Foley's Friday Mailbag: April 14, 2017

With plenty to discuss from the fallout of the college wrestling season and coaching carousel let's take a quick look at United World Wrestling's announcement this week that there will be a seeding system in place for the 2017 Wrestling World Championships in Paris.

The system is the first step in a larger effort to have an ongoing point structure in place for the entire length of an international wrestling season. While those ambitions remain in place this year the system will include only the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2016 World Championships along with points scored at the 2017 Continental Championships. This simple system should ensure that the top four wrestlers from around the world are separated and fans are treated to late-round excitement.

The newer system (likely introduced after the 2017 World Championships along with the new weight categories and testing results of two-day tournaments) will be more complex with hundreds of considerations being balanced when creating its architecture. Despite the difficulty, overall one thing is clear: Wrestling is adapting. Maybe this seeding system won't be perfect (what seeding system is?), but the sport is growing with the needs and wants of fans, athletes and national federations.

Also, I don't know about you guys, but seeding or not, I'm looking forward to the 2017 World Championships and what could be the best USA freestyle team … ever.

To your questions …

Q: When I was growing up Dan Gable was the most recognizable name to young wrestlers. Who has the most recognizable name to young wrestlers now? Cael Sanderson? Jordan Burroughs? Kyle Snyder? David Taylor? Kyle Dake?
-- Mike C.

Jordan Burroughs at the Olympic Games (Photo/Tony Rotundo,

Foley: For now it's Jordan Burroughs and that won't change much until Kyle Snyder is allowed to sign a shoe and apparel deal. Once he does that, and if continues to win big matches, I think we could see a shared throne.

That said, David Taylor is crazy popular and his recent performance at the Freestyle World Cup only improved his credentials and admiration within the wrestling community.

Looking forward, I think Snyder's age, dominance of his weight class within the USA and likable personality are going to drive him into superstardom sooner than maybe any of us can predict.

Q: I read an article on InterMat about how the NCAA's competition oversight committee had demonstrated "strong support" for opening the possibility of NCAA championships in Las Vegas. The World Championships were held in Vegas in 2015. Also, USA Wrestling holds the U.S. Open there. There a few college events there. Do you think Las Vegas could be successful as a host city for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships?
-- Mike C.

Foley: Of course! Once the NCAA saw that the NFL was moving into town it gave them the moral coverage to take their events back to Sin City. Wrestling is especially attractive since they are guaranteed 18,000 fans per session and the geographic location means that western schools can have an increased presence. Vegas is a loss-leading city so hotel rooms will be cheap, flights manageable and the big money sponsors will be out in force.

Gambling wouldn't be too big of an issue since live sportsbooks aren't likely to place risk on wrestling. If they do it would be a boom for the sport since it'll increase viewership. The online gambling action would also increase since Vegas is synonymous with gambling and those who might not typically bet could make a first pass.

Regardless, I think we can all agree that after NYC, wrestling wants and deserves a showcase. St. Louis is wonderful for many reasons, but wrestling can thrive when there is more appropriate spotlight and coverage.

Q: Why have 33-man brackets at the NCAAs? The extra guy seems arbitrary and I doubt the last at-large bid wins more than a match, but sadly I lack data on that as well.
-- Tyler H.

Foley: I think this is a holdover from the old NCAA qualification system which allocated spaces to conferences who then gave them out to wrestlers at weight classes of their choosing. In that system there were often 33-plus wrestlers in a bracket and some with fewer than 32.

When the qualification system changes the number of qualified athletes paid for by wrestling remained stagnant with 330 allocated across ten weights. With the RPI that meant 33 per weight class, and consequently a mostly meaningless pigtail match at the NCAA tournament.

It would be better to have 32 qualified and one on hold for an injury to one of the top guys, but with the NCAA making money off the tournament I doubt they'd do anything to derail the money train.

Q: Do you think a technical fall should be less points than a pin? I know working for the fall is the ultimate goal in wrestling, but is it harder to pin someone or tech them? How many falls happen when a match is close or even have the wrestler losing complete the fall? Which shows more dominance? I don't think it should be worth more than a fall because wrestlers should always be working for the fall, but if you beat someone by 15 points, doesn't that show dominance? Don't we preach dominance? I bet tech falls happen less than falls, but you never "catch" someone and tech them. They are never anything less than a show of dominance. So why are they worth one less point?
-- Justin L.

Foley: The idea of working for the fall in wrestling should always be incentivized greater than point-scoring alone. In wrestling the ultimate form of domination is a fall. It always has been and always will be. Like Judo and the Ippon; jiu-jitsu and the submission; and boxing and the KO -- these are absolutes that inspire the sport. Were it not the need for audiences and TV a match would run on until a pin, ippon, submission or KO were accomplished. The tech fall is wonderful (and dominant), but it should always be inferior to the task of winning outright.

As an interesting side point to this topic, the sportification of an activity like wrestling (or more recently jiu-jitsu) has incredible benefits in terms of creating a larger base of participants. When matches lasted forever there was an emphasis placed on brute toughness, whereas today technique, skill, conditioning and full-tilt action are the priority. A few years ago when the OT-Forever crew chirped about the lack of OT in international wrestling the rebuttal was that time limits not only allow for easier viewership and tournament management, but promote action over gamesmanship. After three years of increased viewership and participation that seems to be the correct angle.


Risako Kawai might be the new face of women's wrestling in Japan

Link: Grace Bullen's incredible story from refugee to wrestler

Q: More practical question. Most volunteer coaches are funded through the clubs. There are a lot of rumors of Brent Metcalf being paid well, but what are the benefits? Health insurance? Guy has a family. How do they accommodate for it? Or you just pay him enough and he pays for it himself?
-- Frank C.

Foley: Oof. That is a tough question.

There is no way to know how Metcalf has his specific contract structured, but I can give you some insight since I bopped around for a while in the coaching ranks and have seen all types of packages.

The full-time volunteer will likely not have health insurance funded by the athletic department. That's not across the board, that's just a majority. Volunteer coaches can then rely on any number of resources in order to secure health, dental and other benefits. First option is the spouse. If your wife works and has health benefits you and the children would obviously be dependents. Another option is that a wealthy local alum might be able to get you on the roll for their local business. Yet another is to go onto the open market and purchase, which is what I did for more than seven years with a lot of success. Also, any volunteer coaches younger than 26 can stay on their parents insurance.

The packages are typically cash-only since the funds are raised outside of the athletic department. That means most coaches need to self-fund all the extras others might receive. Depending on your age and place for the future that might vary from spending all you make to saving cash in a life insurance policy. That is just up to the individual.

Q: Wrestlers in the USA seem to be getting better at a younger age so a slight shift is expected, but do you know to what extent this is and how it compares to the 2000's or the decades before?
-- Tyler H.

Foley: Successful international wrestlers in the USA tended to be older in the 2000's than they have been in the most recent decade. Overall the Olympic gold medalists in freestyle wrestling were on average 24 years old, putting Kyle Snyder on the younger side. For all medalists, the number was higher meaning that Snyder and J'den Cox were well below the mean.

As to why … the United States is peaking athletes earlier in their career. You only have so much top-level, kick-ass wrestling in your system -- as John Smith once postulated, six years. So if you take a high school wrestler and put them through 70-100 high level matches a season, you are absolutely putting them on the path to early success, but not necessarily long-term success.

Q: Thoughts on Pitt hiring Keith Gavin as its head wrestling coach?
-- Mike C.

Foley: I love it. University of Virginia head wrestling coach Steve Garland always had high praise for Gavin, and when we chatted earlier in the year he said he thought he'd be a head coach somewhere within a year or two. I think Pitt is a good fit for him and they will find steady leadership with Gavin at the helm.

Success should also be maintained. My hope is that we'd see Drew Headlee and Matt Kocher stay on for the foreseeable future since continuity is something that could benefit the young wrestlers in the program.

Good luck to Coach Gavin and his staff!


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Josh41698 (1) about 1 year ago
Another problem with having tech falls more points than pins, is that, if this were the case, people would give up and get pinned on purpose to save team points. You can't give up a tech like that easily. With that being said, I do believe tech falls are way more dominant than pins in most cases.