Foley's Friday Mailbag: August 8, 2014

The UFC did wrestling a favor this week when it watched as its most profitable figure engaged in fisticuffs with an opponent. There is plenty of blame to be dispersed to both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier for their on-stage antics, but the real gift was that MMA showed once again that spectacle and promotion does not make a sport.

Wrestling has long been intrigued by the popularity and profitability of MMA. There have been attempts to make weigh-ins more dramatic and hype the clash of likely opponents. Often these promotional stunts barely increase the attendance, or large-scale media acceptance of wrestling events. More often it's an oddity that distracts.

The simple truth is that wrestling is a sport, not a promotional spectacle. International sport can make money, but there are certain restrictions that must always be in place to ensure fair play and equity. Often those don't mesh with pre-fight brawls in casino hotel lobbies.

Go Cormier!

To your questions ...

Q: How do you think Matt Lindland does as the USA Greco-Roman coach?
-- Dan A.

Foley: There was a nice article on Coach Lindland and where he sees his value as a coach. There is some appeal in having an athlete who has been exposed to various forms of martial arts while still having been successful in what they coach.

Greco-Roman success won't be immediate. The international community loves the sport and while we have some of the better athletes, we are deficient in training and competition schedules. These guys are good because they wrestle more matches against top competition.

Though it would be great to see some of the top freestylers migrate to Greco-Roman, that change will need to occur well before they enter their 20s. The competition has only practiced this one style their whole life, and our team (who is better than most give them credit) would launch for five many of the names being floated as possible Greco-Roman converts.

Q: Did you see the article on the rise of women's wrestling? That's good press for the sport.
-- Susan A.

Foley: The article does a great job of reminding wrestling fans how far removed most media consumers are from understanding the growth of our sport.

Marina Doi won a Junior World bronze (Photo/T.R. Foley)
Female wrestling is incredible. Whether it's Marina Doi, who won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships, or Helen Maroulis whose become the face of the sport in the USA, women's wrestling is experiencing more success and popularity in America. However that popularity isn't translating into positive PR for the sport.

Women deserve a shot, but to get to the next level the sport needs advocates motivated by their love for wrestling to take the forefront. We need ambassadors in every city and every state. We need individuals who see that the sport of wrestling (not just men's) can benefit from having gender equity -- that these women don't just have a value as mat stars, but are competent, brilliant and courageous competitors.

If you don't like women's wrestling, that's your choice, but if your put down the prejudice and head over to today at noon ET, I think you'll find that the sport can be every bit as exciting and complex as the men's side.

Multimedia Halftime

Metamorsis Preview

Link: Kiki Kelley: The only woman to go in Iran's wrestling arena

Q: Could you please make mention of these young men in your mailbag who died this past weekend in Epworth, Iowa following a parade where they participated on the high school wrestling float. One of the young wrestlers killed, Mitchell Kluesner, was the nephew of my co-worker.

Three of the four young men were on the Western Dubuque High School wrestling team and all four were good kids in school and the community. I am sure the wrestling community would like to hold these families in their thoughts and prayers as they mourn the loss of their sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, and cousins.
-- Tom G.

Foley: Thank you for taking the time to eulogize these young men. Bringing their passing to the attention of the entire wrestling community is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the loss of these families and grow appreciation for how fortunate we are to be healthy and happy.

Like many in the wrestling community, I saw this story posted on Facebook and my heart was crushed in thinking of the loss of these parents and the surrounding community. Life is filled with the promise of tomorrow and a better outcome, but young life has more chances built in and a story yet to be written. To lose these young men on the precipice of life that may include first loves, children and self-exploration seems cruel. It is cruel.

We are taught to love our neighbors and for wrestlers that extends to everyone who has shared in the turmoil. To a person, the tight knit wrestling community might not have individually known these young men, but their struggle on their mats and hopes for a bright future was a common connection by which all wrestlers can relate. Their early deaths are a reminder of the fragility of life and how much we should respect each day.

I will keep these boys and their families in my thoughts. I also trust that our entire community will do the same. Thank you again for writing and I wish the best to their family and everyone at Western Dubuque High School during this time of need.

Comment of the Week
By Mark B.

I wanted to commend you for your stance on youth wrestling. I have a 3-year-old son and I am torn on getting him involved in wrestling ... largely because of the broken system of youth wrestling that is in place. Too much, too early. I do not see much middle ground. This pains me because I love wrestling and am an avid fan. I wrestled though college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. It put me in the company of great men who guided me through my youth. It has molded me to be the father and husband I am today. That being said I do not want my son to be involved in the current youth wrestling culture. In my opinion the cost now outweighs the benefits.

I am 40 and have been involved with wrestling since I was a 10. I have seen my share of overzealous and outright crazy fathers. I have countless horror stories of kids whose fathers wrestled them non-stop. Their lives revolved around wrestling. They lived in a wrestling prison. Three tournaments a weekend, cutting weight, traveling all over the country and traveling hours just to attend a certain club. I have yet to see this end well for the young men. Fathers sacrificed their sons' youth, personal development and innocence to satisfy their egos and/or to fulfill a void in accomplish from their own wrestling careers. All for accolades and trophies that will mean very little when they reach adulthood. In large most of the kids that I know that wrestled non-stop as kids are low functioning adults. Crime, and substance abuse stain many of their lives. They struggle through adulthood. Their identity wrapped up in an activity that carries very little value in the adult world. It's tragic. How different would their lives turned out if they had more balance?

The way things are now is insane and it needs to stop. Wrestling should be a tool that teaches kids skills and tools that will help them be successful in the important aspects of life. An extracurricular activity. Not the center of a kid's universe. If my kid wrestles I will start my own club and do things my way. Low pressure, little competition, based in skill and personal development. He might not end up being a championship wrestler but he will end up being a championship human being.


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conquistadors (1) about 4 years ago
Mark B, thank you!

Youth wrestling should be like little league baseball (at least used to be). The primariy goal should be for kids to have fun. Practice a couple times a week, one competition per week during a several-month-long season, and snacks afterward. No cutting of weight! No state tournmanets until much, much later (junior high?).

The ridiculous emphasis on "building a champion" turns off the majority of kids. Instead of building our fanbase, we turn off kids.

Let kids be kids! (not a vehicle for unfulfilled fathers to live vicariously throught their 6-, 8-, or 10-year old)
trevork9 (1) about 4 years ago
Thoughts and Love go out to Western Dubuque High School and Community, very tough situation that no one should have to go through. Much Love and best wishes
CoachPrebes (1) about 4 years ago
As one of the members of the Cadet World Greco coaching staff, I am excited for Matt Lindland to implement his system for Greco in the USA. For our Greco wrestlers we don't lack talent; there are plenty of outstanding young Greco wrestlers in the US- some do not know that they are Greco wrestlers yet, but they are there. We don't lack training; two-time Olympian and World medalist Shawn Sheldon was the other Cadet World Greco coach (here is a link to our training camp interview: ). The Cadet World Greco team training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado with the Senior Greco team. The kids were prepared and in shape. What our younger Greco wrestler lack is experience. I'm not talking about the experience young American wrestlers get at Fargo or the FILA Cadet or Junior Nationals. The "style" of Greco most of the kids at these tournaments use is ineffective at the international level. We need to get our best Cadet and Junior Greco (and freestyle too) wrestlers to Europe and compete against the best. The World Championship should NOT be a wrestler's first international experience. We are not that far apart from the rest of the world in terms of talent, tactics, and conditioning; we just lack the experience against the best competition in the world.

I would love to see a sort of USEOC program for high school kids developed so we can identify our best young Greco prospects and begin training to win World and Olympic medals starting in high school. I understand that this idea is completely counter-intuitive to our current system ("why would I give up my dream of winning NCAA titles?") but could begin to turn the tide in Greco. We train Greco all year, travel to Europe and the Middle East, seek out the best competition week in and week out, and in time the US could be a powerhouse in Greco. It would take a lot of money and a school who is willing to balance education and travel. Had there been a program like this in place when I was in high school, I would have jumped at it. Just like the best high school programs travel to find the best competition possible, we need to do the same for our rising Cadet and Junior Greco wrestlers.

But there are people out there who do not value the importance of Greco and think it is a complete joke, and a waste of time. They think it's borning. And herein lies the problem- getting people to buy into a style they don't really understand. The big question I get regarding Greco is: "how will this help my folkstyle?". What do college wrestlers do much better than most high school kids: keep position and hand fight effectively. Hmmm...where can we learn these skills? Can you say Greco? Plus, most of the techniques that set up takedowns in Greco can be used to set up takedowns in folkstyle.

Think a little outside of the box on this: in order for the US to be successful in Greco, we need to get our wrestlers started young, get them international experience, and build a solid program. I think Matt Lindland will do a good job of this as the National Team coach. Steve Fraser did a great job too- I don't want to take anything away from him. Give Lindland an opportunity to implement his system before we get too critical of him. I welcome all coments and ideas. Feel free to email me at:

And I am very serious about wanting to start a USEOC type program for high school kids. I would love to brainstorm ideas and methods to get the ball well as how to fund it. Please email me at the above address if you would like to share your ideas.

Prebes Prebish
Tgreene (1) about 4 years ago
Mark B.

I couldn't agree with you more. Wrestling teaches great life lessons if nurtured through
appropriate programs for their age group. I am sure that your son will be a champion in life whether he wrestles or not with you as a father.
headgear643 (1) about 4 years ago
Mark B. Take heart. I was in your shoes 11 years ago. Having wrestled through high school and learning so many life lessons from the sport, I decided to sign my 6 year old when I found out our local HS had a youth program. For the first 4 seasons I only took him to small local tournaments and only when he wanted to go. As he got to the upper Elementary grades and Middle School, we started to go to larger (State Level) tournaments a couple times a year so he could see how good the best kids were and what he needed to learn to be able to compete with them. I was lucky to find a club whose philosphy was the long-term development of kids to be good high school wrestlers, not seeing how many Elementary and Middle School state champions they could get. (News Flash, nobody but their family remembers them anyway. My son will be completing a very successful HS career (3x state placer) this season. He still loves the sport and is excited about finding a college to wrestle at. And we've never been to Fargo, Tulsa, or even Ohio TOC, but as he's gotten older we've found tournaments with higher levels of competition. The "crazies" will always be out there, I use them as an example to my son of how NOT to act. Overall, I have found most of the parents I have come across on my journey through youth wrestling to be well grounded individuals who appreciate how much the sport can teach young kids. Once again the silent majority is overshadowed by the loud and obnoxious minority. Best of luck to you and your son as you guide him to successful future via wrestling.