Foley's Friday Mailbag: May 12, 2017

The Pan-Am Championships ended last weekend with the United States claiming five of eight gold medals in freestyle, three in Greco-Roman and two in women's wrestling. The haul was impressive, but it left some (online) wondering why the U.S. sent some their personnel to Brazil, while keeping others at home.

There is a myriad reason why nations choose to send some wrestlers and not others to a continental championship, but one fact often overlooked in the cyclical effect that the Olympics can create within national teams. From surgeries, to mental rest, to peaking for future events nations around the world have a variety of ideas as to who should train when and for what reason. This year nations were incentivized to send Olympic starters to their continentals with the promise of points which could solidify seeds at the World Championships in September.

In other individual sports money plays a role in which tournaments and events athletes choose to attend. For soccer players it's not uncommon to stay with your club team and make millions instead of playing in national team games. It's rare to see top-level competitors in soccer and like-minded sports go into the national circuit instead of collecting paychecks. In wrestling however, there is just not a lot of choice for cash, but there is a need for rest.

Wrestling, for all its gains, is still not a sport that pays enough money to impress all the big names to the mat early in the Olympic cycle. That could change with time and innovation, but for now that's just a reality which nobody can change overnight for all wrestlers and all nations. Some wrestlers choose to compete, while others choose to sit.

The system is developing. The plan is to create a more competitive, profit-driven system that is careful to not devolve into spectacle (read: UFC's current issues). This will take time, but with organization-down type incentives offered to top-level tournaments the change is certain to happen in the next few years.

To your questions …

Mark Perry, with Jesse Delgado, coaching at the NCAAs (Photo/John Sachs,

Q: Have you heard the rumor of Mark Perry leaving Illinois and possibly going to coach the Hawkeye Wrestling Club? Does that rumor have any legs? What kind of impact do you think that would have on college wrestling?
-- Mike C.

Foley: I've seen the rumor, but haven't heard much corroboration on an actual move. We do know that Mark Perry was one of the hottest names in coaching the past several years. Maybe he wants a marquee job and figures the best path is to join up with his alma mater and play spoiler to Penn State? Tough to put down in numbers, but if Perry were to join the staff and the Hawkeyes won an NCAA title his name would likely be first on a list of new hires in 2018.

As for his impact, I think there is no questioning Perry's abilities as a coach. He would 100 percent have a positive technical impact on the Iowa program, which I believe would translate to more wins and more medals.

Q: What do you expect out of Fresno State in their first year of competition? They'll obviously be young, but they have a deep recruiting class of California talent, plus some interesting transfers in Emilio Saavedra, A.J. Nevills, Josh Reyes, and Josh Hokit. Furthermore, what do you think the program will look like in three years?
-- Alex S.

Foley: Three years is a long time to project out for such a young program. It would be tough to think a group of young wrestlers and new coaches could find the top 20 in three years. However, if I were to make the case for how it might happen, it might look something like this.

The Fresno State coaching staff has the benefit of reflection. In some ways they are an incredible case study on what a college wrestling program could achieve given all the right inputs. There are no corrosive hand-me-down wrestling personalities for the coaches to inherit, no ongoing legacy (physical of emotional) for them to battle, and plenty of support. With foresight the coaching staff could even supplement and change their style to ensure it matches the most successful programs in the country, namely Penn State.

Assuming they create the type of atmosphere for athletes proven to be successful elsewhere and control the other variable I suppose it's not impossible that Fresno State could flirt with a national top-20 finish in as few as three years. Unlikely, but possible.

Q: Any insight on why Alex Tirapelle is out as head wrestling coach at Penn? I heard he was asked to resign because he was going to be fired. What's next for the program? Hire Quaker legend Brandon Slay?
-- MC

Foley: All signs point to the return of Roger Reina.

Unclear of all the internal politics, but it seems that Penn has very influential alumni who were unhappy with Tirapelle's output over the past three seasons. I imagine that he set the expectations low and was told that he met the internal markers laid out when he was hired. However, there were some who didn't like the direction, or thought there was a different direction they could take in the short term.

Yes, his resignation was a modern firing, which is too bad because it looked to me like he was in a slow build to making Penn a legitimate player on the conference and national stage.


Please read-up on the story of recently injured wrestler, Myles.

Links: GoFundMe Page | Facebook Page

Yui Susaki: Going for Gold

Q: I was a little surprised new Pitt coach Keith Gavin didn't retain Matt Kocher. Any idea what's next for Kocher? Will he stay in wrestling?
-- Mike C.

Foley: No idea on Kocher's next move, but I think that from 10,000 feet it was difficult to keep another Pittsburgh guy on staff, especially one who already shared head coaching duties with the another hired assistant coach, Drew Headlee.

Gavin is a smart guy. The decision to hire Jordan Leen will boost the on-the-mat credentials of his staff and provide him an assistant he already had a successful working relationship with at the University of Virginia.

I've always appreciated what Kocher has brought to the sport of wrestling and would love to see him stay. But if he goes I'm certain he'll be successful in whichever field he chooses.

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CoreyCA (1) about 1 year ago
Foley the only slow build Tirapelle had in place was a descent to the middle of the Ivy League and EIWA pack. The results for each of his years at been were dismal for a program that was historically fighting for #1 in the Ivies and tips 3-5 in the EIWA. Penn does have a strong alumni base and I'm sure they were not happy. Having Matt Valenti as an asst AD and Roger back at the RTC didn't help either
Bayoubear (1) about 1 year ago
As the 2nd easiest Ivy School to get in to, Penn should always be good. Tirapelle had to go. They need to throw a bunch of money at someone and get a real coach, but that won't happen.