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Foley's Friday Mailbag: January 17, 2014

T.R. Foley

1/17/2014
T.R. Foley, InterMat Senior Writer
foley@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @trfoley

The sporting world was taken by surprise last February when the Executive Board of the IOC recommended that wrestling be eliminated from the 2020 Olympic Games. Though the IOC absorbed criticism from the media and fans of sport, wrestling leaders around the world decided to act and helped launch the campaign to Save Olympic Wrestling.

The wrestling community was given seven months to correct their mistakes and lobby itself back into the Olympic Games. In the states, Bill and Jim Scherr established the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) as a place for businessmen to raise money, PR agents to develop a global strategy, and politicians to collaborate their lobbying efforts. There were dozens of similar efforts launched around the world, which helped FILA vote in new leadership and motivated the wrestling community to be outspoken in their support of the sport's claim to Olympic legitimacy.

Like many of my peers, I spent much of the seven months doing what I could to help promote the sport and improve the coverage of relevant events. To commemorate the efforts of the worldwide wrestling community, I'd been working for the past few months on a book to commemorate wrestling's improbable Olympic comeback.

"Full Circle: The 209 Days That United the World and Saved an Olympic Sport" is a hard cover coffee-table book that puts into focus the worldwide campaign to Save Olympic Wrestling. The book utilizes photography from around the world and tells the story of the remarkable people and events that went into the largest sport re-instatement campaign in Olympic history. It's 112 pages, and thanks to the hard work of photographer Tony Rotundo and designer Cliff Fretwell the finished product looks pretty sweet.

Sales started today at www.trfoley.com/fullcircle and books will be mailed from the printer on Feb. 12 -- the one-year anniversary of the IOC's announcement. Please feel free to email me with any questions about the book, and thanks in advance for your support of the sport.

To your questions ...

Q: What happened to Olympic Training Center top recruits Destin McCauley and Pat Downey? I noticed that they are no longer listed on the roster for Nebraska.
-- Jason H.


Foley: Not sure what happened, but I can tell you that Destin McCauley is now on the Nebraska-Kearney roster.

Pat Downey moved to Oregon. He is training for the U.S. Open and plans to pursue an MMA career.

Q: Did Foxcatcher get pushed to the end of 2014 so that it can contend for the 2015 Oscars?
-- Nick


Foley: Director Bennett Miller is a known perfectionist and from the rags it seems he chose to push the movie back so that he could perform more edits. It's unclear if he didn't like the movie in its final form, or if he was motivated by the draw of awards season. You have to assume both were a factor.

There is no updated release date for the movie, but unless he holds it until November, it won't be an intentional nominee for the Oscar. Those movies are almost always back-loaded in the calendar year. Summer is for blockbusters and the holidays are for award movies. However, given the tone of the trailer and the mood of the movie he will either release by March or hold it for the second half of next season.

The one benefit of the story is that there is no time hook, so it'll be relevant at any time, and with an ensemble cast it'll garner a bunch of attention.

Q: If things continue as they have and Andrew Howe and David Taylor remain undefeated and each wins their second NCAA championship, who would you say was the best recent two-time NCAA champ out of Howe, Taylor, and The Renegade of Funk, Ben Askren?
-- Curt H.


Ben Askren (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Foley: The Renegade of Funk is a superb title for Mr. Askren. Bravo.

I'm going with Askren, mostly because he was an innovator in the sport. Taylor would be second, because without Kyle Dake, he's a three-time champion. Howe is impressive, but the length of his career took some steam out of his career.

I can't form a solid argument for anyone outside of Askren. He was offensive, entertaining and dominant. Howe can't score the same amount of points and though Taylor does, the Dake-driven interruption of his dominance made him human. When Askren was rolling, it was difficult to imagine any wrestler challenging him for seven minutes.

Q: How common is it for a true freshman, like Adam Coon, to get ranked No. 1 at heavyweight?
-- @R_Curl


Foley: I'm not sure it has ever happened. My brain is throbbing from an exhaustive and inconclusive search so let's get to answering the heart of your question: Stud freshman heavyweights are exceedingly rare, and top-ranked true freshmen almost non-existent. Adam Coon is doing something unique, and though he hasn't beaten Tony Nelson or Mike McMullan, he's shown the ability to beat anyone and everyone else.

Coon is rare. He's athletic enough to scramble and big enough to use weight. More importantly he seems intelligent enough to know when to utilize each. He'll need that decision making against Nelson and McMullan, the former a monster who never gets in bad position, and the latter an exceptionally talented scrambler. He's prone to making mistakes, and though he gets away with them now, those two might find a way to capitalize where others have failed.

Coon's ascendancy might also indicate that Michigan's infusion of talent is starting to pay off. Add in another All-American or two this season, and then welcome back some redshirts, and the Wolverine program could be in good shape, and come 2106 they might sneak onto the team podium.

We should start getting some answers this weekend when Coon faces Nelson in a Big Ten dual.

Q: So it's a Friday night and the two most storied teams in all of NCAA wrestling are set to face off ... and it's not televised. I know you can stream it on BTN2Go and they will probably show it on delay, but what kind of world are we living in where Michigan State vs. Ohio State hockey gets the starting spot over Hawkeyes vs. Cowboys, the greatest rivalry in college wrestling and one of the best in college sports, and what can we do to change this?
-- Sean M


Foley: Keep watching. Keep tuning in. Keep supporting the sport.

Hockey is a professional sport and those schools have fans who will watch them on television. Right now wrestling can't match that popularity, even if it is Okie State and Iowa. All Big Ten hockey is just going to get better numbers live.

Wrestling fans also have a tendency to watch their sport on DVR. Other sports have this as well (namely baseball), but when a sport is known to be watched on tape delay the network doesn't feel the urge to show it live when a tape delay might garner the same audience.

Keep calm and watch on. We're growing.

Q: I have a question. Is belt wrestling (as seen in the Russian belt wrestling federation) in which a fixed grip must be taken upon the belt at all times, the original form of wrestling in your opinion? Or are the loose hold styles (kushti, etc,) the oldest forms of wrestling?
-- Nolan P.


Foley: Assuming that man began life unclothed and that all athletic competitions started from necessity and leisure time, I'd guess that loose hold styles were more likely to have occurred first. Supporting this idea is that the first written document is a wrestling technique book that seems to be instructing non-belted wrestlers. Cave scrawling also depicts naked, or thinly clothed wrestlers. Of course the Ancient Greek Olympics wrestled in the nude.

Belt wrestling seems to have started in the Northern Europe, the Caucuses and Mongolia, almost certainly as an answer to the conditions, which prompted the use of jackets. In fact, as you move south from these areas the clothing gets shed. In Chinese Shuaijiao competitors in Hebei-style will wear a short sleeve gi jacket and shorts. Of course in India you get back to only superhero shorts.

Wrestling has found a variety of avenues to popularity. In Mongolia it came as part of training for battle and social interaction. In India, a way to honor the God Hanuman and for poor boys to get off the street. Here in America it filtered down from an imported Irish brand of collar and elbow wrestling that later splintered into professional wrestling -- the sport was a form of entertainment and used for keeping youth out of trouble.

As I'm sure you've read before, Wrestling is Everywhere, but defining where it started and when is often a fool's errand.

MULTIMEDIA HALFTIME

New video from Minnesota wrestling



Garrett Lowney



Link: Basketball is a JOKE

Surfing is RAD



Q: Should the Big Ten wrestling conference follow football's formula? Separate into two divisions o seven teams and have a conference championship dual meet. I would also add that at that conference championship match all the schools attend and have cross-bracket dual or two. The dual title now is settled by conference record, but all teams do not wrestle each other. Right now they have nine duals/dates in the Big Ten. This new format would only take seven dates, thus giving more flexibility to the school on their schedules.

IE. (Penn State @ Boston U, Iowa @ Bucknell, Michigan @ Utah Valley) ... I think it would give the premier wrestling conference another showcase event and help other programs to have a showcase home event.

The two divisions as I see them ...

East:
Penn State
Ohio State
Maryland
Rutgers
Purdue
Michigan State
Michigan

West:
Iowa
Minnesota
Illinois
Wisconsin
Nebraska
Northwestern
Indiana

Your thoughts?
-- Joe P.


Foley: Absolutely great idea. The Big Ten would make a ton more money off that one match!

There are always hurdles to bettering the competition schedule, and the first would be the NCAA allowing the Big Ten to add a date to their calendar. Right now there are 16 dates on the official team schedules. A Big Ten championship dual would mean going over that number. To adjust the entire NCAA could move up a slot, allowing a 17th date of competition at the discretion of the schools, or institute a special week for any dual team championship a conference would like to sponsor.

The bigger problem is that most wrestling fans and advocates haven't embraced the idea that dual meets are a proper way to title a team championship. The NCAA has announced plans to gradually work those championships into the team competition in March, but it's too slow, and doesn't go far enough.

The NCAA team champion should be decided by a team competition.

Though wrestling is an individual sport the outcome of the team competition needs to be settled by team competition. The distinction will provide tremendous revenue potential for the sport by affording the casual fan an easy entry point to the sport.

Unlike pro sports, loyalty within college athletics isn't pieced together. Fans of Kent State football tend to be fans of Kent State women's basketball. Colleges work off name identification and brand loyalty, and it's important that wrestling take advantage of that process. Your idea for a Big Ten dual meet championship is an example of that loyalty to school and conference.

Though the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are widely regarded as a commercial success, should a system be created that allows for a team champion, it would soon play second fiddle to the team race. Why? Because fans can follow one bracket made up of identifiable teams much easier than they can ten brackets of 33 wrestlers.

Simplicity helps with branding, media and ticket sales.

Individuals can still pursue their individual titles, and now they can do so without the team race providing that constant and dull distraction. The media can focus on individual characters and their accomplishments, rather than giving half-attention to a team race.

The individual tournament provides drama because you can see the wrestler win and lose NCAA championships in plain sight. The NCAA team race is calculated by math league geniuses and is often decided without an immediate celebration. Penn State won the 2012 team title BEFORE the finals.

At the NCAA level a three-week dual meet format would allow for the creation of Cinderella teams and do so in a time of year when basketball doesn't provide direct opposition. I'd be thrilled to see my Virginia Cavaliers make the bracket. What if they upset a team like Minnesota in the first round on their way to the final eight, or four? That would be huge news at the university and among alumni.

Live sports sell and there are plenty of sports channels to air the matches. This is wrestling's next great opportunity, and we shouldn't sit back and allow the leadership to tiptoe into change.

Q: I had to snap a pic of this middle-schooler at a middle school wrestling tournament I hosted last weekend. I also couldn't help but notice more than one or two boys who chose to wear a long sleeve Under Armour-type shirt under the short sleeve rash guard uniform top. These guys were both a little chubbier than the others and were certainly more comfortable wearing the fight shorts and rash guard instead of a singlet. We started at 10 a.m., had 330 bouts, finished by 4:15 p.m., and the middle school halves and headlocks seemed to be unaffected by the extra material on their uniform.
-- Andrew F.


Foley: This kid, and you, are my heroes! What does a little extra fabric matter? That kid looks good, and if he's a little chubby now he can hide that behind his shirt and shorts.

Is our well-dressed teenage wrestler's act of protest the first shot into the shiny walls of flimsy Fort Spandex?

COMMENT OF THE WEEK
By Ryan L.


When I first heard about the NCAA starting to use video review in wrestling in some venues, I thought it would possibly be a great idea because it is always disappointing when the outcome is altered by a wrong call. Having witnessed the rule in action on multiple occasions, I now strongly oppose it. Here's why:

1. Delay. Whatever the outcome, a significant delay results. In a sport that conditioning is so important, any delay can impact the momentum of the match and give guys a chance to rest. A coach could even potentially make a frivolous challenge just to cause a delay.

2. Outcome. The outcome of the challenge can have unusual impacts. Lofthouse's most recent loss to Ruth had a challenge in the first period that resulted in awarding a takedown to Ruth during a scramble that wasn't initially called, then adding over one minute of time back on to the clock. This event brings up two concerns. First, things look different in review than in real time. I don't know if they use slow-motion or regular speed, but a view of one or two frames could give the impression of control when a scramble is still occurring. Second, setting the clock back to the moment of the takedown caused over a minute of wrestling to not count. That's pretty crazy.

I have even seen the video reviews turn out to be inconclusive. I think it was good that this was attempted for a couple of years, but the results are in. Video reviews are bad for wrestling. To improve accuracy of calls, a second official should be required for all Division I matches.

Comments

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kurtspartz (1) about 8 months ago
On the division of the Big Ten, I notice Purdue is missing. Is there something going on that I don't know?
trfoley (1) about 8 months ago
Nice catch, Lets add them to the east.
rruddy2 (1) about 8 months ago
I could not agree with Ryan L.'s comment more. The delays can affect matches as much as the call changes.
rruddy2 (1) about 8 months ago
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rruddy2 (1) about 8 months ago
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rruddy2 (1) about 8 months ago
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rruddy2 (1) about 8 months ago
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rruddy2 (1) about 8 months ago
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rruddy2 (1) about 8 months ago
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wheelanb (1) about 8 months ago
While Dake controlled (won't use the word "owned" here) Taylor for one season. Pendleton owned Askren for two but Askren did tally a win in there. My vote, and it doesn't count for anything is for Taylor.

Best all time 2xer? Randy Lewis?
dbabbitts (1) about 8 months ago
Although it's all conjecture and opinion (and we know what that's worth) I was going to bring up Pendleton...and point out the scores weren't as close or controversial. How about a Ruth/Askren matchup?
trfoley (1) about 8 months ago
I was under the impression I could only choose from those three!
dbabbitts (1) about 8 months ago
Sorry, I was just making a statement, not a choice. With that said, I think based on the unique styles of both Ruth and Askren, that would be something to see.
irvonian (1) about 8 months ago
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irvonian (1) about 8 months ago
No love for Jordan Oliver? What about his two undefeated national champ seasons? I'd go with Taylor over Askren, although it's close. Just compare each wrestler's nemesis--Askren got smoked multiple times (losses by 4, 5, 7 points, etc.) by Pendleton, Taylor lost one point matches to a 4x champ.
trfoley (1) about 8 months ago
JO is on the cover of my book. That's A LOT of LOVE!
dbabbitts (2) about 8 months ago
I don’t think the fact that most fans and advocates haven’t embraced the idea that dual meets are a proper way to title a team championship is a problem. I think those fans and advocates realize that the best way to determine a team title is the format that is employed today, for numerous reasons…
1. The fans get to see the best wrestlers wrestle…why would we ever want to change that?
2. Dual meets dilute the results and the competition as coaches can move wrestlers from weight class to weight class to try and get a more favorable match up.
a. And as we see frequently, wrestlers who have unfavorable matchups will wrestle not to get pinned or give up bonus points which is not good for fans or for promoting the sport.
3. A great wrestler should not be limited as to what they can contribute to the team. Did UCLA take Alcindor or Walton out of the game after they scored 6 points? Last year, stars David Taylor, Jordan Oliver, and Kendrick Maple all scored 24 team points in the NCAA Tournament…Logan Stieber 27 points. That is more reflective of their team contribution (and dominance) than a potential 6 point fall.
The NCAA Wrestling team championships in their current format are the most accurate way to determine who the best TEAM is. An old quote, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”!
trfoley (1) about 8 months ago
You're right. If you think of "team" as just a collection of individuals. However, I disagree if you think of "team" as being more than a sum of it's parts.

As it stands now, the commercial success of the NCAA Tournament has nothing to do with the team race.

Fans don't tune in to hope they can catch snippets of Mizzou guys and then calculate their team score. It's too complicated and diluted. At the NCAA tournament there is only one journalist who is covering that action, and that is literally all he does.

Team v. Team is simple and dramatic. If you want to win the team championship then you put out your best team during the dual team format. If for whatever reason your school doesn't care about the team title then don't participate.

Thing is we aren't seeing a variety of teams win the NCAA Championships, and even those uncommon top four finishers like Mizzou, or Northwestern or Michigan, get little popular press for their accomplishment. There would be much more press and interest in the sport with a dual team format. And I don't think it would distract in the least from what happens at the Individual tourney.
dbabbitts (1) about 8 months ago
A team IS a collection of individuals, and the team score in the NCAA tournament IS the sum of the parts, so I am not sure your point.
I respectfully disagree with your opinion that the NCAA tournament has nothing to do with the team race…the place went crazy last year when Wright secured the team title for PSU.
I also disagree that there will be better fan support if Kent State loses in dual tournament 35-3 to Minnesota. I would argue that more Kent State fans would pay to see Kilgore in the NCAA tournament.
You cite the 2012 tournament as being anti-climactic when Penn State won the team title before the finals. You could make the same argument for last year’s National Duals. Minnesota won the match before Nelson and Gelogaev stepped on the mat, so that matchup became meaningless. In addition, if one of them was slightly banged up, you run the risk if a coach forfeiting that matchup ‘cause the dual is over…how would that help promote the sport?
If you take last year’s tournament and tweek it ever so slightly. Let’s say Wright loses to Kilgore (not that farfetched a thought), now the Dake/Taylor match also decides the national champion...how could it get better than that?
I really believe if you take the old “Brick and Scale” approach, the current tournament format is better than a dual format and is more accurate at deciding who the best team is.
trfoley (1) about 8 months ago
Nothing changes at the NCAA Tournament. Same tourney and the kids will ALWAYS try to do their best.

What if Central Michigan beat Iowa 18-17?

As for the team title, I've been at a lot of NCAA tournaments and save a few occasions nobody cares about the team title. Yes, Penn State went nutty, but that's one team. And if that moment is so great, then why not prolong it for a few weeks? Winning a team title is incredible, I think it deserves better than to be buried in the mass of so many other story lines.

I don't agree that it would be the same 5-6 teams at the top. Yes, the winner might come from that top six, but I think we could see a team from 10-15 in the Final Four. That is awesome for the sport. That creates drama. Right now was have three marketable events all season. Another NCAA title? That's a HUGE press generator.

Nobody cares about the National Duals because it doesn't mean anything yet. Attach and NCAA team title to that sucker and they'll care a lot.
rruddy2 (1) about 8 months ago
I hate the argument about a great athlete only being able to contribute 6 points. Would an NFL team with the worst DB's in the league be a top ten team? Well a terrible wrestling team with 2 NCAA finalists could lose all their dual meets and get a trophy. That is the bigger problem with the current set up. Plus, if a championship is going to be decided by 1 match, I want it to be a match between the 2 schools vying for the championship.
I think most of the opponents of the dual meet championship are simply afraid of the change. They changed our high school state meet 25 years ago and I hated the idea. Now I love it. It doesn't take anything away from the individual event and those dual meets are the most intense wrestling I have ever watched.
dbabbitts (1) about 8 months ago
I again respectfully disagree. Look for a significant increase in the number of medical forfeits...if the tournament is only about individual results, what is the motivation to wrestle for 7th or 5th.
Compromising the national tournament to promote the national duals does not help our sport.
I just hope the advocates of the current format are resilient in their quest to keep the best part of NCAA wrestling - the NCAA Tournament - the same.
Thanks for the debate.
Bono (1) about 8 months ago
While I agree that a team championship decided upon by way of the individual tournament lacks the instant gratification and marketing power of seeing a dual meet championship come down to the final match, I would hate to see the team score be eliminated in the individual championships. As most of us wrestling fans appreciate, much of the race is accounted for down in the consolation matches. I love to watch the individual race be determined by a 9 seed rattling off 5 wins in a row. Or a 2 seed being upset in the quarters only to storm back for 3rd (providing valuable TEAM points along the way). I also appreciate that the masses of fans we are trying to attract will not understand, but I do, and would be saddened to see that go.
Nick M (1) about 8 months ago
I like the idea of the Big 10 splitting into 2 divisions. With the expansion of the MAC there should be some pressure on the schools that do not have or that have dropped to add wrestling. The MAC could easily fill out the extra rosters, and fill the seats at a conf. dual tournament. It would be great to see wrestling at schools such as Akron, Ball St., Bowling Green, UMASS, Miami (OH), Toledo, and Western Michigan. That is 7 more teams added to an already stacked conference! Just an idea....
spencerszewczyk (1) about 8 months ago
I swear the people in charge if this sport are hell bent in destroying it. First of all, how many teams will make these national duals, maybe 24? So your idea to promote the sport is to eliminate 80% of the teams competing. Smart. In basketball, 68 teams make the tournament, and those that don't can make the NIT or other tournaments and still participate. Second, you will never see Cinderella stories in a wrestling dual because the lesser tier programs will never have 10 starters that can compete with the Iowa's and penn state's of wrestling. You will have the same 5 or 6 teams competing for a national title every year which would only lead to more programs being dropped. Lastly, there is no interest in a national dual. If there is so much interest in national duals, why does no one attend them now? Changing them from the NWCA duals to the NCAA duals will not magically increase attendance.
crackdown (1) about 8 months ago
As a high school wrestler who is very passionate about recruiting fellow students onto the team I have tried to get just about every single kid I could to wrestle. I've probably tried to get 100's of kids to join the team. Although I've had some success most kids refuse.
Common reasons are wrestling is to physically and/or time demanding, there parents won't let them, They are afraid to get hurt or want to focus on another sport. However i would guess 3 out of 5 times the reason is they do not want to a wear a singlet or they think it is "gay". I myself almost did not wrestle because of my fears regarding spandex.on a side note the most common criticism i hear about the sport from other high school girls is that they are grossed out by the tightness around the crotch area, and the fact that most singlets are see through on the backside. Many girls refuse to come watch our home matches because of this. The singlet is horrible for our sport. Something needs to be changed. It is my understanding that college teams do not have to wear singlets. maybe it is not the best idea but i think that a big time program with innovative coaches like cornell, Minnesota, northwestern, penn state, Illinois, Nebraska etc. would want to change their uniforms to the fight/compression shorts and rash guard or compression shirts. I think these uniforms could be designed by beign based off of hockey jerseys. They have a top and bottom piece which are colored differently. this would work perfectly with wrestling. the top piece should have the name of the wrestler on the back, the weight class on the sleeve and team logos on the front. they could make home and away jerseys, and tournament finals jerseys. The huge programs I listed could afford to do this, although it may be costly at first they could start selling the jerseys to the public in the form of t-shirts and shorts for the average person and the actual jerseys to high school and youth athletes. Other programs would see the increased profits and over time switch over to these types of uniforms. it would also trickle down to high school teams and possibly the international level.
mustang5463 (1) about 8 months ago
For the best 2x how about Metcalf who beat the other besides dake who pined Taylor or perry mcdonough Hendricks borroughs who would have smashed Taylor at 165. Oh and Metcalf beat borroughs
FHall (1) about 8 months ago
I find it interesting that citing a frivolous review as a way to delay a match. Ask any timer/scorer and we all know of many coaches who question a non-existent scoring error to do just that.Its nothing new