Foley's Friday Mailbag: September 27, 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.
Do you want to read a past mailbag? Access archives.
If you took a quick glance at the results from last week's World Championships you might assume that Russia is currently throwing a ticker tape parade through the Red Square for their young heroes.
You'd be wrong.
While Mongolian government officials and television crews greeted their second-place women's team at the Chinngis Khan Airport in Ulannabaatar, the Russian team that took home a total of 11 medals last week in Budapest, including three gold medals, were all but ignored. Better still, if you read the blog post of Michael Mamiashvili the team has plenty of improvements to make, primarily to their training regiments and to not blaming the referees for their mistakes. No parade, no government envoy, just more work.
Mamiashvili doesn't just go Khrushchev. He actually takes his space to blame the past ten years of bad rules under Raphael Martinetti for the Russian side's improper and ineffectual strategies. The rules were bogus, and Russians forgot how to wrestle with strategy. This from a side with 11 medals. Mamiashvili does believe that these failures of the Russian side will be cleared up once the coaches have time to work on proper techniques and develop strategies.
The women's side in his opinion is woefully inadequate when compared to the "system of Asia." Natalia Vorobieva's loss to China's Zhang Fengliu, the rise of Mongolia and domination of Japan influencing the Olympic champion's must-improve outlook for 2014.
In short, Mamiashvili is down on the Russian performance, and wondering where this leaves his countrymen going forward. He's confident, but by positing the question shows that he's unsure how the new rules and Russian dominance will play out. His is the type of institutional uncertainty that plays itself out in every country around the world in the weeks after the World Championships. It's silly, but it's wrestling.
Wrestling is back in the Olympics, but that means business as usual: Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.
To your questions ...
Q: Is the new Foxcatcher movie good for wrestling?
-- Rob H.
A still from the movie FoxcatcherFoley: Steve Carell just won my Oscar vote for best performance in a movie trailer. The voice is hollow and monotone, the nose plays, and his pigeon-toed stance and triumphant self-aggrandizing posture tells you more about the character of John du Pont.
Foxcatcher is a movie about a deranged heir to a billionaire estate influenced the lives of several wrestlers, including Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), and ultimately committed a heinous murder. Like Win-Win wrestling is the backdrop for the plot, a familiar place for complex characters to take root and grow in front of the audience.
The wrestling community has cause to be concerned. This was a dark period in the history of wrestling, and feelings are certain to be hurt. Some will be disgusted, others proud, but ultimately this is a dramatic interpretation of an event, not a judgment on the sport.
Wrestling has been through its adjudication -- more public than anything in its past, or that could be imagined in the future. Villains were exposed; weaknesses in production value noted and some of the sport's dustiest skeletons found time to tan. And still, after six and a half months of mainstream media attention and hashtag-driven social media outcry, the modern world absolved wrestling of its sins -- the boredom, possible corruption and shiny spandex weren't enough to keep the people from supporting the sport.
Foxcatcher is a movie meant to entertain by showing fans the sickness of one individual and the lengths he would go to find validation. Wrestling is apart from that completely, and it's time to feel grateful that Bennett Miller saw the beauty in our sport, and was able to tell a story, no matter how awful, from that existing foundation.
Q: I'm a freshman here at Penn State, and I've been going through the process of walking on to the team here. There's four of us. One is a fifth-year senior coming in from some other college, another is a junior who did club wrestling his first two years. The other kid, another freshman, is around my weight, so we've been wrestling a bit in the intramural building every day in order to get ourselves ready for the "tryouts" next week. In comparison to the state, national and world-level wrestlers that Penn State recruits, we aren't much. I was a couple matches away from states, and he went 1-2 at states.
My main question/comment for you: How do you judge two average kids trying to be a part of a dynasty? The energy inside the wrestling room is absolutely electric. 30-plus studs all trying to be national champions. Cael and his staff are focused on turning great into amazing, while we're trying to go from good to amazing. I've heard that our attempts are either short-sighted and futile, or ambitious and fruitful. Are we worthy of the time and effort necessary to be a part of the team, or are we a waste of space?
-- Davon C.
Foley: No wrestler is a waste of space, and every effort -- if made with sincerity and dedication -- is worthy of time and effort.
Maybe you won't win a national title, or even start, but you can be a productive member of the team. Being part of a dynasty is self-serving. If you're hopping on to be part of a poster that will be shown in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for decades to come, then you're pursuing the sport for the wrong reasons. But if the sincerity of your email is mirrored in how hard you work on the mats and in the classroom, then you will earn your sport as a team member by helping those in front of you improve.
And don't let anyone tell you what can and can't be done. These are long odds, but men have faced longer. Do your job and do it well. Be consistent, kind and dependable. Be a trustworthy teammate. Do all those things and it won't matter if you step onto the podium in March, because you'll have already earned your reward.
Good luck and stay positive, I'm pulling for you.
Q: How come they have never held the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Madison Square Garden or somewhere on the West Coast?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: Word on Broadway is that New York City made a bid to host the 2015 NCAA Championships. Unclear how that bid will be received since profit and cost are at the center of the NCAA's decision-making tree and NYC is an expensive host city with limited green space for a fan zone.
The West Coast doesn't have a population concentration sufficient enough to accommodate the driving population. The NCAA did a study a few years ago and basically said that our crowds are old to quite old and that keeping tournaments within their reach would be beneficial. Also, it would be counterproductive to move the tournament away from the vast majority of collegiate wrestling fans from the Midwest and mid-Atlantic region.
However, I think that San Francisco is bidding for the 2024 Olympics and that could be a great place to hold an international sporting event, including wrestling.
Q: A simple question. Why don't other countries use Resilite mats? When I watch international matches I see a mat system that the U.S. stopped using when I was in high school.
-- Ken S.
Foley: Too heavy, too expensive, and you can't change the cover of the mat without totally replacing it. The international mat is easy to make and easy to ship. Now with the proposed changed to the color of the mats (yellow is awful for photos and television) teams, countries and events can simply order a new cover rather than new mats.
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 do you think? Or any better ideas?
-- Rob H.
Foley: Still not into the idea of overtime, but there needs to be a more pronounced way of showing wrestlers, fans and coaches who is winning when the score is in fact tied. At the Worlds they used a small -- and I mean tiny -- triangle in the box of the winning wrestler. Not only was it very difficult to see but the clock workers had trouble putting the triangle in the right box.
The worst instance of the triangle happened in the 66-kilo semifinals Mongolia's Mandrakhnaran had the triangle in his box for the final 30 seconds and cruised to the win over Cuba's Lopez. Unfortunately when the hands went to get raised it was Cuba who'd moved into the finals. It was bad.
Overtime also isn't workable in a one-day format. Would Dake have been able to beat Burroughs if he hadn't endured that epic overtime match with Howe? Maybe. Maybe not. But that type of exhaustion is an issue. The other is that limitless overtimes are not welcome by television.
Overall, if the fans immediately know who is winning while the score is tied, then the score isn't really tied and there is no problem.
Q: When I think of dominant wrestling countries, India does not come to mind! What do you attribute their rise in freestyle wrestling to become a world wrestling power? Are they importing athletes or do they have a strong grassroots program that is developing top level talent?
-- Les C.
Foley: India has a long and rich wrestling tradition embedded into daily life. The recent increase was part the government's effort to become a more successful competitor in international competitions. There are millions of wrestlers in India, and now with more funding for training, travel and coaching they've had the opportunity to showcase their talents on the international stage.
My guess? They'll win four medals in Rio.
Foxcatcher Trailer No. 1 ...
I show this in Russian because it helps deliver the message of international inclusiveness.
Q: I know there is some support in the U.S. and from you in particular for eliminating Greco-Roman from the Olympics in order to save freestyle. Coming from the U.S. it seems like a decent idea, but that's because not a lot of Americans compete in Greco and because we are not very good at it. But is this even a plausible idea internationally? And worldwide, does Greco approach (or even exceed) the popularity of freestyle?
-- Daniel A.
Foley: The crowds in Budapest loved Greco-Roman. As the days went along more people showed for the Greco days than the freestyle days. Partly based on the success of the home wrestlers, and partly due to the fact it was the weekend. They sold beer in the arena, too.
Greco has moments of excitement, but can still be excruciatingly boring to watch. There are few international coaches and wrestling thinkers who deny that Greco is in trouble due to a lack of consistent action, tough to witness skills, and a mind-boggling set of rules including "appreciation points."
Greco is safe, but with gender equality as a developing issue, I'd expect those that want to ensure its longevity and relevance will be looking to make changes that are both relevant and exciting.
*Note: Canada recently voted to start a junior-level girls Greco-Roman competition.
Q: Who do you think will start for Nebraska at 149? McCauley or Sueflohn?
-- Andy H.
Foley: McCauley. Both have redshirts, but McCauley needs the structure of the collegiate season to ensure that he ends buying into the system. I don't know if McCauley is prone to distraction, but the smart play would be to get him focused, and delay the head-to-head with Sueflohn for 2015.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
By Nick D.
After the extremely successful ratings on this year's NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, ESPN's newly announced expanded coverage of next year's event, and the IOC's decision to reinstate wrestling to the Olympics, don't you think now is the time to start pressuring major Division I school to pick up wrestling. For as long as I can remember all we talk about is wrestling programs getting cut, but with this new spotlight that has been put on wrestling isn't now a great time to strike while the iron is hot. Superstars like Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Dake have become larger than just wrestling stars they are becoming household names. This is a huge uphill battle but to at least get the conversation going can only be a positive.
Of course there is a lot that goes into adding wrestling to a Division I school both financially and politically but it's hard to imaging schools like Texas, USC, or Oregon (bring the sport back) not having the funding to add wrestling as a Division I sport. These schools already have access to wrestling conferences and have the ability to promote the sport at premier sport institutions. I just feel now is a good time to start bring up expanding the sport instead of always having to fight for its survival.