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 Mailbag is the most fun I have writing all week, but sometimes it's a bear to deliver on time. I'll normally write on Thursday night and send it to my editor to review, format and post. He'll then post it up around 5 a.m. on Friday. But sometimes, like this week, we are both traveling and the mailbag ends up being delayed by circumstance until mid-day Friday. We'll keep aiming to do better, but understand we're a skeleton crew and sometimes delays occur. Thanks for your patience!
The Cliff Las Vegas Invitational is this week and InterMat will be providing coverage with articles and a live blog. For those of you who need to watch, you can stream parts of the tournament on Flo. They're charging, but hey if you weren't able to cancel after the All-Star Match you might as well enjoy some wrestling with the money from your forced investment! I kid, I kid.
If you haven't already, please check out this week's podcast featuring Columbia University head wrestling coach Carl Fronhofer. I know he looks intimidating, but he's an excellent conversationalist with sharp insights into the sport. Also, please remember to SUBSCRIBE to the podcast. We've been pleasantly shocked at the number of new subscribers, but we aren't satisfied. Our goal is to have 10k by New Years, it's lofty but I know we can do it. To subscribe, you simply go into iTunes, search "Back Points" and then hit Subscribe on the bottom of the page. You'll then be sent new episodes directly. Kinda nifty, eh?
To your questions ...
Q: How well do you think Shawn Bunch will do in his MMA debut? I'm unsure of who his opponent is, but it's kind of nuts that he'll be debuting in arguably the second best promotion. One thing is certain … I will be cheering him on!
-- Nick B
Shawn Bunch (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Foley: I recently traveled to San Jose to profile Daniel Cormier for the cover of FIGHT! Magazine, and spent some time watching Bunch train at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). What struck me most was how dedicated he was to making a quick, but solid transfer from wrestling to MMA. He lives with Mo Lawal in San Jose and from all my conversations that weekend with Bunch and later with Mo, it's apparent that he and Bunch spend all their free time watching old fights. Lawal is the most well-educated, well-versed fighting expert I've ever met (not just "for a fighter," I mean overall). He has instant recall of 4k fights and with many of them on video he's showing Bunch that to win you have to be a student of the sport.
Bunch's standup seemed to be coming along. Like many wrestlers he'll go out and at least look like he can throw a punch, but without more time in the cage I'd expect that Bunch's first match with be a few jabs, a few parries and a big double leg attack. From there I'd expect some ground and pound and possibly a choke. He's a talented competitor and should do really well in the sport.
Q: I saw Taylor Massa wrestle a number of times throughout his high school career. He dominated most of his high school competitors ... but will have to get quite a bit better to be a top-flight college wrestler. I see he lost earlier this season to a then-unranked wrestler. Have you seen him wrestle?
-- Jim C.
Foley: Only on video. Taylor Massa is the future and wrestling fans are always excited about young talent challenging the more seasoned competitors. I commend Massa and the Michigan staff for keeping the kid at 165. I know there was probably a little temptation to see him bump to 174 and take on a less crowded field, but instead they've chosen to let him hash it out in arguably one of the toughest weight classes in the history of the sport. If Massa responds and finds a place anywhere on the podium, it'll signal the real possibility that Michigan will have another three-time All-American and two-time NCAA champion-caliber wrestler on their roster.
Q: Is Kevin Jackson on the hot seat this year? The Cyclones do not appear to have gotten much better under his tenure and I would think a loss to ODU wouldn't help his cause. Is Steve Martin a coach who could be considered for other openings at bigger programs based on what he's done at ODU?
-- Daniel L.
Foley: The wrestling community is tight knit and talking with coaches and wrestlers there is an army of top-flight wrestlers that are loyal to Kevin Jackson and point to him as the man who led them to success on and off the mat. He's got a great reputation as a leader, so it's tough to write, but you're probably correct. The 2012-2013 season would need to turn around in a hiccup from Jackson to have any real chance of keeping his job for another season.
The life of a college wrestling coach is no longer just technique and discipline. The CEO coach is the new norm, and though I have no idea how Coach Jackson conducts the business of Iowa State wrestling, I can see plainly that the product they're producing isn't up to the level that many Cyclone fans have come to expect. However, it is totally possible that he's been able to create a wider, more proactive fundraising base giving himself more time to sort out the on-the-mat issues the team seems to be enduring. He also may not have done that type of work.
Like with any sport that receives media attention, it never seems too early to speculate on who might replace a head coach, but I don't want to trek that path right now. Coach Jackson deserves the rest of the season to focus on creating a competitive team for the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
I can't post the following video of my appearance on MMA Live without acknowledging it's totally self-aggrandizing. However, it's about wrestling so it's relevant to the mailbag. We rundown Chuck's list of the top five MMA wrestlers as a way to introduce my article on the top ten MMA wrestlers. It's an ESPN Insider piece, which means it costs about the same as an InterMat Platinum subscription to sign up, but with it you get access to all types of info on baseball, football, betting, etc. If you decide to invest, make sure to sign up from the landing page of my article -- makes me look good to the higher-ups.
I CHOOSE not to take the stairs ...
Q: Any word on the fate of the EWL after the departure of Pitt and WVU? Joining the MAC would make some sense.
-- S. Greida
Foley: The EWL might be in some trouble. When Pitt leaves next season the EWL will have five teams remaining: Bloomsburg, Clarion, Cleveland State, Edinboro and Lock Haven. That's enough for the NCAA but in the times of mega-conferences and consolidating overhead costs, it might be prudent for the EWL to fracture and send teams shopping or new organizations.
Though I'll try and predict where each goes, know that there are internal dynamics at work in the athletic administrations of most colleges. The athletic directors or school president might be besties with a conference president, or more likely wrap the wrestling team into a larger deal to find profits in football and basketball. It's an almost impossible Jenga to solve with so many pieces missing.
Cleveland State should go to the MAC. It's a regional affiliate and will help boost their recruitment of local talent by giving them a more competitive conference affiliation.
Lock Haven and Clarion should join the EIWA.
Edinboro and Bloomsburg should head to the SoCon.
Yes, you read that last part correctly, the Southern Conference. Adding a few Pennsylvania schools to the mix will increase the national competitiveness of the conference. It's a regional nightmare, but with prestige comes attention, comes money. It's a bold move, but it could really work well to distribute talent across the eastern seaboard.
Q: First: I have noticed that another Rosholt brother has broken the barrier of the top 20 national rankings. Seeing this an opinion-based question came to mind (kind of with a static and factual answer), but who would you say is the most successful wrestling family in most recent years?
Second: Seeing the success of so many families/brothers in recent years in the sport, who would you say is the most successful group of wrestling twins competing today?
-- Christian O.
Foley: The Rosholts are a good choice. I know that right now there are a few dozen of them sitting in house for John Smith to call and give 'em a pre-match slap on the rear.
Though there are actually only three Rosholt men (Jake, Jared, and Blake), I think that an All-American performance or two by Blake would make them the most successful family in terms of numbers of family members. However, in terms of All-American and NCAA titles the top family from the past 15 years is the Sandersons family, led by Cael (four time NCAA champion), Cody (two-time NCAA runner-up), Cyler (two-time All-American), and Cole (four-time NCAA qualifier).
Twins? Oy. Let's go with the Trent and Travis Paulson. I like 'em and they're still on the freestyle circuit!
Q: Do you know anything about an Illinois high school wrestler named Ronnie Sribniak? I see on YouTube Ronnie had quite a spladle move (which I enjoyed seeing Nick Simmons use during his college career). I wonder if Ronnie has since gone on to college to wrestle? I know he was a pretty good pole-vaulter as well. Just wondering.
-- Jim C.
Foley: I don't think I've heard of Ronnie. However, I do love a spladle! At Virginia our starting 141-pounder decked dozens of guys with his own version of a spladle. In fact, it was such a popular move that head coach Lenny Bernstein even named his dog Spladle.
Q: Just curious about what has happened with Pat Downey? I am a wrestling fan in Maryland and he was quite the hot topic on the forums. Last I heard, he was done at OTC and committed to Nebraska. I looked on their roster and he is not there. I also heard Oregon State was in the mix, but do not see him there either. Is he staying at OTC or becoming wasted talent?
-- Joe P.
Foley: He committed to Nebraska last week.