Foley's Friday Mailbag: February 28, 2014

As fans, you were really into sending questions this week. That's awesome, and to compensate for the number of topics and questions in this week's bag (a new record) I will be truncating my opening to keep this monster under 3,500 words.

If you haven't already, now is a good time to pick up a copy of Full Circle. I'll also have copies at the ACC tournament, World Cup, and the NCAA tournament.

To your (many) questions ...

Q: Check out the finals of a German club league Bundesliga Ringen. Would be sweet to see some of our clubs have duals like this.
-- @DanieloElliot

Foley: Agreed that it would be nice to see this level of involvement at the club level. We have a growing interest in Olympic style of wrestling so what's keeping us from this environment?

First, there is no substantial folkstyle wrestling form in Germany that draws from the Greco-Roman competitions. Unlike America's wildly popular NCAA tournament, the Bundesliga isn't built into the schools. Across the world athletics is separated from academics, allowing the focus of athletes to mature at their own pace. Guys like Aaron Pico aren't asked about school, because frankly there is no tie between the two.

The lack of a competitive folkstyle and the separation of priorities means that the clubs can bring students up from the grassroots level and promote their Bundesliga and international competitions for decades. The transience of the American collegiate system (and with some high school stars) means that there is a dispersion of interest. To get mega-passion the athletes need to be raised in the same club colors they compete in later in life.

Take Chance Marstellar as an example. He grows up competing for a local club in Western PA and sticks with that SAME club throughout his entire career. Locals love him and locals buy tickets to events. Instead, he's now headed to Oklahoma State and being boo'ed at events.

Bundesliga matures wrestlers through the ranks, but they also have a league that promotes dual matches and the idea that one region is better than the other. If you watch the video you can see all the trappings of an international soccer match with scarves, T-shirts and event sponsors. That's huge in creating income for the clubs.

Overall, the American system is too transient, leaving the club system to only mature after-college, which for many of our top athletes is not the college where they trained, leaving only fledgling local loyalties.

The American system is great for many reasons, but creating an atmosphere for dual meets and club leagues is not one of them.

From reader Tom S., who provides some clarification:

In Germany sports are different and all those wrestling clubs in the Bundesliga probably also have soccer teams. That's how things work there. All the big football teams are non-profit sports clubs and sponsor other sports. Bayern Munich also sponsors chess, handball, basketball, gymnastics, bowling, and table tennis in addition to soccer. There are 1,100 active athletes in which soccer is a minority. It just happens to be what they are most well known for and are reigning champions of Europe. In that sense Bayern Munich and German clubs are closer to university athletic department than a US wrestling club. It would be like if the Chicago Bears weren't a for-profit corporation with and owner and had a wrestling team, chess team, football team, squash team, baseball team, basketball team.

It's like that in some other countries too. For instance Boca Juniors, the biggest soccer club in Argentina, also has a wrestling program. So there are scarfs like at soccer matches because the club probably plays soccer too and sell scarfs for that not necessarily related to regionalism related to club wrestling.

Q: Over the past, say, 25 years, which wrestlers had the greatest potential to make the U.S National Team (and even perhaps medal internationally), but chose to not compete for a spot?
-- Ron M.

Foley: The first name that popped into my head was Cole Konrad. He was large enough and successful enough at Minnesota to make a serious impact at the international level. He chose MMA, but had he been a lifer on the mats I think he could have challenged Tervel for a spot on the squad.

The other name that kept popping up was Bryan Snyder. I'm sure that like most guys he did is time giving it a go, but I don't know that he ever made a full commitment. Looking at Snyder wrestling with Burroughs and what he was able to do in college leaves me thinking he could have been the guy. But all the same, he now helps coach the guy (Burroughs), which for a thoughtful and intelligent guy like Snyder might be even more fulfilling.

Q: Many are interested in the developing story at 141 pounds that will likely culminate in at least one more match (probably two) between Zain Retherford and Logan Stieber. Currently, it seems as though those two are ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the different rankings, with Mitchell Port ranked No. 1.

I recently realized that I never truly understood how the seeds at NCAAs are chosen in situations such as this where there are so many moving parts. Port is undefeated and finished second in the weight year prior, but hasn't proven himself against two-time champ Stieber, who is up a weight class, or undefeated Retherford who is a freshman.

I am sure that many think that Port should have to face one of them to reach an NCAA final this year. Is there any chance that something can happen at Big Ten's that will allow for this? It doesn't seem right that Stieber and Retherford should potentially need to wrestle each other three times to reach an NCAA final, when Port could reach the finals without facing the best competitors in the weight class all season.
-- Gabe W.

Foley: The best way to get Stieber and Port to face Port at the NCAA tournament is to have one of them lose a match, or two, at the Big Ten tournament. Losses drive seeding at the NCAA tournament, since previous year's finishes mean nothing to the ranking committee.

Though Port is undefeated without having wrestled either Stieber or Retherford, it's not as though he's ducked them throughout the season. Wrestling outside of the Big Ten and Big 12 can have advantages in helping wrestlers earn higher seeds without having to face other top guys, but don't expect everyone to run to fringe conferences to pad their records. The Big Ten and Big 12 are rewarded with more bids and often times wrestle the toughest schedules, both of which protect wrestlers should they fail at their conference tournament. That level of security isn't always available to top-level talent outside these conferences (I'm excluding undefeated wrestlers who would be pulled in by their RPI during the at-large selection process.) Just take a look at this year's allocations.

Penn State true freshman Zain Retherford enters the postseason undefeated (Photo/Mark Beshey, The Guillotine)
Your question also seems to imply that Port somehow doesn't rate as dominant as the No. 2 and No. 3 wrestlers. Maybe he is better? Retherford is one of the most focused freshman I've ever seen wrestle, but there is criticism that his riding style will be scrutinized and penalized at the NCAA tournament. Stieber, like Maple, is changing weights, which means he's changing his entire field of competition. His previous accomplishments are impressive, but he has to earn his standing at 141 pounds, just like he did at 133 pounds.

Maybe Port won't win the NCAA tournament, but he has earned the right to be the top-ranked guy in the country.

However ...

If Retherford finishes the Big Ten tournament with another win over Stieber, the ranking committee will likely use strength of schedule to determine the top-ranked undefeated wrestler. In that case it seems that it would favor Retherford since it's safe to assume his Big Ten schedule was more difficult than Port's. This happened Ed Ruth's sophomore season. He'd been defeated by Nick Amuchastegui in the 2011 NCAA semifinals, but both were undefeated heading into 2012 NCAA tournament. Even though Amuchastegui had the only common win and was undefeated, the nod went to Ruth who had wrestled a stronger schedule.

Q: How much does a resident athlete at the OTC in Colorado Springs make a year? Assuming there is a salary, is it different by sport?
-- Brian

Foley: The No. 1 at each weight makes $1,000 per a-month, guaranteed for eight months, and if they compete enough during the year they earn the entire 12 months. The No. 2 makes $600 per month and the No. 3 makes $250 per month.

A question to fans: should USA Wrestling pay the same amount of stipend to wrestlers at non-Olympic weights 61 kilos and 70 kilos?

Q: Why doesn't a program like Iowa attend the National Collegiate Open? It seems like all of the Division programs are in the East and Iowa surely has the money to send guys. You would think the guys in practice every day that aren't wrestling in Carver Hawkeye would want to be there.
-- John M.

Foley: You make a good point, and I'm not sure of the rationalization. Some wrestlers are burnt out by the end of the season, or are limping through the last few weeks in support of NCAA-bound teammates. Five months is a long, long time to be in the room and though you'd think an extra week shouldn't hurt, most wrestlers opt to get off the ride. Some coaches may want their guys to attend the conference tournament in support of their team.

However, the tournament is increasing in competitiveness, as are the numbers. This year's event is sold out and I'd expect continued expansion of the brackets. It's a great idea that should make money for the hosts and support the development of our collegiate wrestlers.

Here is the list of top contenders.

Q: Is this National Duals proposal splitting the sport in two? Are the coaches at odds as much as the fans? Or are the fans going overboard while coaches are having a civil discussion? It seems like most coaches are open to the change but a few coaches are opposed or undecided and the fans default to whatever may help their program.

Are people being selfish in this process? Or are people really giving it thought and trying to do what is best for the sport as a whole?
-- J. Martin

Foley: The National Duals argument has quickly turned from "great discussion!" into "Mom and Dad are fighting."

For many in the wrestling community it's getting a little awkward.

I do agree that the debate is dividing our sport into two camps, but that has more to do with our hardwiring as it does the merits of the argument. A simple mention of "dual meet," seems to breathe oxygen into the emotional fire pit of this ongoing discussion. By nature wrestlers are emotional, stubborn and conservative -- making a fundamental change to the season makes the National Duals discussion ripe for emotional pushback.

As for motivation, I don't think many in the argument are being selfish, in fact I think most coaches and fans involved in the debate want what is best for the sport. Change is a painful process. Members of the wrestling community have sense the rapid growth and popularity of the sport as an opportunity to expand the sport's reach. Some don't think the sport is ready for that expansion, and others think it would dilute the tradition. All arguments, feelings and rationales are correct, because there is no way to know how it plays out until it's underway. Save a few die-hard fans, I think most wrestling fans just want enjoy best version of the sport.


Rob Koll Talks Program Building (11:05)

Q: I've been hearing a lot lately about getting rid of the singlet because it hurts the sport. What I don't get is that if it's hurting the sport so bad, why haven't any teams switched to a spandex uniform. It's legal, below is the verbiage straight from the NCAA rulebook. Nobody is stopping teams from doing making the switch.

" Spandex/lycra. The shirt shall be a T-shirt style form-fitted,
sleeveless or short-sleeved and shall not cover or extend beyond the
elbow. In addition, the length of the shirt must be longer than the torso to
prevent the shirt from becoming untucked. The shirt shall remain tucked
into the shorts at all times during competition. The shorts shall be form-
fitting with a minimum 4-inch inseam and shall not extend beyond the top
of the knees. (See Illustration No. 4.)"
-- Jason R.

Foley: The issue isn't just with covering a wrestler's arms, but in creating less bulge in the shorts. Any changes made would be to both the top and the bottom. Those improvements are meant to facilitate a growth of the sport at the youth level and increase sales of merchandise.

For only the second time in twenty-three years I am going to miss the NCAAs this year. What method(s) are the best to watch it at home? I am going to take a day and a half off of work to watch them. Suggestions? Picking up ESPN 3 for the weekend?
-- Steven H.

Foley: If you can't get to the computer and are checking on your mobile phone for updates, then nothing is better than the InterMat live blog. Also be sure to check out our session previews and recaps.

For live coverage ESPN has expanded their offerings in 2014 which now includes every match of the tournament. Here is the release from ESPN.

Q: With all of the new ideas being thrown around in order to make wrestling more mainstream and spectator relevant (National Duals, new singlets/uniforms, scoring changes), why not make the NCAAs more like the basketball tournament and rank/seed every wrestler.

I suppose I don't understand why the committee has ranked 12 wrestlers (16 now), then essentially picks out of a hat the remaining qualifiers to make the brackets. The NCAA now has their RPI rankings, which in addition to the coaches panel and other criteria to determine the seeds and at-large bids. Why not use all of this information to its full potential?
-- Chris C.

Foley: Winner, winner. That they don't seed the remaining wrestlers is confounding. They have the stats in front of them, and past the last seeded guy there isn't much need for intense committee oversight. Though there isn't a lot to separate No. 14 from No. 18, it would be a nice exercise to see how it would turn out. Maybe someone could use the final RPI to make brackets after conference in which everyone was seeded by RPI?

My only argument against seeding of each the 330 wrestler is that in updating the event I'd be forced to use everyone's seed in the agate. That would be taxing.

Q: Could not disagree more with the National Duals being part of the championship. You constantly say "have to grow" and "status quo" is killing the sport but you never show proof of how they will make the sport grow. Where if your proof? Here are a few questions for you. How will the sport grow by having the Duals part of the championship? Will ESPN want to air them? Will the Big Ten Network stop showing big duals during the regular season since they won't matter? What will happen to the Edinboro's of the world? Will fans not care about regular season duals? And if so, why should AD's?
-- Tim J.

Foley: You qualify for the postseason by doing well in your conference dual meets. Win and you are in. Every dual meet now matters MORE, not less.

As for proof, the same amount exists for saying that an NCAA-run dual meet championships will be a failure. None.

Missing from this conversation is the recognition that if the NCAA dual meet championships fail, then the old system could be returned. This isn't a decision that will be written in the great books. It's just a new idea that deserves a proper discussion and vetting. Why not take the chance at creating a more mainstream product to help our viability within athletic programs?

If the new system works then we can all say "Awesome!" and go on to complain about something else. If the new system fails, then "At least we tried."

Q: Who in your opinion has the best signature takedown/move/pinning combination in college wrestling this season? I ask this because we have seen a lot of great action and exciting individual wrestlers this season. Who has the best big move and who has the most dominant move this season? I'll throw out some of my favorites and obvious ones. Logan Stieber -- bar arm/half Nelson, Ed "The Truth" Ruth -- cross face cradle, Dylan Ness -- elevator (by far the biggest!), Johnni DiJulius (JDJ) -- dump, Jon Morrison -- blast double.
-- Curtis H.

Foley: Dylan Ness! Little room for debate. He's on a new planet with his fall-back-cement-job thingy. It's hell for other wrestlers to prepare for because its execution is so unique. Plenty of people say that certain special wrestlers can hit a move from "anywhere" but I've never seen that in action with more consistency and against higher-level competitors than with Dylan Ness.

I'm genuinely wowed.

Q: Blair had its 33-year streak of National Prep titles broken by Wyoming Seminary. I competed in the era when no one would ever imagine Blair would lose National Preps. But I noticed there was no story on InterMat or Why so little coverage?
-- David B.

Foley: You sent this question before the release of Josh Lowe's weekly column, which covered the tournament and the upset. We also put out a few press clippings about the streak being broken. Still, I can see why you would say it merits a feature piece.

I agree that Blair's streak being snapped was impressive, and that Wyoming Seminary deserves recognition for their accomplishment and a great season. Congrats to their program!


By John L.

I was at Ohio State and the crowd wasn't great. The paid gate was 2,500. There was some excellent wrestling for sure. I like your statement where you cannot compare these duals to what the NCAA event would look like.

Also, if you look at the stands at the NFL Pro Bowl, you wouldn't expect the NFL playoffs or Super Bowl would be as successful. Or how about the stands at the East-West Shrine game compared to the BCS game? The Scuffle with many more teams participating and the Virginia Duals don't draw as well as the Ohio event.

I have to believe the NCAA and ESPN know about bit more about marketing than a well-intended coach.

By Greg D.

I have solutions to both the freestyle and folkstyle problem with one overlapping change.

For freestyle, reduce the size of the wrestling area in overtime. Since pushouts are already allowed as a scoring option, reducing the mat size with an additional painted circle should allow for more aggressive hand fighting and attacks. (Similar to college football starting at the 25-yard line.) Also, make the two-minute overtime period be sudden death.

For folkstyle, add the pushout as a one-point scoring option in overtime only. Freestyle has already implemented it, so it should not be an issue to include into folkstyle. smaller inner circle as mentioned above.

I do not like the suggestion for changing riding time to include a one-count or near fall points. This only adds back subjectivity by allowing the refs to decide if something is exposure.

The more we can have the wrestlers decide the outcome vs. refs or criteria, the better.

By R. Griffin

Bet you never hear this: We need a better National Duals.

With UNI finishing undefeated, it shows just how awesome duals can be. Consider their final matchup vs. Old Dominion, where they only won four matches, but three of their wins were pins and they still won the meet. We all know Penn State will win any tournament-style determination of best team, but are they impenetrable to a team dual? Clearly not.

So how about this. Keep everything the same. Except, two weeks after the NCAA tournament, host a 15-team National Duals tournament. With 15 teams, no true contender is left out (no offense to your No. 16 Virginia). A key benefit is that wrestlers won't sacrifice their rankings by wrestling aggressively. They will truly wrestle to win as opposed to "not to lose" to preserve their NCAA tournament ranking. The team that won at NCAAs gets the first-round bye. Throw in a 5-10 pound allowance. Wrestlers can only bump up in weight and not down. Call it the NCAA Team Championships.

We'd get some fantastic matches. Andrew Howe vs. Chris Perry normally = Defense. Pretend now that Andrew Howe must major Chris Perry, how fun would that be? Even watching hapless freshmen try their best not to get pinned against the likes of Tony Ramos and Dylan Ness would be a blast. Some of the best matches I have ever seen came out of the state-level team duals tournaments (like Illinois), many of which use this format.

What do you say?


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rjbielat (1) about 4 years ago
I try not to blink during Ness's matches. He'll be down by 5, I'll blink, and he'll have the guy on his back!
smattiko (1) about 4 years ago
Foley you didn't answer Tim J question. What will happen to the Edinboro's of the world? If small colleges have zero chance of finishing in the top ten (like edinboro does now) why would small schools keep wrestling?

Good bye EWL and all non big time conference wrestling.
trfoley (1) about 4 years ago
I don't agree that is the case. Edinboro is likely to make the NCAA Dual Meet Championships as winners of the EWL. That puts them into the bracket of 16 teams and seeded? If Edinboro wins ONE dual match then they are guaranteed to be top 8 in the country. The Fighting Scots have only finished within the top 8 twice in school history, 1997 and 2006.

Do you think Edinboro can't beat a top ten team in a dual meet? I do.
dbabbitts (1) about 4 years ago
The argument of including duals with the individual tournament is ridiculous. Wrestling is alive and well on the High Scholl level - almost 275,000 participants when I last looked. Pennsylvania, Ohio (amongst others) enjoy great success in crowning a dual champion and a tournament champion - Separately. The NCAA should embrace a similar approach. If the dual tournament enjoys greater fan interest, then you have your answer. To make a change for changes sake is a bad idea and I applaud those who oppose the change.
smattiko (1) about 4 years ago
Ok say Clarion loses 19-18 to edinboro in the ewl championship match. What are chances ewl gets two teams? Lock Haven, Cleveland state, Bloomsburg, Clarion, Drexel, Bucknell will be the next Slippery Rock.
You're a totally being for the large schools and conferences.
trfoley (1) about 4 years ago
What makes you think that these teams have ANY shot in the current format? They don't. None has placed in the top ten and none of them ever will in the current system. Just making it to the NCAA Dual Meet Championship could be a great accomplishment AND they still get individual qualifiers who can place and win it.
smattiko (1) about 4 years ago
Clarion has placed in top ten in current system.

Tell me how a dual meet championship tied to the individual will make the sport grow? Will it make slippery rock come back?

Why does it need to be tied to individual torney? If it's so good why can't it be separate?
dbabbitts (1) about 4 years ago
In 2011, Cornell took 2nd, American 5th, and Lehigh 8th. Those are 3 small schools. They didn't perform any better in the dual format.
conquistadors (1) about 4 years ago
I love the idea of National Duals, but...

1. They should occur after the conclusion of all duals (otherwise it is just one more mid-season tournament).

2. All 76(?) Div I teams participate (in the first weekend). Participation is mandatory, otherwise school cannot compete at conference and NCAA Championship tournament.

3. All duals matter as seeding at eight first weekend sites (scheduled before the season) should be based on RPIish formula. First weekend could be one-day tournament.

4. Top three teams from each first weekend site advance to a 24-team second weekend tournament, single elimination, but with semi-final losers wrestling for 3rd.

5. Winner of the second weekend tournament is the National Duals champion. Prestige is in the eye of the beholder, as is everything in life.

6. No points from National Duals forwarded to NCAA tournament. Forwarding points gives the "haves" a head start at NCAA tournament. That is wrong is so many ways.

Notice above: All Div I teams participate; results of all duals during the season matter as it affects seeding; National Duals does not affect conference or NCAA tournaments.
FHall (1) about 4 years ago
A bit off topic, but since you mentioned "an intelligent guy like Snyder" just how intelligent is proven by the fact he is now Dr Bryan Snyder.
Boost230 (1) about 4 years ago
One possible additional benefit of having the duals event after the individual tournament is that fans would get a chance to watch and support their newly minted AA's and National Champs. As it is, many AA in the final tournament of their career. Teams and fans would be able to celebrate the success of their athletes and advertisers may be interested in plugging All Americans in the coverage. Many fans who have a loyalty to the schools, but not to the sport or individual athletes, would have a reason to get involved as well. You don't have to have a knowledge of or particular interest in the sport to want your team to do well or beat your rival. That is something advertisers can use in promoting the brackets to the general population. That would expose their products to a bigger audience as well as promoting the sport.
dahdah19 (1) about 4 years ago
Just for fun I went on the NWCA Stats site and added up all the wins & losses for the D1 opponents of Port(22-0), Retherford(26-0), and Stieber(20-1).

Port 298-204= .594
Retherford 350-211= .624
Stieber 280-201= .582
trfoley (1) about 4 years ago
FUN?! Yikes, this is impressive and very much appreciated. Great stuff.
tigerfan9311 (1) about 4 years ago
To R. Griffin's comment: I'll never forget when #1 Dustin Fox wrestled and unranked opponent at the National Duals. His team needed him to major or better to win, yet he only won by 1 in OT. As the buzzer sounded, he stood up, put both hands in the air, and rejoiced in his close victory. At the time I was disgusted by his lack of concern about the team score and results, but he was glad he won a close match. And in D1, that was enough. Not sure Howe would feel bad for not bonusing Perry. Winning is enough, Always. (Unless your Ben Askren wrestling Roger Kish)!