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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The 125th Congress of the IOC is 36 days from deciding the future of Olympic wrestling. My urge to pontificate about the excellency of wrestling has irritated a number of non-wrestling Facebook friends and no doubt led to some repetition in the mailbag and across social media. And yet I regret nothing. Our cause is just, and we will stay the course!
Despite some recent positive indicators, wrestling has never faced a more certain threat to its long-term solvency than its possible removal from the 2020 Games. American, Russian and Iranian wrestlers will lose an opportunity for competition, but for many other countries around the world with less fortunate financial circumstance the cost is much larger. In India, Mongolia and Southeast Asia where wrestling helps ethnic minorities and women achieve equality, a world without wrestling means stunted social growth and prolonged suffering. We might be selfish in our assistance of the cause, but know that the consequences are further reaching than our borders.
There are 36 days left in the campaign to #SaveOlympicWrestling and nothing we've done is enough. Money, lobbying and the carrying out of various campaigns were all white noise leading up to this final push over the final five weeks. Wrestlers are the most persistent, dedicated, loyal and stubborn athletes on the planet and we need to see this project through to its final conclusion in Buenos Aires. It's our task.
Your assignment this week is to join the most recent social media campaign #TakeAStance. The idea is simple: Show your desire to #TakeAStance for wrestling by posing in your stance in a cool, or fun location. No singlets necessary. Just you in a welding costume hanging from the side of shipping container should be adequate. Be sure to leave the hashtag #TakeAStance and include @FILA_Official on Facebook and Twitter when possible. The IOC is checking our progress, and I can tell you that wrestling has almost caught up to squash. Almost.
#TakeAStance is a new campaign, but the very best way for the worldwide wrestling community to show support for their sport heading into Buenos Aires. Don't be complacent. Wrestle at the edge of the mat!
You are wrestling and wrestling needs you.
To your questions …
Q: Four coaching vacancies and four jobs filled this offseason:
Brown University -- Todd Beckerman
Lock Haven University -- Scott Moore
SIUE -- Jeremy Spates
Buffalo -- John Stutzman
I think the most important hire for the sport is at Brown. Non-traditional wrestling region, potentially susceptible program but with much upside potential. They will never win championships but could produce NCAA qualifiers and All-Americans like a Harvard. Collegiate wrestling should not lose programs at schools like Brown when there is a proven formula for success.
Using # of All-Americans as the measure of success and leaving your rooting interest aside, which school produces the most All-Americans in 2018?
-- Scott S.
Foley: The drama-seeking storyteller in my head would love to see SIUE making a run at the national title in 2018, Scott Moore coaching a set of twins in the national finals, and Coach Beckerman racing across the mat to hug the program's first NCAA champion. But those are unlikely outcomes.
John StutzmanThe most likely result of this year's coaching changes will be Coach Stutzman coaching at least two All-Americans in 2018 with the potential for a few more. Not because he's a better mat coach or was the best hire, but because he has head coaching experience and has progressed past the growth pains the other three will inevitably encounter over the next four seasons. He has shown the ability to lead a program and were this Vegas the odds would show that to be a major edge over his competitors.
Stutzman has the experience to make a quick turnaround possible, and with only four years to create a winning program I see him slightly ahead of Moore, Beckerman and Spates.
Also, I agree with you and the hiring of Beckerman at Brown. The end always comes with a whisper and I think that if the Brown alumni had lost their bid to keep the program, college wrestling would've seen a quick series of eliminations that could've dropped our Division I programs to new lows. Thankfully the hard work of the alumni helped to protect the team and the future of all wrestling.
Q: Just curious if you have any comment on the Penn State, Thomas Haines recruiting issue? Penn State committed to Thomas Haines then backed out when they found out they could recruit a higher ranked wrestler. I'm disappointed with Penn State. I thought the wrestling brethren would stand by their word. Is this something that regularly occurs in the recruiting process?
-- Henry C.
Foley: I don't have any comment on the details of that particular case, largely because it seems that much of the information about the event has been played out in the media, or is otherwise conjecture. Penn State, as with any school, has the right to revoke a verbal offer, just like a student has the right to change his/her mind. Haines is being reasonable in expressing his disappointment, and Penn State's response seems well-handled.
Since I coached at Columbia University I only have experience in the unique environment of Ivy League recruiting where there are no scholarships, serious academic restrictions for incoming students, and several competitors in the same region of the country selling virtually the same product. Like the scholarships schools the process remains intense throughout the summer and fall.
In my years as a coach it was common for Ivy League programs to have potential wrestlers play schools off of each other once each has committed them a spot on the roster. Part of the play is in asking for matching grant packages, which often varies between schools by as much as $10k. The incoming wrestler convinces you that they'll attend your school just to get a financial read, but in the end just sends it to another institution, or vice-versa.
What Penn State did -- the simple act of revoking a verbal offer -- is commonplace in sports like basketball and football, where relationships and not institutions dictate where a student will attend. In wrestling it is MUCH less common, largely because very few wrestlers earn a full scholarships, fewer still are offered before July 1 of their junior season, and only a fraction ever change their mind or have some incident change the predicted outcome. What happened at Penn State was rare, but significant in the sense that it signals a larger interest in the sport of college wrestling and the happenings of Happy Valley.
Wrestling is becoming more popular and receiving more media attention, which means that like other sports we will have our indiscretions, or stories of possible scandal, highlighted on occasion. The leading stories in the NFL (racist slur) and MLB (drug use) aren't our future, but as we become a more fan-friendly sport we'll need to become more accustomed to negative press, and difficult stories with multiple sides.
Q: A lot of high school wrestlers come out of high school as four or five time state champs. Why in your opinion is it hard to duplicate that success in college?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: The most obvious difference is the size of the talent pool, number of years your opponents have wrestled better competition, and the size/strength of opponents as many as four years older.
Less concrete would be competition anxiety and angst about finally losing. Though Kyle Snyder moved to Colorado Springs to train his senior season, there are dozens of returning state champs who are happy enough winning in their home state. When they get to college, they lose a few times and don't enjoy the aftertaste. Mom's cooking is always better than the slop at the dining hall.
Another reason that young wrestlers don't win every championship is their predictable deficiency in mat wrestling. There are only a few freshmen who've come into college wrestling capable of both escaping at will, and earning ride time in a majority of their matches. Jesse Jantzen was a phenom from top, but even he had some trouble from bottom as a freshman. He improved quickly, won an national title and is still regarded as a top specialist, but that early lag had mostly to do with a lack of wrestling partners capable of giving him a Division I feel.
Winning in high school is never a guarantee of collegiate success, even if you've won multiple state championships.
Q: If Aaron Pico wanted my lunch money could I stop him?
Foley: You could try, but being face-planted by a 16-year-old isn't going to do much for your self-confidence. Better to give him the lunch money, lace the food with a sleeping aid, and then take a photo of you finishing a double as he's curled up during nap time.
Did you see what happened to the kid who jumped out 8-0 against him in Fargo? Better still, have you seen what Pico can do with his hands?
Good luck. I'd recommend a heavy breakfast.
Q: Why are wrestlers like Michael Chandler, Jake Ellenberger, Ben Askren and others so successful in MMA? Is the transition from wrestling to MMA easy or hard in your opinion? Would you ever consider MMA?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: Top Division I wrestlers compete several times a week for four months a year. That constant cycle of "train-compete-train-compete, rinse, repeat" has grown their mental and physical conditioning, as much as it sharpens their technical skills. Double legs and throws help control matches and put wrestlers in advantageous scoring positions, but it's the mindset of the American collegiate wrestler, and the training of a scholastic season, that makes the most significant difference when compared to other disciplines.
Then again, maybe it is the technique.
For me, wrestling has always been an adequate catharsis for frustrations that I can't seem to uncork in any other healthy way. MMA wasn't as accessible when I graduated from college in 2004 -- only a few guys were in the game and from the outside it looked pretty brutal. Also, like many collegiate wrestlers I was just exhausted from competition after college. I'd reached my goals, felt fulfilled and wondered what it felt like to drink during Christmas and New Years. (I found out that it was an overrated amateur hour.) Taking on another physical task, especially one so painful, wasn't appealing so I chose to invest time and money in myself by carrying various jobs, traveling abroad and eventually going back to school.
Looking back I don't regret the choice to stand outside the cage and write about the personalities and the actions inside. On occasion I put on the gloves and go full sparring sessions, but it's all pretty tame. Who knows, I might have made a decent fighter. I certainly could've slam-dunked Sam Sheridan's face into the canvas, but I also might have been clipped in the jaw by a shinbone.
I didn't try, so I'll never know, but I also won't have tens of thousands in medical bills, and for that I'm thankful.
Q: Where does Penn States latest addition rank them in all-time best recruiting classes?
Foley: My gut reaction was BEST EVER, but I know that couldn't be totally right, so I lobbed this softball to Josh Lowe who clarifies and substantiates high school rankings with the best of 'em. Enjoy the breakdown!
All are based on the END OF SENIOR YEAR RANKINGS!!
Michigan was 2, 4, 11, 27, and 98 with c/o 2013
Iowa was 8, 10, 14, 15, and 49 c/o 2012
Cornell was 5, 9, 18, 25, and 64 c/o 2012
Ohio State was 7, 14, 16, 27, and 33 c/o 2011
Central Mich was 11, 17, 41, 43, and 55 c/o 2011
Iowa was 5, 12, 16, 18, 27, and 77 c/o 2010
Iowa was 10, 15, 17, and 56 c/o 2009
This covers the five years I've been doing them.
Given that the rankings are subject to evolution, if things "hold," Penn State would be the first to have three in the top ten. To proclaim one class as all-time great would be a rash thing to do. There is one or a couple super class, or a couple, every year. Some pan out, others don't, and even within that the combination of who pans out, who doesn't and the such is never according to "chalk."
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
Aaron Pico is the future of MMA.