The day is always exciting for fans, as the talk of potential individual and team national champions kicks in to hyper drive. That is good for the sport -- a conversation about what will come and who will make it occur.
My favorite part of the first week is sitting back and remembering my journey. Where I started and how I finished seem like worlds apart, but if I inspect my journey it was full of good (and bad) decision making that led to certain outcomes. That review and the nostalgia for friendships and interactions on the mat is potent. I miss the daily workouts, but I probably miss the relationships most often. Collegiate wrestling builds special bonds and I'm grateful for each lifelong friend earned during my five years competing at Virginia.
I hope that other wrestlers are having that same moment, while also taking a moment to be grateful for everything the sport can offer. Yes, there are things to fix in the sport and inevitably there will be controversy, but I like to choose this first day/week of official practice as a celebration of sorts. A time to remember our friends and everything there is to love about the sport.
Note: I'm in Switzerland right now finishing up a week of meetings about event coverage and documentaries for the 2018 international season. Though there are some items to still be decided, I think the next 14 months should be the best yet for the sport of wrestling. As I'm traveling, the mailbag will be a bit shorter than normal. Hope you enjoy!
To your questions …
Jack Mueller celebrates after beating Joey Dance in the NCAA quarterfinals (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: Jack Mueller of Virginia was fun to watch last season as a true freshman at 125 pounds. How do you think he will handle the move up to 133 pounds?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Jack Mueller will go down as the first NCAA champion for U.Va. wrestling and I have some confidence he can pull it off more than once. He has to develop aspects of his game, but his mental toughness is obvious to anyone who watches him wrestle. He has it and won't be denied an NCAA championship. This year? I think he's better-than-average betting odds.
Q: Who would you consider to be the face of USA Greco right now?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Kamal Bey. He's young, dynamic and out for points. He's also quickly becoming the face of where leaders within the sport want to see the sport head. He wrestles a pure style of Greco-Roman with a bit of personality and innovation.
Yui Susaki and Eri Tosaka in practice. Saori Yoshida in the back wiping sweat off the mats!
登坂絵莉(東新住建)と須崎優衣（安部学院高校）�" 保高幸子 10.15 RIZIN 福岡 (@greco_free) October 12, 2017
Eri TOSAKA, Yui SUSAKI and Saori YOSHIDA pic.twitter.com/HuGZW2Ft1C
Q: Organizationally and institutionally, what led to this 20-plus year U.S. resurgence? Rules, technique, coaching changes? Athlete recruitment/retention?
Foley: Rich Bender and the increase in capital contributions from major donors. There is an organizational magic at work that is tough to deny. From creating a program that pays for winners, to monetizing events and increasing participation, USA Wrestling has done a phenomenal job of creating an environment where individuals can win Olympic and world medals.
Daton Fix gets his hand raised after a victory at Beat the Streets in New York (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: You called Daton Fix over Nathan Tomasello at the U23 World Team Trials. I imagine Oklahoma State will redshirt Fix since they have a returning All-American in Nick Piccininni. I realize from a lineup standpoint it might make sense to redshirt Fix, but don't you think it's kind of pointless to sit a potential national champ and keep him in college wrestling for five or more years?
-- Mike C.
Q: Would you redshirt Daton Fix? I think he should redshirt, bump Kaid Brock to 141 pounds next year. That would be a salty lineup for 2018-19.
Foley: You don't sit a national champion. I may be proven wrong, but there are plenty of other years (2020) where Daton doesn't have to wrestle in the collegiate season. Let's see him attack the U23's and then the collegiate season. There is little reason to believe he has to take a back seat to someone that it seems he can objectively beat.
You can't play for the 2018-2019 season when you have someone like Daton Fix. There is something to be said for building teams over a certain number of years, but Fix is starting to look generational and a guy like that -- when put in the spotlight -- can pull in some other big-name wrestlers to join him at Oklahoma State.
Q: Of the four All-Star matchups announced so far, Darian Cruz (Lehigh) vs. Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State), Seth Gross (South Dakota State) vs. Stevan Micic (Michigan), Mark Hall (Penn State) vs. Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) and Kollin Moore (Ohio State) vs. Jared Haught (Virginia Tech), which matchup intrigues you the most?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Mark Hall vs. Zahid Valencia will give us some particularly powerful insight into Hall's sophomore campaign. There doesn't seem to be any science behind the sophomore slump, but it does seem to be a real thing in college wrestling (Greg Jones). Will Hall avoid a second season letdown? Will Valencia keep showing the improvement that we've seen from him each of the last two offseasons? A very exciting matchup that I won't miss.