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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Let's get to the bacon, wrestle-heads. There is only one month until the NCAA wrestling begins, and we need to start picking the horses we think will trot away from Oklahoma City with an NCAA title. Forget the long-winded prognostications, here are my picks:
David Taylor with Cael Sanderson during the NCAA semifinal round (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Individual:
125: Nahshon Garrett (Cornell)
133: Tony Ramos (Iowa)
141: Logan Stieber (Ohio State)
149: Kendric Maple (Oklahoma)
157: Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State)
165: David Taylor (Penn State)
174: Andrew Howe (Oklahoma) (Matt Brown!)
184: Ed Ruth (Penn State)
197: Travis Rutt (Oklahoma)
285: Tony Nelson (Minnesota)
1. Penn State (110)
2. Oklahoma (103.5)
3. Oklahoma State (101)
InterMat Wrestler of the Year:
David Taylor (Penn State)
InterMat Freshman of the Year:
Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern)
Name yours in the comments and we'll check back in March. Can anyone go 10/10?
To your questions ...
Q: With the Southern Scuffle getting bigger every year, what does the Midlands have to do to regain its form as the toughest in-season tournament for a college/open?
-- Tony G.
Foley: The Scuffle has definitely seen a growth in popularity over the past several years. Though much of the change has to do with big teams wanting to avoid Midwest mingling until absolutely necessary, some of it has to do with weather and presentation. Add-in Cornell, Minnesota and Penn State and you have an attraction equivalent to a fully-charged bug-zapper during the Costa Rican rainy season.
I live in Chicago and can tell you that our winters, though not as climatically severe as nearby cities like Minneapolis and Milwaukee, could break a blue-faced William Wallace. The steel skies, dirty snow and mind-numbing traffic jams are enough, but the stiff lake-blown breezes and slush-soaked parking lots multiply the misery to a level exponentially higher than most anyone can rationally withstand. Why do so many people live here, you ask? Summertime bar hopping and the best restaurant scene in America. That's it. And maybe the Blackhawks. Chicagoans love hockey.
Compare Evanston's snow-banks with the verdant hills and rolling rivers of Chattanooga and you can see why a weekend spent shoveling your car out of pay-for-parking is comparatively miserable. But there are several incentives that Midlands offers that the Scuffle can't replicate, primarily the ability for post-grads to enter the tournament, MUCH better television distribution via the Big Ten Network and a top-down "tougher" event.
Northwestern University head wrestling coach Drew Pariano is a great salesman. He's managed some pretty fine recruits over the past several years (Welch, McMullan, Tsirtsis), and just as he coerced those talented young brutes to scrap in the misery of a northern Illinois' winter, he's managed to keep some big teams away from the Scuffle and maintain the integrity of the event.
When you compare the top four team finishes from both tournaments there is a decided edge for the Southern Scuffle (NCAA team placement in parenthesis):
Southern Scuffle: Penn State (1), Oklahoma State (2), Missouri (7), Minnesota (3).
Midlands: Illinois (9), Virginia Tech (10), Oklahoma (12), and Oregon State (8).
However, when you look at how many All-Americans (post-grad included) competed in the two tournaments, the numbers favor Midlands, 43-31. Or a full 1.2 more All-Americans wrestling in the Midlands bracket.
What I think you'll start to see is a balance built between the two tournaments. There are plenty of wrestlers to go around and the two tournaments can share the talent and provide fans with a week filled with great wrestling. We are lucky to have these two tournaments in competition with each other, and the ability to watch them on our television and online.
Q: Which wrestling program has the most Division I All Americans?
-- Steve H.
Foley: You made me do math. I don't like math.
I went through some trouble to scrounge this up for you, only to realize halfway through my second pot of coffee that there is definitely someone else in the wrestling universe who has these numbers certified and posted on their wall.
For now, these are my numbers:
Oklahoma State: 430
Iowa State: 284
Q: Does FILA have any plans to expand on wrestling's popularity in Asia? India, Korea and Japan are the future?
Foley: FILA has done an excellent job expanding their international reach over the past several years. In 1992 there were roughly 110 national governing bodies for the sport of wrestling, and today there are 177 with a few more possibly ready to launch in 2014. Not only are there more NGB's but there is also a much wider variety of countries who are earning medals -- 29 in 2012 and 28 in 2008. That is up from 22 in 2004 and 2000.
These are important numbers to keep in mind when considering FILA's expansion. Korea and Japan have always had strong programs and will always compete well in the lighter weights. The only expansion Koreans would make is in focusing on creating a stronger women's program who have yet to win an Olympic medal. The Japanese could try to pour more money into their Greco program before the Tokyo Games in 2020, but otherwise have a fairly balanced and dependable program.
FILA can't expand much within India, as it's only one country, but the forces inside India are being encouraged by the government and private business to fund men's and women's wrestling. This year India won it's first-ever medal in Greco-Roman wrestling when Sandeep took bronze at 66 kilos in Budapest. Where in some countries there is only funding for one style, in India there is funding for all three. When Sandeep realized he'd never start in front of World champion and two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar he chose to transition to Greco-Roman. The Indians support the growth of the program, and now have a result to show for their efforts.
FILA's greatest potential for influence will be in southeast Asia, South American and Africa, where wrestling is the second-most popular sport on the continent and there are millions of underprivileged youth waiting for the opportunity to compete.
The leadership at FILA has realized Africa's potential and taken the first steps at creating a legitimate Olympic style program by establishing a FILA Training Center in Thies, Senegal. Though a start, the current system of picking 18-year-old raw athletes for development isn't sustainable or effective in the long-term. However, should a country like Senegal find the economic support to create 30 well-coached clubs along their populated coastline, I'm one-hundred percent confident that they'd be winning Olympic medals at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Other parts of Africa could experience similar results, too. Nigeria, Niger, The Gambia, and Cameroon all value wrestling as a culturally acceptable choice for work. With some financial and coaching support these communities could see the rapid growth and improvement of their Olympic-style wrestlers. There is no sales job to make within the local communities -- Africans love wrestling. The sales job comes in finding men and women willing to share their talents on the continent.
What the sport can look like to kids, when you make it fun ... And WOW.
American highlights from the 2013 World Championships
Yeah, I guess this guy works hard for what he's got ...
Q: You have given your opinion about Win Win and your hopes for Foxcatcher. After reading your mailbag last week, I feel like I now have the courage to write this email.
For years I have felt like a guy living in Boston wearing a Yankee's cap. Why? Because I think Vision Quest is a dumb movie. Protagonist cuts weight, antagonist carries a log up bleachers, protagonist stalks transient woman who is crashing in his house, protagonist cuts more weight, uncomfortable scene involving a hotel guest, nose bleed due to cutting weight, beating the quiet guy who carried said log, close to credits.
In fact, the only enduring scene is that movie is when the cook breaks down retelling a story about Pele, the soccer player!
Am I missing something? Is there an Aesop's-fable-storyline that has sailed over my head all of these years?
-- Bob in Atlanta
Foley: The book was better.
Vision Quest might not be the story you wanted to watch, but it remains the most accurate representation of what happens to a wrestler during the high school wrestling season. There are villains, obscene weight cuts and transient 31-year-old trollops in every American wrestling town (that last bit was a joke).
The difference between Win Win and Vision Quest was that the former is a story about family and belonging, while the latter is about the sub-culture of wrestling and sex. There aren't many, if any, other quality Hollywood movies that have focused so plainly on our odd world, and though the 80s aspect of it might be goofy now, it meshes in principle with the behavior of modern wrestlers.
For better or worse our guys are still not eating enough and spending too much time in saunas. They have single-minded focus on becoming the best in their town, their city and their state. They sacrifice booze and bad food for the chance to win a medal. There's a lot of every wrestler in Louden Swain.
Though the enduring legacy of the movie might be the homoerotic shoe salesman telling stories about a soccer player, or Brian Shute trudging up a set of stairs with a telephone pole on his back, the emotional truth of the movie is true to the sport and its participants.
You sold me. Who wants to see a sequel?
Tyrell FortuneCOMMENT OF THE WEEK
I'm glad to see that the NWCA All-Star Classic has been better promoted in recent years. The out of weight class matches are the latest attention-grabbing wrinkle that will only help to grow the event.
However, given the recent focus on upgrading the media attention to our sport, why was Tyrell Fortune of Grand Canyon not included in the matchups? Fortune may be the biggest special interest story of the year in college wrestling and the All-Star Classic could have been the springboard to drawing in even the non-wrestling media.
I'm excited to announce that the Wrestling Roots Foundation I founded in 2011 (still waiting for the tax-exempt paperwork back from the IRS) has landed its first major partnership! We will be working with the Fetzer Institute to promote "love and forgiveness" among warring tribes in South Sudan. We will be hosting a 12-day Wrestling for Peace tournament in mid-December featuring four tribes with a history of conflict, cattle rustling, and, of course, a mutual love for traditional wrestling.
Planning for the project has been underway for more than a year, but next week should mark the first few days of money wiring and firming up of transportation details. As you well know, I'm always looking for ways to spread the word about wrestling's redemptive qualities and think that this project, if a success, will be the first of many around the world. My hope is that we can change the attitudes about wrestling by showing it as something more than barbarism, and something more akin to a necessary form of communication among members of a functioning society.
In addition to my scribbling on InterMat we are hoping for some national print and magazine coverage to help spread the message. We've brought on Ben Lowy, an award-winning war and conflict photographer with plenty of hours covering mixed-martial arts, boxing, and even traditional wrestling in Turkey. You can check out his portfolio here.
We are facing a tough challenge in heading to such a young country, and one that has been in conflict for so long, but we're hopeful that our mutual love for wrestling will be at center of everything we accomplish together.
Wish us luck!