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 historian and statistician Jay Hammond passed away this week after a long battle with esophageal cancer.
Arguably college wrestling's most vital documentarian, in 2005 Hammond printed "The History of Collegiate Wrestling" a 400-page tome to the accomplishments of our sport's greatest competitors. The book was an instant success.
Hammond was the type of soft-spoken personality more likely to be caught scribbling stats rather than bloviating on a blog. An engineer and database technician by skillset, he preferred to let the clarity of statistics shine past the quick takes and jabber of message boards. (InterMat's Mark Palmer details Hamond's life.) Most notable and memorable about Jay was his continued kindness and respect for all those in the wrestling community.
Hammond has left the wrestling community with a significant and lasting body of work for future generations to build upon. He has helped countless fans, journalists and family members discover the hidden treasures of the sport through documentation and statistical analysis. Hammond's work will undoubtedly prove to be the building block for this generation's future accomplishments.
Rest well, Jay. You will be missed.
To your questions ...
Q: Do you think Ed Ruth's suspension might date back to the All-Star meet and him dropping out for undisclosed reasons?
Foley: I know what you know, which is he has been suspended. Seems that it could have reached back to the beginning of the month, but I need to be careful about speculation. There are plenty of rumors, but none have been confirmed. When one does, we will have more answers and we can talk about the specifics of his case.
Q: What the hell is going on with Agon and Mike DiSabato?
-- Jeff C.
Foley: I almost didn't run your question for a lack of wanting to give this ongoing saga too much publicity. Though there are several items of the promotion's rollout that might be offensive to some, and Mike DiSabato has an aggressive Twitter account, the worst part is they could be losing an opportunity to build their brand.
Flowrestling is the excellent, shiny, glimmering example of breaking an established model and creating a culture that is attractive to consumers. Though I have my reservations about Flo, they are expert (nay genius?) at creating a culture that invites others in the wrestling community to join. For the most part they are harmlessly trying to make money from entertaining the wrestling community at-large. It's not journalism, but it is profitable and an impressive company.
In contrast to Flo's company ideals that closely resemble a good-natured "bro" mentality, Agon seems aimless in their motivations as directed towards the wrestling community. They're unfriendly, confrontational and disrespectful. Agon wants to be seen as challenging the status quo they believe has "enslaved" amateur wrestlers to lives of economic stagnation. Though they might have a point in attempting to disseminate the message they are attacking members of the wrestling community from whom they will need the most support.
Wise people say wise things, and I once had the chance to talk to an incredibly talented university development officer who explained that. "People don't give money to ideas. They give money to people." It's true. No transaction in the wrestling community that isn't attached to an image, a face, a culture of personality. While Flo remains the good-natured capitalist, Agon has quickly become the drunk and cantankerous uncle that is easier to ignore and lambast than to support in any meaningful way.
Wrestling does need more professional opportunities, but spamming and trolling the Internet for confrontation only leads to self-alienation. Our sport is filled with plenty of swollen egos, and life on the mats is a grind. A marketing platform shouldn't add more stress to the lives of fans -- it should provide fun and engaging content.
If Agon wants to connect to more wrestling fans and grow their idea then they'll need to improve their marketing and the culture of their company. No matter what sells to fans of the cage and the high ropes, on the mat heroes are welcomed, and heels forgotten.
Q: OK, magical genie, lottery, grant money, or inheritance from Monopoly guy allows you to create or re-instate three college wrestling programs. Which three do you choose (for the good of the sport)?
-- Tom B.
Foley: You don't KNOW that I don't already own a magical genie. However, assuming that my genie has gone on strike, or otherwise forgotten to show up in recent years, I do have an answer.
My money, like most money given to universities, would come with a set of guidelines dictating how it was to be used. To weekly readers, it's no surprise that I would mandate each of the programs have full women's teams up and wrestling in three years. I'd also want a new wrestling facility built on campus, and access to a nutritionist for guys on the team. Finally, I'd want them to look into wearing something other than singlets. Not mandatory, but a whole-hearted attempt.
Syracuse: Tradition! The school would have no problem finding excellent wrestlers from the region. Also, given the university's connection to Bristol, there would be a ton of stories from ESPN. Positive press keeps paying, long after the money dries up. Coaching hire: Pat Popolizio.
Fresno State: California needs more Division I wrestling teams, and given the recent interest by the school's president, the timing is right to get behind a new Bulldogs program. I'd be most excited to see if they somehow still wrestle with funk even as they physical heritage has been discontinued. Coaching hire: Sammie Henson.
Texas A&M: Adding another SEC school to the mix could coax others to follow. Like the Ivy League the SEC thinks of sports as a way to measure, ahem, manhood. Though women's wrestling might seem an ill fit, remember that Texas has a girl's state tourney and has thousands of girl wrestlers.
A&M could put that $740 million they raised last year to good use! Coaching hire: Brandon Slay.
This is the best promotional video I've ever seen in wrestling. Fantastic work. I hope to see Cole's work for years to come. Uniquely talented at shooting, production and storytelling. Incredible.
I can get behind these types of promotions every time I see them air. "It's all about marketing to your fans!" -- Jim Harshaw
"You smell like buttercups."
And you wonder why they are better than everyone else in wrestling ...
Q: How does Johny Hendricks being in the OSU room work NCAA compliance-wise?
Foley: There are a few ways that former alumni can be in their school's current practice room.
First, alumni are always allowed the opportunity to "occasionally" practice with the team, so long as it's not repetitive or pre-scheduled in any meaningful way. For example, if I wanted to wrestle in the U.Va. room I could do so. I just couldn't schedule my beatings for every Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.
Also, if the school has a regional training facility then high-level athletes with waivers are allowed to practice. Even if not the athlete, those who are deemed high-level are allowed to bring workout partners. Johny is in the business of throwing punches, but with Oklahoma State as a regional training center, he can certainly hop in and help out those guys that wish to make their Olympic dreams a reality.
Finally, he can always attend a club practice. No limitations on participation outside of the legalities of having a wrestling club.
I'm betting Johny at +235 and suggest you do the same.
Q: What do you think of @johnnywrestling announcing his college decision live on signing day?
Foley: Haven't the faintest, but would suspect that it was just their coverage for a kid who'd chosen to announce in a live format, similar to what happens with top high school football and basketball players. It was a cool attempt at promoting the sport. I don't think there is much of a market for charging fans to watch live announcements.
Q: Does Northwestern have the nation's top recruiting class? They picked up Johnny Sebastien to add to Bryce Brill and Stevan Micic.
-- Curt H.
Foley: No, but they are certainly in my top five.
NCAA assistant coaches Jay Borschel and Matt Storniolo celebrate after Mike McMullan's NCAA semifinal victory (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Penn State's trio of Nick Nevills, Bo Nickal and Jason Nolf is pretty dandy, and Ohio State's Thomas Haines, Micah Jordan and Kyle Snyder is also spectacular. Iowa's pull of Seth Gross, Sam Stoll, Logan Ryan, and Burke Paddock could be the most impressive.
Having trained with the Northwestern wrestling team, lived with members of the coaching staff and myself helped with their club program a few year ago, I'm not totally objective about the Wildcats' position in the Big Ten and NCAA. Bias noted, it strikes me that the most academically rigorous and only private school in the Big Ten is competing ahead of almost all their state school rivals. That's impressive, and with this class it's time to start thinking of them as a perennial contender to place at the NCAA tournament instead of just a team that pops in to steal a fourth-place trophy.
The Pariano-led Wildcats have crowned NCAA champions, put together multiple-finalist seasons and can even claim Olympian and Hodge Trophy winner Jake Herbert as an alumnus. They might never find the firepower on their limited roster to win an NCAA title, but it's about time we start to expect them to be in the top ten every season.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
As a Penn State season ticket holder, I am obviously disappointed that Chance Marsteller has de-committed. Living in the York area, I have followed Chance closely and will still be pulling for him to be the first four-time PIAA champion from this area. But the important thing (from a USA Wrestling perspective) is that he chose another program with an outstanding freestyle room. We have to encourage our best young wrestlers to look beyond NCAA championships. Chance has that kind of potential and I wish him the best. If Cael won't get the opportunity to shape Marsteller into a world-class wrestler, then I am glad he turned to John Smith. It would have also been great if he had chosen Iowa or Ohio State or one of several other programs with RTC-caliber rooms.
One recruit will not make or break a program and PSU and OSU have certainly been blessed lately. I very much believe tOSU (Ohio, that is) will be a top-tier program this year or next and I think that is good for NCAA and USA Wrestling. I firmly believe we need more programs to reach that level to be competitive on the international level and I am honestly more excited about that than I am about PSU four-peating. PSU's recent success has been a LOT of fun but there is a long way to go to have the kind of long-term success that OSU and Iowa have had. I prefer to measure that success in Olympic and World gold but you can also measure it in NCAA team and individual championships. By any of those measures, Cael has a long way to go to reach Cowboy or Hawkeye status, but I certainly think he is on that path and I hope we get a few more programs on that vector.