Riordan's Roundup: June 18, 2013

Russian Nationals

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 Gadisov
At 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.

NCAA proposal

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 ...

  • Bears some degree of meaning in the national team championship race
  • Attracts all of the nation's top teams
  • Attracts the attention of fans and television cameras.

    Louden Swain
    This 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.
  • Comments

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    DannyClarke (1) about 5 years ago
    (Assuming Russians send their National team) I think they are still a very dangerous team despite lack of experience. Goygereev may not have any world medals.. but hes been sitting behind a 4x world champ/2x olympic medalist. To beat him just to get on a team shows these news guys are ready for the next level.

    Where was World Champ Viktor Lebedev, Olympic Champ Dhazar Otarsultonav and World Finalist Alan Gogaev??? I didnt see any of them place.

    Knowing the Russians they won't just send their national team.
    DannyClarke (1) about 5 years ago
    Also Tsargush looked terrible. Poor conditioning and looking slow.
    m_riordan (1) about 5 years ago
    I read that Otarsultanov was banged up. As for the others, it's anyone's guess.

    And yeah, in no way was I indicating that this was anything other than a team of world medal threats, even sans the experience
    DannyClarke (1) about 5 years ago
    Thanks Mike
    spencerszewczyk (2) about 5 years ago
    A national dual meet tournament that determines the national championship is a terrible idea for one critical reason: it will come down to the same six to eight teams every year and further diminish college wrestling at non-powerhouse schools. Some schools will never compete in a dual meet tournament with dominant powerhouses Penn State, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma State and Ohio State. It will be the same final four almost every single year. Other schools that can't put 10 NCAA All-Americans in a line up can still compete and even win the NCAA tournament because it only takes a few studs to make the finals and some solid support wrestlers to all-american in order for them to gain enough team points to make a Cinderella run. Taking this underdog possibility away from smaller schools will make them more likely to drop their programs. Even those schools that will never compete for a national championship can still attain individual success with one or two NCAA champions. If wrestling goes to a dual meet championship format, what happens to those wrestlers whose teams don't even qualify for the dual meet tournament?
    tjonas (1) about 5 years ago
    Agree 100%. Look at little Edinboro, they have no shot at a dual meet title but they put together great individual ncaa tournaments and finish really high for a school of their size.
    m_riordan (1) about 5 years ago
    If I may clarify, I don't advocate the existence of a national dual team championhip, I just think that the spectacle would be really cool
    midniteride (2) about 5 years ago
    Thanks Spencer for stating so clearly what so many of us find disturbing about making a national duals tournament part of the NCAA Championships. I believe that you are right on about it diminishing the efforts of talented individuals from smaller programs at the championships where they now can make a name for their school.
    tonyrotundo (1) about 5 years ago
    I don't think you can easily wave a magic wand and just go to a multi-day format, at the very least doing multiple weigh-ins will shake up how athletes prepare and recover. That's not to say I don't like the idea, I do, but I think the proposal would need to be vetted. Do you imagine any weight allowance for a second weigh-in, or would they need to make scratch weight? If it's a two day tournament, does that mean weighing in on Thursday, wrestling Friday and weighing in Friday for Saturday? Is so, what kind of allowance to you give and how hard will it be for the athletes to rehydrate, wrestle and weigh in again?
    Gopherfanjonrl (1) about 5 years ago
    I disagree with spencer. If you don't change the system you could just have 3 guys win the national championship and the rest of the team not even qualify and your team would still win the championship. also if you don't change the rules what's the point in having a duel season.
    Gopherfanjonrl (1) about 5 years ago
    This could also incourage the smaller schools to recruit more and to be honest the ncaa needs to be able to get more publicity and wrestling would be more of a team sport.