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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Why was this weekend a success? Simplicity. Uncomplicated storytelling delivers rating. No distractions, just the pursuit of history.
The story of Kyle Dake was simple enough for any sports fan to understand and appreciate. You can almost hear the dialogue in the TV room somewhere in North Carolina:
"Honey, This wrestling kid is going for four titles in four years?!"
"Wow. Is he wrestling now?"
"Yeah. Guy just said he's wrestling against his friend and the defending champion?"
"I'm in the kitchen. What channel?"
That is how many of our 860,000 viewers tuned into this year's finals. We had a clear and simple story to sell, which also happened to have dramatic elements. With a concentrated effort we could do something more. Maybe we won't gain a ton of attention for a matchup of the Dake/Taylor hype, but we can do other things to make the event watchable.
We can't sit back with our lead. We need more points, more scoring. We can't stall, we can't ride parallel. We need to take this momentum spawned by the IOC and maintained by Dake to create new avenues for growth and interest. We need to make large-scale changes to our operational mentality. That means embracing a less-physical, more technical style. Amending rules for simplicity, and making other changes that will make us much more marketable to the masses.
We are finally running ahead of our peer sports, now is not the time to take a breather. Lets dig down and find a way to extend our lead into 2014 and beyond.
To your questions ...
Q: Do you think Kyle Dake would have beaten Darrion Caldwell in the semis of 2011 had Caldwell not had to drop out? What a match that would have been.
-- Nate T.
Foley: I respect where you are coming from with this question. One of the guiding principles of compelling journalism is to find stories that contradict an ongoing, popular narrative. What better example do we have, but to doubt Kyle Dake and his four years of dominance?
Unfortunately it's impossible to project a loss on Dake, and to do so would only be inviting hate mail postmarked from Ithaca. Yet I agree with you that Darrion Caldwell would've been the type of wrestler who could've challenged Dake. Caldwell had shown the ability to beat top opponents at NCAAs and was a point-scoring wrestler. To win, Dake would've had to limit that scoring from neutral, escape from bottom and secure the riding time advantage, which he could have done. Caldwell would have needed the big move, which is tough to secure against a wrestler as explosive and squirrelly as Dake.
Q: I'm wondering what you think/know about what's going on right now with Ben Askren and the UFC. He's been calling out GSP all over Twitter, and I'm having trouble figuring out what the deal is other than that Askren thinks he can beat GSP. I'm a huge Askren fan (as I'm sure most wrestling fans are), and I would LOVE to see him take on some of the UFC guys, especially GSP. So what's keeping him out? Maybe I'm just lacking a greater understanding of how professional fighting works, but any insight you've got would be appreciated.
-- Brandon J.
Foley: The professional mixed martial arts scene can be confusing. The UFC is the largest and most profitable organization, followed by Bellator MMA, Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) and World Series of Fighting (WSOF). All of these organizations have television distribution deals and make their money by promoting the best fighters they can afford.
The UFC has limited roster spots, and with the recent absorption of Strikeforce and the addition of a flyweight and women's bantamweight class there is less room, and thus more cuts. That contraction has led to guys like Jon Fitch, a former top ten welterweight, ending up in the WSOF. That purchase gives the organization heft, but confuses fans about the degree to which fighters can be independent and osmotic between organizations.
Askren can't fight in UFC because he's all-the-way committed to Bellator MMA. He has good reason. Viacom, the multi-billion dollar company backing Bellator, also owns SPIKE and has made the commitment to position themselves as competitors to the UFC.
So for Askren to ever face GSP, several unlikely things would have to occur. First, Bellator would have to cut Askren or let his contract expire. If his contract expired and Askren chose to shop himself around, Bellator would still be able to offer up a matching contract should the UFC make him an offer. If he still made it to the UFC (Eddie Alvarez is caught at this step) then the UFC could put him on the roster, at which point he would take a fight with a current top ten contender and be another fight away from ever facing GSP.
The point is that there is almost no way the fight will ever take place. The Twitter battle between Askren and Dana White revolves around Askren's smothering style of fighting. He's better than opponents on the mat, so he keeps them there. Fans might not like that he's not exchanging blows, but my gut tells me that his wife and kid are probably stoked that Daddy isn't brain dead. Work with what you got, and Askren is a blanket on top. Can't win if you can't get out.
Q: As we watched the NCAA tournament my cousin Lars made the statement that Dan Gable would not be able to beat Derek St. John of Iowa. This caused a heated discussion. Gable was the ultimate competitor and was a mental juggernaut. St. John is no slouch. Who would win the legends of the past or the current stars. How would the legends all-star team do against the NCAA champions of 2013 in an all-star dual?
-- Eric G.
Foley: Lars' statement is ridiculous! Of course Gable would be able to beat St. John. They're wrestlers and last I checked this Gable character was a pretty fierce competitor. The better question might be how many times out of ten would Gable beat St. John if we created a time machine that took collegiate Gable and pitted him against collegiate St. John. My answer would be 2 for 10. St. John is a bad style matchup for Gable and the speed and athleticism of today's wrestlers is light years from what we saw in the 1970's -- to mention nothing of the growth in techniques.
As for a yesteryear Dream Team pitted against this year's NCAA champions, I see the same type of results. Assuming you grabbed them from their decade and brought them into modern times with no ability to train or learn new moves, I believe that the modern wrestlers would win 9/10 matches. If you gave that historical team a year or two to train then it would become an issue of intangibles and I'd have to see the split as somewhere closer to 5/5.
Great wrestlers are made of different stuff. They might lack the moves and the speed, but given access to the same training for a few years and they'd be on par with today's best. If you don't believe me I ask you to invent the time machine, but let me know first if you do because I'd like to place a small bet on the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals and that kid Kyle Dake.
"But I don't got that time, I only have 'till morning."
You can listen to Mark Perry describe the photo on this week's Back Point podcast. Just be sure to SUBSCRIBE on iTunes, too. Just enter the term "Back Points" and we'll pop up.
Photo by Andy Hamilton.
My absolute favorite photo from the weekend came via Mike McCormick, whose son is a big fan of Logan Stieber and Tony Ramos. Here's how McCormick described the scene ...
"Patrick wanted both of their autographs and was having Logan sign something when Ramos came by. I grabbed Ramos and asked for his autograph. They both just kind of stopped there when they realized who else was standing there. I asked if they minded if I took a picture with both of them and they both immediately said yes. I was so impressed by that ... Two guys that just battled it out in front of the whole world were nice enough to have their picture taken with a kid that admires them. Wrestlers are the greatest! Made my son's night for sure."
Q: How long is Scoot Goodale going to last? Rutgers scored 7.5 points this NCAA tournament landing the team in 35th place. Notably, Scott Winston, who was previously considered one of New Jersey's best, graduates without ever reaching the podium. Mario Mason could not finish his senior year while he placed fifth in the Big Tens as a freshmen. That bracket included Brent Metcalf, Lance Palmer, and others (Kyle Ruschell?). William Smith, a favorite to win the EIWA, needed a wildcard to get to the tournament.
I think Goodale has been a good stepping stone for Rutgers. He has changed the program, but as Rutgers enters the Big Ten, I think a change is needed. So how long will the disappointment last? Who do you think would be a good fit to elevate the program among the premier teams?
-- Mark K.
Foley: I doubt anyone is more aware of Rutgers' frustration than Scott Goodale. He's a well-respected leader in the New Jersey wrestling community and much-admired by his school and his wrestlers. Winning takes time, and though the amount of time that has passed seems incongruous with what might be a timeline for deciding failure, my instinct tells me that he's being left alone because he does many of the CEO tasks very well, including but not limited to: fundraising, friend-raising, and developing 18-year-old's into good people.
Goodale is the coach at Rutgers through the 2106 season. He'll have Anthony Ashnault on campus next year and wrestling in the Big Ten will hopefully help him earn more qualifiers. It could even improve the quality of his wrestlers to have stiffer competition. I really, honestly, one-hundred percent believe he has multiple All-Americans by 2015.
Wrestling has plenty of good guys who lose and a few questionable guys who win, but I don't see a problem with a moderately successful guy like Goodale keeping his job for a few more years when he's surrounded by good coaches and wrestlers. The program isn't tanking, and I've seen first-hand (when he didn't think the media was watching) just how passionate Goodale is about his program.
It got a little dusty in the arena that night, and I like seeing that type of commitment and passion from a leader of young men.
Q: The most pressing question from the NCAAs: I noticed some pretty creative uniform designs. Which team had the best singlet design and which the worst? All-time best and all-time worst?
-- Boston Grappler
Foley: This answer is about to go in a WHOLLY different direction than you expected, but let's start by answering your original prompt.
Fashion is life.
From what I gather from Twitter, it was the Edinboro singlets that ended up being the best-reviewed of the Big Show. I can't argue that they were pretty sweet, but my personal favorites were those from my alma mater Columbia. Absolutely loved the faded Lion's head in the back and the faded color of the singlet. It helped that the singlet was most often seen when Mc-Stud Steve Santos was flexing for the ESPN cameras and blowing kisses to his admirers.
Worst singlet probably goes to Oklahoma State's black outfits. Just didn't work for me this time. The Cowboy on the side was too complicated to be so small, and call me a traditionalist but I think they have one of the most iconic singlets in the sport of college wrestling. Why waste your time with black or gray? Then again, they did almost win the tournament, so what the hell do I know?
But when you talk about singlets, we inevitably have to redirect into the IOC decision and the mention of possibly uniform changes by FILA at the international level. Nothing has been decided, but in order to appease the Western Europeans FILA is likely going to replace singlets with rash guards and fight shorts. Partly to improve grip for throws and partly to make it more accessible and comfortable for fans who dislike spandex to watch.
Maybe that's the right thing to do? Aren't we all a little sick and tired of the singlet conversation? It's a losing issue. We lose fans, we lose viewers, we lose on more participants, and we lose out on potential income. If we change to shorts and a long sleeve rash guard there is a massive upside. But before you freak out and send me hate mail, take a look at what Dan Gable was wearing in his collegiate wrestling days: Cotton shorts overtop a singlet and full-length spandex leggings.
I'm on a mission to convince you, so also consider the potential revenue from fans being able to wear the outfits of their favorite wrestlers. Kids, adults, and aspiring high school wrestlers could all wear the actual "jersey" of their favorite team or athlete as they worked out. That will grow revenue and interest in the sport whose rules would stay completely unchanged, the only difference would be more throws, more turns and fewer inquiries from random people on the street about the sexuality attached to our sport. Are we proud of what wrestling is about emotionally and psychologically, or what we wear?
What do we have to lose? Uniforms in wrestling have changed with consistency for the past 100 years, and if you look at other traditional styles they continue to change today. Kushti, the traditional wrestling style in India, has now allowed for a sturdier speedo-like uniform to be worn overtop the thin cotton underwear that have been used for more than 5,000 years. That's 50 centuries worth of unchanged tradition that was allowed to develop in order to attract more youth to the sport.
Wrestling has to find ways to become more marketable. Look no further than the recent changes to the NCAA finals to see just what kind of positive impact change can have on our sport. We can continue to grow and become more marketable if we foster positive discussions about change, rather than shooting down any idea that is outside our perceived norms.
We've seen in from the IOC's decision just how corrosive a lack of change can become. If FILA has listened and made even some of the changes asked of them, we wouldn't have the fight to keep wrestling in the Olympics. Let's learn the lesson and start making proactive and intelligent decisions about the future of our sport, starting with a new and improved uniform for our athletes.
This man, Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu, wears long sleeve rash guards and fight shorts. How do you think he does with the ladies? Still think we're too cool? I've rolled with this man and though he's an absolute puppy dog off the mat, he's a crazed lunatic on it. Sleeves are good enough for him and they're good enough for you.
Q: Every year it's the same story, the NCAA wrestling finals come at the same time of NCAA basketball tournament. Why don't wrestling move the dates up a week or so? This way we get to watch the most anticipated finals in sports (in my eye). I love wrestling and I watch it when I can all the way from Jerusalem.
-- Raed K.
Foley: Thanks for being a passionate fan. Not to outdo your commitment, but a friend of mine watched the finals from his trans-Pacific flight. Said he ordered three beers and started wrestling the Fijian in the middle seat during Stieber-Ramos. Gotta love wrestling fans.
The NCAA Wrestling Committee has talked about asking for a move of dates, but so far nothing has stuck. We'll need to aim our dates to miss all types of other events, but given the resistance to wearing more clothes while we wrestle, I imagine that the wrestling fans would lose their minds were we to make any major changes the competition dates.
If a move is made it'll likely have to come from ESPN and other television networks who think they can increase their profitability. The NCAA loves money and if they're told that they can have more for just shifting championships a few weeks, they might be receptive.
Q: Is Matt McDonough the first three-time NCAA finalist to fail to gain AA status his senior year?
-- Jake M.
Foley: Yes, and it's heartbreaking.
Q: Can we ditch the video review rule now? What a drag that was. It slowed the matches down and seemed more like a tactic to break a wrestler's momentum than an attempt to be fair.
-- Wrestling Fan Number One
Foley: These numbers (below) only tell us which reviews were made. The major frustration was that coaches were approaching the head table and the referee after every close call to see whether or not they could challenge. That ate up valuable clock.
Only twenty percent of calls were overturned, which also lets us know that even in the coaches eyes there were only 10 calls made in three days that were wrong. That's phenomenal. 640 matches and there were only TEN bad calls made.
TEN in three days ... think on it.
Here are the raw numbers from the NCAA:
51 challenges were made by coaches
38 calls were upheld
10 calls were reversed
2 were inconclusive
1 was video error
16 were made by referees
59 minutes and 5 seconds were spent on reviewing challenges,
1:09 was the average time spent per review.
The longest review was 3:52.
There were 21 referees on site.
Two referees were challenged a total of five times, but neither had their decision overturned.
Three referees had two decision overturned, while four had one overturned.