Foley's Friday Mailbag: August 23, 2013

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.

I'm in Serbia this week covering the Cadet World Wrestling Championships and couldn't help but notice a new trend in Greco-Roman wrestling: Excitement!

Don't accuse me of being a fan boy for Greco-Roman, but this week it was all power bombs and drama. Cadet-level wrestlers in Serbia were quick to find a mismatch in talent, and had no problem dropping the lesser-skilled offender directly onto their dome piece. Seeing just one quality throw at a Greco-Roman tournament would indicate a one-hundred percent improvement over last year's output, but four dozen in two days? It almost makes me feel like taking a mea culpa for previous rants.


Asen Sasaki celebrates with his coaches at Cadet Worlds
The most exciting of these Greco-Roman matches was the 69-kilo final between Japan's Asen Sasaki and Turkey's Serkan Akkoyun. Sasaki came into the match with plenty of hype, an impressive bloodline, and a throng of Hungarian fans. Sasaki is the son of multiple-time World champion Miyu Yamamoto-Ikeda-Inoue and nephew of Seiko Yamamoto-Nagashima, the sister to Miyu and a four-time World champion herself. (Seiko now coaches the USA's Cadet girls.) Sasaki actually lives and trains in Hungary, which is only a short drive from the northern Serbian town of Zrenjanin where the World Championships are being held. His Hungarian and Japanese teammates melded together some American support to create an impassioned cheering section.

That lead-up should help explain today's lead photo and the video I'll ask you to watch.

This is Greco-Roman wrestling at its very best.


To your questions ...

Q: In your opinion what makes a high school wrestling hotbed? You have places like the Lehigh Valley in PA that have always produced tough teams and individuals. You have Twin Cities (Minn.), Cedar Rapids-Iowa City, New Jersey, and Cleveland-Akron-Canton among others. What is the formula for these hotbeds across the country? How do they sustain the value of a wrestling ethos so well? Are there any areas starting to emerge as hotbeds that have previously been off the radar?
-- Brad A.

Foley: The No. 1 reason is coaching. No amount of money or generic interest can overcome the necessity of a quality coach. The best wrestling communities have always been launched by good coaches with a knack for teaching the basics, spreading interest and improving outreach in the community.

I'd get lost trying to specify the individuals who launched wrestling in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, or Central California, but there is a developing hotbed for wrestling growing in Georgia that can be directly associated to the hard work and focus of coaches Lee Roper, Cliff Fretwell and Jeff Bedard. These three dudes have been on a mission. No doubt they'd point to others in the area who have assisted them in the development, but these guys have been out front pushing the sport in a state that is obsessed with concussion ball.

From coaching comes success and from success comes community buy-in and further success. Once that success transfers over to nostalgia and the hobbled masses start showing up at matches and pouring money into the coffers you have a regional power that can sustain for decades.

Q: Is there a chance that Thomas Haines goes to Iowa?
-- Nick M.

Foley: Sure. That might the correct fit though the Hawkeyes have Artie Bess (freshman) and Lenzell Green (freshman) listed on the roster. Maybe they haven't invested big cash in the big flesh, but it's getting crowded at the top if they add another, plus Bobby Telford heading into his senior season. Still, a top ten recruit might be what the Hawkeyes need.

Q: Don't lose steam on crowdsourcing a Division I wrestling program. I have been a big believer in this idea for years. This is perfect vehicle to educate college presidents, college athletic directors and our own wrestling community. Our wrestling community is passionate but I am always amazed on how naive they are to real nature of college athletics. There is no better way to showcase a "product" than with an organized campaign and marketing strategy.
-- Matt S.

Foley: Crowdsourcing the money is half the fight. The entire wrestling community needs to understand that purchasing a program for a men-only program is an uninspiring PR-dud. Wrestling's leadership class has been awful at PR and promotion for decades, repeatedly pouring money and time into filing dead-end Title IX lawsuits rather than improving the product or ramping up support for women's wrestling. That's improving, the NWCA has help grow the WCWA to almost 20 teams, but there hasn't been a watershed moment for wrestling to show it's aligned with the progress of women's wrestling, rather than just begrudging acceptance that it exists.

In the wake of wrestling's elimination from the Olympic movement, some of the sport's power brokers have started to realize the power of positive PR and how women could drive interest in the sport. Were wrestling to crowdsource $5 million for a Division I wrestling program it would imperative that the first demand be the establishment of a groundbreaking women's team.

Some readers have suggested that there aren't enough women to populate a team, which is false and reminiscent of the thinking that earned us an expulsion from the Olympics. Don't bother listening to their nostalgia. That thinking only drives us further into the past, to a time when wrestling was single-gender and careening toward the result we find ourselves in today. Not towards the type of stories that inspire and help the sport.

"Wrestling community raises $5 million to ensure first-ever NCAA Division I program" reads like "Man bites dog" and would be a three-day news story.

Q: Since you feel like the singlets are out dated and wrestling should be going to rash guard shirts and fighting shorts, do you plan on writing and petitioning the powers that be to get them to switch? All it takes is someone with a little "pull" like you to get the ball rolling at the high school level. I hope you get the change you are looking for!
-- Mike C.

Foley: Well, ZING! Guess I should expect some pushback for a constantly asking others to do what I might be capable of achieving myself. I'd love to manage a design contest among the top apparel companies in the world, for a wrestling uniform that is both appealing to the eye and functional. But like most everyone else I feel like I'm stretched thin, and that my resources are better spent prodding my readers to dedicate THEIR time.

As for a petition, I think that is one of the more direct ways to accomplish change on the local level. Research on the health benefits of wrestling, combined with a desire to increase enrollment and a good ol' fashioned petition might do the trick in a forward-leaning, progressive county.

Maybe the idea would be to put together a list of reasons to change the uniforms to a suitable alternative and then create a template that could be used by various local entities. I'd love to edit this work if someone were able to put something together.


FILA is pumping up their HEROES

FILA all pumping up their LEGENDS, too

Dan Gable profile story on

Q: Any insight on why Cam Tessari and Andrew Campolattno left Ohio State? The Buckeyes seemed to be gearing up to challenge Iowa and Penn State.
-- Jerry B.

Foley: The Campolattano saga seems to be coming to a close. His original dismissal from the team and eventual decision to leave Ohio State came from drug trafficking charges that have since been dismissed. He's currently living in Orlando with his brother.

As for Tessari, he seemed to have stepped out of line with the team rules in the weeks leading up to the Big Ten conference tournament. That seems to have stuck and placed a divide between him and either the coaching staff, or the school. What is MORE interesting to me is that he chose to attend Hofstra after his dismissal, which was either a direct challenge to tOSU head wrestling coach Tom Ryan, or a nod from Ryan that while things in Columbus went asunder, he still believed in Tessari's character.

Q: New York State high school wrestling is looking pretty good right now … two UFC champs (Jon Jones and Chris Weidman) and, of course, Kyle Dake. Does New York make your top ten best wrestling states? Why or why not?
-- Karl S.

Foley: Absolutely in the top ten! If you add in Troy Nickerson, and Jesse Jantzen there is plenty of fodder for making them one of the most stylistically influential states in the country. Though as defensible as saying you created the double leg, some claim that Long Island invented the funk. I don't know if that's even remotely true, but I like to think of the 51st state enjoying a nice relaxing afternoon in the sand figuring out that rolling across your back in a shot defense might actually be a good thing. I know that without Jantzen's half-ride and the Long Island funk roll, I'd probably be a printer salesman in Saskatchewan who was really into curling.

By Britt M. AKA Seton Hall Pirate

Big Ten Scheduling: The basic principle is to have the top seven teams in one division, the bottom seven teams in the other division, and each team would wrestle all of their division opponents and two of the other division's opponents based on local rivalries. Here's what that might look like for 2014-2015, although the rankings are based on a forward-looking version of the Takedown Wrestling Media Dual Impact Index for 2013-2014:

Premiership Division (Leaders): Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

Championship Division (Followers): Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Out of Division opponents for Premiership Division schools:

Illinois: Northwestern*, Purdue
Iowa: Indiana, Wisconsin
Michigan: Indiana, Michigan State*
Minnesota: Michigan State, Purdue
Nebraska: Northwestern, Wisconsin*
Ohio State: Maryland, Rutgers
Penn State: Maryland, Rutgers

Out of Division opponents for Championship Division schools:

Indiana: Iowa, Michigan
Maryland: Ohio State, Penn State
Michigan State: Michigan*, Minnesota
Northwestern: Illinois*, Nebraska
Purdue: Illinois, Minnesota
Rutgers: Ohio State, Penn State
Wisconsin: Iowa, Nebraska*

*: Indicates permanent matchups, others would be Indiana-Purdue, Iowa-Minnesota, Maryland-Rutgers, and Ohio State-Penn State

Note that these divisions would be realigned each year based on projected strength for the following year.


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TLS62PA (1) about 4 and a half years ago
The thing with a coach/coaches breeding success in an area is definitely the trickle down effect. Good coaches produce good wrestlers who will typically adopt their coach's teaching philosophies. Some of these guys go to college and come back, or some just stay, take jobs at other local schools or start clubs. They pass on these philosophies to others. In 20 years, you could have 2 to 3 generations of local coaches and wrestlers who were influenced by one coaching staff.
mlantz (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Britt M.,

Wisconsin and Minnesota are rivals. Any Big Ten scheduling that doesn't have them matching up annually is flawed.
SetonHallPirate (2) about 4 and a half years ago
Fair point. Minnesota/Wisconsin and Iowa/Nebraska are likely better geographic fits as well.

-Britt aka SHP
mlantz (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Brad A.,

Being from western Wisconsin (close to the Twin Cities) and living in Cedar Rapids, IA, it pains me to say this, but Chicago (and it's sprawling suburbs) is about the biggest wrestling hotbed right now.
jammen (1) about 4 and a half years ago
" Were wrestling to crowdsource $5 million for a Division I wrestling program it would imperative that the first demand be the establishment of a groundbreaking women's team."

Let's hope that wrestling has better success than gymnastics has had with adding women's programs.
in 1982 there were 79 men's programs when the NCAA added women's gymnastics.
Today there total only 17 dwindling men's programs compared to the over 60 Div 1 women's programs that are flourishing.
Jefe (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Iowa has a big-name 285 on the way -- 2013 PA champ Aaron Bradley is on a Mormon mission, will enroll in 2 yrs. Bradley beat Brooks Black at Dapper Dan.
Ranger66kg (2) about 4 and a half years ago
spencerszewczyk (1) about 4 and a half years ago
about thomas haines possibly going to iowa, remember that iowa did recruit pennsylvania state champ aaron bradley this year, who beat brooks black from blair academy at the dapper dan. he was one of the top heavyweights in the nation this year.
cptafw163 (1) about 4 and a half years ago
I have to argue that the Sasaki match is FAR from "Greco-Roman at its best." TR, have you ever heard of Karam Ibrahim from Egypt?

Maybe that was the very best of the tournament. But not "Greco's very best."