The 2018 season has been filled with compelling storylines and subplots, but to me the most important was the growth and success of Lock Haven star Chance Marstellar.
It's easy to discuss someone when their failures are headline news, but the courage it's taken Chance to fight back from a near-complete self-destruction is worthy of effusive praise. I spoke with head wrestling coach Scott Moore and he credited Chance with making a series of important lifestyle changes, but more than that he was learning to control his outlook. He's become a good teammate, a leader and someone who accepts setbacks and grows from their experiences.
Next week we will all cheer for our favorite programs and maybe a select wrestler or two we find compelling. But I ask that you also take a moment and watch Chance and think about all that he's overcome to make it to Cleveland. Save a cheer for Chance and lets all celebrate the toughness it's taken for this man to make this series of positive life changes.
Good luck to all the wrestlers and coaches. And to the fans, I hope you enjoy the show and stay out of the drunk tank.
To your questions …
Coach Tony Robie led Virginia Tech to the ACC title (Photo/HokieSports.com)
Q: Great job on the call at the ACC Championships! I enjoyed watching/listening. What was your biggest takeaway from the ACCs?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Thanks! Shawn Kenney is one of the best play-by-play guys in the country, and with wrestling as good as we've seen in the ACC it was an exciting call.
My main takeaway was that NC State and Virginia Tech are ready to challenge for a team trophy in Cleveland. The Wolfpack wrestlers are always improving their position and working towards extra points. They are also rarely out of position and strike fast from short head and counter positions.
As Virginia Tech fans saw, even with a very young team and a coaching change the program is on solid footing. Coach Robie is proving that he has everything necessary to lead this team into the next decade. With five freshmen in the starting lineup and nine qualifiers overall the Hokies are poised to become a dominant force on the national stage for several years to come.
Q: What did you make of the timing of Barry Davis' resignation at Wisconsin? Right before the NCAAs seems a little strange to me because of the potential distraction. On a related note, who do you see as potential candidates to replace Davis at Wisconsin? Donny Pritzlaff? Ben Askren? Chris Bono? Troy Steiner? Ken Chertow?
-- Mike C.
Foley: I thought it was pretty smart. The NCAA tournament is wrestling's biggest job fair. My bet is Barry Alvarez shows up in Cleveland to take introductions with some of the biggest names and get a temperature for who everyone in the community thinks is best suited for the role.
You're joking about Ken Chertow, correct?
Moving on, I think Donny Pritzlaff jumps out to a lot of folks as being someone with knowledge of the school, wrestling pedigree and proven impact as a coach. Being a Division I head wrestling coach is a mixture of automotive executive, three-star general and cabinet salesman. There are big decisions to make about the economics of the program, stoic leadership necessary to inspire young men, and the ability to charm families and coaches into pushing recruits to your school. Pritzlaff seems able to do all these and do them well.
Bono and Steiner will stay put.
Askren, with little Division I or high school program coaching experience, is currently not a viable option to lead a Division I program. But maybe he'll fight GSP one day?
Q: With the news that Kevin Beazley had to withdraw from the NCAAs, should the committee allow teams to take alternates for the tournament?
-- Rocco L.
Foley: They are! The NCAA will allow alternates to replace any wrestler who pulls out late or misses weight. Big move by the NCAA to allow for the most competitive field possible. There is some emotional turmoil for the wrestlers who may travel all that way and not compete, but I think that after all they've done to earn the alternate position, it's a modest risk.
Q: Can you assess the current state of Pennsylvania (PIAA) wrestling? I've noticed a much smaller number of PA guys in InterMat's high school rankings all year. I just did a quick count, and it looks like there are only 22 PIAA wrestlers (ex- Wyoming Sem, Malvern Prep) currently ranked. It wouldn't seem like a stretch most years to have that many wrestlers from AAA schools alone in the rankings.
Foley: I wouldn't be able to give you the specifics about the specific competitiveness of PA wrestlers in 2018 vs. their competitiveness in 2012. However, I think that the democratization of wrestling technique videos has meant that new pockets of wrestling excellence are popping up across the nation. That increase in technical acumen and exposure to the rankings bodies could equal fewer Pennsylvania wrestlers in the rankings.
That said, I think that Young Guns Wrestling Club has proven to be the best in the nation, right? And that's in PA.
Q: Has the conference tournament lost its shine? Does scoring team points in this tournament mean anything? Does winning a team title mean little to nothing anymore?
Here's why I ask. In reviewing the Big Ten tournament, there were a total of 16 times where a wrestler lost via injury default or medical forfeit. Only one of these happened mid-match. In one case, both wrestlers (Jason Nolf and Michael Kemerer) defaulted, meaning no one finished in fifth place at 157 pounds. It seems that once a wrestler with an injury (some worse than others) does the minimum amount to qualify for the national tournament, they default out. Granted, Nolf's injury was pretty bad, but had he wrestled in the semifinals or consolation semifinals, he likely would have won and could have gotten Penn State much closer to the tournament title. Instead, he qualified, then defaulted three times. Nick Suriano defaulted three times once he qualified.
Also, what is the rule for defaulting, which caused a double forfeit, no fifth-place finisher, and two sixth-place finishers at 157? Couldn't one of them have stepped onto the mat to get the forfeit? Or, because they both defaulted in the previous round, were they required to double forfeit in the fifth-place match?
-- Jerry T.
Foley: The way coaches and athletes are utilizing the conference tournament as a qualification step for the NCAA tourney is, in a word, regrettable. There should be a higher standard for these athletes set by both their administration, and internally. Yet, forfeiting at the conference level is a problem born of the current system which only values individual scoring at NCAA tournament.
We've seen dual meets devalued, early-season matchups avoided and a general lack of marquee matchups as coaches try to protect seeds and/or simply get their wrestler to qualify for March.
These forfeits and the impact on the conference tournament all changes with a meaningful dual meet season. Until then we will continue to see gamesmanship within the current system and likely small patches applied by the rules and competition committees.
As for the defaulting question: Yes, once you forfeit you are sent to sixth place. Nolf (or whoever) would have to win another match in order to improve on that placement.
What definitely needs to change is advancement points. Should a wrestler draw a match against a forfeiting wrestler they should get advancement points plus an additional point for major decision.
Q: I saw that SoCon 184 did a true second to determine the second spot allocated to the weight. I didn't think they still did this under these new rules. And not every conference used to do them either. I remember in our day the CAA (doesn't exist anymore) did true second. ACC never did them when you and I were there and still don't to my knowledge. Is this a per conference thing? Or others do them also?
-- Frank C.
Foley: I'm guessing this is the prerogative of the conference. Would make sense if there were only two spots and second and third place lost to the wrestler. The ACC had never done a true second even when they held the wildcards.
Cade Olivas won a California state championship as a freshman (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: I have asked this before and need to ask again. What ever happened to Cade Olivas?
-- Justin Z.
Foley: Cade was forced to retire due to injury.
Q: How are byes scored during the first round of tournaments? Does the individual get any points? Maybe 3 points for a win? So let's say for arguments sake if 4 wrestlers get a first-round bye that's 12 points. But if someone like Zain averages over 5 points per match doesn't this hurt the team. Normally 6 points against a very weak early opponent is the norm for him. Can this affect the outcome of the tournament?
-- Mike Z.
Foley: There are no points for a bye, but there are no first-round byes at the NCAA tournament, only pigtail matchups.
Q: Not much more exciting than watching Mark Hall ride out Bo Jordan at the end of the third period in the PSU-OSU dual. Look at Hall's face as he realizes he's "GOT THIS ONE"…. Listen to the crowd roar as he completes the match RIDING OUT HIS OPPONENT. One of the things that "makes" a wrestler "tough" is the ability to 'get out from the bottom' -- or keeping your opponent there instead -- dominance MATTERS in this sport. No rules changes needed -- just consistent officiating.
-- The Doc
Foley: I like the rodeo, too. Just don't think this is the type of action of excitement that best indicated who is and is not the better wrestler.
Q: What's your favorite round at NCAAs?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Friday night. No discussion. All-American trophies and trips to the NCAA finals all being played out at the same time. Beautiful, inspiring moments everywhere you look.
(Pretty Damn Good) Idea of the Week
By Ken from Idaho
You've gotten many recommendations on how to "fix" top/bottom wrestling that "some" like to call boring or not attractive to the casual fan. Some die-hards love their riding time, some would like to see no point for intentional release, and we all have our own point of view. When I talked about topics like this with wrestling friends and other coaches, I always like to incorporate the "spirit" of the rules. This is why I liked the neutral danger zone change this year. The ref warning a wrestler their back is exposed and if you can adjust off your back, without giving up a takedown, your opponent does not "control" you, if you cannot not adjust from the near fall criteria, your opponent is controlling you. So let's think of this from a top/bottom point of view with escapes. If bottom wrestler stands to the feet and the top wrestler cannot return bottom wrestler to the mat, does the top wrestler truly "control" the bottom wrestler.
So, how is this for an action inducing rule change proposal (that is also easy for a ref to interpret): Bottom wrestler stands to their feet, the top wrestler gets a verbal 5 count to return bottom wrestler to the mat. If after the 5 count, bottom wrestler is not returned to the mat, action is stopped, an escape is awarded for loss of control and wrestle resumes center mat in neutral.
This would make the incentive for the bottom wrestler to get to their feet, top wrestlers would be encouraged to quickly return wrestlers to the mat, less out of bounds "technique" as a return to the mat and riding time in college would be riding time, not hanging on while the other guy is on the feet and we go out of bounds time.
It is also easy for a ref to implement, easy definition, bottom wrestler has only his feet as supporting points and a verbal five count starts.