The early results have been promising, with Team USA carrying home a runner-up team finish in freestyle, while women's wrestling has at least one champion with four more competing for gold on Friday.
Iran, the team champions in freestyle, won their first team title in 22 years. That's not a fluke. While the United States has poured money into freestyle development, Iran had been lacking a well-organized national development approach. Then, in 2016 Rasoul Khadem left his post as the head of the freestyle team and took up the job of federation president. One of his first actions was developing a meritocracy among the youth -- the better you performed and more you performed the more opportunities you were given.
Khadem's approach has ruffled more than a few feathers back in Iran (look at this year's senior World Team Trials for evidence of frustrations), but overall the system seems to be working. Investment in the youth has led to somewhat immediate returns.
The same could be said for USA Wrestling and the attention paid to the early development of the men's freestyle team. Brandon Slay, Bill Zadick and now Kevin Jackson have been instrumental in developing the young talent in the United States and getting them ready for the world stage. The job is much more than showing techniques, and typically requires a mind for scheduling and partnering up Cadet and Junior-level wrestlers with the right training opportunities and overall career development.
While the women's program is performing well, there is still work to be done. The interaction between USA Wrestling and the women's college programs needs further development. The youth wrestlers will need more direction and career orientation to make sure they are capitalizing on every available opportunity. To be sure, there is already the mechanisms in place, but additional or new staff would help motivate some of the college-level programs to buy in to the national system and get Terry Steiner more quality athletes competing at all levels.
If the United States women's team's goal is to surpass Japan on the mats, then it's necessary to have leadership to provide end-to-end developmental protocol for the program. With Japan sure to keep improving, there may not be a more challenging, or rewarding, job in all of wrestling than being the grassroots architect of that effort.
To your questions …
Jim Jordan was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2014 (Photo/Larry Slater)
Q: You won't want to answer this, but explain to me the situation with Jim Jordan at Ohio State. Who are the former wrestlers accusing him? Why him and not the head coach?
Foley: The story is still unfolding, but for an overview of the incident and recent accusation readers can lean on here and this for context.
The congressman is not being accused of sexual misconduct, but of falling short in not reporting the abuse of athletes by Dr. Strauss, or worse, covering up the matter.
What makes the story compelling is two-fold.
First, the recent scandal at USA Gymnastics and the known predatory behavior of Dr. Strauss lends at least situational credibility to the idea that a coach at a major university may have known something about abuse and not reported it to the proper authorities. Generally, the idea of an institutional coverup is not a foreign concept, nor as we've recently learned, is it unlikely in these types of cases.
The second is that Rep. Jordan is seeking to become the House Speaker for the remainder of the 2018-2019 congress. That campaign (a painful game of DC-insider baseball) was never given much promise of success, but these accusations make it much less likely that rank-and-file would want to attach themselves to the congressman's campaign when there is little to gain outside of the power-brokering in DC.
There is enough for anyone to report, but where the story gets into twists and turns is in the accusations themselves, which as of now have been mostly anonymous. Unlike the Nassar case where hundreds of young women stepped forward with detailed accusations, the Strauss cases have not been as detailed or robust. Many of the victims are reported to be male and are now in their 40's and 50's -- assuming the accusations are true there is much lower rate of reporting by men of this category.
The main wild card is that the accusations are being led by Michael DiSabato, who has a long and at times confrontational relationship with the wrestling community and the Jordan family.
I don't wish to adjudicate the validity of the claims from my office desk, because I don't have all the facts and I think there is context which makes this case dangerous for anyone picking sides. The case of Denny Hastert -- fairly or unfairly -- looms over this case. The former Speaker was found to have molested young boys while a wrestling coach in Illinois in the 1970's and then paid off families of the accusers well into the aughties. The payoffs are what got him but were it not for that fraud investigation (pulling $9,900 out of the bank every two weeks is suspicious) there is almost no chance anyone would have believed the accusers.
That includes me. I interned for the Speaker for two years while in college and though I had limited interactions with him from my front office position, there was a sense that he was one of the good guys in DC. He was well-respected for candor and honesty, all the while holding on to his secret past as pedophile and rapist.
As for why not Russ Hellickson, I can only guess the motives, but certainly as I already covered, Rep. Jordan is a high-profile individual looking to become the third-most powerful person in the United States, making his involvement more relevant to the larger audience. Still, I can't speak to the individual motivations of those making the accusations.
Let's see how this plays out, but for certain these claims have seemed to sink Jordan's hopes for attaining the Speakership in 2018.
Q: How do you see Daniel Cormier winning on Saturday night against Stipe Miocic?
-- Will D.
Foley: First, it's INSANE to me that Cormier is 2-1 'dog. Makes no sense to discount his championships that much simply because he's facing a slightly larger human. Good value in that line.
While Cormier is giving up an 8-inch reach advantage, he has a few notable competitive advantages on Miocic that I think will give him the edge: endurance, experience, transitional wrestling, and ground control.
Further, he's also a sizable guy himself who has fought and won at heavyweight, notably wining the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP which included Fedor. No telling what he will weigh the day of the fight, but I'm guessing he tips in at 235 pounds, which is probably 30 pounds lighter than Miocic. That's some chunk, but it's marginal in terms of percentage when comparing to guys who bump up from 155 to 170.
Q: Johny Hendricks, Rashad Evans and Josh Koscheck all retired in the same week. Did any of their retirement announcements surprise you?
-- Mike C.
Foley: The only surprise was the rapid-fire timing. They are likely all in casting calls for studio positions with ESPN for their upcoming five-year UFC deal. Evans is the clear front-runner as he already does a lot of in-studio work and is well-liked/knowledgeable, but it's possible that these other guys could land in good spots on either Bellator, UFC or even ONE Championship coverage.
Olympic champion Soslan Romanov reappeared in international competition this week at the Tblisi Grand Prix, losing in the finals 3-2 to defending 65-kilogram world champion Zurabi Iakobishvili (Georgia).
Watch. This. Reshot.
Love this match.
World champion Shilson!
Q: I heard Chael Sonnen on a recent podcast mention that USA Wrestling implemented a rule in 1993 that wrestlers cannot compete on the U.S. World Team in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He wasn't sure if the rule had changed. Do you know? Had Adam Coon beaten Nick Gwiazdowski, could he have wrestled both freestyle and Greco in Budapest?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Chael Sonnen is entertaining, but the man almost never has his facts straight. Yes, Coon could have competed in both styles. No, that was never a hard-and-fast rule.
Q: What do you think about Lander University naming R.C. LaHaye as head wrestling coach? Exciting times in South Carolina.
Foley: Expansion at the smaller divisions has been a boon to programs in the South, including South Carolina. Hiring a successful coach that meets the needs of your program is always the goal and from what I'm reading the state's wrestling population, and other stakeholders, seem to feel they've found the best fit for their program. Very exciting indeed!
GEOGRAPHICAL POINT OF CONTENTION
By Jim F.
I enjoyed reading your reflections on Chinese cities Taiyung and Xhinzhou, and how wrestling is part of the culture. Having wrestled in the Lehigh Valley many moons ago, I can really appreciate that (although the LV comes up short on the statue front).
A minor but-personal point of contention: You note that Xhinzhou is the epicenter of Chinese wrestling, kind of like Easton, Pennsylvania, being the epicenter of U.S. wrestling.
Although Easton historically has had a very powerful high school wrestling team, the epicenter of wrestling is just west on Rt 22: Bethlehem. In addition to very good high school teams (at least back in the day), Bethlehem has Lehigh University, with its renowned program, training center and summer camps. And for added fun, Bethlehem and Lehigh host the National Prep Wrestling Championships every single year.
Enjoy your China trip, and safe travels!
SPECIAL SHOUT OUT
InterMat owner/editor Andrew Hipps is getting wedded this weekend! There are a lot of platitudes thrown out about kindness, but Andrew is the nicest guy I've ever met in the sport. He's Minnesota nice. Andrew works hard, loves wrestling and is dedicated to improving both InterMat and those who work on the site. He's a great friend and will make for a caring and present husband. Congrats, Andrew!