling warnings and stalling points to late in a match to affect the outcome. After watching the Olympics, I think folkstyle should do away with stalling and incorporate the use of pushout points? This would make things less subjective, force wrestlers to engage, and create better mat presence.
How do you get over not drilling or live wrestling? I haven't stepped foot on a mat since 06 but go to tons of matches and wish they'd put a mat down at the la fitness I go. All I want to do is drill, can you convince la fitness to have mats?
-- Tim J.
Foley: I do some privates and teach wrestling at a BJJ school in Chicago, so I get my fix of drilling and live wrestling. The other trick was to pickup jiu-jitsu, where I learned that in addition to learning the craft I could on occasion invite in some old college wrestling buddies and get in some light drilling.
There are gyms that will allow you to buy some blue mats, or a wrestling sectional and put it in a corner, but I'd recommend reaching out the BJJ community. They need better wrestling and are usually cool about using their facilities.
Q: Did you see how Jason Chamberlain handled Mr. Molinaro at University World Team Trials?
-- Russ T.
Foley: There WILL be a full redo of the 149-pound projections for the 2012-2013 season. Maybe no weight class is more primed for debate. Others would be 184 pounds and possibly 133 pounds. Jason Chamberlain has the resume in freestyle. It'll be interesting to see if he can carry the momentum into the folkstyle season.
Q: C'mon Foley end the age-old debate. Positives/Negatives? Before you answer, put down your maitai (MAN CARD check!)
-- Marcus N/
Foley: Lordy, me. Could you imagine what would happen if the NCAA changed their rules to include pushouts? The controversy surrounding the PROPOSED change to the NCAA Championship format has been uproarious -- a pushout rule would result in pitchforks descending upon Oz (Indianapolis).
I enjoy the idea of anarchy and think a ruse like a pushout might be fun to try in exhibition matches. Folkstyle is a lot about transitioning from your feet to the mat and the mat to your feet so there would need to be some rules added. For example, pushouts could only be in effect when the wrestlers were started in neutral, or only after there was a restart on the feet. Let's say I can't turn someone, I wouldn't be able to cut them by the side of the mat and give them the ol' bar room shove to gain back my escape point.
T.R. Foley and his Mai TaiThere are other situations in which wrestlers might try and steal points (play the edge and ole' out of the way?), but let us assume that this rule passes, what will it do to cheering sections and video review? Iowa would be as silent as a city snowfall without their ubiquitous chant of "STALLING!!" that comes bellowing from their cheering section within the first 30 seconds of a match. Would referees be subject to video review to see who touched first? Were video used could we then assume it would be done by Flo and subject to their edits? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.
For now I'll leave you with this, a photo of me and my Mai Tai. It was a delicious, though toxic, mixture of light and dark rum. Add in too much sun and I retired to my room for a midday siesta shortly after this photos was taken.
I apologize for nothing.