The wrestling community is well-knit -- not only are we uncommonly bonded through our experiences on the mat, but when we communicate in times of loss we often share our own powerful experiences and opinions. Those experiences were shared on Facebook and other forms of social media and painted the portrait of a well-liked, dynamic young man. I've always thought our little subculture was among the best at comforting each other in these times and this week we showed special care in looking out for our friends at Ohio State and Oklahoma. As a wrestling fan, I was proud of my community.
There will be more made of Karageorge's passing in the coming weeks, and with the arguments about the dangers of football swirling, much will focus on what his death means to that sport. There is an important discussion to be had, but it's equally important that we stay aware that while costs are real, we shouldn't remember anyone as a series of analytical feature stories.
And for what it's worth, remember that if you know someone in trouble that it's always worth your time to reach out. Showing someone that you care can for some expend a lot of courage, but in the end it's always the right idea to let someone know that you are there to provide them unconditional love and support.
To your questions ...
Q: Why do Iowa wrestlers seem so miserable after winning? They can major a kid and you'd swear someone ran over their dog.
-- Tim J.
Foley: My friend Peter Maguire recently published a brilliant book called "Thai Stick" about drug smuggling in which a band of surfers traffic the titular form of marijuana from southeast Asia to Hawaii in the 1960s. Maguire is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Rixson Gracie and a well-respected authority on criminality in wartime.
Early in his book Maguire describes the protagonist's failed spiritual journey to India, and his eventual (and fateful) audible to tour Thailand. Maguire notes that unlike many western cultures, which believe life is to be endured with a grunt, the people of Thailand (and much of SE Asia) believe life is to be enjoyed with a smile. For a pot-smoking surfer protagonist this culture shock was the spiritual awakening that helped set him on a decades-long ride of surf trips to exotic locations and making millions in the marijuana trade.
I see institutional approaches to the sport of wrestling in much the same way as the book's protagonist saw SE Asia versus much of the Western world. Wrestling is a difficult physical sport that requires struggle. Often that struggle is easiest to motivate through the lens of a larger tension, maybe one with those in the society around us, or maybe with other programs, values or ideas.
Iowa's Nick Moore gets his hand raised after defeating Minnesota's Danny Zilvberberg, 3-2, in a dual meet in Iowa City last season (Photo/David Peterson)For Iowa, winning and losing is life and death. From the head coach to the backup, the idea is to accomplish the goal of winning by enduring the suffering necessary to achieve it, while other programs like Penn State, Cornell and UTC seem to take enjoyment from the same journey to the podium. Maybe it's my perception, but the outlook of these programs is more positive, and with fewer dogs being run over by farm equipment.
The enjoy vs. endure comparison is admittedly broad, but for me it puts into focus how and why we lose wrestlers, and the viewing audience. If wrestling is more about the Iowa way than the SE Asia way, then aren't we teaching our wrestlers and fans that wrestling is not fun, that it, like life, must be endured before ultimately being lost to time? Should wrestling hold on tight to the Puritanical spiritual hand-me-down of suffering for a cause, or should we final incinerate that notion with the heat of passion and enjoyment of pursuit?
I prefer the latter and see a lot of progress towards that being the new style of American wrestling. I'm hopeful that the success of programs like Penn State, new youth programs like Jake Herbert's and the growing number of wrestling fans dedicated to growing the sport will help us make this important cultural change. I think that change will reap results and encourage even more enjoyment of sport, and maybe even life.
Terminator Genysis -- Go ahead and geek out
Drop. The. Beat.
I love this. Enjoy and endure.
Q: I think 2014 was certainly a year when MMA took to combating PEDs seriously. Will 2015 be the year the sport will focus on dangers of weight cutting???
-- Chester Z. Arther
Foley: The popularity of the sport produced better journalism, which in turn did pump out enough pressure to make the UFC a touch more strict regarding PEDs. Weight cutting won't live the same life because it's often seen as a decision to gain the natural edge, and given that 95 percent of fighters engage in massive weight drops there aren't guys in the UFC calling for a restriction. There are few examples of guys missing weight and going to the hospital.
While weight cutting is unpleasant and unhealthy, a one-time drop three times a year is significantly less dangerous than five months of holding a lower weight and yo-yoing to weight in college wrestling. I'd like to see those rules amended well before anything that happens in the cage.
However, that said, I do think the UFC will start to send out notes to their fighters about image posting their weight drop. The UFC is image conscience and they would rather not have fans seeing their fighters lying on the ground wrapped in towels with only gaunt faces exposed to the air ... and Instagram.
Q: What percentage of this week's Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational champs were made when no one was watching?
Foley: Assuming that you have a standard margin of error of +/- 4.5% in polling, and accounting for the Polar Vortex, Ebola and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, but also noting that international ballots have yet to be counted, the current percentage of champions coming from the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational whose championships were won when nobody was watching is 70 percent.
This was a very scientific study. The number could have been much higher, but it seems that a large portion of the Cornell wrestling team are videotaped for promotional videos using 24-hour body camera technology, a la "The Circle."
The future is now.