With such a massive event on the horizon you would think spots had been earned and teams named, but in two prominent freestyle stories those answers are amiss. The most compelling drama belongs to two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar's court action against the Indian Wrestling Federation. Though he's been absent from competition for much of the last four years, he's requesting a special wrestle-off against Narsingh Yadav, the 2015 World bronze medalist for India at 74 kilos.
While Kumar is unquestionably the best wrestler in Indian history, his absence from the sport and bumping up of weights can't be ignored. For their part the IWF has been stalwart in their repelling of Kumar's attempts at securing the wrestle-off, saying that since Yadav qualified the spot he should go to the Olympics. A fair assessment, since allowing Kumar an opportunity to wrestle off would open a Pandora's box of challengers across all weight categories.
Yadav will likely retain the spot, but the entire drama has been fun to watch and is worth the read.
The other drama is going on now with the Russian National tournament in Yakutsk. Earlier today the match Dagestan's Muskaev started a fistfight and prompted the entire Dagetani contingency to boycott wrestling after a bad call gave Yakutia's hometown hero Viktor Lebedev a controversial win.
Be sure to watch and see how the rest of the tournament unfolds!
To your questions …
Q: Why are our top guys competing in Beat the Streets and the World Cup? What if they get hurt? Seem a bit much to have folks going full out live within 60 days of the Olympics, no?
-- Bryan R.
Foley: The Beat the Streets event was up in weight and against opponents who either offered a great learning opportunity (Kim Hyeon-woo of Korea) or who offered little real threat of winning (see: entire freestyle opposition).
As for the World Cup I think it's a perfect time to tune the engines. There will be a nice weight cut, some good match experience (again, against lower accredited opponents) and a warm-up to the atmosphere expectant in Rio.
The rest of the world is actually choosing to wrestle 60 days out as well. I'm currently in Tokyo for a documentary on Yoshida and Icho and learned that Icho is headed to Poland for a tournament in two weeks. Along the same lines Frank Staebler is also headed to Poland to compete, as is most of the Mongolian women's national team.
Overall, I think 60 days is a nice time to get in one last tune-up tournament, or at least a few matches.
Morgan McIntosh battles J'den Cox in the NCAA finals (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Q: About 14 months ago Morgan McIntosh beat both Kyle Snyder (4-1) and J'den Cox (3-1). Granted, these were folkstyle matches. But do you think McIntosh has a chance to make a World team in the next Olympic cycle?
-- Ronald M.
Foley: After Frank Molinaro made the U.S. Olympic Team, it's safe to say that everyone has a chance. McIntosh's best chance would be if Snyder moved into heavyweight at some point and allowed for some room in the lineup. Otherwise, he may need to move up on his own and see how he fairs.
Important to note as well that freestyle and folkstyle are dramatically different. Would need to see more of Morgan before I could endorse him with an upset victory over two very promising young Olympians, with one of them being the defending World champion.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Minnesota state of affairs? J Robinson handled a Xanax case in house?
-- Todd S.
Foley: This is a shorter mailbag so let me leave you with my initial reaction. J Robinson did what he thought was best by his team and the individuals involved. There was nothing nefarious about his actions and it was never (in my opinion) his job to turn the athletes into the police. So far no cover up seems afoot, so it's really just a concerned father figure looking to help his athletes make better decisions.
And for anyone who thinks that pills aren't on every campus and being sold by damn near everyone with a prescription, you're fooling yourself. Abuse of prescribed medications like Xanax and Oxycontin is an epidemic and like all good American scandals someone is getting rich off it … and it's not the Minnesota wrestling team.
For J I imagine that the real rub is that the drugs were being sold by his team and to his team. While there were pills being sold outside of his program, he knew that correcting their behavior would benefit everyone.
Whether pills or marijuana or other recreational drugs the impulse to punish those involved is too high (pun not intended). Should they be forced into jail, or clog the justice system because they helped others consume a drug to help them relax? This argument isn't for the wrestlers, but a broader issue we face in determining what the right course of action is for this behavior. On the scale of just punishments J Rob's was much more in line with a sensible solution than that of a random judge adjudicating the process. And again, I feel this way about most recreational non-habit-forming drug users and sellers.
Q: Will J Robinson survive this drug scandal at Minnesota? Or is too early to know?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Dealing strictly with J Rob's job security -- not the above mentioned analysis of right/wrong -- I'll guess that he resigns rather than is made to suffer some ongoing investigation. These things have legs because they find clicks and reaffirm the belief that college athletics is dirty business. Basically he'll go because there will be pressure by the media, for the sake of the media.
In my opinion, J's career is far too distinguished for him to be bogged down in this type of mess. My hope is that he stays this year and resigns at the end of next season, handing off to someone like Damion Hahn whose name recognition and coaching pedigree are fantastic and appropriate.
Overall, probably too early to know, but in my experience these stories -- especially on college campuses -- don't just disappear.
Water Bottle Flip is the best Internet video … Ever?
Q: With Mike Mendoza leaving CSU Bakersfield for Boise State, any thoughts on who might take over at CSU Baskersfield?
-- Mike C.
Foley: I haven't the faintest. There are a lot of challenges to that job. Bring back Joe Seay?
Q: I know this is very subjective, but if Spencer Lee keeps winning like he has been, do you put him as the greatest high school wrestler of all time? What he has done the last few years on the high school, national, and international stages is mind blowing.
-- Joe F.
Foley: Yes, but I think he needs to make a senior team or log some type of senior level victory to be on the same level as Cary Kolat.
That and he needs to win out the rest of his matches until graduation on both stages and do so in dominant fashion. I think that the amount of attention he receives (InterMat, Flo, etc.) will help further the argument that he's as good, or maybe better, than Kolat.
Q: Who wins American Wrestling Idol between Olympians Kerry McCoy (2000, 2004) playing the cello (pre-YouTube, apparently) and J'den Cox (2016) playing the guitar and singing?
-- Irv O.
Foley: J'den is undefeated on the mat. Imagine that will remain when he steps on stage since in addition to playing an instrument the guy also can belt a note.