Foley's Friday Mailbag: Nov. 16, 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.

Do you want to read a past mailbag? View archives.

The wrestling season is underway and there are already a plenty of marketable matchups in the coming weeks and upsets big and small will start to add up. For those of you who need your wrestling in quick doses on Monday morning, or can't stomach having to search through all those results, we've hired Mike Riordan to recap the stories of the weekend. Every Monday morning when you log on to InterMat be sure to get the scoop on who won and lost that weekend. He's a good writer and great guy so shoot him an email if you ever have a question!

Also, my Back Points podcast is up and running! The iTunes crowd can subscribe, and for those of you who want to listen on the Internet you can visit my website or InterMat. If you're up for it there are two podcasts this week, the first is a conversation with 2012 Olympian Jake Herbert and the second with Missouri All-American and current Bellator lightweight champion Mike Chandler. Brian Muir also joins to set the NCAA line and preview a few lines for UFC 154. They are all fast and loose conversations with entertaining guys that I think you'll enjoy.

Good luck to all the wrestlers out there this weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!

Q: If you could sit down to a festive Thanksgiving dinner and pick any five wrestling personalities, competitors, coaches - past/present, what five would you want at your table and why?
-- Matt K.

Foley: Holiday-themed questions are a fantastic way to find your way into print. Kudos, Pilgrim.

  • Dan Gable: The most obvious answer on the list, but also the last personality I thought to add. In recent years Gable has been a scion of unintentional comedy with his short videos training and talking. But I wouldn't invite him for humor, or even to tell me stories of wrestling matches, I'd just want to know about how he raised his children while becoming the greatest coach in NCAA history. It's fascinating that he found time and probably did a decent job balancing those commitments.

  • Teddy Roosevelt: I think a lot about the history of wrestling and Roosevelt's perspective (and his rundown for rules of his time) would be beneficial to my Wrestling Roots project. Teddy helped commission the NCAA and it would be interesting to see what he thought of the organization's most current iteration. I'm assuming he'd find the nitpicking both annoying and at odds with the association's original charter. I also dig his initials.

  • Ottavia Bourdain: She's a blue belt jiu-jitsu fighter under Renzo Gracie in NYC. I'd use my superpowers to invite her, knowing that she'd likely bring her husband, former chef, world traveler and television host Anthony Bourdain. I believe every man should be allowed a professional crush, and mine is on Bourdain. His new show "Parts Unknown" begins next April. In the meantime, if you don't know much about him, find the time to inform yourself and pick up one of his books (My favorite was "A Cook's Tour") or queue up old episodes of his Travel Channel show No Reservations, including this rather timely one.

  • Alexander Karelin: How did it feel to lose to Rulon Gardner? How did it feel to go home and not enjoy the parades, and to read the newspapers and watch the television? I'd sit the big fella next to Gable. They'd certainly have a lot to chat about.

    Butch Foley (right) has a place at the Thanksgiving table
  • My Dad: He didn't compete in college, but like many wrestling fathers, he was the person that kept me focused and motivated -- often without being too pushy. (GO BEARS!) Wrestling in Vegas, St. Louis, or just in Charlottesville, my dad or mom would always show up, and often an hour or two early just in case I needed a drink or some food after weigh-ins. Hell, he even worked to pay my tuition when I wasn't on scholarship. It was a lot of time and money spent on my career and I think the least the man deserves is a nice dinner with a former president, a couple Olympic champions and, of course, Anthony Bourdain.

    Q: Is the NWCA really going to keep Minnesota as the top team in the country?
    -- Frank W.

    Foley: By "they" I think you mean the coaches.

    I agree. There is the undeniable stench of retribution in the NWCA rankings. Maybe it's just me, but it seems irresponsible to demote the defending NCAA champions without having them lose talent (aside from Frank Molinaro), suffer an in-season loss, or be the victim of some other troubling development. Penn State has only gotten better in the offseason. So what gives?

    The working theory is that Penn State is being punished by eight of the ten coaches who vote on the rankings, for having been the main cheerleaders against the dual meet championships. Minnesota was eager to get the ball moving, and since the NWCA has oversight of the rankings, may have wink-wink'ed the panel into reflecting their anger towards Penn State. It's a tough thing to prove, and is tenuous (if only because wrestling coaches don't like being told what to do), but can you come up with a compelling argument to rank Minnesota over Penn State?

    The only rationale is that Penn State lost to Minnesota at the start of last season, but that was 12 months ago. And Cornell beat Minnesota 12 months ago, leaving little objective proof that Minnesota should outrank Penn State.

    But the fear for many in State College is that because they do not have a dual meet against Minnesota this season, the Nittany Lions will miss out on the NWCA's recognition as dual meet champion, even though they are (on paper) the superior team.

    Let the season play out and if the coaches are really aligning now I'm sure we'll have a much clearer vision of which team is No. 1 after both teams compete at the Southern Scuffle in January.

    Q: What's your prediction for UVa. vs. Iowa?
    -- James M.

    Foley: I'm guessing 24-12 in favor of the Hawkeyes, but don't be surprised if the 'Hoos win in some unexpected spots and make a run at the upset. Of course if they drop the close matches it could end up the other way, but I trust in my pal Steve Garland to bring the heat on Brands and company.

    Q: What is your take on high school wrestlers moving to a different school for athletic reasons? Like kids going from the East going to Blair and Wyoming Seminary, kids in Minnesota and North Dakota going to Apple Valley, kids in Michigan going to St. Johns and Detroit CC, etc. What is there to gain? What do they lose?
    -- Steve B.

    Foley: I've answered similar questions in the past and think this is pretty consistent.

    Though I understand it's annoying to be in the district of a school that recruits wrestlers, I can't fault parents for wanting to seek out the best for their children. Like it or not, amateur athletics has become semi-professional, and with the rising cost of tuition, a parent who has the flexibility to accommodate their son's (or daughter's) wishes to be the best is partly doing so to trim off some of what could be a $150k tuition bill. If I were a parent and my son (or daughter) had a legitimate shot to earn a college scholarship by moving schools, I think I'd find a way to make it happen.

    However, if we are talking about a kid who is .750 in high school and probably won't get a scholarship, but wants to be on the area's winning program? That's a little less tasteful. But again, whatever is best for your child is what's right.


    Are you having a tough week? Tom Brands dancing at age 2. (Do yourself a favor and watch the entire clip. The ending is a tribute to the power of self-assurance.)

    Chase Pami entered the NYAC International. Chase Pami won the NYAC International. Chase Pami's face lost at the NYAC International.

    Q: A couple of weeks ago I did some research on the men's Olympic medalists, 56 medals were awarded to men. As near as I could figure 30 of them came from the area between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea and a few 100 miles north (Southern Russia) and South (Iran) that area. It looks like an area not much bigger then Texas. Can you uncover any reasons why this small area is so successful?
    -- Steve G.

    Foley: Many of the Olympic wrestlers were from North Ossetia, South Ossetia, Chechnya and Dagestan, the four southernmost Russian states and home to inarguably the greatest wrestlers in the world. The talent pool is so deep that other countries came in and recruited them to compete under their flag.

    Prepare to be shocked, but the Olympics aren't quite as nationalistic as you'd hope. Many wrestlers have recently decided to forfeit their Russian citizenship in order to earn spots (and cash) wrestling for countries like Georgia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. It's a gamble, but for many it's a decision that can earn them tens of thousands of dollars and a real chance at earning Olympic glory. The most successful of these Ruskie expats is heavyweight Artur Taymazov who in 2012 won his third Olympic gold in freestyle for Uzbekistan.

    The trend doesn't seem to be slowing down, and it's certainly not limited to wrestling in the Caucuses. Countries have the prerogative to add any citizen they believe will add to their relative greatness, and though you and I might want to call bullshit, take a look-see at America's 2012 Olympic roll call. We all have our motives.

    Jordan Frishkorn
    Q: Any word on whatever happened to Jordan Frishkorn out of Great Bridge High School several years ago? His older brother Daniel was an All-American at Oklahoma State as a freshman, and then Jordan committed to Oklahoma State as well but never surfaced. I know Daniel had a career-ending car wreck (from what I heard), but Jordan was still in high school then. What happened to him?
    -- Daniel L.

    Foley: As recently as 2011 he was wrestling for Shorter College, even making an appearance at the Adam Frey Classic. According to some friends he's now coaching at Cave Springs High School in Roanoke, Va.

    Q: Do wrestlers despise Thanksgiving? While others are pigging out and indulging, many wrestlers have to be cautious. Was Thanksgiving ever fun for wrestlers when you competed? How did your team handle Thanksgiving and competing when you were in college?
    -- Matt K.

    Foley: We enjoyed a fairly lenient Thanksgiving break. Many of my teammates were from New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, which meant relatively short drives home, or to family members' houses. I spent every Thanksgiving with my parents, though I usually chose to leave on Friday morning to find a workout on grounds.

    For me being back at school was as much a matter of keeping a somewhat consistent schedule as it was about trimming weight. Like many wrestlers I also believed I'd gain an edge on my opponents by sacrificing just a little more than them, that when the close match came I'd have more to protect from losing -- "I didn't miss Thanksgiving for five years just to lose now ..." That might have been the case, but looking back I would have benefited ten-fold had I just done some squats and learned some solid defense before going into my funk. Sprawling works.

    I think wrestlers look forward to Thanksgiving. Yes, there is the sacrifice many make to not go back for seconds, but we do have a chance to see our relatives and friends from home. Thanksgiving is about indulging in food, like Christmas is about being spoiled with material gifts. I seriously doubt that Thanksgiving is the only big meal for many of our readers, just like Christmas isn't the only time our loved ones give us gifts.

    Thanksgiving is one of the few times that our entire work-crazed country agrees to take a moment from work and spend time with each other. Make of it what you can. Eat if you can eat, but always remember to hug your father, kiss your mother, and spend time with loved ones. Just please be careful when
    frying the turkey.
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