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.
This week's mailbag is massive, so I'll keep the proselytizing brief ...
In an effort to create a wider base of support for the Olympic bid and to substantiate the sport's worldwide popularity, FILA is making a push for increased participation with their social media. Part of their outreach is to use my #WrestlingIsEverywhere as a drive of the campaign by collecting unique, engaging and heartfelt photos from around the world that tell the story of wrestling.
FILA sees this user-generated series of photos as a robust social media successor to the popular and effective #SaveOlympicWrestling and #KeepOlympicWrestling campaigns that helped wrestling make it through St. Petersburg. With the long summer and a weariness of the general public to our message of quasi-desperation the tenor of the campaign needs to become more inclusive, upbeat and engaging.
You can be part of the movement. In addition to liking the Facebook page and sharing the content with your friends, you can also submit your best wrestling photos to WrestlingIsEverywhere@gmail.com. The photos will then be used on the FILA Facebook page and distributed on Twitter. Check out the first 90 days worth of photos on my website WrestlingIsEverywhere.com and the first four official photos of the Facebook at FILA Official. Details of what to submit can also be found on my website.
The #WrestlingIsEverywhere campaign is intended to capture the attention of the IOC voters, so remember that while photos of high-amplitude throws and Jordan Burroughs' double legs will be used, the campaign also needs photos that speak to the universality of the sport. We need photos that display humor, compassion, and inclusion. We want to inform and inspire. We want to show the IOC in one image what it would take 1,000 words to tell otherwise. Your photos don't have to be perfect. They just have to be yours.
Choose to participate and we WILL create the type of organic social media campaign that can effect change and help influence the decision of IOC voters around the world.
If the warm and fuzzy appeal of photography doesn't get you amped up to win the fight, here's empirical evidence that wrestling is in last place heading into the Sept. 8 meeting.
Our goal should be to have 100k LIKES by Aug. 1.
To your questions ...
Q: There are two kids that have transferred from ODU in the last two months or so. What is going on down there? It seems that Coach Martin is doing great things at ODU. What are your thoughts or do you have inside information?
Foley: That number is now three. Justin LaValle (North Dakota State), Rob Deutsch (Rider) and John Nicholson (Iowa State) all left this season due to individual concerns. I don't like to speculate on why each left, but you're correct to wonder about the stability of the program. Retention is vital to medium-size programs with average support. Coach Martin is a proven winner, but his program has seen a small slide over the the past few seasons both on the mat and in anecdotes like the number of wrestlers leaving the program.
Think of transferring like immigration. You might have your qualms with America (What the hell?!), but balancing how many people are trying to get in, versus how many are trying to flee is a good barometer. America is on the right side of that balance, ODU right now is not.
As a Virginian, I pull for Old Dominion. As a journalist who will eventually have to answer the emails of alumnus Jason Bryant should something be misstated I'll leave it with you whether or not this is all cause for concern.
My only advice is that if you're an alum of ODU, or even a fan of the Monarch program, now would be an exceptional time to show some financial support, and create some outreach among your community.
Q: Nenad Lalovic seems to getting a lot of positive praise lately for spearheading FILA's much needed change. Does he deserve the credit he's getting or is he just in the right place at the right time making the obvious moves?
-- Jeff N.
Foley: Oof. I wrote a piece about Lalovic last month in which another FILA bureau member stated that it's too early to tell if he's the right guy. Essentially the response has been that he IS the guy, so we need to back our horse.
All leaders have deficiencies (You've got to be kidding me?!) and Lalovic is not different. He's the son of a diplomat and successful businessman who so far has chosen the right time to say something in public and the right time to keep quiet. That's a lesson I wish I knew better.
Lalovic will only be the savior of wrestling if he keeps the tent open for more participation and transparency. Already FILA is 100,000 times more transparent that FILA under Roi fainéant Raphie Martinetti. There are big actions in place that should they keep grinding correctly will change the face of the sport. However, FILA, and that means Lalovic, will be judged on their ability to stick to current reforms and expand opportunities for those outside the power three (USA, Russia, Iran).
The IOC showed us that to be in their Olympics we need to play by their set of rules. Lalovic is making all the right moves in public, and should that continue of the next 91 days and wrestling earns reinstatement he will deserve much of the credit.
Lalovic won't be alone in fathering this Olympic wrestling comeback story. Just on the American side there are a dozen individuals whose effort in this process has meant substantial and vital results. I won't name names because I don't want to leave off anyone whose played a key role, but there are plenty of men and women who are in a position to claim a piece of the success should wrestling be chosen by the IOC in Buenos Aires. The money, the labor, the intelligence and the overall collection of talent that has been assembled is remarkable.
However, if wrestling is eliminated from Olympic contention it'll be Lalovic alone who suffers the brunt of the criticism. And it's because he chose in February to lead a movement that at the time had little hope of victory, that I'm happy to defer all public praise in his direction. Lalovic put himself in the crosshairs and that takes the type of courage we as wrestlers should all notice and respect.
Q: I thought this might give you some ammo to write something comical for your mailbag in the midst of all the serious questions regarding money, the Olympics, and rule changes. What was the worst beating you took in college? For me two come to mind -- a non-competitive 7-1 thrashing by Travis Doto and a 16-4 thrashing that was borderline criminal by T.J. Williams. Doto took me down relatively quickly then proceeded to power half me without turning me. For what seemed like an eternity. Six minutes or so of power half time. And T.J. double legged me infinity times! Maybe only eight, but who is really counting?
-- Scott G.
Yoshi NakamuraFoley: Yoshi Nakamura from Penn teched me at the 2002 NCAA tournament in Albany. Whipped me silly. He wasn't just hitting takedowns, he managed to twice land five-point moves that were caught on film and later distributed on the NCAA highlight film. If you go back and watch the film you can see spindly legged me getting double overhook tossed twice and both times the referee was considerate enough to be out of the camera shot.
The most comical part of being tossed around by the black belt judoka and two-time All-American was that every time he returned to top he tucked in the tag on the back of my singlet. I felt him do it, and thought to myself AS WE WERE WRESTLING, "Why did he tuck in my tag? Why? Seriously ... why?"
Then he'd toss me on my head again and scramble my thoughts back to survival.
Yoshi Nakamura. Guy laid a beating on me.
Q: Thoughts on Spencer Lee announcing move from Saegertown High School (Saegertown, Pa.) to Franklin Regional? Seems a legit reason as his father took a job from the Saegertown area to Carnegie Mellon University.
-- Ryan P.
Foley: Sounds like you answered your own question! If my father took a job and moved the family, I'd also attend the high school in the area.
Q: I think we need another event late this summer for freestyle wrestling to show its popularity and universality. It's great to rent out a Grand Central Terminal, but we need to sell out an arena. Pick a Midwest city (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, etc.) and have an event where you can sell out an arena in a wrestling area.
I think the event should be a four-team or eight-team event that shows off the global reach of wrestling. So many Olympic sports are dominated by one or two countries. It's a rare quality wrestling needs to show off. Have teams from all reaches (Mongolia, Georgia, Columbia, Egypt, Azerbaijan, India, Lithuania, etc.)
I know this is a vague description, but I would like to see more stuff like this happen anyway. Soccer "friendlies" happen all the time. USA Wrestling should be a leader in bringing "friendlies" to prominence.
-- Tom B.
Foley: Excellent idea. We need another high profile event leading into the final month of the campaign to ensure that the IOC voters understand the universality of the sport, and its ability to bridge cultural gaps.
My only critique is that we should do it outside the United States. Though we are the media capital of the planet, it might make more sense to move away from the American-centric approach to the sport, and towards something with more of a worldly component. Wrestling at the Giza Pyramids or under the Eiffel Tower might not mean much in terms of immediate viewership, but when reported it doesn't need a heavy coat of wax to shine the way we want.
We could even go a step further and host an event in a place even more remote. I'd vote Mongolia or Tajikistan, but those might be too out of the way. I'm ready to hear some big ideas so please feel free to submit ideas to my email.
Remember, #WrestlingIsEverywhere not just in the United States.
Q: With everyone tired and bored with Greco-Roman at the world level (especially in the USA), is there a chance the two styles could ever be freestyle and folkstyle?
-- Mike C.
Foley: We very well could adapt a new style, and that style might be traditional or folkstyle, but it won't be American. Though there are big differences between freestyle and American folkstyle, the differences are nearly wide enough to generate worldwide interest. We like our scholastic style because it embodies a lot about what we like in America. Our wrestling style demands toughness, aggression and sacrifice over technique. We like action, but feel the need for fair results.
Worldwide attitudes are much different and their traditional styles tell that story. My guess would be that beach wrestling, largely derived from traditional African wrestling would be the next style of wrestling to see in the Olympics. Takedowns are clear and easy to dictate, the action is bigger in the sand, and there is much more room for the marketability of the sport to the general sports audience who might not know how to score a leg lace but could tell you when someone earns a takedown in the sand.
So, no, American folkstyle wrestling will never see the Olympics. I love it, and you love it, but for now we'll keep it American.
Q: Regarding board shorts and rash guards, I have to disagree. Can you imagine Nico Megaludis trying to drop into the splits in the NCAA finals and getting caught up by his shorts, or Ben Askren's funk being stopped by his shorts? I think the shorts would limit the ability of funky and flexible wrestlers in a way that may affect the outcome of matches, which is basically the main thing you do not want in a uniform.
Additionally, I'm not sure the wrestling community wants a change in uniform. Remember in 2007 when someone tried to popularize shorts/T-shirt (see video)? It faded pretty quickly.
Foley: Your video shows the DoubleSport brand that was pushed in the middle of last decade. As you mentioned the changes advocated by many would be shorts and a rash guard, which have been improved over the past several years.
As for the flexibility and funk argument, I think you're incorrect in assuming that fabric would hamper the flexibility. World-class grapplers who rely almost solely on their flexibility to create submission attacks have adopted this outfit as their uniform. Additionally, wrestlers wear these outfits EVERY DAY in the practice room. The only time American collegiate wrestlers don't wear shorts and a T-shirt is during competition, when suddenly we put on a tight, overly revealing piece of shiny spandex. It's totally odd once you think about it.
We don't feel comfortable wearing only a singlet during practice, but suddenly in front of 17k people we are forced to wear them?
Better uniforms mean more participation which means more fans, more dollars and more exposure.
The singlet is dead.
Lets parlay that highlight reel into a halftime dedicated to the marketing brilliance of BJJ and the Gracie Family ...
Who could argue that this is the type of highlight and hype that wrestling needs ... I want this for next year!
Always enjoy watching how the other guys are promoting their product ...
For equal rights ...
Q: Who would win in a NCAA finals match: Jordan Oliver from 2013 or Brent Metcalf from 2010?
-- Nick T.
Foley: Metcalf, 3-1, with a takedown at the end of the third.
Q: The new freestyle rule changes seem like an improvement to the sport, with the exception of the passivity rule. It seems complicated, making it difficult for the casual fan to understand. Plus, it seems that the best strategy for the non-passive wrestler would be to be defensive, not take risks, during the 30 seconds and get his penalty point. Why not just give the point if a wrestler is passive. Signal it, award it, keep wrestling. Simple and easy to understand.
-- Clay C.
Foley: The 30-second clock has been working to create more offense from the wrestler who has been warned for stalling. Like a reverse power play, the defensive wrestler has to be weary not to lose his advantage and can't risk nullifying the point by being pushed out of the circle. That creates an odd mentality where he or she has to continue interacting, even as one wrestler is more incentivized to score.
Wrestling rules aren't often brilliant, but my guess is that most fans won't even know that there is a 30 second clock for the stall point which means they'll just see more action. Assume that no action takes place, then the match is stopped and the aggressive wrestler earns the point -- exactly what you wanted in the first place.
I heart this rule change.
Q: It seems you have recently amped up your displeasure with the Greco-Roman style. Is this style outdated? Or are their improvements that can be made to make this entertaining and viable?
Foley: "Outdated" is an interesting way to state the issues within Greco-Roman. I'll answer your question with a question: What simple solutions can be enacted in Greco to overcome the inaction? I'm optimistic, but the style has fallen behind freestlye both because of the boredom, and lack of gender equality.
RANT OF THE WEEK!
Q: Now that we've made the "Final Four" in Olympic inclusion (I count baseball/softball as two and along with squash and wrestling) the wrestling community may need to use a different tactic for the final vote in September.
With that said, two arguments I haven't quite heard yet are as follows.
First off, and this is the biased one, is the fact I've heard no "top of the sport" individual for baseball -- which I'll assume will get included as a package with softball -- come out publicly to support its inclusion. The major players of wrestling -- and you only have so many hours in the evening to read all their names so I won't print them -- have all either met in a public forum or gone out of their way to publicly plead the case for wrestling. Where's Albert Pujols? Ryan Braun? Justin Verlander? Derek Jeter? Not a word about it and I haven't seen anyone from the media ever inquire/ask about such a topic to any Major League baseball player.
That alone should clarify the support, or lack thereof, of the influential individuals amongst the leaders of the sport.
Secondly -- and I'd like to think this may be the "clinch" argument (if I may use a wrestling term for it) to get it in -- the sport of wrestling embodies what Pierre de Coubertin was describing when he brought back the Olympics in 1896. De Coubertin envisioned Olympics as promoting peace in a very volatile world at the time. (No one in over a 1000 years had seen a war that was about to commence about 18 years after 1896, but many feared such a conflict would occur.)
De Coubertin wanted to promote cultural relativity, and lessening the dangers of potential war. All sports have had at least a fraction of accomplishing this, but anyone has to see that wrestling has done this the most. The best example I can make of this are the medal winners from our most recent 2012 Olympic Games. If you were to go to pretty much any weight class in any style you would find various political and economic ideologies as well as nations that are industrialized, post-industrialized, and even agrarian. For example, the Men's 60-kilo medalists are Azerbaijan, Russia, USA, and India. All four of these wrestlers were at the pinnacle of the sport at the same time and I venture to say that their paths to that stage were remarkably different.
The United States and Russia have facilities for wrestlers in every corner of their country's geography. However, I'll guess that India and Azerbaijan aren't quite as fortunate in their training facilities. And speaking of geography, if you were to draw a line from each of these nations and connect the dots, you'd about circumnavigate the globe. Not too many other sports, or even events within sports (Think track & field and sprints as opposed to a distance event.) could do that. I'll go out on a limb and say that I don't think these nations, or even nations similar, were represented in the men's or women's 50-meter freestyle finals in swimming. I don't think I remember these nations in the lead pack at any point in the men's or women's marathon. And I'll bet this wasn't a safe assumption for the semifinals of tennis played on Centre Court at the 2012 Olympics either.
I don't want to come across as facetious here, but what other sport at what other time every four years will there be "finalists" from Cuba, Estonia, Turkey, and Sweden (men's 120-kilo medalists)? None! These countries have vastly different economic systems; natural resources; imports; exports; cultures; languages; and belief and value systems. Yet they are unified in the sport of wrestling.
When de Coubertin said, "The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well." Does that not fit the sport of wrestling; whatever mat, grass patch, earthen field, or any other piece of ground you may be doing it on in the world; better than any other sport?
-- Gregg B.