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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The last few weeks I've been grateful to receive some of the best questions we've ever had for the mailbag. From the NWCA/NCAA dual meet debacle to Greco matches between starting quarterbacks of East Coast football teams, we've had an array of informative and curious prompts. Though I tried to answer all this week's questions, I had to whittle this preseason mailbags to about 1500-2000 words in order to not irritate my editor (For those of you who think of word counts only in terms of term papers, that's 6-8 pages double-spaced and that's without "Courier New," cheaters)
To your questions.
Q: What are your thoughts about Jon Jones and the Midlands? Can he actually win it? Can he make 197 multiple days in a row? Thoughts on whether Dana will allow it (I heard he let other guys into BJJ events between fights.)
-- Bryan R.
Jon Jones (Photo/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)Foley: Man, that would really cheapen my comeback from last season. Why can't Jon Jones just give me that ONE thing? He's got the belt, the bank and the Bentley.
Jones was a great wrestler in high school, placing fourth at the NHSCA Senior Nationals. He owns a redshirt season win over eventual NCAA champion Max Askren. Those credentials make it obvious that he was a talented wrestler with every chance to become a multiple-time NCAA champion. However, it wasn't to be, and Jones took up MMA and became the sport's biggest star. I think that signing with Nike makes it obvious he made a pretty good life choice.
The potential was there, but can Jones go back and recapture that glory? Is his ascendency and physical betterment in MMA equal to what it would have been in wrestling?
Jones is a transformational talent in the octagon and had he chosen to make a career of wrestling he might've been a legend. But if he steps on the mats in late December he'll get destroyed by younger guys that have the tanks for seven minutes of collegiate style wrestling -- no fear of being choked, punched, kicked, or eye poked (Josh Koscheck reference to the uninitiated). And though 15 to 25 minutes of fighting is likely more physically strenuous, there is nothing that will compare to seven minutes of using muscles meant solely for wrestling. Dude's also risking a major injury by putting his health in the hands of college opponents.
Jones is a big boy, weighing as much as 225 pounds between fights. Assuming he doesn't want to cut to 197 pounds, a full eight pounds lighter than his fighting weight of 205 pounds, then he'll be wrestling at heavyweight and giving up as much as 60 pounds. Also, the BJJ and lack of on-the-mat wrestling will ultimately doom him to be stuck beneath some 19-year-old kid for seven minutes. Northwestern heavyweight Mike McMullan would ride him out of the gym.
I love the idea of Jones showing up at Midlands. His appearance would mean incredible press for the sport and one of the premier events. I just think that he'd be risking too much to gain far too little.
How about a grappling match versus Ben Askren? Now that's an idea.
Q: Please talk about what skills need to be developed to successfully progress through the different levels of wrestling. What are the actual differences between high school state champs, high school all-Americans, Division I starters, NCAA All-Americans/champs and Olympians. What are the skills/technique differences that one needs to be successful at each level. I ask because it is really difficult to gauge why world-beaters at say the high school level don't always translate. Obviously, some lose interest or were just more physically mature than competitors at the prior level but I'm interested in the more specific item like the ability to get out from bottom, counter-wrestling. I hope this question is clear. It's just hard to tell as an interested fan of the sport what the skill and technique differences are that allow say a Jason Welch to totally dominate across the country in high school while not being nearly as effective in college.
-- Bryan R.
Foley: American folkstyle wrestling demands an immense amount of courage from its participants. We don't have teammates to carry loads, or pads to hide beneath. Every move we make is our choice, every mistake is only ours to suffer through. When you increase the stakes, you ask more in the way mental toughness. Wrestlers in college are, on average, way tougher than guys in high school -- they've seen more, survived more, battled more. Like you stated, some make the leap because they are mentally tough enough to deal with the failures.
As for technique, every college coach in America will tell you that the biggest issue with freshmen is that they can't get off bottom. It's not a secret that the ability to ride is fine-tuned in college, which means that no matter where you wrestled in college, you've never been under more duress than when you wrestle your first leg-rider in college. That right there can break a wrestler. And every season it does.
The other technique that can make or break a career is hand fighting. It's ironic I say this because I'm a horribly inconsistent hand fighter, but its nonetheless true. It sucks to get your head snapped. It sucks to have a sore neck and to be scrambling back into good position for the majority of a two-hour practice. Kids who don't learn to hand fight make the sport a lot harder on themselves than is necessary by constantly battling with their bodies to stay in good position.
Despite those two techniques it really does come down to desire and at least a modicum of athletic ability. Wrestling isn't difficult to figure out. It's a battle of will. That simplicity makes it so appealing to some and bland to others.
Q: I'm reading that we are going to have video replay. I think this is a bad idea. It's going to slow down matches and give wrestlers a break!
-- Derek M.
Foley: You are one-hundred percent correct. The modern collegiate wrestling match would grind to a halt. Wrestling coaches would argue every point that they think mattered and use the review as a manner for a timeout, or just to relay information to their wrestler. Were I coaching I'd absolutely go to video review if my kid needed a breather. Winning trumps all.
I'm all for a more lenient seven-minute match. (I think that much of the "hustle-first" mentality is nothing but dramatics and devalues skill.) But you can't give wrestling coaches the keys to a review system. They'd waste time and for the poorer schools it would be an unnecessary financial burden.
Simply put, instant replay in wrestling is a monumentally shitty idea … Except if only used at the NCAA tournament. Here's why.
Not every wrestling match in a season matters, that much we know from recent bantering between the opposing armies of our sport's recent war over the schedule. Dual matches and early season tournaments? Blah. Who cares? Don't waste our time. But the NCAA tourney? That matters.
Instant replay is an addition to the current format, a way to make sure that nobody is getting hosed at the exact wrong moment. Not having instant replay at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational isn't reductive, it's passable, and normal, and won't have the slightest impact on the rest of the season. Adding it to the biggest event would only ensure that we have the correct outcome of a match and the correct outcome of a tournament.
A horrible, awful, boring idea for the sport to adopt, except in the case of the NCAA Championships. There, I'm sold.
Q: With the news that Missouri will be joining the MAC in wrestling for the upcoming season, is the current plan for the remaining Big 12 teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and possibly West Virginia?) to continue to have a four-team qualifying tournament for the NCAA tournament? What are your thoughts/opinions on a four-team qualifying tournament and are there any rumors of a change in the future?
Foley: The fact there are only four teams doesn't figure into the qualifying new system as much as it did the old. The way the system works now is by individual performances. Only if the Big 12 earned four spots at a weight class would you possibly see some funny business. However, chances are that most weights will only qualify two wrestlers with a select few of the tougher ones managing three.
The change would only come with a total change to the system of college wrestling, which would only come about if the NCAA/BCS changes to a regional system for college football. That, or we could get all the coaches together to create a proposal for a new regional system where ... yeah, that'll never happen.
Longtime rivals Dom Bradley (Missouri) and Jarod Trice (Central Michigan) are now in the same conference (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Q: The MAC just got a lot more interesting. Haynes vs. Kilgore, Larson vs Bennett, Bradley vs. Trice, Loder vs Bennett. #MatchupsGalore ... Missouri for the title?
Foley: The only one of those that made me jump out of my seat was Jarod Trice vs. Dom Bradley. I can't wait. What a matchup. These two guys are entertaining dudes and physically talented wrestlers. I'd love to see the back-and-forth between them on the mat during the match and afterwards on the sidelines.
Does the MAC have distribution network yet? Because I want to see this go down!
Q: RG3 vs. Cam Newton ... in Greco-Roman.
Foley: RG3 is the new Cam Newton, right? But Cam Newton is still the original Cam Newton only a year older, wiser, stronger, faster, and better? Look, you take the original before you even think about jumping to the imitator.
I know very little about football, but I know that Newton is supposed to be the most athletic quarterback to ever play the game (yes, over Mike Vick). So I have to assume that he's going to find a way to win a Greco match against RG3.
Dan Snyder would find a way to influence the outcome and only end up hosing his own athlete.
5-1, 1-0 Newton.