The win was Team USA's first World Cup gold since 2003 and followed its historic 2017 team championship in Paris. By almost any measure the United States boasts the best freestyle wrestling team in the world.
So after a few decades of relative frustrations, how did Team USA climb to the top of the freestyle wrestling world?
Not one action can account for a programmatic turnaround, but in speaking with coaches and athletes this weekend in Iowa City the majority seemed to indicate that Regional Training Centers and the continued professionalization of USA Wrestling helped the athletes to secure a better, more sustainable training regimen and competition schedule.
For athletes and coaches the money and organizational efforts of the RTC's and USA Wrestling are tangible, which means they are easier to notice as an athlete, certainly more than the influence of video and technology on the technical development of America's Cadet and Junior level wrestlers.
Weight management was also mentioned. Team USA is aware that they are the only wrestling nation in the world with extensive know-how on preparation and peaking for same day weigh-ins at big competitions. That, and the addition of weight classes in spots where Team USA was deepest, is adding substantial strength to the lineup especially when facing bottom-heavy nations like Japan or nations who lack similar depth and patience to develop.
Team USA is on the rise, but to repeat as world champions they'll have a tall order facing them in Budapest. The Russians, though new to this weight management system, will be prepared to wrestle in October. They'll also be bringing a lineup of world champions and fresh faces prepared to wow fans with some on-the-mat artistry. The same can be said for the Georgians, Turks, and Iranians -- who will be motivated to knock off any wrestler they can from the best team in the world.
The next few months will be interesting. Who makes Team USA and how they perform in the summer's tournament will give fans more indication if the Americans can repeat, but for now -- at least for the next week -- American fans should enjoy the feeling of being the greatest freestyle wrestling nation on the planet.
Q: I really like the Damion Hahn hire by South Dakota State. How much is this going to hurt Cornell? Any idea how Cornell's staff might change with the loss of Hahn?
-- Mike C.
Foley: What a hire! I had a quick conversation with Coach Koll at the World Cup and though he'd have preferred to keep Hahn on staff (who wouldn't?) he outlined a future for the program that is nothing short of remarkable. I'll let Cornell release all the plans in due time, but I think Koll and his supporters are going to once again change the landscape of the sport. Big moves.
As for coaching staff, you have to think that Dake can make his way onto the staff as a volunteer assistant. There were a lot of nice words said about Mike Grey and Gabe Dean, so I suspect they won't be going anywhere.
When you look at Cornell's lineup next year it's entirely possible that they could win the NCAA title. Would that be more likely with Hahn? Maybe. But they are in position and as I said things are looking great in Ithaca.
Q: As an Edinboro alum, I'm sad to see Tim Flynn go but I get it; bigger school, bigger conference, more resources. Honestly, I'm surprised he didn't go years ago. Anyway, who are the front-runners for the opening? Any chance Jody Strittmatter leaves Young Guns for it? Both are right in Western Pennsylvania.
-- Ryan P.
Missouri associate head coach Alex Clemsen was an All-American at Edinboro (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Foley: If he applies, Alex Clemsen should be the front-runner. Longtime assistant coach at Virginia and Missouri as well as an alumnus of the Edinboro program.
Jody Strittmatter is compelling. He certainly has the chops to be a mat coach, but I'm not sure he's as read-in or practiced on leading from within an educational institution. While we've seen high school coaches make the jump to college, we haven't seen club coaches do the same. In my estimation, highly successful club coaches like Strittmatter probably view college jobs as not worth the executive type stress. Imagine it's equitable to being the editor at a magazine or a successful freelance writer. Why give up being your own boss?
It would be interesting to see if Josh Moore applies. Could make PSAC competition a family affair!
Q: Do you really think Austin DeSanto left Drexel because he needed a tougher room? Or do think he was asked to leave?
-- Matt R.
Foley: I was told this week by a few people that DeSanto was asked to leave the program. And to be clear, I wasn't asking, but he was on a recruiting trip to Iowa so his name was being discussed.
Q: What is a reasonable amount of time to expect results for a new coach coming in? The reality is, it takes time to build a program. Most blue chip seniors are already committed, although there are always a few kids that come out of nowhere that were under the radar. You are also at the mercy of the previous coach as far as what seniors have signed. So you build the foundation by getting juniors, but you won't see them for twp years, then when you do, you might redshirt them.
While developing the talent on the team is important, once again, you are at the mercy of the previous coach. A lot of people were critical of Sammie Henson, but four years is not a full recruiting cycle, so I am not sure he is being judged fairly or maybe expectations were too high. Case in point: Kevin Dresser got a 7-year deal; that is a full recruiting cycle. Unless you are able to land kids that can place as true freshmen, the reality is, it does take some time. I could point to you as an example: All-American. You placed your senior year. You also didn't qualify for NCAAs your freshman year, which again would only add to the timeline I mentioned above. You were developed, which doesn't happen overnight. You also went on to coach after. Your thoughts?
-- Frank C.
Foley: I agree that it takes time to develop a full, healthy collegiate wrestling program. There has never been a more competitive time to be a Division I head wrestling coach. The money and support being put into this number of programs is unprecedented. Look at Damion Hahn, arguably one of the most sought-after coaches in the country, headed to South Dakota State. More programs with more resources and a fair qualifying structure means there is less patience for a lack of productivity.
You mentioned Sammie and Dresser, but I think the causes for their successes and failures weren't related to time in the chair. Dresser had big names in the room when he arrived, recruited a top-five class in his first year, and hired a slew of top-level assistant coaches. He also engaged alumni, motivated the home community to attend Virginia Tech matches (easier since he was local) and made an imprint on the national media. None of that happened at West Virginia.
There might be an argument for Mark Cody not being given enough time at Oklahoma, but overall the recent coaching changes for those in place under five years are well deserved. You don't have to compete for the national title to keep your job as a head wrestling coach. The priority is on fundraising, friendraising and making noticeable gains year-in and year-out.
Remember this conversation when it comes to Tim Flynn and how he impacts the room at West Virginia. Larger institution, more funding and high expectations, but I think the institution is happy with 1-2 All-Americans in 2019-2020 so long as there are no discipline issues, grades are good, recruits are signing and the money is coming in through donors.
Last point, but with the quality of wrestlers coming out of high school over the past few years I think that there is more opportunity for a program to find success within the first four years. There were two true freshman national champs in 2018!
Q: Do you think Spencer Lee is going to compete on the senior level this year? If so, do you think he can beat Thomas Gilman to make the World Team?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Bah! I don't know. I'm sure that half the state of Iowa is thinking about that right now.
Though Gilman went 2-2 on the weekend it's important to remember who he lost to. First was the defending world champion (who is one of the best 57-kilogram wrestlers I've ever seen) and to the 31-year-old defending European champion from Georgia. Not bad losses, but certainly matches he wish he had back.
I was told that Gilman and Lee don't wrestle against each other much anymore, so they may not know who would get the better of the matchup. Bets would probably side Lee since he's the people's champion right now in Iowa, while the smart money would likely favor Gilman who has more recent international experience.
Like almost everyone, I love Spencer Lee. I feel the same way about Lee that I did when I first saw Abdulrashid Sadualev wrestle at the Cadet World Championships in 2013. He draws you in with his on-the-mat skills and leaves real fans wanting to see more and more.
That said, I have to respect Gilman and the technical improvements he's been making and the way he's able to win big matches.
Please don't make me choose.
Q: Will we ever see an NCAA women's wrestling championship?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: Yes! Because women wrestlers are due to show the world that they are just as badass as the men.