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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I'm posting this mailbag from India where despite my fear of a stomach bug that could flatten a Billy goat, I've managed to avoid the gastro-apocalypse. Maybe it's foolish to mention my luck, but facing the invisible destruction of cholera and amoebic dysentery without succumbing makes me feel invincible. I'll inevitably end up eating a bad curry, but why let the fear of a loss interrupt an ongoing victory celebration.
I'm in Dehli to write about wrestling, and one of the reasons I've avoided getting sick is that I'm able to crash in the beautiful apartment of a kind man who works for the U.S. Library of Congress. In addition to his librarian duties (I'd imagined he racks books at the Taj Mahal, but found out that it's actually a pretty sweet job securing documentation, etc.), he's made a hobby of visiting various Indian akhadas and photographing traditional Indian wrestlers. His collection is impressive and I hope to share some of his work in the coming weeks.
By now you've heard me say, or read that I believe "wrestling is everywhere," and after this week in India, I've never been more certain. It's been an informative and challenging week and though there are still places to be seen and matches to be wrestled, I'm thrilled with the amount of content I've accumulated in these first five days.
In addition to dodging porcelain-praying stomach viruses and wrestling in the mud with locals, I've had some time to think about the Iowa vs. Penn State match and the resulting shift in some polls. It's clear to me that I underestimated the Hawkeyes, and that my love for Matt Brown, while still not wavering, might have blinded me to the mustachioed talents of Mike Evans, as likely a wrestler to win the NCAA title at 174 pounds as anyone. However, in no way do I think that Penn State is anything other than the national champion in 2013, nor do I think that they should be ranked other than first in any poll.
I know that the USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division I Coaches Poll is for dual meets only, but without a true dual meet national championship isn't the poll misleading to casual fans? Without there being weight on these matches, there is little chance that coaches are peaking for these matches. Maybe that cancels itself out with teams like Iowa and Penn State, but maybe it doesn't. Either way the poll misleads fans into thinking that Iowa and Oklahoma State are the top two teams in the nation, a misguided assumption that will seem foolish if Penn State wins the NCAA championship by thirty points.
I'm all for expansion, but is it really more valuable to the sport to have rankings that are difficult to substantiate and that will be proven ineffective in March?
But then again, I'm also a homer for my guys at InterMat ...
To your questions ...
Q: A boring night of work had me surfing through YouTube and I came across the ESPN Sports Century piece on Dan Gable which aired a while back. Watching the documentary, mainly clips of old school wrestling, made me think about how the sport of wrestling has evolved. In Gable's final match with Larry Owings he was taken down in the first period with a cheesy wrist roll and then put to his back in the third period from a scramble, he looked lost in both situations. I can't help but compare the style back then to the more advanced techniques we see now. More scrambling, funk and counter wrestling. Even the Iowa style has evolved with discussions about guys like St. John and Evans showing some scrambling. Do you think the Gable of Waterloo High would dominate national high school events today? Would the Cyclone version of Gable dominate the Midlands and Scuffles of today?
-- James S.
Foley: Technique across all sports has improved over the past fifty years. Athletes today are bigger, faster, stronger and smarter than their counterparts of a few decades ago. They practice more, compete more, and train more. They have better nutrition and access to more information and coaching. In a time warp it would seem that the modern athlete would throttle those wrestlers of previous generations, but I think the real answer comes from something other than the output we see on film.
I've written this before, but I once asked Rob Koll this same question. We were sitting in a hot tub at NCAAs in 2007 (shit just got weird, huh?) bullshitting about topics like greatest of all time and the improvement of athletes through the years. At least some of my questioning came from having seen Koll pin Michigan's Joe Pantaleo in the 1988 NCAA finals with a double overhook throw. That guy, and everyone else in the stadium, knew that Koll had a torn ACL, but somehow he kept falling into this throw. Like you mentioned in your question, these techniques look RIDICULOUS by modern standards and yet seem to work like magic potion in every video before 1995.
Koll said something interesting about this phenomenon. He said that regardless of the time in which they were born, winners will always be winners -- that the emotional and intellectual aspects of competition, and the "it" factor that drives people to learn more, train harder, and dedicate their lives to winning, is a human trait unbound by time. Koll's a silly, effective salesman, and maybe I was getting lightheaded from the chlorine fumes coming up from the 105-degree water, but the man sold me. Dan Gable would win today just like he won in the 1960s because Dan Gable is a champion, a winner, a stone-cold bad ass. No matter if it's hitting wrist rolls, Granby's, funk, or Burroughs' blast double, given the same resources, or a few weeks to catch up, Gable would wrestle right alongside today's studs.
Q: Which of the wrestling polls/ranking matters for the seeding at the NCAA individual finals?
-- Reed K.
Foley: Nice question. None. The seeds are tallied and doled out on what claims to be a totally objective system on wins and losses. The committee is attempting to be fair to the numbers to avoid accusations of meddling.
This is the system you want.
Q: I was thinking about how tough it is to make a good living off of amateur wrestling. How many people in your estimation are making a good living, say $125,000 a year or more, off of amateur wrestling in America?
-- Eugene L.
Foley: These are just educated guesses that include total annual salary, camps, teaching salaries, outside businesses -- anything that can't be detangled from their wrestling jobs.
NCAA wrestling coaches: 36
High school wrestling coaches: 140
Club coaches: 56
Journalist/media: 6 (Not this guy!)
Non-profit executives: 4
2012 Olympic gold medalists: 2
Camp directors: 25
Your 20-Minute Halftime
Bring your tissues. Heavy stuff.
Q: You ever see this clip of Mark Schultz getting disqualified in the 1984 Olympics? How did he win gold after this? That obviously would not happen in today's rules. I know John Smith was beat in the '92 Olympics but it was a pool system, and the guy who beat him got beat, then Smith wrestled that guy and crushed him so he advanced. Any idea how it worked in '84? This move is so nasty. I used to hit it before refs knew what it was.
-- Frank C.
Foley: I get a little sensitive when people assume that moves were created in the months before they became popular. Nothing exemplifies this more than the Korean Zombia (Chan-Sung Jung) submitting Leonard Garcia with a "Twister" in 2011. Of course the move existed for almost 100 years in college wrestling and was even showcased in technique books from the 30s.
The refs might have been ignorant to the move, but it'd been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. Frank Gotch and the first line of catch-as-catch-can wrestlers and pankration fighters are responsible for cultivating and cataloguing moves like the "double wrist lock," which modern jiu-jitsu guys would just call a standing kimura. It's painful, it's dangerous and it should be totally illegal in non-catch wrestling.
The disqualification counted as a loss, not a tourney disqualification. Because Shultz emerged from his pool he was able to compete in the tournament and pursue the gold. The new system is imperfect, but it's much less corrupt and easier to follow for many sports fans.
Q: I am sure you will get flooded with emails about this, but can you recall a dual meet where all the matches were so critical and exciting as the Iowa vs. PSU meet? Hard to believe that the most boring match of the night was 165.
-- Nathaniel T.
Foley: Boring only because David Taylor is a human freak. Give it a few years and we'll find out that he and Dake are the first class of homo sapiens found to have mutated genetic code. Trust me, they'll be shooting laser beams out of their eyes by 2020.
The dual meet was insane! I watched it from a hotel room in Kuala Lumpur with two buddies, both of whom have absconded to Asia and wrestled in the states. After watching NIce and McD trade scrambles they were both hooked on the action. It was a good opening match, I mean these are two guys that could've easily spent those two hours burning their flesh by the poolside (free popsicles, too) but instead they sat riveted by wrestling!
It's probably not worth recapping the entire dual meet, for that I'm going to direct you to this week's Back Points podcast. But this was some of the best wrestling entertainment I've had in years. I still prefer to watch my Wahoos, but when the big bellies bump in the center of Carver Hawkeye it's impossible to look away. The ground will shake, tempers will flare and at the end you'll have a week's worth of postmortems to write and dissections to undertake.
Right NOW is the Golden Age of Wrestling.
Q: A lot of great wrestlers -- Askren, Chandler, Dillashaw, Maynard -- all made the smooth transition from wrestling to MMA. Will Henry Cejudo make the same smooth transition why or why not?
-- Gregg Y.
Henry Cejudo retired from freestyle wrestling after falling short of making the 2012 Olympic Team at 55 kilos (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Lets look at some anecdotal evidence that supports the idea that Cejudo is joining MMA as part of a money grab and might not have the same hard-fought, obscured pathway to the cage as successful fighters.
Cejudo made his announcement to go into MMA in front of 50k soccer fans in Mexico. Good Lord, why? He's had any number of endorsement deals and was fitted for his 2012 Olympic Ralph Lauren jacket even though he'd only wrestled twice in the four years since he'd won gold. He's written two books, one about his life and the other about wrestling. and in the oddest of twists he is very active in the promotion of a play about his life being acted in Arizona. If none of this convinces you of something being amiss, you need to watch the video of his retirement press conference.
Motivation makes all the difference in MMA. I like Cejudo's wrestling and have heard he's a decent striker (he flirted with pro boxing), but regardless of his mat talents he'll have to suffer OUT of the spotlight for a few years before ever making it big in MMA. However, Cejudo is an Olympic champion wrestler of Mexican heritage so it's possible, maybe even likely, that he'll get marketed into a UFC contract. It worked for Brock Lesnar. But fighting at heavyweight requires mass and a buzz cut, Cejudo will be squaring off at flyweight or bantamweight, weight classes filled with decent wrestlers who are much more proficient strikers and quicker than a hiccup in transitional positions.
Wrestling is the best segway in MMA, but because it's a hard fought skill and tough lifestyle that teaches you how to wallow in hardship and succeed. Cejudo doesn't know that life anymore, he's five years removed from significant daily training in freestyle, has never competed in a collegiate season, and doesn't currently train with top wrestlers or fighters. Though he might have explosive leg attacks and great finishes, those will matter little against a field of fighters who've (finally) learned to sprawl.
Cejudo is fishing for more money and a way to stay in the conversation. MMA will ensure that he has a little of both, but it'll be enough to keep him content, but too much to motivate him to do what he needs to do to win fights and become as good in the cage as he was on the mat.
Q: Andrew Long. What happened to this guy? I know he got booted from Iowa State and then Penn State for personal/legal problems. Is he done? It's a shame that a guy with so much talent washed out.
-- Matthew R.
Foley: Oh, he's long gone. Spending time in jail has derailed his wrestling career and all but evaporated his support within the wrestling community. He was talented, though.
Q: What ever happened to Corey Mock? It looked for him at UNC.
Foley: It's unclear who he's wrestling for, but Corey Mock is definitely wrestling. There was a court case in the spring, but he's been cleared of those charges. As you probably noticed he's not listed on the official UNC roster. We'll see next fall if he reemerges on a collegiate roster.
Q: There seems to be a huge numbers crunch for NCAA tickets this year. Have you heard anything from anyone about releasing any unsold tickets? I have been going to this for twenty-two years and I'm having a hard time finding tickets!!
-- Steven H.
Foley: This is one of the most common questions in the Mailbag. I'm totally dumbfounded by the decision to decrease the capacity of the NCAA championships venue. Wells Fargo Arena holds 3k fewer fans than Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Why move this event around in the first place? And if you move it, shouldn't it be to a bigger and better arean and city than the previous host? The best idea would be for someone (You? Me?) to start a petition of some sort that asks the NCAA to keep our championships in one place every year, preferably a place with 20k seats, convenient airports and hotels that aren't grimy.
I hope that the experience in Des Moines is better than expected, because right now there are plenty of wrestling fans whose cauliflower ears are red with rage. And I can't blame them in the least, but if all goes south we can at least hope that the wrestlers will compete with courage and that local restaurants serve their beer cold and often.