Foley's Friday Mailbag: April 19, 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.

From the bombings in Boston to exploding fertilizer plants in Texas, this week has been filled with the heavy and insidious odor of frustration and sadness.

In a parallel universe we could push the massive RESET button, and enjoy a weekend with our families. CNN and Fox News could go back to griping over the gun lobby, and wrestling fans could immerse themselves in the splendor of elite competition.

There is no magical button and violence is an intractable part of the human experience. This weekend serves as another reminder of why wrestling competition is so special. It's a form of communication and non-violent conflict resolution that has been used for centuries to tell stories, to entertain and to solve social matters within modern and tribal societies.

We should be able to grab out kids, point them at the computer screen and enjoy in a wrestling event with the rest of the world. We should be able to tell them, "Look, people can come together, solve their problems and become friends through wrestling."

Unfortunately outside of Flo's commitment to coverage, the U.S. Open hasn't become such a fan-friendly event.

Words are cooler than videos and photos, but sometimes there are juxtapositions to be made using multimedia that can amplify a point more than any well-placed metaphor, or exclamation point. The U.S. Open began yesterday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Below you can see a photo of crowd gathered to watch the opening matches.

The U.S. Open is being held at the Las Vegas Convention Center

Of course, you don't see a crowd at all, you only see a guy in a green shirt looking for the Pai Gow table (he has a system!) but instead landed here in this tin can hopelessly lost and alone.

Our attendance at this event is not just bad from a raw numbers and revenue level, it reinforces the arguments made by the IOC about the marketability of our sport. In a moment when we needed to be perfect, we've failed to deliver. The event has photographable banners, but no fan support and insignificant content. The pre-tournament hype was underwhelming. The event isn't fan friendly. And there is no significant national media coverage. Overall the event is lacking in the type of emotional appeal that our fans, (to say nothing of our Pai Gow pal) can find appealing.

The tin can isn't just void of people, it's void of content.

Modern sports are about making fans happy. Maybe as a sport we're too prideful to see that, and maybe we don't want to make the changes necessary, but in doing so we lose the right to complain about the failure of our product. Forget about the rule changes that need to happen in order to help the sport become marketable and mainstream, we can't even deliver to our fans an introduction to the personalities on the mat.

Over the past several weeks wrestling has done well to play the victim well. We've trotted out weeks worth of "Isn't It A Shame (Insert your favorite Olympic hopeful) Might Not Earn Olympic Shot" stories in the local and national press. We played a martyr-worthy victim when placed opposite the cruel and shortsighted behavior of an all-powerful IOC. Nine weeks after the decision to eliminate wrestling the marketability of these stories has died off. Readers, even passionate wrestling fans, have experiences a fatigue. Readers want meaty, emotional topics. Right now they're getting Styrofoam peanuts.

The movement to #KeepOlympicWrestling began 66 DAYS ago, yet in our first national tournament we didn't recruit a crowd, or promote a single appealing news story for circulation. It's not surprising. When compared with the promotion of the Pan Am Games, the European Championships and Asian Games it's become the status quo to let our continental championships languish. None were promoted, none were televised and none made even a ripple of attention among the international media.

However, we did have banners.

The outlook for overturning the IOC's decision is looking as depressing as an April day in Chicago, but wrestling still has time to improve. We can still, despite our early failings, make a significant media impact. Right now CPOW, USA Wrestling and Beat the Streets are preparing to host the tri-meet in Grand Central Station with the Iranians and the Russians. With hard work from those organizations that event has the opportunity to become something more than just a banner-hanging event. We can create significant media and hopefully add some pressure to members of the IOC. It's an opportunity we all hope isn't lost to inaction or the status quo. We aren't victims, we're the culprits.

On to your questions ...

Q: I'm not very impressed with the 84 and 96-kilo weights at the U.S. Open. Am I wrong?
-- @mwlinder9935m

Foley: You are exactly one-half wrong. The talent at 84 kilos is impressive and the expected matchups should lend to some top-flight action. I'm excited to see Ed Ruth wrestle, as well as Mike Pucillo, Phil Keddy and Max Askren. These are some brawlers with potential to medal at the World Championships. Well, maybe not Pucillo, but I love a comeback story

Wynn Michalak has a win over Jake Varner at 96 kilos, but after him the weight class lacks the zing you like to see at the Open. And like stated before, I'd get more interested were there more back stories and plotlines built into the buildup. I think I'm with you ... It might be a yawn of a weight at the Open.

Q: Do you think Logan Stieber will be the next four-time NCAA champ. Why or why not?
-- Gregg Y.

Foley: Yes, but only on the condition that he moves up at least one weight class before his senior season.

Logan is talented enough to stay at 133 and win out, but we've seen a slowing of sorts in wrestlers that stay at a lighter weight throughout their careers (That Dude JO). Beers, pizza and Skittles can pack on the postseason tonnage and if Logan's body at the Grapple in the Apple last May was any indication, he's the first to get a little chubby in his downtime.

Logan is an insanely talented wrestler -- possibly one of the all-time greats -- so it's likely he could compete at 133 for two more seasons and come away with four titles. Call it a personal preference that I bump up a weight to win his fourth title.

It worked for Dake.

Q: Were any Division I coaches fired this year?
-- Andrew H.

Foley: One. Jim Beichner of Buffalo. The rest made trips up the administrative ladder or stepped down to pursue other careers.

The life of a college wrestling coach is full-time and in the words of now-former SIUE head wrestling coach David Ray, "Coaching wrestling is a young man's sport."

Hallelujah. Let's see some of these hot shot assistants take over at SIUE, Brown and VMI.

Big Idea No. 1

RULE CHANGE: Make a takedown worth 3 points and bring back the one count nearfall. This would change folkstyle as we know it, and make our wrestlers better prepared for freestyle.

OLYMPIC RULE CHANGES: In my opinion, make a takedown worth 2-3 points. Enough of a high-risk, low-reward endeavor in our sport. No wonder Europeans are one-hundred percent dependent on defense and the ball grab. Now the IOC is taking the sport out of the Olympics. Reward risk and you have a sport! This is true even in folkstyle.

Note: I remember when Lincoln McIlravy wrestled Gerry Abas in the NCAA finals. Gerry scored four takedowns in the first period, and cut Lincoln four times. Second period: Gerry cuts him, and gives up a close takedown, and BAM! It's an 8-7 match. That was when I realized the scoring was off.
-- Tony Purler

Foley: Thanks for taking the time to submit this week's Big Idea. You're on to something. There has always been an inequity in the amount of points you are given for launching an attack versus simply getting away. Your example was perfect. However, maybe there is something good in keeping matches close, even when there is some early parity. As we both know McIlravy came back to win that match in what would become one of the all-time most discussed moments in the history of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Boot scoot!

Scoring should be reviewed, and maybe some select offseason tournaments could feature experimental scoring. Any objections to starting one of these tournaments yourself?

Q: So in switching the name from "FILA Junior National Championships" to "ASICS Junior National Championships," do you think there will be some confusion regarding July's ASICS/Vaughan Junior National Championships (or Fargo, as most call it) and this month's tourney for a lot fans? To add to the possible confusion: I believe the ASICS Junior World Championships runs somewhere around the week that of the ASICS/Vaughan Junior National Championships. Why do you think the name was changed?
-- Nick B.

Foley: Money.

I'm not a branding expert, but I have to think that it causes you and me this much confusion, it would cause the general public to give up. Sometimes wrestling can't get out of the way of itself, even when trying to do something smart. You know, like make more money.

FILA Junior is for 18 to 20-year-olds, while ASICS/Vaughan Juniors is for high school wrestlers.

Boom! Simple, right?

Q: I recently saw an article on that talked about NCAAs next season. One of the things brought up was the return of Andrew Howe and how some people are not sure what weight he will go. The article said it could end up being 165, 174, and 184. Many people have talked about Howe staying at 165 to take on the challenge of David Taylor which would be an incredible match. But what about a Howe-Ruth matchup? Howe was able to dominate or at least control Taylor at the Olympic Trials but if Howe wrestled at 184 that could set him up for being the main guy at 84 kilos in the future. Wahoowa!
-- Thomas A.

Foley: What about Howe versus Perry? That's the big action! OK, maybe not a lot of points, but there will be intrigue, media attention, and plenty of Brian Muir's betting lines.

Howe will draw attention at any weight, but I think 165 will be too light and 184 too heavy for him to make the type of impact Coach Cody and he will want. I think Howe is capable of winning the title at 174, even if that means taking out my boy, Penn State "Superman" Matt Brown.

Q: Is a wrestler always required to wear head gear for protection? How come sometimes they do not? What happens when they do not wear it? Are they more prone to injury?
-- Gregg Y.

Foley: Headgear is mandatory while wrestling in scholastically-sponsored wrestling competitions. However, some offseason freestyle tournaments don't require headgear for kids, and wrestling rooms are largely unregulated leaving them to be headgear-free zones.

There is no headgear required for international competition and ninety-nine percent of wrestlers choose to go without them in local, national and international freestyle and Greco tournaments.

Headgear helps keep ears protected, but like condoms they aren't a fail-safe against the unexpected. Cauliflower ear happens, and though wearing some plastic to protect your ears from the onslaught of your practice partner, or rival might reduce your risk, there is always the chance that your ear can be opened up. If you're concerned then it's always wise to wear headgears. If you hate the way the cauliflower looks, then there are surgeries.

The only medical issues that could arise tend to be infections of the fluid trapped between the skin of the ear and cartilage. Also ear infections can come as the result of water trapped inside your ear. In some cases the ear hole becomes completely covered by scar tissue. I happened to suffer from the last of these ailments my senior year in college, and was forced to seek out a minor plastic surgery that removed a few cubic millimeters of scar tissue from directly in front of the ear hole.

My doctor asked me if I'd want to go ahead and have the entire ear reconstructed. I declined. I'm much too proud of my ears and the immediate camaraderie they can inspire. Wrestling is a life choice, not something to be embarrassed about or surgically altered. We should all value the scars of sacrifice more than the scars of vanity.


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wres (2) about 5 years ago
Once again, you are on point. Couldn't agree more with the whole martyr thing. Getting people to feel sorry for is...mission accomplished. Now lets move forward and make the sport better! I enjoyed our conversation the other night on twitter about singlets, just another small way we could improve but the good ol boys of wrestling are too proud to change. I hope USA Wrestling is reading your stuff. I for one am pumped about all the wrestling this weekend, even if that means staying up late to watch here on the East Coast. If this event was in Philly, I bet we could bring in a huge crowd.
sulli11 (1) about 5 years ago
Great article, in my opinion this is the kind of forward thinking that gives our sport a chance. I think that it is time to take a page out of the, as much as I hate to say it, NBA's marketing playbook. The NBA was nearly dead until Magic and Bird came along revolutionized the way the NBA was marketed. It became more about the names on the back of the jersey rather than on the front. We have our Magic, in Jordan Burroughs an electric smile and great personality...... We have our Bird in Kyle Dake, seems like he loves the grind more than anyone on this planet. Not to mention the other great personalties we have in this sport: J.O., Ramos, Stieber, Taylor ect. We need to use any and every outlet to shove these athletes to the forefornt of our mission and the other countries looking to fight to save the sport needs to do the same with their athletes. I am confident that these men can and will save our sports if we shine the light on them.
howiefartz (2) about 5 years ago
Quit having these events in Vegas! Since when is Nevada a huge wrestling state? When it was in OKC me and a few buddies drove 140 miles to watch and the crowd was pretty good. It needs to be held in a state with a large indigenous wrestling fan base! Have events in Vegas ever faired well?
AFurnas (1) about 5 years ago
Totally agree with howie regarding the location selection for these elite tournaments. Put 'em in PA or Northeast OH and watch the fans turn out.

Also, if we are discussing rule changes to make the sport "better," I'm agreeing with Tony P. on making takedowns worth 3 points. Takedowns should be the centerpiece of wrestling. Watching guys try to build riding time, or stall on their feet because the TD reward for the effort isn't great enough, has created a sport that is very boring for most people, even for some knowledgable wrestling fans.

My (HS) kid won a match 8-6 in which he was clearly dominant ... yet he was one lucky move away from an OT match. 4 TDs vs. 5 escapes and a muffed locking hands call (darn refs!). Seems like a guy winning the TD battle 4-0, and yielding no offensive points to his opponent (R, NF, TD) should win by a dominant score, no?
Duffnuts (1) about 5 years ago
Shouldn't trying to pin someone be the centerpiece of wrestling? And if your son had chosen down and gotten the escape, giving up a takedown at the end wouldn't have mattered.
DannyClarke (1) about 5 years ago
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. I'm not about to fly out to vegas to see the US Open (which doesnt even determine the world team) HOWEVER, if this was held on the east coast it would draw much larger crowds. Same goes for the Midwest. If you held this event in Iowa, OK, MO, IL there is a much larger wrestling contingency. I'm watchin the US Open on flo but I'd be there in person if I could.
midniteride (1) about 5 years ago
Just a comment about being spectator friendly.
After years of attending the NHSCA Championships in Virginia Beach we decided to skip it in favor of the Flonationals, simply because it is all but impossible to stay on top of who is wrestling where, and watch, as they have mats spread out all over the convention center. They are separated by displays and an absurd arrangement of bleachers that makes no consideration for the impartial spectator until the finals are down to one mat. We voiced this concern to them several years ago but it appears that they are more interested in keeping the paid advertisers happy.
dbabbitts (1) about 5 years ago
My suggestion to increase excitement and to encourage more action is to only award a wrestler a riding time point when they a.) maintain control for 60 seconds, and b.) score back points. I think folk style is the best format, but recently too many wrestlers are just riding on top and not trying for the fall.
CoachAmbs (1) about 5 years ago
Where can you find brackets for the US Open? A ton of short articles on The Mat's page but no brackets.
back points (1) about 5 years ago
Years of everything in one place is the problem...not the's killed the sport everywhere else.
Duffnuts (1) about 5 years ago
Danny mentioned this, but we need to realize, the US Open doesn't mean much. It doesn't decide the US team, it comes just a couple weeks before the tournament that does. So it draws weaker competition. While I am sure every guy (and girl) there would like to say he was the US champ, I think they all would prefer to make the world team and compete for the US in the big international matches. Isn't that what the "US Champion" should do?

And as a side note, as long as the location sucks, we should look at viewership on line as well as butts in bleachers. We have to credit FLO for supporting wrestling fans by making it easier to watch these events. I love wrestling, but no way in hell am I flying to Vegas. I am willing to chip in and watch it on line though.