There are plenty of reasons why football coaches and administrators would want redshirt athletes on the field: increased learning experience, preservation of eligibility and increased competitiveness. For many of these reasons (and a few more) wrestling would also significantly benefit from redshirt rules which allow some varsity competition.
Over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of forfeits at the collegiate level. Backups are willing to wrestle, but coaches don't want to risk a year of eligibility plugging a freshman redshirt in for a single match. In fact, that all-or-nothing attitude is the crux of the redshirt issue for football, wrestling and many other sports. The NCAA needs to allow for more leniency around redshirting, since giving kids a wider berth on using eligibility allows for a better environment for college athletes to mature, while also giving college sports fan the very best product available.
The college football coaches were unanimous in their support of the rule change, and it's likely that if adopted by the Gods of the Gridiron, wrestling could soon adopt a similar rule change.
Here's to hoping.
To your questions …
Jason Tsirtsis wrestling Iowa's Brandon Sorensen in the Midlands semifinals (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Q: Is there any chance Jason Tsirtsis will win the NCAA title? At the Midlands, Tsirtsis was still wrestling in reactive mode. Too willing to win by a point or two. Don't you think he needs to be more aggressive?
Foley: It's arguably every American wrestler's dream to win an NCAA title, and Tsirtsis has accomplished that goal. Although Tsirtsis' early performance would indicate that he's a perennial threat, his career trajectory was adversely affected by well-documented adversity off the mat. In my opinion, Tsirtsis' perseverance in continuing his wrestling career and the competitiveness he's shown after having major time off is impressive. I'm hopeful that we will see Tsirtsis in Cleveland and with any luck holding some hardware.
Q: In 2017 the last chance qualifier for World Team Trials was May 18. This year Jordan Oliver is suspended until April 29, and notably there is no last chance qualifier scheduled. A few thoughts on this:
Was this just a clickbait article from Flo? They word it "As of now, there is no last chance qualifier in place for the 2018 WTT." Does this just mean that they did not schedule the last chance qualifier yet? Or does this mean they do not plan on holding one? If they do not plan on holding one I have no choice but to cry CORRUPTION! COLLUSION! CAEL IS BEHIND THIS! BIG CAEL IS BAD FOR WRESTLING!!!
OK, my Big Cael conspiracy theory could be a bit of a reach. However, not allowing JO to compete for a spot on the World Team after serving his one-year suspension would be a gross injustice. #FreeJO
-- Jake O.
Foley: Sorry, but none of the changes to the qualification procedures were led by Cael. (Could you imagine if something similar happened between international federations? Wrestling Twitter would FREAK.)
USA Wrestling is looking to overhaul their qualification procedures to help increase the visibility of the nation's top freestyle wrestlers during team selection for 2018. Though one of the top wrestlers in the nation at any weight between 61 kilograms and 70 kilograms, USA Wrestling did not intentionally accommodate Oliver.
This is a good thing. USA Wrestling is making a decision based on many factors, but the date by which an athlete has cleared suspension was not one of them. That might leave Oliver out in 2018, but it is some proof that there is little or no internal manipulations being made in order to accommodate the personal schedules of the athletes looking to make a world team (outside the accepted norms).
USA Wrestling didn't take Cael or JO into account when deciding to create this series. The larger aim seems to increase the visibility of the events and give more individual attention to the wrestlers in the finals.
Oh, and I like the new system. I think it's much fairer to athletes who have to wrestle in a qualification tournament.
Q: Any predictions on Oklahoma State-Iowa on Sunday? I'm especially looking forward to the Nick Piccininni-Spencer Lee match.
-- Mike C.
Foley: Nick Piccininni is coming off a tough loss to Sean Fausz of NC State at last week's dual in Italy. I'm not sure where Spencer Lee's fitness is at right now, but it bodes well for the freshman that his first major test is in Carver-Hawkeye against a top-five opponent with a recent loss. Lots of fur flying that night, too, as the Hawkeyes look to rebound from their bad 24-11 loss in January of 2017.
Mom Week in Amateur Wrestling
😂😂😂😂😂 I love it. She was hype pic.twitter.com/S410MuJirx�" Angel Escobedo (@driven2dominate) January 9, 2018
Q: After watching some of the Midlands and Scuffle, I agree with those who think that we need to do more to encourage action and discourage stalling. However, as a former referee, I can tell you that this is easier said than done (but it still needs to be done). It probably requires that the secondary referee have responsibility for calling stalling, to let the primary referee focus on his job of calling the match.
But here's a simple change that is easily enforced that would make NCAA matches more interesting: every time action goes out of bounds, you restart in the neutral position (with no escape awarded if one wrestler was on bottom when they went out of bounds). This prevents a wrestler from earning riding time by taking his opponent out of bounds five times. You'd still need to call fleeing the mat (so the top wrestler doesn't just take his opponent out of bounds to avoid giving up one point on the escape), but I think it's worth the risk to try this out and see how much "gaming" of the system ensues.
-- Irv O.
Foley: I like where you are heading with this logic, but I wonder if just getting rid of the riding time point would solve most of these problems. Why is it considered so dominant to lay atop your opponent? If being there provides you no more incentive I think you'd see a dramatic shift in the sport to something with more action on the feet, where coincidentally referees have shown increased consistency in controlling penalties for traipsing out of bounds.
The problem in college wrestling is there is way too much time spent with general inaction. While I understand the sport's roots as a control-focused form of wrestling, the data overwhelming shows that fans lose significant interest in grappling sports once the action hits the ground. Sports that are forced to be on the ground often (jiu-jitsu, judo, sambo) all have submissions which help encourage defensive actions.
College wrestling needs to realize that while control on the ground is important, that fans will continue turning off their TVs and logging off their computers if the sport looks like a modified version of human rodeo.
Q: With the best high school kids seemingly becoming even more elite every year, and more than holding their own on the freestyle/Greco scene, do you think we will ever see a return to letting high schoolers compete against college kids at open style tournaments?
-- Jared W.
Foley: The most successful high school wrestler on the college scene was Cary Kolat, who famously finished third at the Midlands while still in high school. However, we do still see some high school wrestlers competing at the college level with some consistency. You might remember that Gable Steveson competed and won an open tournament earlier in the season. Patrick McKee (Minnesota signee) and Alex Lloyd (SDSU signee) have also competed this year while still only in high school.
As for being invited to Midlands … that has yet to be determined. There might be some insurance circumstances precluding their invitation. The last wrestler I know to have entered was Jason Welch.
Adam Coon at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: Kyle Snyder is arguably the best wrestler in the world. Many think he's surpassed Jordan Burroughs and is the face of American wrestling. However, he's giving up size to a very talented Adam Coon. Sure, Snyder is the favorite, but don't you think Coon has a good chance to upset the Olympic and world champ?
-- Tim R.
Foley: Lord, no. While Coon is arguably the second-best heavyweight in the nation, I don't think there is much opportunity for him to upset Snyder. The difference in skill level is significant, but where many legends fail is in mental preparation, or taking their task seriously enough and eventually falling behind in the match. I don't see that as an issue for Snyder. Also, I assume that with Ohio State locked in a point battle with Penn State, Snyder's Cleveland performance will be his best ever behind Paris in 2017.
Q: I know Cleveland hosted the NCAAs in 1998, but how do you think Cleveland will do as a host city for the NCAAs this year? What are you hearing?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Host cities do take on a pretty major responsibility when hosting events, but their efforts typically only impact the coaches and wrestlers. The fan experience tends to be controlled by the NCAA, who ensures flow of the program and that all their major bullet points are being realized. That's to say that the organizers have a large, detailed book from which to pull guidance on all aspects of the championship.
One place where Cleveland will be challenged is in local hospitality. I've been to the area a few times and each experience has been acceptable. The (sober) people are as friendly as you'd want, while the (not sober) bar patrons tend to be a little, let's say, standoffish.
Overall, I think that it'll be an enjoyable weekend for the sport to celebrate its championship and provide a backdrop for catching up with old friends.