Foley's Friday Mailbag: Jan. 11, 2013

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.

This week Twitter earned another customer when NCAA oddsmaker Brian Muir opened up account as @MuirOrLess. The entendre should speak to the idea that he more or less gets you the odds you need to bet with your friends. The service is free and for podcast listeners (the ranks are swelling each week!) those numbers come in every Wednesday, which means you have ample time to sucker your friends into a terrible bet.

Muir assures me that he'll post the lines for the Iowa vs. Oklahoma State dual on Twitter tomorrow. If you're so inclined to join another social network -- albeit one that you can enjoy voyeuristically and without handing over your high school graduation date -- then look up the InterMat family of Tweeters and read up on wrestling all day long via your mobile device.

Last week's articles on Dake and Taylor took a lot of energy out of the wrestling world this week. We're all falling back into our pre-holiday routine and without the Magic Man and Kid Dynamite to talk about many of us have given up on wrestling for a few weeks. It's understandable, the NCAA wrestling season is far too long. We all reach our saturation point.

But keep your hopes up for next month. We'll be well inside the conference dual meet schedule, with matches that impact seeding at the conference and national tournament start to materialize. And soon after that the most anticipated NCAA tournament in modern history.

Stay tuned, mailbaggers.

To your questions ...

Q: Iowa vs. Oklahoma State. Who are you picking?
-- Brandon H.

Foley: Iowa.

As podcast listeners know I recently acquired a renewed admiration for Hawkeye head wrestling coach Tom Brands. His post-match news press conference following his team's 11-point win over Ohio State was one for the archives. Not only did he admit to an ANGER MANAGEMENT!! problem, he blamed himself for the team's lack of performance. I know that 99 percent of our coaches look in the mirror when things go awry, but how many would self-diagnose a psychiatric issue?

We live in a society where 80 percent of people who show up to a 9-5 office job bite their tongue once a day rather than risk a lawsuit for calling another human a dumbass or for smacking the office print boy for making your cup of coffee too weak. (What's the line on this percentage @MuirOrLess?) Brands is fresh air because he doesn't hold back his emotions. He's like Mike Tyson in that way, nothing inauthentic can pass through his lips. He's honest, and since I started to pay attention, it's become his most endearing quality. In fact, my objective 31-year-old self would send my weakling 18-year-old self to be coached by Brands, I'd have learned how to hand fight and wear yellow without becoming washed out.

I know that you can't smack the copier kid, or stomp your boots when things don't go as planned, but there is a sincerity in holding true to your highest value. Brands' highest value is dominating, and when that eludes him or his team, he doesn't skank roll with his emotions, he plods forward and gets it dinged for stalling.

Kids still want a slick-haired coach to coddle them and tell them that (insert university) will be the springboard to a beautiful wife, picket fence and job at a Fortune 500 company. I only see Brands telling me that I'd have to work my ass off and zip my lip, because "That's how you learn! ... That's how you get better!"

I might poke fun at him on occasion (it's too easy), but I like me some Tom Brands.

Iowa wins 17-16.

Q: So I signed onto the other day to keep up with things at the Southern Scuffle. I'm really excited to watch (in static red and blue animation) Alan Waters take on the Mega-Nico. But wait. I can't find Waters in the brackets. So I scroll through all the comments about President Obama on the Southern Scuffle blog and see that Waters is out for either grades or an injury (no one seemed to know which, but they all seemed to be pretty sure they hate President Obama).

Fine, I think, I'll see what's going on with the Alton brothers. They're always fun to watch. But Holy Smokes, they've weighed in but are not wrestling! From what I find (after a Google search), they've been charged with assault!! (My theory: they've taken to pinning random strangers on the streets.)

So, OK, at least I can watch Dake and Taylor go at it ... several days later on

Then, last Friday, I kick back with a beer and some popcorn, switch on BTN, ready to watch Tony Ramos attempt to stare down Logan Stieber. What the heck?!? Logan is sitting on the sidelines (looking just fine by the way) and poor Ramos is reduced to putting the stink-eye on some guy who looks like Henry from the comics.

What the Sam Hill is going on here? What's the lowdown on all these guys and when will they be back on the mats? And, one more thing, why do I have to go so many different places to figure out what's going on in this sport?
-- John G.

Foley: I would normally trim a question of this length (cough, cough, rant, cough), but you're a nifty little writer. And you have a point.

We here in the wrestling media are still very much in our adolescent phase. There are things that we want to do like the big boys covering the NFL, but budgets are small and therefore our time is limited. As you guys keep buying our services and frequenting the pages, we can make some extra money and send back to you with up-to-the-minute information.

I'm sure we here at InterMat could be a faster and more flamboyant with the dispersal of information, but releasing that information has consequences and therefore can't be done without solid sourcing.

For example, we might have heard from someone that Waters was out of the lineup because President Barack Obama had asked him to consult on a five star panel to discuss new crop-growing methods for farmers in Latvia. However, if we can't confirm that news with a coach, sports information director, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, then we can't publish the information. I'd love to be the guy to break the news that Logan Stieber is out 1-2 weeks so that he can complete the final requirements of his Eagle badge, but if I can't get Tom Ryan to confirm the details we are all left to wonder.

In the future, if you email me as questions as they are occurring I can put in a few calls and then post the information in the mailbag. I do favor-based journalism and will seek out solid information on behalf of my readers.

Why? I'm just that sweet.

Q: What's the best wrestling clubs in the U.S.?
-- @BrandonfrmNJ

Foley: The best wrestling club in the nation is The Edge run by Ernie Monaco. I don't do second places because then I'm forced to do a third and fourth place, which would require me list all ten. To be honest, I don't know the high school clubs all that well. However, I can say that for more than 20 years The Edge has been pumping out megawatt superstars.

And here's a little more information. Dave Esposito, one of the smartest wrestling minds I've ever been around, has a second location open in Hoboken, N.J. Along with a staff that includes former DI NCAA qualifier Brandon Kinney I'd expect to see some serious talent finding its way out of The Mile Squared over the next few years.

Q: Majority of college "underachievers" are a result of early physical maturity? Man vs. boy? Or is there a better reason?
-- @eclipsegut

Foley: Recruits can fail for any number of reasons. Your question came after several wrestling pundits on Twitter chirped that we thought Kyle Snyder with be the Harlem Globetrotters of NCAA wrestling. It's always tough to predict how an all-world kid will react once he's in college. In my experience it's as much about psychology as it is talent.

No college wrestling team should seek to have thirty No. 1 wrestlers. It's too many egos with no natural balance. Youth, middle school and high school teams breed role wrestlers and all-stars because the natural separation of talent in a pool of athletes occurs naturally and is reinforced in social circles being developed for the first time. There are bit players, role players, major players and the leader. Like a season of the Real World you can see the same cast in every season.

However, because college wrestling is so competitive sometimes teams with huge superstars can't socially accommodate the egotistical needs of a talented newcomer. The role has already been cast and filled. You might best recognize this psychological theory in the cliché, "The town ain't big enough for the both of us." It's the lack of recognition by wrestlers and coaches that an athlete can't bear to be out of the spotlight that has ruined DOZENS of careers over the past ten years. (This problem is more prevalent in big men because their physical standing often makes them the most popular person at their entire school. Height matters, George Washington wasn't the best general of the 1770's, but he was just the tallest.)

The other reason some all-stars don't work out is their personal inability to deal with defeat. You come from a state where you lost eight or nine times in four years and suddenly the backup two weights down is destroying you in practice. Wrestlers are a strong bunch, but we're very sensitive and it's that vulnerability which can sometimes translate into the cliché known as, "Screw this, I'm out."

High school heroes and the inability to adapt to losing are the two big principals, but the third is technical deficiency from bottom. High school kids and first-year college wrestlers are just bad from bottom. When you can't get out from bottom it can use all types of frustrations, and many more losses than the pundits predicted.

As for the physical disadvantages, it's certainly possible. It's not far fetched that it could impact these guys, but weightlifting is advanced even in high school and many of these bigger kids might not have MAN STRENGTH quite yet, but they can toss another human about with ease.


Any ideas on how we could do something similar for wrestling?


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Badger (1) about 6 years ago
Brands certainly does an admirable job coaching, conditioning, and motivating his wrestlers. However, to admire him for his out of control behavior and portray it as "honesty" is disturbing. Contrast Brands style with say, Ben & John Peterson. All 3 were Olympic Gold medalists but did we ever see the Peterson's refuse to shake an apponents hand, bully people, or throw tantrums? Please don't confuse honesty with Brands lack of control and inablility to treat opponents as human beings. The guy has serious issues and has since his college wrestling days.
trfoley (1) about 6 years ago
I spent the summer of 2011 wrestling in Mongolia, and whether I was training freestyle in the capital, or wrestling traditional bokh the countryside, every Mongolian knew one American, "John Peterson." He and his brother have proven to be class acts at home and abroad.

As for Brands, I think he lives in the fishbowl and that his actions are dissected more than any coach in the country. You don't see many teams with a full media room after a conference dual. I think the bright lights, and maybe the stress of sustaining the Iowa legacy, can make people act funny. No excuses for his behavior, but I think that if you ask his wrestlers they'll agree that he's not all chair-tossing and table-slapping.

Thanks for the comment.
spencerszewczyk (1) about 6 years ago
I believe the best wrestling club in the US would have to be Nittany Lion Wrestling Club which of course is led by the greatest wrestler of all-time and produced gold medalist Jake Varner. If we're talking about high school wrestling clubs, I'd say Young Guns due to the number of All-Americans and NCAA champs produced and the fact that they've won the past 3 National Dual championships at Virginia Beach.
trfoley (1) about 6 years ago
I've heard about Young Guns. I know they have Gulibon as one of their guys, but who else are we looking at. Can I get the rundown?
jmichael (1) about 6 years ago
You're a little unkind to our founding father...I think he has a few more assets than height.
trfoley (1) about 6 years ago
You're lucky I didn't unleash what I *think I remember from grade school. Not only am I from Virginia, I'm from Stafford which is the "Boyhood Home of George Washington." Every field trip for five years in elementary school. Love the big guy and recommend 1776 by David McCullough as an accurate portrayal of his strengths and weaknesses.
spencerszewczyk (1) about 6 years ago
You can pull their national championships roster for the last three years and also look at some of the other local wrestlers that have come through the program or contact Jody Strittmatter (Iowa) who is the head coach. Eric Juergens (Iowa) coaches their Iowa club. FloWrestling rated them the number 1 club in America (not that it necessarily makes it a fact but I'd take a look at some of the guys coming out of Pennsylvania with Young Guns credentials.
Chim Richalds (1) about 6 years ago
I disagree with praising Brands because he doesn't "hold back" his emotions. He looks like he could have some serious emotional control issues, as many people have pointed out. I find it hard to admire a guy who acknowledges that he has a serious anger problem but makes no effort to correct it it. He is one of, if not the, best coaches out there. However, I believe that by being on the national stage that is Iowa wrestling, he is in a position to serve as a role model for young student-athletes and an ambassador for the sport.
uvagrappler33 (1) about 6 years ago
As much as I can't stand Glenn Beck he wrote a pretty good book about George called Being George Washington. Makes you feel like you aren't doing your patriotic duty