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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The NCAA wrestling season opened up today with student-athletes attending their first official team practices. From Corvallis to Chattanooga, Ithaca to Tempe, the relaxation period of preseason has been dismissed and replaced with a series of peaks and valleys.
We have all season to account for the emotional toll of the collegiate wrestling season, so let's take a moment and review the numbers many wrestlers will live in the 2013-2014 season.
With an Oct. 10 start date and the NCAA tournament concluding on March 22, this year's wrestling season will last 164 days. That equates to 3936 hours of competition, or 236,160 minutes of injury maintenance, or even 14,169,600 seconds of dietary discipline.
Rounded down, it's 23 weeks of not partying, or five months and 13 days of social sacrifice.
My experience seems dated, but as a young, shaved-head, emaciated and cantankerous rapscallion at the University of Virginia, to me the length of the season always equated to making and then holding weight for 20 straight weeks. That wasn't an easy, or healthy chore. Assuming that my average incoming weight was something like 185 pounds (nachos are delicious) and that I wrestled 157 pounds, I'd on average, have to trim a total of 28 pounds to reach competition weight.
To maintain that weight loss I'd lose all but five percent of my weight (164 pounds) and hold that from Nov. 2 - March 20. Essentially it became a 21-pound cut to start the season and a 4.4 percent bounce for every competition. It was miserable, and in retrospect, unnecessary.
Are things different now? Somewhat. The focus has moved from insane weight cutting to nutrition and endurance strength. We're smarter about strength, functional fitness and nutrition now than we were in 1999. Also, the holdover influencers from the era of extreme weight loss have moved out of wrestling and are being replaced by coaches and leaders who understand that weight loss of 20 or more pounds is rarely an intelligent decision.
More can still be done to trim down on the weight cut, but the direction is encouraging. Our guys look healthy in their singlets and there is far less stalling in NCAA wrestling -- a consequence of fewer emaciated wrestlers conserving their energy for big scrambles.
I'm paraphrasing, but I recently heard Bill Zadick discussing weight cutting with a very talented high school wrestler. "Every moment you're in the wrestling room cutting weight is a moment you could've been working on technique and getting better," said Zadick. "Wrestling isn't fun if you're sucked out trying to lose weight. There is no enjoyment in cutting weight. You're too young for wrestling to feel like it's a job you hate. Enjoy wrestling. Wrestling is fun."
I agree with Bill.
To your questions ...
Q: If you want to spice up the classic I have the match for you: Ben Askren vs. Jordan Burroughs in folkstyle. You know Askren would be up for it. He thinks he can beat anyone in folkstyle and loves the crowd. Would Burroughs?
-- Dave A.
Foley: Isn't Ben Askren a bit over-extended at the moment? He has the "Freakshow" or "Agon 1" match against Quentin Wright in Vegas and he's waiting to sign the new contract for his MMA talents. Burroughs would be quite the late write-in.
However, I would hypothetically be interested in seeing these two guys hit the mats. Also, I have no idea who would win. Could Burroughs adapt back to the grind of folkstyle after three years focused on freestyle? Or would Askren be better at adapting his funky American jiu-jitsu and MMA-based tactics?
Intriguing, but overall I don't think that Burroughs or Askren has much incentive to endure a seven-minute match against an opponent who could beat them and thereby ruin their reputations. Burroughs' value comes as much from his undefeated streak as it does his three World titles. Askren's value comes from being the best wrestler in MMA. Why add doubt to either assertion?
Your question reminded me that there is a lot of premier post-collegiate wrestling coming up in the next month: Agon1, Tour ACW and Who's Number One. The real question about these matches aren't if they will create a buzz, or be entertaining, but if they'll be sustainable in a post-#SaveOlympicWrestling atmosphere. Right now we are in the hangover phase of some massive international attention, but that focus won't survive into 2014 and beyond. Will the wrestling community be large enough to support these matches through 2016?
Q: What do you think about the ticket exchange? The further professionalization and profiteering of the NCAA wrestling tournament?
-- Tom B.
Foley: For those of you who haven't read the new rules for purchasing NCAA fan tickets, here is part of the press release ...
PrimeSport, the official ticket and hospitality provider of the NCAA, today announced official ticket and hospitality packages and the official NCAA Ticket Exchange program are now available at the sold out 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Wrestling Championships. For the first time ever, college wrestling fans will be able to buy official ticket packages or buy and sell tickets with other fans quickly and easily in a safe, secure and NCAA approved marketplace. Set in Oklahoma City, OK at the world-class Chesapeake Energy Arena, the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Wrestling Championships will take place on March 20–22, 2014.
For more information, read the press release.
The New York Yankees created their own ticket exchange this year, which helped them preserve ticket prices and kept the market for their tickets secure from fraud. I think that it will be a brilliant way for those interested in buying after-market tickets in a stress-free environment. There is now a guarantee that your tickets are valid, you're paying a competitive price.
Count me in.
Q: Where is Ugi in the rankings? He is on the roster for The Citadel. Shouldn't he be ranked in the top 3-4 at 141?
-- Nate M.
The Citadel's Ugi placed fourth at the 2013 NCAAs (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Foley: Right now Ugi is ineligible to compete in another year of NCAA competition. The Citadel has sought to get him back at least one more year of competition, but the've so far been unsuccessful. I don't know all the details behind the Citadel's efforts, but I do know that given a shred of decency and fairness the NCAA would have initially granted him a much longer term of eligibility, and when asked to revisit their decision would've given the Mongolian All-American another year of eligibility, if not two.
This is yet another case of the NCAA being selectively harsh about their eligibility requirements and their absolutely ridiculous posturing about "amateurism." We'll see what the coaches are able to secure for their program's best wrestler.
Q: Jay Hammond has EVERY wrestling stat in history in his database going back to WW2?
-- Mike R.
Foley: Yes he does.
Q: A lot of young children watch WWE and think that is wrestling, and think they want to try wrestling but when they come out for folkstyle or other styles of wrestling they are discouraged because it is not what they saw on TV. What is your opinion on how to get them engaged in the -sport so they want to continue?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: The recent attention paid to non-WWE wrestling has helped clear up that misunderstanding. I don't know that too many kids are under the impression that professional wrestling is actual wrestling, but were that the case, the Internet is an excellent resource at showing what the amateur side of the sport can look like at a high level.
Like this ...
Tony Ramos: The Iowa Way
Lehigh Wrestling Season Promo Video
Q: You've probably got this question before, but what do you consider the toughest high school tournaments in the country?
-- Henry C.
Foley: There is a really good chance that I answered it differently the last time I was asked. Part of the problem is how to define "toughest" and "toughest to win." To me, California's state tournament is the "toughest to win" based on the number of participating wrestlers and tournaments you have to win.
However, the top-to-bottom toughest tournament in the country is the AAA in Pennsylvania, where more NCAA All-Americans have wrestled than in any other tournament. Next would be New Jersey, California and then AA in Pennsylvania. Again, that is top-to-bottom strength, not toughest to win.
And there are innumerable opinions and justifications for each of those states, but I still think it's tough to look past the absolutely amazing talent that comes out of Hershey every year.
Q: InterMat and other sources recently released NCAA rankings for the upcoming season. Another source I saw listed wrestlers who were not ranked because of injury or a redshirt year (for example Kevin Steinhaus and Destin McCauley). Notably missing from the rankings is Hunter Stieber. Is he taking a redshirt year?
-- Mark K.
Foley: Yes, Hunter Stieber is taking a redshirt, and Steinhaus has a serious knee injury. McCauley should be competing for the starting spot, but with his redshirt status unclear and Sueflohn as the returning starter, there was a decision at InterMat to evaluate Sueflohn for the rankings until they were able to suss it out in the room.
The big difference between InterMat and other media outlets is our side ranks true freshmen. (I have NOTHING to do with rankings.) InterMat chooses to rank true freshmen wrestlers based on the knowledge of the wrestler's talent and past high school and Olympic-style results. Many other sportswriters rank freshmen, which makes sense, because you can't rank a team without considering all their starters.
The NCAA college basketball rankings are a great example. The NCAA voters won't exclude Kentucky when this year's NCAA basketball preseason rankings are released just because they have a team full of freshmen. In fact, they will likely do just the opposite. The freshmen-laded Kentucky squad could be ranked No. 1 in the country. When you take a look at individual performances, they do the same, awarding Harrison Barnes a preseason All-American honor in 2010 before he ever played a minute of college ball.
Though I' m not on the rankings committee at InterMat, I'm very proud when I look at the shift in rankings from the start of the season until the end. There will always be movement, since wrestlers tend to develop throughout the year, but year-in and year-out, InterMat's rankings committee does a pretty swell job of giving fans an accurate lay of the college wrestling landscape -- freshmen or not.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
Projected NWCA All-Star Classic lineup ...
125: Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma) vs. Nahshon Garrett (Cornell)
133: A.J. Schopp (Edinboro) vs. Mason Beckman (Lehigh)
141: Tony Ramos (Iowa) vs. Devin Carter (Virginia Tech)
149: Logan Stieber (Ohio State) vs. Kendric Maple (Oklahoma)
157: Derek St. John (Iowa) vs. Nestor Taffur (Boston)
165: David Taylor (Penn State) vs. Michael Moreno (Iowa State)
174: Matt Brown (Penn State) vs. Andrew Howe (Oklahoma)
184: Ed Ruth (Penn State) vs. Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland)
197: Taylor Meeks (Oregon State) vs. Scott Schiller (Minnesota)
285: Tony Nelson (Minnesota) vs. Mike McMullan (Northwestern)