Foley's Friday Mailbag: December 6, 2013

The rise of Penn State, the #SaveOlympicWrestling movement, and improved marketing techniques seem to be paying off for schools on the East Coast. Just this week, attendance records are being set at dual meets across Pennsylvania. On Saturday the Nittany Lions will host Pittsburgh at the Bryce Jordan Center where the Jason Peters-led Panthers are expected to wrestle in front of more than 15,000 fans. On Thursday Edinboro enjoyed that school's largest ever attendance when Iowa traveled to the western Pennsylvania school for a dual meet.

These are positive signals on the growth of the sport and the profitability attached to the improved marketing of the best competitions. Wrestling still has a pretty big gap to jump if it wants to compete with basketball and football, but with the continued hard work of our private institutions and for-profit businesses, wrestling could become a dependable source of revenue for more than half the schools in the country.

To your questions ...

Q: What do you think of Darrion Caldwell registering at Midlands? I know he's doing MMA now, so I don't see him getting back into wrestling. Still, why do you think Caldwell registered for Midlands, and how do you think he'll do? His post-undergrad wrestling has been disappointing for those who have grown up with a risk-loving, crowd-pleasing Caldwell. Do you think Darrion will soaking up the spotlight in the finals or fading quickly in the tournament?
-- Mark K.

Darrion Caldwell celebrates after defeating Iowa's Brent Metcalf to win the NCAA championship at 149 pounds in 2009 (Photo/John Sachs,
Foley: Caldwell seems to be staying in the MMA business so you have to assume that this foray back into NCAA-styled wrestling is for amusement and training purposes. With his many interests afoot it's easy to assume he'll spend his time on the mats in Evanston putting on a show for the fans.

However, as with any high-profile addition to the tournament, the lack of wrestling-focused training is certain to hamper his performance. I can tell you from personal experience that even as I trained in jiu-jitsu five times a week and added in several wrestling workouts in the lead-up to my Midlands performance, nothing could properly prepare me for the mind-bending tiredness I felt out on the mats.

Caldwell's athleticism and creativity will carry him into the semifinals, but after that I'm less confident that he can continue to dominate like he did in year's past.

Q: Wow, so Askren is moving to Singapore?
-- @tonygargallo

Foley: Yes, indeed. Ben Askren, the two-time NCAA champion and 2008 Olympian, recently signed a deal with OneFC to take his fighting talents to Asia's largest promotion. The Duke Roufus student will also be moving from his home in Milwaukee to Singapore where he is joining the EvolveMMA fight team.

For those who don't follow MMA closely, it might seem like Askren is simply being shunned by the UFC, and though that has merit, his move is nonetheless brilliant. Where some would see failure in not being signed by the UFC, in reality Askren might be making the more profitable career move by taking his marketability and talent to southeast Asia.

Start with his training situation. Roufus' gym is spectacular, but Askren will see an improvement in all aspects of his fighting education. EvolveMMA is without questions the best MMA gym in Asia. The staff includes dozens of the best muay thai instructors in the world, Olympic wrestler Heath Sims and a half-dozen Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts. As for training partners, Askren will have Shinya Aoki, Jake Butler and rotating cast of talented visitors. When it comes to preparation, EvolveMMA is the best option in Asia.

But to make the argument that Askren is making a positive career move, you'll also have to consider his compensation and quality of life. Evolve is not only a fight gym, but also a large and VERY profitable consumer gym with locations around Singapore. As part of most compensations package Evolve tends to give fighters a place to live, huge salary and free management and sponsorship representation. In return, athletes like Askren are asked to coach several classes a week and are forbidden to miss team practices. Askren will likely be asked to help coach wrestling, grappling and MMA courses and can give private lessons on the side.

Those individual lessons might also pay off. Singapore might seem like a distant territory wrought with danger, but in fact it's a wealthy first-world country that is highly stabilized and filled with ex-pat millionaires. I've been there several times, and on a recent trip came down with an ear infection. In the states that would have been a time-consuming and costly trip to the emergency room, but in Singapore (with the assistance of Heath Sims) I was seen in 10 minutes and for less than $50 with prescriptions filled on-site. Access to quality health care is light years ahead of the United States, and though it's not without problems, the city is one of the safest on the planet.

Askren is also making a great decision in terms of career growth. Though the UFC is disinterested in Askren's funk, the company has made known their desire to grow the UFC brand in Asia. The Fertittas and Dana White even went so far as to hire Mark Fischer to head operations from the company's new Asia offices in Singapore. Fischer was the guy who brought the NBA to Asia, and helped make places like the Philippines become dependable revenue streams for the once fledgling professional league.

By signing with OneFC, Askren not only gets a fight purse comparable to that of Bellator and the UFC, but the ability to grow within a marketplace primed for massive expansion. Askren will be the guy at the forefront of the operation, ready and able to cash in on his fighting skills and popularity, but he'll also be able to leverage his marketability with the UFC, who will need local talent once they find a firmer footing in the region.

Askren will improve as a striker and grappler, make more money, increase his marketability and improve his career options. He'll also be able to take weekend vacations to Bali and Thailand. Kudos to the Master of Funk for once again seeing all the angles and having the stones to play 'em.

Q: Some states like Indiana do not let high school teams or wrestlers wrestle out of state during the season. Why do they do this? Does this hurt the freshmen who sometimes do not wrestle in the offseason to see different style of wrestling, tougher opponents, and get national exposure?
-- Gregg Y.

Foley: Several states and school districts have instituted limited travel to help curb costs or prevent competitive advantages. Others don't have the right type of insurance coverage to ensure the safety of their children on the road. Though these rules certainly affect a handful of young wrestlers, those committed to improving will find plenty of access to meets during the offseason.

One of the more destructive mentalities in wrestling is that more is always better. Sometimes young wrestlers need to live a balanced life to achieve success on the mats. Pushing our children into year-round wrestling won't guarantee success. That will always come from their wrestler's personal urge to compete and win. Fostering that is the most important role parents and coaches can play at the high school level.

Technique development and fostering an enjoyment are things every school can do without sending wrestlers across state lines!

Q: Had to fight to get a wrestler on a poster we're making at our school. The lady designing it didn't want to because "the pics are awkward ..." SINGLETS HAVE TO GO.
-- Tim H.

Foley: This is the new nightmare of wrestling. Plenty of creative, well-intentioned marketers want to grow the sport, but when it comes time to talk about changing the uniform some in the wrestling community become irrational.


The world of MMA has shown us that there is another acceptable option for athletic wear. The singlet isn't acceptable anymore because it's become an unnecessary distraction that is crushing the development of the sport. The amazing, incomparable aspects of our sport have nothing to do with equipment! Unlike the NFL who has now ties it's life to the helmet, wrestling will go on unchanged in principle and action long after the singlet goes away.


Link: Why Cael Sanderson's kids will wrestle

Darrion Caldwell on the mat

I'm in the Philippines visiting family, when this came on television and changed my entire life.

Q: Do you think we could ever see the NCAA Championships at MSG or the Staples Center? Why or why not?
-- Gregg Y.

Foley: Madison Square Garden is bidding for the tournament, and we should have an answer soon! The Staples Center in Los Angeles isn't a great location since it requires travel from both the Midwest and northeast population centers. The plus sides to having it in Los Angeles (media, celebrity) is minuscule when compared to the importance of lost ticket revenue.

I'm all-in for the MSG bid and hope to see the biggest event in wrestling one day happen in NYC!

Q: Back in the day the NCAA Division I tournament invited the top wrestlers from Division II and III to participate. Do you think these lower division wrestlers could compete today? What about expanding the bracket with no pigtails but inviting the winners of the DII and DIII tournaments to participate? Competing in DII, Bakersfield State had a few top ten finishes.
-- Dave A.

Foley: Never. The NCAA has updated its regulations to eliminate interdivisional postseason competitions. I think it would be an excellent idea to host a post-championship dual meet, but the NCAA found that mixing divisions was inelegant and less marketable. Also, the Division II and Division III products are improving, and to move everything over to the Division I tournament would be unfair to all the athletes who train hard to compete and win a coveted NCAA title in their division.

Q: Here's my question: A .281 AND TACO BELL IN NOVEMBER, ED RUTH?
-- @maggiehendricks

Foley: Uh, Dorito Locos Taco Big Box was available? Blowing a .281 is just plain silly. No reason to drink that much. None.

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a selfish act that often enough ends in the death or injury of innocent people. Drunk driving affects millions of people every year, and more from time away from the team. I hope that Ruth has received the dual message that DUI's not only get you in trouble, but that you are risking your life and that of others every time you get behind the wheel.

We've all made dumb mistakes ... and if you were like me, many of those occurred while you were in college. It's OK to be shocked and angry, but like us all, Ruth deserves to be given the chance to turn around his behavior and make improvements to his life. He's young and at times stupid. I hope he chooses to make the correct changes.

By Joe. C

I know it's a few weeks off with a lot of great wrestling between now and then, but I'm getting excited about the holiday tournaments. I wanted to compare the content of the two tournaments to see how they stacked up. Might want to check my math, but did this based on Dec. 3 InterMat rankings. The bottom line is both tournaments are in great form, and we're lucky to have them!!!

Teams (InterMat rankings):
Top 5: Scuffle 3, Midlands 1
Top 10: Scuffle 4, Midlands 4
Top 25: Midlands 12, Scuffle 11
Top 60: Scuffle 27, Midlands 23,

Individual weight-by-weight top 8 rankings (InterMat):
By weight: Midlands 5, Scuffle 5
By number of wrestlers: Scuffle 36, Midlands 34

Midlands vs. Scuffle
125: Midlands 3, Scuffle 2
133: Midlands 5, Scuffle 2
141: Midlands 5, Scuffle 3
149: Midlands 2, Scuffle 5
157: Midlands 2, Scuffle 5
165: Midlands 3, Scuffle 5
174: Midlands 1, Scuffle 5
184: Midlands 5, Scuffle 3
197: Midlands 2, Scuffle 4
285: Midlands 6, Scuffle 2

Intangibles (my opinion):
Midlands: Post-collegiate wrestlers, redshirt stars, DII, DIII, and NAIA AA's
Scuffle: Warm weather

Bottom line: Two UNBELIEVABLE holiday tournaments!

By Randy B.

I just wanted to reach out and compliment you on an awesome article. They are always awesome. It was just great to see somebody that is so heavily involved in the sport take a stand against weight cutting. I totally agree with you on the weight cutting and have always been given grief for my views. When my son was in youth wrestling I refused to let him drop a pound for wrestling. People would give me crap all of the time. I always chuckled and said, "I want him to have fun and learn the sport. And if he has success I want it to be because he was the better wrestler, not the better weight cutter." Man did people hate me. When he was 10 he weighed 72 pounds and wrestled 74, not 70, for state. When he was 11 he weighed 77 pounds and wrestled 79, not 74, for state. At 12 years old he weighed 88 pounds and wrestled 89, not 84. At 13 he weighed 98 and wrestled 101, not 95. At 14 he weighed 124 and wrestled 122 instead of 130 because his buddy asked him to, so his buddy could go 130. Thankfully my philosophy worked out for my son. I think it would work out for everybody.

When my son was in the IKWF in his early years, they had a Thursday night weigh-in for the state tournament that was wrestled on Friday and Saturday. I made a proposal to have the kids weigh in two days instead of one and to weigh in on Friday morning and Saturday morning instead of Thursday night. Well, I was in the minority for sure and they gave every excuse in the book. It took me two years and some compromise, but I did get the two-day weigh-ins implemented. But had to agree to Thursday and Friday night weigh-ins.

When I was the head coach of our IKWF club, I implemented mat-side weigh-ins for our tournament. People complained about all of the problems it would cause ... HA! Ran perfect without a hitch.

My son cut weight for the first time when he wrestled at the Cadet Duals and Fargo the summer before his freshman year, from 125 to 119. Then his freshman year he didn't cut a pound and wrestled 135. Sophomore year he didn't cut a pound. Then he did cut about 10 to make 138 for FILAs, Duals and Fargo that summer before his junior year. Last season, junior year, was the first time he ever had to manage his weight and he did it by finally cleaning up his diet. His coach made him to start to prepare him for managing a proper diet in college. Sorry to ramble, it's just that weight cutting is a hot topic for me. I am totally against it.

InterMat senior writer T.R. Foley answers reader questions about NCAA wrestling, international wrestling, recruiting, or anything loosely related to wrestling. Questions can be sent to Foley's email account or Twitter.

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Bigwilly152 (1) about 4 and a half years ago
I also like this stance on weight cutting. I wish I could go back and do it all different again.

I had the same mindset that if I was coming underweight, I should be dropping down. This ALWAYS resulted in a poor performance, and would usually getting sick. Your immune system goes to crap and energy levels are understandably shot.

Coaching now, I eat more and lift more as well as wrestle. I am bigger and stronger than I ever was while competing, meanwhile STILL LIGHTER than I was on a Monday before a match.
jammen (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Great comment of the week Randy B.
gutfirst (1) about 4 and a half years ago
dc wrestling at midlands in awesome. his lack of wrestling specific training won't slow him down at all. i think it's a rahway thing. antonio garay took 4th at ncaa's and won the most falls with less wrestling training than dc is doing.
spencerszewczyk (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Foley, do your homework, man! You missed a great opportunity to explain why the NCAA no longer allows the Div II NCAA champion to compete in the NCAA's. It's called the "Haselrig rule" and was implemented after Carlton Haselrig won six NCAA championships (a record I dare say will never be broken). Afterwards he walked onto the Pittsburgh Steelers and became a Pro-Bowl guard for their Super Bowl team! The chance that a Div II wrestler would be invited into the tournament and take out the best Div I wrestlers was something the NCAA wanted to put a permanent stop to!
Schultzfan (1) about 4 and a half years ago
I'm sorry but I DO NOT understand why we fuss about singlets! My gosh, it doesn't hinder the growth of our sport. Kids these days are lazy, and use the singlet as an excuse not to wrestle. A few people cry about it and we, all of the sudden, want to throw the towel in on years of tradition to please these naysayers. Singlets are not an issue. I'm for keeping to our tradition and not worrying about it. A photographer doesn't like them?? WHO CARES! We're not in them to please everyone, but to compete. Singlets give opponents nothing to grab. However, put some shorts on and see the first thing someone will grab during a switch!

We wear them for a reason just as Judo practitioners and jiu-jitsu players wear their uniforms. You don't hear them crying for a new outfit that forms to society and is better pleasing to people. It's getting old hearing about this issue. Stick with TRADITION. Walk up to Dan Gable or Terry Brands in their prime years and tell them the singlets they wear are stupid and useless...
wres (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Yes let's stick with tradition, Just like it's always been, except for those like 2000 years before 1950... O wait
WCB123 (1) about 4 and a half years ago
When did this even come up about singlets running wrestling? I think singlets are awesome!! Just because some 'Genius' says singlets are a thing of the past and a couple hundred bone-heads agree with him, doesn't mean it's right. Penn State singlets look awesome, Iowa singlets look awesome, ....ECT.... What's the alternative?? Just shorts?? Try riding a tight waist on bare sweaty skin. Singlets absorb sweat and give grip for many moves. Take a deep breath and don't believe everything you hear.......singlets are not ruining wrestling!!
ddb191 (1) about 4 and a half years ago
I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't understand this anti-singlet crusade. Does he have stock in a company that makes board-shorts?

Singlets are here to stay. They aren't hurting wrestling. In fact wrestling is more popular at the high school level than decades past? Going to rash guards and board shorts would just be to make wrestling look more like MMA. Not good for wrestling's image.
tonyrotundo (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Here here! And that's from a wrestling photographer. ;^)
dbabbitts (1) about 4 and a half years ago
I completely agree with your comments about wrestling on the east coast and I think it's vital to the growth of wrestling that the trend continues (I think they project a couple thou in Boston tonight). That's why I am disappointed in Martseller's change of venue. When the best eastern wrestler still says the east isn't good enough, you wonder what a school has to do.
Dean20 (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Foley-Your Taco Bell comment regarding Ed Ruth was totally classless. Are you going to do the same to every wrestler who breaks the rules? Why do you feel this was a topic that needed publicized? There are and have been many wrestlers who have made mistakes. I hope you give them the same knife in the back as you've given Ruth. Think about it before you delete this post.
WCB123 (1) about 4 and a half years ago
I disagree with most of the opinions of Foley but I will say that people/fans have a right to know why Ed Ruth was suspended from the team. I was wondering myself. Should we keep bad news a secret and just report one side. This is a matter of public record and the fans gave a right to know. Report it all: the good, the bad and the ugly and we can make our own judgements. A.281 is very very high and could even result in death. Do I look at Ed Ruth differently for it? Absolutely not. He's a college kid who made a dumb mistake and now he'll have to deal with the consequences. Hopefully he'll learn from it and move on. I look forward to seeing him compete again soon.
tonyrotundo (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Singlet arguments be as they may, I hope someone defended the sport and called the lady designer out on her own ignorance. Tim H, were the photos you submitted great shots I hope?
Ohio-Hawk (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Mr. Foley, I generally appreciate your fine writing and reporting. But, I feel very compelled, as a confessed Hawkeye fan (born and raised in Iowa) that the Caldwell victory over Metcalf was more an example of abuse of rules than it was a glorious moment in wrestling history. Caldwell faked not one but two injuries in this match in order to compensate for his lack of conditioning, and that was obvious. And that against the famously conditioned Metcalf. (For proof of Caldwell's tactics, just revisit Caldwell vs. Bubba Jenkins in the NCAA tourney in 2008. Strangely familiar abuse of the rules!) Think what you may about Metcalf's final second shove, but certainly wrestling must condemn both Caldwell's premature celebration as well as his glory-hogging the mat after the match. What a poor sport. And therefore and equally poor choice of clips to offer, in my opinion. If you really want a great match to view in which Metcalf gets beat without his challenger sissying out, see Palmers' (Ohio State) Big Ten victory in 2010. That was a great match, hats off to Lance Palmer. But this 2009 NCAA finals match? Can we not put to rest any notion that this match was anything but disgusting? Unless, of course, you want to submit that Darrion Caldwell is one of the best 5-minute wrestlers in NCAA history.
hector44 (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Ohio-Hawk, your allegiance is betraying you. Caldwell THROTTLED Metcalf in the finals. If Metcalf could have hit a "kill me now" button he would have. If they wrestled 10 times in a row Metcalf might beat him 9/10, but that night was ALL Caldwell and because of how dominate he was...that was a glorious moment in wrestling least for me.
Ohio-Hawk (1) about 4 and a half years ago
Hector...allegiance? To what...great wrestlers and great matches? I confessed my allegiance to the Hawkeyes, sir. But I professed my allegiance to great wrestlers (as in the Palmer victory over Metcalf to which I referred). How many truly great wrestlers fake injuries to get recovery time? None. And you won't see a Hawkeye (or a Gopher, or a Nittany Lion, or a Cowboy, or a Sooner, or any number of other wrestlers from great programs) resort to going to their corners TWICE in a match just to keep from getting gassed. If Darrion Caldwell gave us a "glorious moment," then we might as well watch the WWF.