By the time you read this entry the United States will have already won or lost their match, but regardless of the outcome some real signposts for the future have been planted.
The first major takeaway is that the team is well-coached. The American system for training can be a bit detached, with local coaches assuming much of the day-to-day training and the national team coaches left to prepare for individual matchups. The science of preparation for individual opponents seems to be at an all-time high with Coach Bill Zadick, a fact that either drives, or compliments the team's innate confidence. Down early? Down late? No problem, Team USA seems to always have an answer.
Maybe this takeaway will be muted Friday, but when tallying these early Freestyle World Cup results with the performance at the 2016 World Championships, the future of USA Wrestling has never looked brighter.
To your questions …
David Taylor defeated Jake Herbert at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: David Taylor has looked awfully good at the Freestyle World Cup. Are you taking Taylor, J'den Cox or someone else as Team USA's representative at 86 kilograms at this year's World Championships?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Taylor had a tremendous opening day at the 2017 Freestyle World Cup. Without Kyle Dake in the 86-kilogram bracket I think that we could see a very real battle between Taylor and J'den Cox for the World Team spot (followed closely by Richard Perry).
While Cox has been floating around the college scene all year it would be a mistake to look at DT's gains and not balance them with similar maturity on the part of Cox. He can wrestle anywhere and find his way to the podium and with only a handful of losses in his first season of senior level freestyle I still like Cox's chance to hold the spot.
Proposal for NCAA rule changes
By David F.
This proposal is to make collegiate wrestling more exciting and align to Olympic/freestyle wrestling.
If a wrestler walks backwards (intentionally or unintentionally) out of bounds, is pushed out of bounds or fleas the mat, then it is 1 point for the wrestler who stayed in bounds.
I'm all for a good scrambles in college wrestling, but things are getting a bit out of hand, especially with how good these kids are getting at scrambling. If a wrestler in a scramble position exposes his/her back (intentionally or unintentionally) for longer than a referee three count, whether from neutral position or the starting referee position, then the other wrestler is awarded 2 points. Similar to exposure rules in freestyle wrestling.
I'm guessing that not many like to watch the snore ride or the aggressive cuddling that has become riding time in college wrestling. To enhance our product we need wrestling to align with freestyle and have wrestlers trying to score from their feet or the top position.
I propose that if a wrestler is taken down, then the top wrestler has 30 seconds to turn the bottom wrestler. If no exposure or pinning move is in effect at the end of 30 seconds, then the referee will stand both wrestlers back up, as if it was a stalemate. Logistically speaking the second referee would be in charge of clock awareness with the scorer's table.
If the bottom wrestler is put on their back within the 30-second ride (by cradle, tilt, arm-bar, etc.) and gets back to his base (breaks the hold of the offensive wrestler, belly's out & is not pinned), then both wrestlers will be put back on their feet to continue from the neutral position.
The bottom wrestler will still be awarded a 1-point escape if actively pursuing to get back to the neutral position and freeing themselves from top control within the 30-second rideouts. Also, reversal would still be 2 points, then that top wrestler would have 30 seconds to turn the bottom wrestler.
The biggest change to riding time that I would make is if the top/offensive wrestler has two (full) 30-second rideouts, then they would be awarded a point. This would be the case for either wrestler that had top control for a full minute (two 30-second rideouts) and would rid the idea of "erasing" riding time and the technicalities of clock maintenance for riding time. Also, if a wrestler were to score two additional takedowns and another two (full) 30-second rideouts, after already being awarded 1 point, they would be given an additional point. Hence, every 1 minute of full riding = 1 point.
I think these changes would bring more excitement to the college mat without completely altering the current product of college wrestling. Also, I believe these rules could be easier explained to the newcomer or casual fan of our sport (let's face it, it's never easy to explain riding time to a noob), as points are being awarded to the aggressor and it's a closer model to freestyle wrestling.
Proposal for NWCA Division I National Duals
By Mike M.
A large part of the NCAA wrestling discussions this week surround the NWCA Division I National Duals matchups, what rules or lack of allowed those matchups and the format in general.
I believe it's obvious the only way everyone is going to buy in currently is if it makes sense from a financial perspective. What would the magic number be for a minimal payout for a school to, for lack of a better term, be forced to participate?
Here would be my proposal for a format change. But from a fiscal perspective, I don't know if there is enough incentive to get everyone to buy in with this type of format.
Q: I'm really interested in your thoughts on what that magic number is to make it financially worth it for a program to participate in the Division I National Duals. Until everyone participates the prestige of being crowned the champion isn't going to establish itself. Once the prestige establishes itself it would seem the financial incentive would be less of a deciding factor.
-- David M.
Foley: First I love the ideas here. It's the type of thinking the NCAA and NWCA could use, though I imagine politics would be played out behind the scenes.
To financially incentivize you would need to move to a cash prize system, but based in the way that the NCAA operates a direct financial payout for a victory on the field would NEVER be kosher. In a parallel universe it would be $100,000, $50,000 and $25,000 for the top three teams. Maybe you could get a one-time TV and streaming deal, but I'd be interested to see how that was brokered.
Q: I'm a little frustrated that we're not seeing Iowa and Virginia Tech wrestle at the NWCA Division I National Duals. It seems like Tom Brands wants nothing to do with wrestling Virginia Tech. I don't think Iowa is afraid of Virginia Tech, but it seems like it's related to what happened over a decade ago with Brent Metcalf, Jay Borschel and others. Any thoughts on this?
-- Mike C.
Foley: I don't think that Tom Brands and Kevin Dresser get along super well. I don't think there is significant incentive for Iowa to compete against Virginia Tech without at least a semblance of the national title at stake. I don't think Brands is scared of Virginia Tech.
This is very clearly not a black and white matter of principle. This is a collection of matters that has built up over the years between the NWCA, NCAA and some personal gruff. The end result is that two teams -- who control their schedule -- are choosing to not wrestle. While I'd love to see these two take the mats against each other this season, I'm not super upset at Iowa for not taking the matchup.
If you're an Iowa guy, where's the upside?
Q: What's the latest with Aaron Pico? Will he be wrestling for a spot on the World Team? I thought I read somewhere that he will be making his Bellator debut this year, but I could be wrong.
-- Mike C.
Foley: You read correctly. He is expected to make his Bellator debut in July.
Q: As it stands today, which teams do you think will produce the most All-Americans in St. Louis? Penn State and Oklahoma State will most likely have their fair share of NCAA placers, but what other teams do you think will have an impressive showing at the NCAAs?
-- Sean M.
Foley: Penn State with seven All-Americans. Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech each with six All-Americans. Iowa with five and Ohio State with four.
Q: Johny Hendricks has had a successful MMA career, but has struggled a lot with his weight and is on the back side of his career. He fights Hector Lombard this weekend. Any predictions on that fight?
-- Mike C.
Foley: This is a fascinating matchup. Both men are large one-punch fighters with platinum grappling credentials. Johny will find Hector to be a handful on the cage, but if he can weather an early storm of haymakers and overhooks he can tire out the Cuban judoka-turned Aussie fighter. If he fails to prepare for Hector's right hand, or was deficient in his strength training leading up to this weight class move, then Johny could face a very short, very painful night in the Octagon.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK
By Joe S.
Every season there is a lot of hand-wringing about the number of forfeits in dual meets, the ducking of opponents to protect seeds or to avoid additional opportunities for tactical adjustment, the scheduling of weak opponents, the skipping of tough tournaments, etc. It seems to me that these problems are really symptoms of a simple, core truth that isn't being addressed: wrestling is a physically demanding combat sport for which a heavy load of competitions is not in the best interest of the athlete. David Taylor candidly remarked recently that his current great form is the result of a training formula that is supplemented by about 25-30 matches annually, and of course in freestyle that might mean just one tournament every other month. To do more competitions has the negatives of greater risk of injury, fatigue, inability to peak, not to mention the problems of making weight more often.
Maybe by accepting this fact and reconstructing the NCAA season accordingly we could have healthier participants and offer a better product of major and minor events (chosen during the season to meet the athlete's needs) culminating in the NCAA tournament.