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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They're taking their ball and going home. The Iranian national team has backed out of their commitment to wrestle against Team USA in Los Angeles. Details are few, but the team has decided to forgo their next match and is heading directly back to Tehran.
It's unclear the impact this will have on what was very positive media from Wednesday's Rumble on the Rails event in New York City. However, I expect that this will invalidate at least some of the goodwill messaging put forward by the national media.
In the meantime we should all do our best to support the sport on the West Coast and attend the event. Wrestling needs to show it's resiliency. The Russians have agreed to wrestle, the Canadians are on board, and though nothing is confirmed there is rumor that a super match MIGHT be in the works.
To your questions ...
Q: Any "on the rise" smaller programs to look for in Division I next year? For example Bloomsburg having the strong dual season this year, and F&M with Richard Durso. My other question is what are the chances Louisville makes a program?
-- Nathan M.
Foley: Bloomsburg has to name a new head coach for me to back their season. I am confident they'll hire the right guy for the job, just no telling what the impact that hire would have on the current team.
I'd look out for N.C. State. The Wolfpack's sophomore heavyweight and 2012 All-American Nick Gwiazdowski is coming off redshirt, and under Pat Popolizio they'll be sure to have one or two young wrestlers start transitioning to national success.
Northwestern still has two-time All-American heavyweight Mike McMullan, and national finalist candidate Jason Tsirtsis, along with a half-dozen other All-American candidates.
Those aren't really smaller programs, but they are the lesser-sized within their conference. I think F&M's Durso is a lock for All-American and that could bring up a few more guys. Brown has talented wrestlers and with a new coach might be in the position to make quick gains. Boston University will have a lot of emotional support and could see some gains.
Louisville would be a stretch to start a program. They have plenty of extra cash in the coffers and their athletic director has mentioned funding a new program, but they're not from an area where wrestling is part of the conversation. Also, I haven't heard of any marketing campaigns, or personal appeals being directed at the athletic department to start a program. For Louisville to start a program they'd have to see the financial appeal. It's much more likely they start men's and women's lacrosse programs.
Q: Just watched Rumble on the Rails on NBC Sports. Very well done event. Too bad I almost didn't know it was on TV! I was lucky I could set my DVR from work during lunch time. We have to be able to promote these events better! I would bet the viewership would have been great if it was prime time with some good promotional build-up. Also: no USA vs. Russia on TV!?
Side note: Now that SU is moving over to the ACC .. .maybe they'll consider bringing their wrestling team back?
-- CB, Syracuse
Foley: They didn't show the USA v. Russia? Wow. I was at the event and didn't realize there wasn't continued coverage.
The event was pretty well publicized, even if the word hadn't trickled down to everyone. I've never seen more media on-hand for a wrestling event in the United States, and as I wrote earlier, I think that the positive messaging coming from the event will make its way to the IOC Executive Board and the rest of the IOC voters.
Syracuse could very well start a program, but AGAIN there needs to be a movement to have them change their mind. Why not start a women's program in addition to the men's? Sports are about publicity and if Syracuse came out with an announcement that they were reinstating wrestling during this time of international turmoil AND would become the first Division I team to offer scholarships to female wrestlers, they'd have more media than they could handle. It'd fundamentally change the way their sports program would be seen by outsiders. They'd be innovators. And remember, that the move would also be covered by ESPN, since fifty percent of the staff in Bristol graduated from Newhouse School of Journalism.
Who is selling this idea to the school? Who should be? Let's find these people, put together a silent, or public campaign and get wrestling reinstated at the 'Cuse!
Q: As a Lock Haven University alumni, I was rather disappointed to see Robbie Waller fired. Given the school's lessened commitment to wrestling, I'm not sure what administrators expected. He barely had one recruiting class get through and yet was beginning to make strides. My only thought is that someone showed great interest in the position that administrators felt was better move. My only thought is that unless it's Cary Kolat himself the program will probably not be better off with the next head coach. I hate to say that, but in my time at LHU the school's support of wrestling seemed very underdeveloped given it is the school's only Division 1 men's sport and, despite its small size, has a history of pumping out talented wrestlers. Who do you see as the next head coach at LHU and, given the school's very low interest in promoting the wrestling program, is there any way the next coach bring any more success that Waller? Or is he just being set up to be fired in four years?
-- Ryan P.
Foley: It's apparently a long story with twists, turns, hurt feelings and accusations of poor coaching, but Waller's dismissal wasn't surprising to at least some Lock Haven supporters. Waller seems like a nice guy and I don't know all the facts of his firing, just that sometimes change is needed by both parties.
Lock Haven won't give up on wrestling, but they do need someone to come through who inspires them to give more attention and funding to the program. They need wins, and in four years Waller had more than other sports, but not enough to necessarily win over the administration.
On a personal level, it's difficult for me to not advocate for Scott Moore. We wrestled together and I know that Scott would pour everything into making that program bigger and better. I also think that he'd prefer to bring along his brother Josh Moore from Kent State, a move that if financially feasible would all but guarantee the program massive success.
The Moore Brothers are both from western Pennsylvania, have insane name identification and are well-respected, well-rehearsed coaches. They also bring outsized energy to a program that could use a shot of life. I'm very biased in this opinion, but I do think that they are the best, and maybe only coaches for the job.
As for being fired in four years? Not these two.
Q: The IOC has been clear that FILA was not doing its job as an international governing body. Wouldn't it be fair to say the leaders of USA Wrestling were also not doing their jobs? Also why is it only Martinetti has been forced out at FILA, shouldn't there be more changes than that?
-- Zach A.
Foley: The King is Dead! Long Live the King!
Nobody knows what is going on inside these organizations. Like the IOC itself they are closed off, and when lit have traditionally shown massive organizational failures. USA Wrestling is far from perfect and their leadership shares blame for many of our domestic failures. Like with any organization there is some stagnation in roles, but with both FILA and USA Wrestling the people meant to keep checks on those in power, are, as one very skeptical individual recently described to me, "getting their bread buttered by the bosses."
What would be the benefit of a dramatic change in leadership? I think it would make the new body much more beholden to their audience. Because any shakeup at USA Wrestling would cause media attention, the new individuals set in place would be held more accountable. The General installed by coup always has to be worried that the same might happen to him should he not represent the needs of the people. (I saw this first-hand in Chad.)
The real question becomes what do we do if wrestling is dropped from the Olympic Games? It would seem apparent that everyone should be fired. Everyone. You cannot let the world's first sport lose representation in the Olympic Games. If you do, and then you run for office, or keep it, then you are essentially telling the world that you value your skill set above the needs of the sport.
Imagine something similar happening inside the corporate structure?! The Founder and CEO of JetBlue got tossed by his board of directors after he let passengers get stranded on the runway for 10 hours. The man CREATED the company and yet was still accountable to his board. Why the hell should wrestling be any different?
As for FILA you have to imagine that there just won't be any more FILA. The sport will no longer be under the umbrella of the Olympics, which means that competitive governing bodies could emerge. There is REAL potential in a partnerships between the United States, Japan and Abu Dhabi for a governing body that gives all grappling and wrestling sports an equal chance. Those talents and above-the-board operations could lead to a non-Olympic renaissance of all grappling sports.
But first, let's try and keep our Olympic status.
Q: Is there a magazine or website that has all the state champs from every state?
-- Mike C.
Foley: I think USA Wrestling Magazine prints a list, but I'm not certain. Readers?
Q: Looks like Greco-Roman wasn't a big hit at the Rumble on the Rails. Should they have put their matches before freestyle?
-- Mike R.
Foley: No. Why would we want to further protect the sport from its failures? This is what is so infuriating about wrestling. The facts are simple, Greco-Roman doesn't intrigue and doesn't sell. Running them last only proved that point.
Rumble on the Rails was a raucous affair for most of the five-hour program, but once the Greco-Roman wrestlers appeared on the mat fans, journalists, and even dignitaries FLED Vanderbilt Hall. Silence. Those who did remain began the process of networking and discussing which bars to attend post-match.
There were no cheers, no oohs, and no noise, because for 25 minutes there were no takedowns, no action.
Wrestling is in a period of self-analysis and adjustment, but it needs to see these next three months as a period of total and complete reconstruction. Greco-Roman is supported by the acting President of FILA and many of the Bureau members, so it is unlikely to be removed. However, the fact remains that it has always been the lesser of the two disciplines in terms of fan involvement and media excitement.
But more importantly there are several statements that have been supporting Greco-Roman but are simply not true.
Greco-Roman is NOT the traditional form of wrestling. The discipline was developed by a Frenchman in the late 19th century and was added to the Olympic Games because he very intelligently changed the name from "flat hands" wrestling to "Greco-Roman" in a marketing ploy that would recall the original Olympic Games. If anything, Greco-Roman is one the least traditional disciplines in the Olympic Games. Discuss, steeplechase, javelin are all much more traditional that Greco-Roman, and they've stayed totally unchanged. Greco-Roman is wholly and completely different than its original 19th century form.
I repeat, Greco-Roman is NOT the traditional form of wrestling.
There are dozens of traditional forms that have much more historical resonance, some dating back as many as 7k years. Many of these style are also MUCH more popular and marketable for wrestling. Mongolian bokh, Lucha Canaria, and Lutte Senegalese are all traditional forms that are already more popular than Greco-Roman. There is Indian Kushti (700+) and Turkish Oil Wrestling (652), along with another dozen more that would crush Greco-Roman in terms of antiquity.
There is no substantive argument in keeping a sport that has little fan support and that couldn't easily be replaced by a more exciting, more inclusive style. In short, it's time to retire Greco-Roman and guarantee complete competitive equality for women. If wrestling doesn't offer complete equality, we will not make it into the 2020 Games.
We should move to seven freestyle weights for men, and seven for women. The final four medals will be broken into takedown-only tournaments: one team, one individual for both men and women. Five on five for the team events (race to three), and a no weight class takedown tourney for the individual tournament. Nation vs. Nation team events draw ENORMOUS crowds on television and in person. We've seen in Senegal and Mongolia that the takedown-only format is both highly competitive and rewards the hardest working, most-technical wrestlers, as evidenced in certain wrestlers winning multiple titles year after year.
Takedown-only events would be the ENTRY POINT for sports fans to get interested in the sport. It would allow them the opportunity to get more invested in the sport, because we could describe simple holds and techniques because they always lead to one, simple conclusion: Takedowns.
Just like with soccer and basketball, whose sports have advanced metrics and endless analysis, wrestling could enjoy media-saturation if the outcomes were easy to determine. I have visions of analysts sitting around with highlighters circling where Reece Humphrey was able to secure the TAKEDOWN against the Korean wrestler because his foot was placed JUST SO on his inside trip. If a fan knows that falling down first is how you lose, then the media and analysts can give you 100 million reasons it did, or didn't happen. But when it's two guys hand-fighting, with rules that are too complicated for ninety percent of wrestling fans to understand, then we can't do the simple analysis on television.
You be the judge. Alexander Karelin loses out on four Olympic titles because he unlocked his hands in a clinch. Is that wrestling? Is that REAL competition? The single biggest upset in wrestling history is a 14-minute long match with only moderate fan cheering, largely because nobody, including then President Juan Antonio Samaranch, understood who won, or why.
On the other side, a very briefly edited video of a takedown-only team event in the middle of Africa. More than 10k crazed fans, cheers, and excitement. Please try and imagine what that could be like at the Olympics.
Karelin vs. Gardner
Chad vs. Central Africa
Rant of the Week!
In response to Olympian Jake Herbert's accusation that he wasn't donating money to the cause to Save Olympic Wrestling, and that he was personally stiffed $7k, Mike DiSabato of Cage Fighter responded. The clothing salesman who recently acquired Kyle Dake, went to Twitter to call Herbert a "douche bag" among several other less-than-flattering names.
Oh, and he goes on to claim that poor sponsorship of athletes led to the murder of Dave Shultz.
Here are the screen shots of his Twitter Feed: (THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO BE ON TWITTER!)
Herbert antagonizes DiSabato, who he believes owes him $7k, but is currently making enough money to offer Kyle Dake a six-figure contract ...
Re: Jake Herbert's intelligence ...
Calling Herbert "a(n) arrogant prick" ...
On why DiSabato thinks Jake isn't making any financial gains post-wrestling ...
Herbert's performance at the 2012 Olympics was deemed subpar by DiSabato ...
DiSabato seems to be making the point that John DuPont wouldn't have killed Dave Shultz had there been an apparel company to sponsor wrestlers ...
DiSabato believes the UFC's Dana White has acted in the same manner ...