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 wrestling event of the year is on its way, but for many it'll be a difficult to watch. As of Thursday morning an estimated 44 million people in America were still without power after Superstorm Sandy knocked down power lines and flooded cities from Virginia to Maine. The storm was historic and many communities will require years of construction before they can return to normal operations.
One of the hardest hit areas was the Jersey Shore, home to Back Points podcast friend Brian Muir as well as hundreds of other great high school and college wrestlers. The area which had become so synonymous with blowouts, fake tans and promiscuous sex, was ironically a very family-friendly area. Several cities have the sort of tight-knit communities you'd expect to find in 1950's Des Moines. In my dozens of trips "down the Shore" I have only fond memories. As for my former home city of Hoboken, which is left flooded and looted, I can only shake my head and offer support. It's a beautiful city that's taken decades to clean up, and to see it fall victim to such extraordinary circumstances is truly awful.
If you feel like donating a few bucks, you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief.
To your questions ...
Q: What were you for Halloween?
-- Amir P.
Foley: On the Saturday before Halloween -- when all the older kiddies go into the streets to beg for hops, barley and sexual attention -- I was expertly dressed as "Guy on Hold with United Airlines." I'd gone to New York to compete in the Abu Dhabi Pro Jiu Jitsu tournament, and was in Hoboken with friends when United sent me this two-line email:
"United flight UA693 from New York, NY (LGA - LaGuardia) to Chicago, IL (ORD - O'Hare) on October 28 is canceled. To see available options, go to united.com/flightupdates, access an airport kiosk or see a United representative at the airport."
After two hours on hold and pointlessly trying to use United's broken online system, nothing about my canceled travel plans had been improved. My options were horse and buggy, walking or lucking out and finding a rental car for less than $700. My flight had been scheduled to depart from LaGuardia at 6:55 p.m. Sunday, but I found a car at the Newark Airport in New Jersey and decided on my way to the rental car area to give United's service desk a quick try.
When the doors to the terminal opened it was complete mayhem. There were bodies everywhere, fighting, crying and desperation. The United line was more than 1000 people long and being serviced by roughly a dozen agents. Defeated, I went to baggage claim to take the rental car shuttle, but stopped when I noticed eight agents dedicated to first-class international transfers stationed near baggage claim. They weren't doing anything. Ten agents and not a single customer. One agent was playing Words with Friends on her phone while another was giving her hints on possible words.
I explained my situation to the nearest desk agent thinking I was just wasting my breath and risking a missed car rental reservation. But she took sympathy on me and booked my girlfriend and me on a direct flight back to Chicago for two hours later. She then gave us discounted baggage. It wasn't candy, but it was certainly sweet.
On real Halloween I was "Guy Hanging Large Mirror Above Fireplace."
I'm not going out on a Wednesday.
Best adult costume?
Q: Your thoughts on Ian Paddock winning Ohio State's wrestle-off at 141 pounds and being named one of the team captains in Columbus? It seems the "easy" choice would be to redshirt Hunter Stieber, but it seems the Ohio State staff hasn't quite decided that yet. Again, your thoughts?
-- Jason R.
Ohio State's Ian Paddock battles Penn State's Andrew Long at the 2011 Big Ten Championships in Evanston, Ill. (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Foley: You make those decisions with care. What if Paddock gets hurt and Stieber gets bloated in redshirt and can't drop down to compete? Doubtful, but Ohio State has a trophy-worthy team and with competition for the top places at NCAAs tightening up very year with increased parity, you can't afford to have perfectly good points sitting the bench.
As for Paddock? Good for him winning the starting spot away from a returning All-American. Though I don't put too much into wrestle-offs between teammates, Paddock also earned Tom Ryan's approval to be a team captain, which is a role that I know Ryan takes very seriously. Whoever is in there, I don't think there is much of a competitive difference. If Stieber does redshirt, it'll mean big things for the Buckeyes in a few years.
Dance, Dance Revolution. I now do this while I cook. The results aren't nearly as impressive. (H/T Cliff)
Election Truths by Tom Brands
Q: Do you think Kyle Dake will win his fourth NCAA title this year and if he does will he go down as the greatest collegiate wrestle? Or will Cael Sanderson still hold that title?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: I do think he'll win a fourth title this season, but it'll be difficult for him to overtake Cael as a unanimous selection as greatest of all time. I do think that you can make a compelling argument based on the competitiveness of his weight classes, that he never would have redshirted, did it from the Ivy League, and of course competed at four different weight classes in four years. However, what was remarkable about Cael as a wrestler was that he never lost. Not once did he slip up, fall down or break. I don't know if he ever got sick or injured, but if so those impediments did happen, they certainly never got in his way. I think that Dake and his supporters will find an appropriate title should he win a fourth championship. He's already had a record-setting wrestling career and I'm sure that those records he's broken will remain in his honor for years and years to come. In fact if he wins four at four weights he'll not only be the first to do it, but it'll be an unbreakable feat.
Q: The reports I have followed had Mark Grey, Alex Cisneros, Brian Realbuto, Gabe Dean, and Steve Congenie all going to Cornell this season. What happened? They're not on the roster.
-- Jim F.
Foley: I haven't had the time to ask, but I'd imagine they are taking a semester or two at Ithaca College and looking to transfer over to school next year. They might also be sitting out the first or second semester in order to qualify for a fifth year at Cornell. Of course there is no redshirting in the Ivy League so the wrestlers there have to find creative ways to sit out a season when necessary. It's not uncommon and I don't think it's wrong. College wrestling is an enormous adjustment. The Ivy League is a difficult place to take classes. Some kids need more time, and I think that Cornell and other schools in the Ivies are right to find ways for some students to take an extra semester to finish their work and get a full four years on the mat.
Q: Dake or Taylor?
-- Andrew H.
I think it'll be by two or more points. I just can't build a hypothetical match in which Taylor can get a lead and hold that lead for an entire match.
A touching anecdote about Jeff Blatnick:
I wrestled and coached at Springfield College (Jeff's alma mater) from 1994-1999. Jeff was in short one of my heroes. Every time I entered the wrestling room I walked by his national champion plaque and I must of touched it 1000 times. He came to train with me (as I was a heavyweight as well) on several occasions -- something which motivated and inspired me to work hard and achieve my goals. Jeff was always humble and we treated him like a celebrity which he was never comfortable with. But my story about him that truly speaks to the type of man he was is not a wrestling story at all. One of my classmates at Springfield (who was friends with several wrestlers on the team) contracted the same type of cancer (Hodgkins). Because she was a friend of the team, word about her condition got to Coach Arroyo, who mentioned it to Jeff. Jeff wrote her an amazing and inspirational letter that she shared with me. He took time to share his story and provide hope for this student going through the toughest match of her life. Jeff was a good man I will miss seeing him at wrestling reunions.
-- Joseph Gaboury
And for those who want to see just how involved he was in the early days of the UFC and MMA ...