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? Access archives.
Maybe the stress of the season is starting to wear on readers, but there has been a lot of passion in your emails. Many of your questions are just poorly disguised rants, but I enjoy your perspectives. Twitter is an excellent medium for questions, but it's just not the same as unleashing a 250-word evisceration via email. Keep it up, friends. Bring the heat!
The Back Points podcast has a new intro. I love it, but we are going to expand on it. If you couldn't tell it's a weekly growth, so please subscribe on iTunes so you can keep up with all the guests and maybe even transfer some of our lines to bets with your pals.
To your questions and comments ...
Q: Glad I read your mailbag following a hectic weekend. Saw someone ask about Ronnie "The Spladle" Sribniak from Illinois. Ronnie was on my radar my last year I was at Neosho County Community College as an assistant during the 2009-2010 season. Ronnie was one heck of a pole vaulter too and was being looked at by several schools for his athleticism in track as well. Haven't talked with him in a while, but Ronnie was up in Rapid City, S.D., and was stationed at Ellsworth AFB there with the Air Force. Tough kid that with maturity would be a solid pickup following his military career for sure.
-- Aaron "Swayz"
Foley: The Spladle is flying high!
Q: It seems like almost every year now we have some surprise true freshman like Megaludis, Dake, or Howe who make the NCAA finals. I know it's fairly early, but what true freshmen do you think have a chance at reaching the finals this year, if any? It seems like a rough rode this year for true freshmen, but in my opinion Nahshon Garrett has a chance if anyone does. I've seen a ton of his matches this year and he seems to be improving at a tremendous rate. He looked really good against a super tough Waters as well!
-- Nick B.
Foley: You said it. Nahshon Garrett is having a monster year! Do I think he's going to get past Waters, McDonough or Megaludis and sneak into the finals? No. However, I do think he'll be an All-American, maybe even a high placing AA.
The freshman with the best chance of making the finals is Alex Dierenger of Oklahoma State. He's undefeated right now with four falls, two majors and 4-2 decision over Dannny Zilverberg of Minnesota. There is room at the top of 157 for more than just DSJ and Welch. Dierenger could present BOTH of those guys with a troublesome match.
Q: B.J. Penn or Rory MacDonald?
Foley: B.J. Penn by submission. Though Rory MacDonald is a much larger human, the Canadian youngster lost his two-round advantage over Carlos Condit when he all but threw up a white flag after being swept to his back peppered with effective ground and pound.
MacDonald took Condit down four or five times, something he absolutely will not do to Penn. Along with being a naturally gifted wrestler, Penn reinforced his wrestling this training camp by flying in Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley. Those men are big and studly grapplers. Should MacDaddy push the pace on Penn and try to overpower him with striking he could easily become the victim of Penn's boxing skills.
Also, I just don't like MacDonald. Can that be a reason?
I'm alone in picking Penn, but I think he's a good value. If it comes down to wrestling I'll be right.
Q: Is Chance Marstellar back to wrestling? Should PSU be everybody's No. 1 now with the Minnesota loss?
-- Bobby L.
Foley: Two questions, I like it.
Yes, according to Chance he's been getting back in the room, though his Facebook makes it sound like it's been a struggle to regain his form. The kid is nails and I'm sure he'll be back to prime form before he steps on the mats in Hershey.
Yes, I think everyone can agree that Penn State is the best team in the land right now. We'll see how the rest of the season shakes out though, that Minnesota team was a little banged up. Be sure to pay attention to the Gophers at B1G and NCAAs.
Q: I like to read online wrestling chats to gain additional facts, unsubstantiated rumors, opinions, and insights since participants are often uniquely connected to the college teams I follow. Oftentimes, within those chats a debate will arise from criticism of a particular wrestler's performance, of which there seems to be two types of thinking. One I'll call the cheerleader approach and includes comments that usually go "give him a break, he's working his tail off/handling some issues and deserves our support/trying some new things/changed weights for the team," etc. The other I'll call the a-hole approach and includes comments like "he was a top recruit and he sucks" or "he got his ass kicked and looks clueless out there," etc. Unfortunately, the a-hole approach sometimes gets vicious, and is usually supported by the added argument of "this isn't high school anymore" or "men his age are fighting wars," particularly if it's a scholarship athlete. If it were my son, I would absolutely want the cheerleader approach, and regardless think some vicious attacks are totally unnecessary. However, as a fan I feel that strictly cheerleading is a bad thing, especially when you think of more popular sports where a football or basketball players misfortunes are highlighted not only in online chats, but also in the sports page. And, if people aren't allowed to have honest discussions, then at some point they stop paying attention. What do you think?
Foley: Not too much to add here. I agree that it can be discouraging to hear adults belittle kids and young adults when they are on the mat competing with good intentions. The only time I'll accept a tough ribbing of one of these wrestlers is when it's apparent that they aren't trying their best, or are acting well outside the ideals of sportsmanship. Not sure about you guys, but nobody in my life can make me feel guiltier about a bad performance than my mother. Moms can identify the effort of their son's more honestly than a father. Mama bears are impressed by dedication, where fathers tend to expect commitment as a given.
By now we've all seen the clip, but just in case I've embedded it below. Wrestling is an inclusive sport. We don't rate our athletes on speed, height, skin color, or vertical leap. All we ask is that you have heart. Come one, come all.
Q: What happened with Steve Bosak? I haven't seen him anywhere yet ...
-- Dusty B.
Foley: Word on the quad is that he'll be strapping them in time for the Southern Scuffle. True? I don't know. Most coaches won't talk about injuries with any detail. Will let you know if anything changes.
Q: How good is Gilmer, Ga., since they defeated Christiansburg on Saturday at the Lake Norman Duals in North Carolina. Also, another North Carolina team gave Christiansburg all they could handle before losing 39-36. Does Christiansburg deserve their high ranking in the country?
Foley: C-Burg probably does. They are a very small school and think they are still waiting for some of their athletes to transition from football to the wrestling mats. Was their starting lineup out there? I think they were also pretty dinged up. All credit to Gilmer. Tough, tough squad!
Q: I understand all of the attention that 165 is getting with Dake, Taylor and Caldwell, but isn't perhaps "toughest weight class in recent history" a bit of an overstatement? Do you think 184 this year is tougher/deeper? Check out the NCAA finishes of the top 8 ranked guys:
Ruth 1st, 3rd
Bosak 1st, 4th, R12
Hamlin 4th, 2nd, Q
Steinhaus 5th, 8th
Bennett 6th, 8th, 6th
Ihnen 7th, R12, R12
Loder R12, R12
Ethen Lofthouse 7th, Q
Kind of hard to believe that somebody who's already a 3-time AA is ranked fifth, and moreover that it seems like a reasonable ranking.
Foley: Embellishments get me nowhere. I should have changed that assertion after it was clear that Andrew Howe wouldn't be competing at 165 this season. I think you are right ... 184 might be the tougher weight top to bottom. Dake and Taylor are a better story, and should they become four-time finalists, the story of their matches this season will be retold for years. Add-in a game Tyler Caldwell and your top three is pretty gnarly.
But, yes, you're right, 184 is much more competitive the further you move down the list.
Q: I think putting together a list of the best college wrestler nicknames would be fun. Since technology and recent events have brought me back into wrestling after a 30 year departure, I would love to hear some.
Foley: Alan "Running" Waters ... Ed "Baby" Ruth ... Kyle "Kid Dynamite" Dake
Help me out, wrestling fans!
Keitani Graham and Jake ClarkKeitani Graham, a Micronesian Greco-Roman wrestler who competed at 84 kilos in the 2012 Olympics, died earlier this week of undisclosed causes. The Chuuk native was home working as the executive director of a non-profit. Graham was a close friend and training partner of Minnesota native Jake Clark. The duo trained in Hawaii, where Clark had moved a few years ago to train and start the Hi-Flyers Wrestling Club. From Clark's Facebook:
Nearly every photo I have of Keitani Graham is one of him talking to or working with kids. As you can see by the looks on everyone's face, Kei was an amazing person with such a kind heart! Gone way too soon... Miss you Buddy, Kinnisou (thanks in Chuukese) for all that you've done for our sport, and for all that you did in helping build the Hi Flyers!!!RIP, Keitani Graham.