The lull won't last. The U.S. Open kicks off next week with plenty of intrigue around who will enter and win at 57 kilograms, 79 kilograms and 92 kilograms in freestyle. Also, the women have some compelling matchups with Whitney Conder coming down from 53 kilograms to face Victoria Anthony at the new 50-kilogram weight category. Greco-Roman at 72 kilograms is nuts with Pat Smith and RaVaughn Perkins.
Overall, a number of storylines to keep us entertained for the coming week. But for now … enjoy the spring weather with your loved ones and look forward to spending time away this weekend from rectangular screens, big and small.
To your questions …
Members of the media interview USA wrestlers before the Rio Olympics (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: I read about USA Wrestling's new policies for credentialing media in a Washington Post article. While sex abuse/harassment is horrific, I kind of agree with the president of APSE, who said, "Making journalists qualify for a membership and take a course in how to identify abuse and bullying is misguided. The lack of specificity on background checks, including the extent and areas of the checks, and the disposal of information and indemnification of the media is both alarming and dangerous." Was just curious about what you thought of this?
-- Mike C.
Foley: First, let's set out what the policy does, who it's meant to protect and why wrestling was targeted as a place of need.
The policy would require anyone covering a USA Wrestling event as accredited media to have submitted for a standard background check with major crimes (felonies, sex offenses) being exclusionary. Media will also have to take an online course, which may be bothersome, but is in no way restrictive. Also, please note that this does not affect the Olympic Team Trials since that is an entity of the USOC.
The policy is meant to protect USA Wrestling's youngest and most vulnerable members, namely wrestlers aged 5 to 17 who participate in nationwide events. Now, with more women than ever on the mats, the matter is even more pressing. I can say that as someone who reviews media accreditations, and has worked in wrestling media for some time, there are a number of questionable characters on the floors of events with a media pass around their neck. In the United States it is exceedingly common for fans who are not coaches and who do not want to buy tickets to end up in the media pool.
The media at these events (there are a lot of events each year) have close interactions with these athletes and with media passes are allowed into a number of places that fans are not.
Like any new policy there will be a review process, additional clarity given to stakeholders and maybe even minor tweaks. Overall this is a common-sense solution to help prevent child predators from taking advantage of children.
Oh, and as a final anecdote, there have been a number of incidents of photographers taking advantage of athletes via media access, at home and abroad. I was witness to some in college and again later in my career. Would those incidents have been prevented by this policy? Unclear, but I think it sends the message that USA Wrestling events will be safer now than they were last year.
Q: Have you heard any rumors of Edinboro, Clarion and Bloomsburg dropping wrestling? Would be a big loss.
-- Steve M.
Foley: My first response when reading this question is whether we might have recently spoken to the same people.
While I understand the concern surrounding some of the smaller PSAC schools (dwindling enrollments, high expense, waning success) there is no firm indication that programs are in risk of being dropped.
That said, Tim Flynn has left Edinboro for West Virginia and took his staff with him. While that's not an institutional admission of something amiss, I think that coupled with Bruce Baumgartner's move out of the athletic administration, the school might be perceived as at-risk. Never a good thing when four of your top wrestling minds are no longer involved in the day-to-day of the wrestling program.
Clarion and Bloomsburg each have difficulties to address, but I haven't heard anything drastic is changing. As I've written before, if you are worried about these programs, or an alumnus, it sometimes helps to send an email to coaches and see how things are progressing. Are they in need of anything you might be able to provide?
Q: Should Gable Steveson not redshirt and manage to make the NCAA finals along with Seth Gross and Mark Hall (I understand the percent chance of this happening is low) next year that would put three wrestlers from the same high school into the finals. Should this happen would that be a first?
-- Justin N.
Foley: I scoured past results, asked a few friends and nobody was able to recall three NCAA finalists from the same high school. However, I am not so foolish as to think that is complete enough research. This is where the comments section becomes a valuable asset to the wrestling community.
Does anyone know of a school?
You should be subscribed to United World Wrestling's YouTube page
Daton Fix can wrestle
Q: Jordan Burroughs -3.5 vs. Frank Chamizo in NYC. What side would you bet?
-- Mike C.
Foley: I think that you are underestimating how difficult it is to score on Frank Chamizo. While the Cuban-Italian will be undersized, his hips are unlike anything else in wrestling today. Burroughs is typically a slow starter and Chamizo -- given his strong defense -- doesn't tend to get into many shootouts.
The line really should be Burroughs -1.5 since a scored tie in wrestling has a criteria winner. I think Burroughs will win the match
Q: How do you see things playing out at Penn State? As usual, Cael has done a phenomenal job recruiting and maintaining a tremendous level of excellence, but some of the kids he has recruited don't strike me as they type that are going to be willing to wait for their turn. Specifically, the middleweight logjam. I can't envision Mason Manville waiting for two more years to compete as a junior at 165 pounds. Maybe he could wrestle down at 157 pounds after next year, but then what happens with Jarod Verkleeren and Brady Berge? Seems like Verkleeren is the logical fit at 149 pounds. I'm sure it's a problem most programs would love to have, but do you see any of these kids exiting to get a chance to get on the mat sooner?
-- Justin N.
Foley: Penn State's recruiting mentality is to look at the absolute best wrestlers available to them and make offers. Like Iowa in the 1980's the Sanderson approach seems to ask the wrestlers why Penn State should want them in the program -- almost like a job interview more than a champagne and caviar recruiting weekend.
That mentality extends to the room. If you are the best 165-pound wrestler in the country then you will be the starter. If you aren't then one of the other wrestlers will step in to perform.
There are a lot of coaches with limited resources and recruits who need to plan exactly where and when each of their top recruits might see the lineup. Between resources, interest and on-the-mat coaching the Penn State coaching staff isn't required to make that effort.
Gable Steveson (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: Is Gable Steveson good enough right now to win the U.S. Open at 125 kilograms? Obviously, Nick Gwiazdowski won't be there, but there is still plenty of talent.
-- Mike C.
Foley: Adam Coon, Zack Rey and Dom Bradley are all heavy hitters for Gable to confront. That said, until he loses a match I'm not confident betting against Gable for any reason. Heavyweight can be tricky -- not a lot of points, which means that a few calls could dictate the Open champ.
ANALYSIS OF THE WEEK
As a long-time reader of your InterMat mailbag column, I thought that I'd share a recent research paper I published examining the coin toss decision in NCAA wrestling. The article appears online here.
This article examines outcomes in the 2014 NCAA wrestling tournament. (The article was initially submitted in September 2016, peer review and revisions are the reason that it's finally appearing now, nearly two years later.)
The question examined here: What is the impact of the defer/don't defer decision made by the coin toss winner at the end of the first period? Now, to be perfectly clear, this research doesn't *prove* anything, we're examining a set of data and conducting statistical tests. That's all.
What was interesting to me is the comparison with other sport situations facing a similar decision. When a tied soccer game goes to penalty kicks, the team winning the coin toss almost always elects to kick first, yet the most-thorough analysis to-date (Kocher et al., 2012) found no statistically significant advantage for the team kicking first.
What we find in the wrestling analysis is quite different. Wrestlers don't exhibit a clear preference for deferring or not deferring (the coin toss winner elected to defer in 47.3 percent of the matches). However, in this set of matches, there appears to be a statistically significant advantage for not deferring, particularly when the match is close (within two points either way), or when the coin toss winner is leading the match by 3-5 points at the end of the first period. From the conclusions section of the paper:
In each of the states, it appears that, having gained the match lead in the first period, the [coin toss winner] should immediately attempt to extend his advantage, and increase his control of the match. In these states, a strategy of retaining the [coin toss winner's] advantage for the latter part of the match by deferring his choice appears to, counterproductively, allow the [coin toss loser] to take control of the match and perhaps wrest momentum away from the [coin toss winner], with the [coin toss winner's] advantage at the start of the third period not compensating for his loss of match control.