Foley's Friday Mailbag: September 13, 2013
T.R. Foley, InterMat Senior Writer
firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @trfoley
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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Wrestling just stole back its spot in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics, and the sporting future of little wrestlers from N'Djamena is once again brightened by the glow of the Olympic rings.
But as the million-dollar consultants melt back into a life free from spandex-clad warriors and trolling masses, it's wrestling's new leadership who will dictate the sport's Olympic future. That leadership class will consist of everyone from FILA president Nenad Lalovic to the captain of the Polk High junior varsity team, and all of it will need to be focused on creating a new wrestling.
New ideas and fresh leadership in the post-Olympic fight can take any form. It might be the high school wrestling coach who wants a more modest competition outfit, or you could be the youth coach who challenges the idea that 10-year-old kids should ever cut an ounce of weight. It might even be the team captain who demands the end of the initiation of younger athletes.
Key to that change is the acceptance of women. As one IOC voter told me after the vote in Buenos Aires, "Without changing to 6-6-6 wrestling would never have had a chance."
You might not like to hear it, but the International Olympic Committee made it plainly obvious that without improved gender equity, and soon gender equality, wrestling has no chance of returning to the core sports. That might cause traditional fans some consternation, to think that women need half the spots in the Olympic Games.
Oh well, we wanted back in the Olympics and this is the cost of admission.
Women are the future of our sport, and not just in "taking" spots from men. You only have to look at Ronda Rousey, her impact on the UFC's PPV sales, and those vicious arm bars to realize that women are tough and women sell.
Embrace newness and support women's wrestling.
To your questions ...
Q: Can you talk about the effect the new IOC president will have on international wrestling, if any? What is the process for wrestling to be considered a core sport in the Olympics again? How important is it for wrestling to be a core sport in the Olympics? ESPN expanded coverage of the NCAA Championships since the news of wrestling in the Olympics (related or not), do you see other networks making wrestling a priority? How does wrestling carry this momentum from the vote and grow even more? Kind of loaded ... Sorry!!
-- Jake K.
Foley: There is nothing more endearing than a question sent from the jittery, drunken fingers of a former wrestler. Why apologize? Your inebriation in a world with Olympic wrestling is forgivable, especially with such exceptional grammar and sentence structure. I normally write this sober and can rarely find equal clarity.
You threw out a few questions so I'll go point-by-point.
Thomas Bach was elected as the new IOC president two days after wrestling was put back into the Olympic Games in 2020 and 2024. Bach has always been a very popular IOC member and was among the first presidential candidates to support the sport after its fateful removal by the IOC Executive Board. To clarify, his decision to support wrestling was about as controversial as the idea of supporting clean water in third-world countries.
The IOC president has immense powers to legislate how the games are operated, to include which sports receive which medals. As of now Bach's platform is "Unity through Diversity," which is to say that he wants more countries included and more sports. Like many other members of the IOC he's looking reduce the number of disciplines in some sports (swimming and track and field) in order to welcome new sports like squash). It's a good deal for wrestling, since there is some belief that the only way he would add squash into the Games would be by sliding wrestling into the core and leaving squash as a provisional.
Overall, he supports the idea that wrestling shouldn't be eliminated from the Games, and after the backlash that came from that move in 2013, it'll never again happen. However, the window for PR-savvy moves like adding wrestling to the core, is closing by the day. ESPN added their coverage because they planned to do so in 2012, but never got around to doing so, and adding the day after the decision was -- you guessed it -- PR-savvy.
Wrestling should be in the core, but for now, and likely the next four years it could be argued that the purgatory of being left out might help drive positive changes in the sport's presentation, rules and governance. The sport's momentum will be decided by the fans (as noted in the introduction) and by FILA president Nenad Lalovic. Should he decide to use his political capital to make necessary changes, there could be significant alterations made to several areas of the sport. Should he relax or get caught up fighting off the persistent attacks of former president Martinetti and those already displaced by his reform-based leadership, then the spring to the core will be slowed.
The core is the goal, but more important is that FILA and all the membership start to believe in the idea that there can be a new sport of wrestling that is much better than the old.
How could it be much worse?
Q: With the NFL season kicking off and everyone feeling their fantasy team is el número UNO, it got me thinking ... what about a fantasy wrestling league? We are looking for more innovative and creative ways to increase the following of our great sport, especially after this morning's crucial decision, and we need to think of the spectators. I am telling you this because I am sitting here watching intently the Packers-49ers game (of which I am a fan of neither squad) purely because Vernon Davis is on my team vs. my Green Bay defense. I'm in a tough spot. Why not start an NCAA fantasy wrestling league? Fantasy leagues are based on individual statistics and performance aren't they? It would seem our sport would be perfect.
-- Justin L.
Foley: I think you might also have been intoxicated. Verdad, mi amigo?
Fantasy wrestling exists! Be calm. As far as I know there is no current formula for a yearlong fantasy wrestling site, only those that are set up for the NCAA Championships.
This should have been accomplished a LONG time ago, but there is a major problem. The NCAA would eat a hind-quarter of a horse before they let some site run a fantasy league with their participation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of an established a fantasy league for NCAA football?
That written I know there is at least one guy out there with the keys to kiskstarting this idea and I'd love to see it up and running by November.
Just don't be shocked if it's not there in December.
Boston University wrestling ...
FILA wrestling's presentation to the IOC (Daniel Igali at 13:00) ...
Q: I am thrilled PSU and Iowa will meet in non-conference action; PSU has to run the gauntlet of Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State and Oklahoma State in dual action. It is a fitting challenge for the senior class that put the Lions on top. However, I am confused on one point: what is going on with National Duals this year? PSU verbally committed to participate after sitting out last year -- though they did add the caveat that they may bow out if the format didn't fit. We know what Cael thinks about the format. But isn't the Oklahoma State dual the same weekend as National Duals? Both the Lions and Cowboys are sitting out this year?!?!
-- Brad B.
Foley: Iowa, Penn State and Oklahoma State are all sitting out the National Duals this year. There are a variety of motivations for not scheduling the National Duals, but as you said that Nittany Lions are already wrestling a pretty tough schedule. Also, I'd guess that some of these coaches don't want to prop up the National Duals format in 2013-2014 if they are fighting to ensure it won't be part of the NCAA National Championship in 2016.
And you're correct that the Penn State seniors deserve to go out on this type of tough schedule. The fans should appreciate how much Brands and Cael put into making this happen. #TwitterWars
Q: What is the deal with 2015 NCAA site? They announcing the next several years as well?
-- Frank C.
Foley: Got some solid confirmation on the facts of the case. The bids are due Sept. 16 with three finalists announced on Oct. 30 (three finalists per site, per year). The final award will be announced on Dec. 11.
The variation of finalists and bid years doesn't mean that wrestling won't have an official semi-permanent location, only that there will be a variety of bid options available to the committee on NCAA Championships.
I've also heard that the NCAA has never received more bids than they have in this cycle. Some of that has to do with the profitability of the sport, and some with the recent press about the Olympic decision. Either way, it's great news for the sport.
Q: How does our celebration/commitment to folkstyle impede further success at world competition levels? If Brent Metcalf wrestled only in freestyle growing up, how much better would he be? Or does the grueling grind of folkstyle fuel the success that we in the U.S. do achieve internationally?
-- Mr. Juice
Foley: I don't know.
What I do know is that traditional wrestling shouldn't be sacrificed in preference of the international styles. Americans understand the rules of American wrestling and as we've seen with ESPN's recent commitment to the sport, they are willing to watch more and more on national television. Metcalf and others grew up wanting to be NCAA champions probably more than they wanted to be Olympic champions. The rules and style difference necessary to compete in each are so similar that they are effective cousins.
The Women's College Wrestling Association chose to make freestyle their rule set because there was no established women's-only style in America. That was smart. However, in countries like Senegal where women's folkstyle is a huge draw, they'd never consider adopting freestyle rules in the hopes of winning a few more medals.
Traditional wrestling is a the physical representation of a societies connection to it's values and history. The Olympics, while an important personal achievement, isn't worth the elimination of any traditional style.
I'll be giving a talk about this very topic next week at the FILA Scientific Congress. There are several ways in which traditional wrestling can help grow the Olympic styles without infringing on their important role within society, and I think FILA is uniquely positioned to enhance traditional styles around the world while also benefiting in terms of creating new national governing bodies and inking endorsement deals.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
By Brad H.
On the subject of female wrestling, it is clear to me that the IOC was not impressed with raising the female medal count by fifty percent. They want more. You have often written in this column about a college starting a women's wrestling program and gaining a great deal of publicity for it. Sorry sir, but you think too small. Who would they wrestle? Men? NAIA teams? Clubs? Get real. If you really want to instill female grappling into the hearts of Americans you must go bigger. In my opinion there is only one clear path to achieve this goal quickly. Three words sir: Big Ten Conference!
Think about it. Which is the strongest wrestling conference in the USA? Who has the most money? Who has a television channel fully at their own disposal to promote such a unique idea? Who is growing and adding new members? Who covers a large demographic of the country, including many wrestling hot spots? Who has excellent academic schools?
Picture a high school girl in her own living room trying to convince her parents that she should be allowed to wrestle. What is her sales pitch? I can go to this one university which has female wrestling and wrestle ... ??? Or, I can get a FULL scholarship to one of the best academic universities in the country and wrestle on television!!!
I think you would need the Big Ten to get eight schools signed up. Create league matches and of course a conference tournament. This would probably have to suffice until some other schools would catch on and an NCAA tournament would be created at which point it would be a 'real' sport for all to recognize.
This is no small task of course but think of the amount of publicity THAT would create. Fully-funded female wrestling programs in the heart of the USA.
I don't know who the president of the Big Ten is but if I knew his wife, I would be in her ear.