Russian Nationals (freestyle) took place in Siberia this past weekend. Surprisingly dependable, though production-free, video streams provided a live look at the premier domestic tournament in the world's premier wrestling country. The venue for the tournament appeared to be a smallish, strangely shaped, sparsely attended (seats were empty at least while I was watching) field house. The Russian republics of the Caucuses yield most of Russia's best wrestlers from fairly substantial populations where wrestling is extremely popular, yet the national championships are contested in Krasnoyarsk, thousands of miles away. You could fit Australia in between the epicenter of Russian wrestling and the location of Russian nationals. This makes no sense to me, but then again I'm the practical sort who would like to make a few bucks from ticket sales.
Watching the Russians wrestle, I'm reassured that even on the other side of the world, wrestling still is wrestling. Very few techniques used by the Russians appear totally alien, and the vast majority of neutral positions you could see in a college dual meet, though some Russian reactions in certain situations may seem somewhat counter intuitive to the American eye. I find that where Russian wrestling separates itself from ours is in its creativity. Russians seem to have a knack for executing the utterly unexpected, producing original solutions to the puzzle presented by their opponent.
Speaking of the unexpected, if Russia's uses its national champions as its World Team, it will mark the first time a Russian team has entered a World Championships or Olympics without a past World/Olympic champion. In the 20 years since Russia has been sending wrestlers to world events as Russia, they have sent at least one past champion, and usually multiple. Among this year's Russian national champs there isn't even a past World/Olympic medalist, nor are there any wrestlers who have competed at the World Championships or Olympics. Oddsmakers for this year's wrestling World Championships, if they exist, have a tough task ahead of them.
Abdusalam GadisovAt this point last year, I thought that Russia's Abdusalam Gadisov represented the next big thing in world wrestling. I figured that much like Khadshimourad Gatsalov, Gadisov would move from 84 to 96 kilograms and not lose for many years. London should have been his coronation, yet he received a murderous draw, and reigning World champ Reza Yazdani eliminated him in an early match. This year, instead of widening the gap between him and his domestic competition, he has suffered two losses in Russia this year to the much more lightly touted Anzor Boltukaev. The first was an ugly affair in the quarters of the Ivan Yarigin, and the second was this weekend in the finals of Russian Nationals, where Gadisov paid for the cynical strategy of sitting on a one-point move for most of the match. Now the question is not whether or not Gadisov will ever claim his place as one of the all-time greats, but if he'll ever again make it out of Russia.
U.S. World Team Trials
I have question, if USA Wrestling bucks the new FILA rules by adding overtime, why not also go ahead and add a multi-day format for each weight? Come on guys, if you rebel a little, why not just go all the way? A tournament where all the best-of-3 finals are held on the final day offers a vastly superior fan experience for those in attendance and in the case that the event is ever televised. One reason that NCAAs have achieved their level of success lies in the fact that the best is saved for last, and the final night consists of one giant television friendly climax.
The Trials should seek to become the other big annual wrestling event in the United States. If eschewing the established international tournament style means better prospects for future television coverage, then so be it.
Two-day tournament or not, I can feel my heart beat just a little bit faster in anticipation for the Trials this week. With the new rules and overtime, this should be the best Olympic style wrestling event the USA has seen in years.
They were not lying about wrestling having no offseason. Even after the college season ended this year it seems that one crazy wrestling story after another have bombarded us. Now the NCAA has proposed that the performance at National Duals earns points towards the NCAA tournament. The question remains as to whether this splits the baby with Solomon-esque wisdom, or if whether it is just another crappy compromise.
Ratification of this proposal would not have National Duals crown the team champion, as was the rather radical change discussed in the fall, but it would definitely make the duals relevant.
At the very least, Division I wrestling needs a dual meet showcase tournament that ...
Louden SwainThis NCAA proposal will definitely accomplish the first two, team tournament points will be up for grabs, and every top team in the nation will have no choice be to compete for them. As to bringing bodies to watch, and attention from broadcasters, perhaps if it's built, they will come.
I still think nothing would be cooler than a national team title determined by dual meet, where teammates rush the mat and carry the victor of the deciding match on their shoulders as he flings his headgear in celebration a la Loudon Swain. Of course, I'm not so shortsighted as to understand why this will never be a reality.