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, Tech-Fall.com)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?
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.
SINGLETS ARE KILLING THE GROWTH OF OUR SPORT.
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?
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.
STAT OF THE WEEK
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!
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
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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