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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One of the benefits of InterMat is that our editors often let us riff on topics of the day. I'm rarely, if ever, one-hundred percent right in my take, but they understand that wrestling needs an infusion of opinion pieces. InterMat gets a bump in the page views when something strikes the right chord, and that attention can help influence the dialogue within the wrestling community. Sometimes it might even bring about some change.
However, there are times when writing about the problems in the community can just come across as complaining, when there is a tenor of repetitiveness that toes the line between productive and "Whiny Little Brat."
Though Mike Riordan and I have been mighty critical of Boston University head wrestling coach Carl Adams, USA Wrestling (more below!) and FILA, I think that overall we've stayed on the right side of that whine line, and even shied away from the type of vitriol that permeates many offline conversations between members of the wrestling community.
Riordan's latest invective about FILA actually garnered a response from the organization. He replied, and there was communication built. The same can be said of USA Wrestling and their desire to improve after logging the criticism of wrestling fans.
The point is that we can all complain, and as writers we are given the duty to do so in a public manner. Yet, at some point readers and writers have to acknowledge that our point has been registered and that we'll have to see if they've made an impact. That, or you can go out there and make the changes in your community that you believe will make a difference.
Action from the Asian Wrestling ChampionshipsLast Friday I reached my breaking point. I'd been complaining online and off about the lack of quality content being offered wrestling fans and finally, blear-eyed and resolute, I made a decision to act. The wrestling community wanted to know more about international tournaments, wrestlers and events? We wanted video streaming, back stories, and a rich media center with which to interact? I decided to do what I could with my skill set and availability to work from anywhere. I woke up at 7 a.m. last Friday and booked a one-way ticket to Delhi to cover the Asian Championships. I had three hours to pack, kiss the girlfriend goodbye and made my way to Chicago's O'Hare airport to catch the 1:30 p.m. direct.
I sent FILA leadership a note and by the time I landed, they'd responded and had credentialed me for the tournament. Not everything was smooth sailing. For whatever reason the tournament had been hastened along mid-day, and without an announcement to adjust the schedule I'd missed the finals.
With a new schedule the next two days were massively productive. I was able to take photos and video of some incredible wrestlers. I interviewed competitors and documented action that otherwise would have lay dormant. By showing FILA, who famously didn't have a Facebook account in January, that quality content would make a difference, I figure we can boost their outreach and improve their positioning in the May meeting.
There is a real possibility that no action, no matter how passion-driven (and short-sighted -- apologies to my Thursday night wrestling class ...) we might not be able to overcome the recommendation of the IOC's executive board to cut wrestling. There's a chance we're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I get that, but there is nothing worse than regret in knowing that we could have helped and been productive, but instead only sat back and whipped off witticisms. As my Dad has always said, "Well, at least I tried!"
So I'm now overseas covering FILA events as a freelancer. Most of my work will be posted to the FILA Facebook page. Like it. Have others 'Like' it. Follow them on Twitter @FILA_Official and make others do the same. The first story is already up with two more behind that and many dozen to follow. It's a small gesture, but if done in good faith can help our sport to grow. The content is there. Now we just have to engage.
And just for fun, let's all agree that the movie "The Edge" was actually a predictive and epic allegory to describe our current situation.
"You can't kill the bear, Charles ..."
"I'm gonna kill the bear
Say it again!
I'm Gonna Kill the Bear
I'M GONNA KILL THE BEAR!"
On to your questions ...
Q: I cannot understand why the U.S. Open or any other non-college wrestling tournament would be located in Las Vegas. If USA Wrestling wants to garner fan support, then they need to locate the events in venues that are hot beds of college wrestling. Even an East Coast arena would get a better crowd than Las Vegas.
-- Ken S.
Foley: You're ten-thousand percent right. Las Vegas can't draw a wrestling crowd. Sports are about building your fan base, and meeting their needs. Though Las Vegas is wonderful in its hedonism, it's not a premier event location for wrestling.
In addition to our U.S. Open, Sin City will also play host to the 2015 World Wrestling Championships. That doesn't bother me as much, since it's a larger event that can draw tourists from other cities. Also I think it'll be comedic gold to see foreign contingencies at the blackjack tables, or better still, in the club. The comedic potential alone is worth the risk of a reduced crowd size.
Like all of wrestling's boneheaded moves, this problem has an easy solution. The East Coast has a dozen cities capable of hosting the U.S. Open in a way that will draw fans and media attention.
I think a change is both possible and likely.
Q: How come more colleges do not have women's wrestling teams? Will we ever see an NCAA women's wrestling championship?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: The NCAA has had discussions about adding women's wrestling as an NCAA-sanctioned sport, but as of yet they feel there isn't enough interest among big-time schools.
Though that might be their reason -- even though it flies in the face of Title IX's "Build it and they will come" principle, my darkened curmudgeon heart think something far worse is afoot. I think the NCAA has a skirt-bias.
Unfortunately there are still men and women in leadership positions at the NCAA and in athletic departments who think that women should only participate in sports where they can still wear skirts, or more to the point, non-contact sports. That theory is shared by those in the rugby community who feel sport's stagnation at the collegiate level is due to that bias
We know that women's wrestling is growing at every level. Were there just ONE smart NCAA Division I school (I'm staring at you, Syracuse) who could revive their men's program while also adding an official women's team, they'd launch the sport into the national spotlight and promote others to follow.
The press would gobble it up. Equal rights in sports is a huge evergreen topic with editors. It's easy to see the The New York Times running a full page profile of the athletic director BOLD enough to add wrestling for women.
And who are we kidding? College athletics are no longer thought of in terms of healthy living (How would you explain football), but as a publicity tool. Success on the football field or basketball court is the fastest way to drive up applicants on a college campus. A bloated pool of applicants in turn drives competitiveness, school ranking, and alumni giving. All that leads to increased tuition rates that are paid through government loans, who as eager to dispense lifetime debt to their citizenry as they they were willing to distribute draft cards in the 60s. (For a longer form of this rant/theory Google the Michael Vick Effect -- the guys scrambled Virginia Tech from an average Top 75 university ranking to somewhere in the Top 40.)
Women's wrestling might not have any of these effects, but some backward ass football powerhouse with money pouring out its $3.2-million locker room would earn reams of good press by giving the women a chance to scrap.
Q: Do you think Henry Cejudo's MMA career is moving too fast? Rumor has it he is going to the UFC soon. Is this too early?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: Let's talk honest. Man-to-reader. I'm forever appreciative to Henry Cejudo for winning an Olympic gold medal. I could barely win my conference and this 21-year-old kid was able to beat the best wrestlers in the world. His personal story is compelling, and when interviewed by Jay Leno in 2008 I found Cejudo charming, even funny.
Now I want him to go away. I don't want rappers, or self-congratulatory posts about selling a wrestling technique book. I don't want him on Leno in 2012. I don't want press conferences. And finally I don't want press releases with American flag banners.
There is a lack of genuine effort and promotional calculation behind everything Cejudo has done since his Olympic effort. He's working an angle, and while I like that in the long term, it irritates me that he's trying to bull rush MMA and find easy passage into the UFC by thumping tomato cans and then wrapping himself in the flag.
I'm not old-fashioned, but I do like my martial artists to be humble and giving towards others. Luckily, the sport of MMA, with its four-ounce gloves and kicks to the cranium, is a wonderfully humbling pursuit. Maybe Cejudo needs to get knocked out, or choked unconscious for him to realize that this is a serious profession and not just a check-cashing operation. Maybe he needs to feel the sting of defeat without having the exit strategy of it being an Olympic year.
To be great at anything you have to possess a passion for learning your craft, and a self-awareness to understand that you'll never be the absolute best, because learning doesn't allow you to spike the football in triumph. You're always growing, always learning. You just do what you can. You work hard, improve and hopefully, in the most organic way possible you create something that inspires other people, or changes the world.
The Henry Cejudo from 2008 did inspire people. He inspired me. He was a young wrestler that that gave hope to others in his situation. Today's Henry Cejudo is the sponsored hologram of that person, a shill for cash, and an empty vessel for messaging and self-aggrandizement.
I miss the old Henry Cejudo.
Big Idea No. 2
The Wrestling at the Olympics is a one-week sport. I think they need to do all the gold-medal matches at once. I appreciate the rule change suggestions, but really the NCAAs have plenty of rule problems. Yet the NCAA finals are great because you get to see ten young men accomplish a dream in dramatic fashion. If you're going to start showing Olympic gold-medal matches Saturday at 1:00 p.m., I am glued to the TV for the next so many hours.
I know this means that there are weigh-ins and other bracket issues, but right now it's almost impossible to keep track of. Make the finals a spectacle, show the drama of reaching the pinnacle of our sport, and you may pick up the casual fans like the NCAAs are.
P.S. Maybe even bronze-medal matches Friday to even talk about the matches coming up on Saturday?
-- Tom B.
Foley: Pending approval by FILA and the IOC you'll see your big idea become a reality as soon as 2014.
Q: Every day on InterMat there is another depressing story about how badly FILA is serving the wrestling community. Who the heck are the people who run FILA? Are they elected? Are they appointed? What are their names? Why do they run wrestling? Why can't someone set up a competing organization? So, who's driving this car off the cliff? Is anyone out there attempting to actually do something -- other than hold boring press conferences ... (redacted for content!)?
-- Fed Up
Foley: I know what was in those brackets, and I laughed. I'm all for a rage-filled takedown, but that was just personal and cruel. And again, funny.
I sent this over to our boy Mike Riordan, whose post inspired a response from FILA on its Facbook page. More incredibly, his outrage and mine from previous weeks also prompted members of the wrestling media to ask us to please stop making negative comments about the leadership. If you ever wanted the best example of why we are in this type of situation, then look no further than a media member asking a colleague to stop being critical of failing leadership. To that I respond: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
According to FILA's constitution, the organization is run by its bureau. Every two years a FILA congress convenes and through secret ballot, elects new bureau members as their six-year terms limits expire. Voting in the FILA congress is a single designated member of each FILA member national sanctioning body (like USA Wrestling) as well as the current bureau.Q: As you know the qualifying procedures were changed in recent years to reward wrestlers that medal in the world and Olympic Games. Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner received automatic byes to finals of the Trials by virtue of medaling in the prior year, but last year (Olympic year) there was no U.S. Open either. And in the event there is no world/Olympic medalist from the prior year -- if the runner up in the WTT wins a gold medal at a winter tours tournament than that wrestler and the WTT champion will compete overseas in a tournament together and the highest placing wrestler wins the spot. (rules here), which is what we saw last year with Coleman Scott, Reece Humphrey, and Shawn Bunch. My question is, we obviously had a U.S. Open this year and do those rules apply again, and if so, what happens to Coleman Scott? He won a bronze but lost to Humphrey in the finals of the Open, so how does that work? Will they both sit up top and the winner of the challenge tournament wrestle a round robin like last year? It was a pretty big talking point last year, about what Coleman had to go through. But the bottom line is this, it's not about being fair, it's about winning medals, PERIOD. Zeke Jones and the USA Wrestling staff are not paid and evaluated on being fair and nice. They are judged on results and that means medals. So, what I would say is, since Coleman went through all of that last year to prove he is capable of competing overseas which is what the rules say he had to do (won the World Cup), he should in turn be given some special consideration for winning a medal and whoever wants to knock him off the team should have to go through exactly what he did last year (or something similar).
The FILA Bureau consists of the following positions with the right to vote:
1 Secretary General
12 Elected members
The Continental Councils Presidents
No more than one person of a particular national origin may sit on the bureau; unless the second member of the same nationality occupies one of the two seats that are reserved for women. Continental presidents vote on the FILA Bureau, but are selected at a meeting convened at their respective continental championship the year succeeding an Olympics.
The Bureau is "entitled to take suitable justified decisions to safeguard the general interests of the FILA, as dictated by the current situation, without this decision creating a precedent. The FILA Bureau must inform the following FILA Congress meeting of its decision."
Furthermore, bureau members get travel and lodging expenses covered, so their sojourn to Thailand to fire the past president was financed by the FILA coffers.
The bureau members are ...
Acting President: Nenad Lalovic (Serbia)
Vice-President : Ahmet Ayik (Turkey)
Vice-President: Stan Dziedzic (USA)
Vice-President: Tomiaki Fukuda (Japan)
Vice-President: Matteo Pellicone (Italy)
General Secretary: Michel Dusson (France)
FILA Bureau Member Zamel Sayyaf Al Shahrani (Qatar)
FILA Bureau Member Namig Aliyev (Azerbaijan)
FILA Bureau Member Theodoros Hamakos (Greece)
FILA Bureau Member: Csaba Hegedus (Hungary)
FILA Bureau Member: Ik-Jong Kime (Korea)
FILA Bureau Member: Mikhail Mamiashvili (Russia)
FILA Bureau Member: Akhroldjan Ruziev (Uzbekistan)
FILA Bureau Member: Daulet Turlykhanov (Kazakhstan)
FILA Bureau Member: Tzeno Tzenov (Bulgaria)
FILA Bureau Member: Rodica Maria Yaksi (Turkey)
FILA Bureau Member : Natalia Yariguina (Russia)
Continental President: Chang-Kew Kim (Korea)
Continental President: Francisco Eduardo Lee Lopez (Guatemala
Continental President: John Jr Tarkong (Palau)
Continental President: Mohammed Ibnou Zahir (Morocco)
FILA has its status as the sanctioning body of international wrestling because it's recognized by the International Olympic Committee as a member of the Association of Summer International Olympic committees (ASOIF).
All of FILA's power stems from the IOC, which will make it interesting to see what becomes of FILA if the IOC severs ties and drops wrestling.
-- Frank C.
Foley: Your rant wins the day, Sir.