Foley's Friday Mailbag: September 20, 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.

Half-man, half-amazing.

Many wrestling fans are searching for context to help them understand Jordan Burroughs' accomplishments on the mat. His winning streak of 65 straight matches is nowhere near that of Alexander Karelin's and is even short of still active wrestlers Kaori Icho and Saori Yoshida. Three straight titles is significant, but doesn't rank among the top 30. At home Jordan is still far from matching John Smith's six consecutive World titles ('87-'92).

Through Burroughs isn't the most impressive among his peers in any single category, he does well to combine all these measurements in an overall packaging that feels more substantial.

Burroughs is winning his matches at 74 kilos, which is one of freestyle wrestling's most competitive weight classes. In Budapest, Burroughs not only wrestled talented newcomers like Akbari of Iran, but also veterans like Jabrayil Hassanov of Azerbaijan who came up from 66 kilos where he was a two-time World bronze medalist. Being in the middle of the lineup, where some of the most-talented world-level wrestlers linger for years means that every time Burroughs steps on the mat, he's facing one of the best overall wrestlers in the tournament.

For those who tend to watch a lot of wrestling, it's also obvious that Burroughs is at a higher athletic level than his opponents, able to find angles with an authority and speed that is almost unstoppable. His double legs attacks are often so fast, and so low, that it's become an accepted fact among some photographers that catching these moments of brilliance requires as much luck as skill. When it comes to defense perhaps no wrestler is more creative in providing a stingy reaction to aggressive moves.

The streak, titles, weight class, and athletic ability are all significant factors for why Burroughs is so compelling, but they aren't what are propelling him into athletic stardom.

Burroughs' career is being analyzed during a time of increased media attention on the sport of wrestling. Twitter, Facebook, live streams to the mainstream media that followed the #SaveOlympicWrestling campaign, have all contributed to more people watching and caring about the sport. Forget Karelin, John Smith, Jordanov, and Cael Sanderson, no wrestler in the history of the sport has had their name written/typed on more occasions.

The ability to watch Burroughs' matches online, discuss his talents in an open forum and even follow his personal life on Twitter, makes him a star of the 21st Century, that makes his accomplishments feel bigger and brighter than all those that came before him.

Burroughs' brand is hotter than ever. The monetization of his image and ability has led to a television commercial and various endorsement deals. He makes a fantastic living from his wrestling ability. He's charming. He's considerate. He's media-capable.

And yet after what he did on Wednesday all those attributes and all those outside considerations will fade, because Burroughs now has what the true greats all possess -- his own legend. Like Curt Schilling, Burroughs has a bloody sock moment that will be chatted about for decades -- the World and Olympic champion wrestled with a broken foot.

The athletic canonization of Burroughs and his accomplishments is underway. No matter what happens in 2014 and beyond, the story of Burroughs' career was written in Budapest. He's half man, half amazing.

To your questions ...

Q: First of all, disappointing first couple of days at the Worlds. I happened to tune in for the streaming of Tervel's quarterfinal match, and it was really exciting! My heart was racing, and then Gatsalov came out, did his thing in like 30 seconds, which put Tervel back on the mat only like 10 minutes. I still felt tired from watching Tervel in the quarters, and then he was back up; I can't imagine that for him, he wasn't still feeling that quarterfinal. Do you think fatigue played a factor in Tervel's semifinal? It just seems like the guy can't catch a break. Also (unrelated) what's your take on Flip wrestling and why should or shouldn't I buy a pair of their headphones?
-- BJ

Foley: The single-day format favors those that are in shape and can wrestle with some limitation on physical output. The problem facing scramble-first wrestlers is that the 15-minute rest window isn't enough to make a full recovery. That's even worse for wrestlers who weigh 260 lbs. Dlagnev forces funky situations and shoots plenty of low singles, which is exciting and fun, but can't be good for lung capacity late in the tournament.

So, yes, I do think it played a factor. However I also think that Alen Zasieiev was the favorite to win the weight, and was the best heavyweight at the tournament. It bears mention that Gatsalov and Zasieiev have known each other for years as members of the same wrestling club. They have the same coach.

As for the second part of your question: Yes, FLIPS Wrestling is marketing to the wrestling community and if you want to buy a set of headphones that go over your ear, you'd be doing the sport a favor by purchasing FLIPS Wrestling before Dre Beats, since the good Doctor isn't sponsoring Burroughs.

Q: In this day and age of equality, FILA is essentially sticking its neck out for Greco Roman in the 6-6-6 format. While I hate to ruin anyone's dream, let's not potentially sacrifice the great sport of Olympic freestyle wrestling for the most boring & confusing version of our ancient sport. You should go 8 & 8 for weights for freestyle and then do the team format (both genders) of takedown only. Equality and casual fan growth is what the IOC needs to see from wrestling.
-- Tom B.

Foley: Plenty of Americans hate Greco-Roman, and many for a good reason: Lack of sction. The highlight films might be filled with big throws and fun action, but when it comes to consistent action, and perceivable advantages Greco-Roman is exceedingly difficult to follow both by the average fan and the newbie.

I'm learning to like the sport more. Today at World's will be two women's weights and a Greco-Roman weight. There are some Swedes and Fins in attendance with matching shirts, but otherwise it's a fairly similar crowd to what we've seen the past several days. That written, I'd imagine that tonight's finals will have more fans due to it being Friday. Same for Saturday.

In the eyes of the IOC membership Greco-Roman is at-risk because there is no offsetting style for women. It seems unlikely that FILA would start a Greco-Roman style for women, since men are so embattled. However, it's not implausible that women's wrestling could hit the beach. That would protect Greco-Roman in the future, but would require a lot of political maneuvering within the IOC, and that's not an easy task.

On a related note, many of the FILA members have mentioned their love for Greco-Roman and there understanding that "we all want more weights and more medals." However, wrestling's partner is the IOC, and they have as much say in what happens in Olympic years as FILA.


Burroughs beats Akbari

Sastin beats Yusein

Byamba goes big

Q: What are some of the longest undefeated streaks in international wrestling? Is Burroughs' one of the longest?
-- Tim R.

Foley: Alexander Karelin had 13 years of undefeated wrestling, and despite the renewed attention the Russian Wrestling Federation has been reluctant to produce any records on the length of his winning streak. As mentioned in the opening Yoshida and Icho each have winning streaks of more than 150 matches. There are also bound to be some other records by guys like Valentin Jordanov that have been preserved in the Bulgarian archives, but less reported by the American media.

All that written, just focus on the fact that Burroughs currently owns the longest winning streak in men's wrestling.

Q: I know you have been against this previously, but what are your thoughts about overtime now? Watching the Worlds this week I think we need it. The rules are still a bit confusing overall and FILA refs are painful, but most importantly how is the casual fan going to understand someone winning 8-8? Sudden death overtime would be exciting and is easy to understand and explain. If a match goes too long we could do a shot clock after two minutes, or have a smaller circle on the mat that could be used for overtime so pushouts are more common. What you think? Or any better ideas?
-- Rob H.

Foley: For me one of the most painful moments of the World Championships happened on Tuesday when 66-kilo wrestlers Lopez (Cuba) and Mandrakhnaran (Mongolia) had their match ended by criteria. My problem wasn't that the match ended on criteria, but that the scoreboard operator placed the small white triangle signifying the winner into the WRONG box. Mandrakhnaran and his coaches ended the match thinking they were headed to the finals, only to have a final review of the scorecard show that the last twenty seconds of action were built on the false premise that the Mongolian was winning.

FILA took heat for the slip from none other than Asashoryu, who is the head of the Mongolian Wrestling Federation. They also got an earful from some fans and reporters who were just plain confused by the white triangle and what it meant. I'd expect an improved form of presentation, and a better check by the coaches as the rules become more consistent.

I'm not sold on overtime. Criteria is kinda stupid because the score ends the same (I'm all for adding a point at the end to make it more clear to fans), but there are obvious advantages. First, in a one-day format an overtime match like you saw with Howe and Dake would have spelled defeat for the winner going forward -- with only 15 minutes of recovery time the chances of making a recovery are pretty slim.

Also, with television you have to guarantee them the length of your event, and that becomes MUCH more difficult when there is a possibility of a-15 minute overtime. I know extra time feels like you're solving the issue of who is better, but at this point I prefer the flurry of action at the end of the match to the slow winding down of a match that is headed to unlimited overtime.

They just need to fix the white triangle.

Q: What are your top five college venues for watching a match and why?
-- Mike C.

Foley: I haven't been to that many college wrestling venues, so I'll make this list taking into account all that has been written about some of these venues and balance them against my personal experiences.

1. Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, Iowa)
2. Rec Hall (University Park, Pa.)
3. Friedman Center (Ithaca, N.Y.)
4. Grace Hall (Bethlehem, Pa.)
5. Gallagher-Iba Arena (Stillwater, Okla.)


By @NHoughSnee

I'm going to say it: unsurprisingly, the women's bouts have been as action-packed as the men's at the World Championships. Wrestling is only going to grow if people embrace that our women go harder than those in any other sport on earth.

By Mike S.

Not sure if you have ever seen or read this but I highly suggest you do. It's a blog from a man named Todd Tarpley. It follows his personal choice and subsequent struggle to define his life, and eventually reach his goal of being an All-American, by selling out, going for broke and moving to Iowa to wrestle for the HWC in the late 80s early 90s. The names thrown around are a who's who of wrestling greats: Brands, Steiner, Alger, Zaputil, Lewis and shows event cards with winners like Mark Coleman, Smith, Baumgartner, and is especially great to see the Foxcatcher Club with the upcoming movie and documentary. It reads as a blog and follows his daily progressions of getting physically and mentally beat ... until his dreams start to turn into reality. The man himself, from what I could find, has returned to New York and is extremely successful, including writing a few children's books I believe ... as if his wrestling and determination doesn't encapsulate you, maybe his writing will. It may take a while to read, so set aside some time, but it will be worth it. I promise. Link.


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CoachPrebes (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Greco is only boring to us Americans; in many nations in Europe, Greco Roman is the wrestling style of choice. My theory about why so many Americans do not like Greco is they can not fathom not using their legs for attacks, hooks, etc. While Greco does limit the choice of attacks for wrestlers, there is much, much more to see: hand-fighting, pummeling, lift and throws, and brute strength. People tend to fear or dislike what they do not understand. I have been a Greco guy since my days as an athlete and absolutely prefer it to any style of wrestling. I can not begin to tell you how frustrated the kids I coach get when I wrestle live with them and simply block all of their takedown shots with good positioning, hand fighting skills, and a solid underhook. If more people would open their minds to Greco Roman they would see how much it actually benefits their freestyle and folkstyle...they don't call me Greco Moses for nothing.
Gmit (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Re: Tervel's match. One thing that might improve wrestling's appeal when international and Olympic tournaments are running is to take a lesson from tennis. They stretch the tournament out over the whole week with all the championships decided all at once on the final day or two. This allows discussion about individual matches and allows excitement to build. You can also see all the matches. The way wrestling is presented now, you go to work in the morning and when you get back,wham: Jordan Burroughs has wrestled all his matches and everything with him is over. It would build more excitement and television viewership if the different styles all ran concurrently building towards a final few days of championship bouts. It would allow fans to know when their favorites are wrestling and make plans to watch. Now that is impossible.