LIU is the third university in the past 16 months to state its intention to become a Division I program following Arkansas-Little Rock and Presbyterian.
For now the sport of wrestling seems to be falling into a trend line of growth. With Division II and NAIA programs being announced bi-monthly and the addition of these three Division I program the numbers of athletes able to participate past high school is increasing.
The increase in the number of wrestlers competing past their teenage years has the additional effect of creating more fans on campuses and leads to a higher retention of former wrestlers who later become fans of the sport. Again, this is all good news.
However, we shouldn't take for granted that this growth is ever-lasting. There are some indications that the lower-level schools are growing because the sport is a powerful marketing tool to bring on non-scholarship athletes who take on loans to go to school. Universities aren't burdened with backing those loans or paying them off so it's a small risk to start and fund these programs when the upside can be millions of dollars in tuition each year.
Glum as it sounds that realization only means we need to optimize this opportunity by continuing to innovate in the sport. We need to continue to make it accessible to more fans and improve rules to ensure that the reach of the product can expand past the loyal fan base. The more interest we can maintain the more likely we are to have a product that can survive a downturn equal to that of the recent upswing.
But for now, another Division I program gives us all a little more reason to celebrate the arrival of the weekend.
To your questions …
Joe Colon won a U.S. Open title this year (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: Is it possible that Joe Colon actually has a better chance to medal than Nahshon Garrett simply because of his more consistent style? Or does he lack the dynamic scoring ability which may have been our only chance at medaling at 61 kilograms anyway given the talent there internationally?
Foley: The United States is sending to Budapest one of the most titled and credentialed freestyle teams in our nation's history. Seven world medalists, plus Kyle Dake and David Taylor, both of whom are ranked second in their weight divisions. Then there is Joe Colon, the only one in the group without that same cache of titles, or name recognition outside the hardcore fans.
However, I think that we've seen in the past that new faces on a motivated American side can produce outstanding results. I'm very optimistic about his chance to compete well and win a few matches. If things really work out for him there is an outside shot at the medal stand. Really all depends on how he chooses to wrestle.
Right now the top guys in the weight class will be Gadzhimurad Rashidov (Russia), Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez (Cuba), Beka Lomtadze (Georgia) and Vladimir Dubov (Bulgaria). I can make a case for him to beat Bonne, Dubov and Lomtadze, but like you mentioned that would have to come from a very consistent, error-free approach. Each of those guys struggle with pace, which is an area where Colon excels.
I won't say he gives Team USA a better chance to medal than Garrett, but I do think he is the type of wrestler that can wear down opponents over the course of six minutes … and two days.
Q: Which schools do you want to follow Arkansas-Little Rock and Presbyterian and add wrestling? I know that I have quite a few. #fanbagfriday
Foley: I think Clemson is well-positioned to bring back their program. They are located in the south, have a tremendous alumni network and are rolling in football money. Adding them to the ACC could spread the reach of the sport to South Carolina and further entrench some of the gains we've been seeing in Georgia and Tennessee.
Second would be Texas (Austin), but there I'd only want to see a program if there was a men's and women's program. Texas has an incredible history of women's wrestling at the high school level and could be an institutional leader in helping establish women's wrestling at the Division I level.
Q: Why is freestyle the first style being contested at the 2018 World Championships in Budapest?
Foley: Because Greco-Roman is very popular in Hungary and will be a major draw for the weekend crowd on Oct. 27-28. Women's wrestling always goes in the middle days, which leaves freestyle to kick off the championships!
Q: Help me understand why the seeding system for the World Championships doesn't include last year's results. How are the returning gold medalists (JB and Snyder) not seeded? We need the best matchups in the finals to promote the sport.
Foley: I agree that the aim is to have the very best athletes face each other in the finals of the event, and that as much as you can do so there needs to be separation of the top four or so athletes. As many wrestling fans understand there are two underlying problems to seeding (or ranking) an international tournament. The first is the number of times a season the sport's top athletes are able to compete (and how often they compete against each other). The second is the impossibility of a seeding meeting where 15 languages are spoken. Imagine if your district seeding meetings had 12,000 years of blood feuding to unravel in addition to the question of if Chad's win over Mason at the end of the year was more dominant than Mason's triumph at the beginning of the year.
To compensate, United World Wrestling first tried to separate the previous year's world finalists in the following year's championships. In 2017 the grumble was that Abdulrashid Sadulaev (up from 86 kilograms) wouldn't be separate of Kyle Snyder (holding steady at 97 kilograms). They ended up being separate, but the worry and complaints were there.
So, to help promote a system where athletes are compelled to compete throughout the year and to separate the very best athletes the idea to have four rankings series tournaments plus a continental in 2018 would be used to determine the ranking of athletes. The more you participate and win the more likely you were/are to be seeded. Where that went to plan (72 kilograms and 76 kilograms in women's wrestling are good examples) the system produced the absolute best four wrestlers in the top four.
Where it didn't the seeds were spread.
The complication to the system was that it started the year at zero and brought no points in from the previous season. That's because each style added two weight classes and overall shifted about 50 percent of the actual categories. (Freestyle was spared such harm.) Across styles there was no way to carry in points since nobody could determine which 2018 weight was aligned to which 2017 weight.
Furthermore, the system also doesn't allow athletes to transfer points between weight classes. Meaning that someone who hangs out at 92 kilograms all season and then bumps up to 97 kilograms doesn't reap any benefit in the ranking system. You only can only earn and later utilize points in the weight class in which you compete.
In regard to your original question, the reason Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs aren't seeded is because they didn't compete in this year's Ranking Series events, minus the Yasar Dogu where they finished with bronze and silver respectively. David Taylor competed in three ranking series events and is ranked No. 2 in the world.
The system will need adjusting. It's the first year it's being utilized and there is some learning about the behavior of athletes and coaches that needs to be added into the system. Incentives need to increase, points need to be weighted in a more meaningful way, and the number of athletes receiving seeds should expand, or at the least those outside the top four should be allowed to fill any vacancies within the top four.
The system is imperfect, but it is a great start. With some separation and a two-day format wrestling will be easier to promote and to watch. There are some other innovations in the works for Worlds and I hope that the fans enjoy their experience. It's going to be a great show!
Good Stuff, Army West Point!
Who ya got?
Q: Is the Canada 125-kilogram Junior world gold-medal match the first time a male world medalist has been coached by all-female team, Martine Dugrenier and Tonya Verbeek?
Foley: Almost certainly the first time by an all-female coaching staff at the Junior Worlds, which is quite the statement of accomplishment for Canada.
As for women coaching men overall, I think I remember female coaches of India and later Vietnam who would coach both sides at Cadet-level tournaments.
Overall, like in many sports, wrestling is improving all the time and with more accomplishments and experience by women around the world I doubt it will be long until we see a more permanent coaching position for a female coach.
Q: Thoughts on Astana, Kazakhstan hosting the 2019 World Championships? And what's the process for selecting a host city? What other cities were considered?
-- Mike C.
Foley: When discussing bidding processes, I tend to explain why smaller nations acquire tournaments, rather than wealthier, first-world destinations. The short hand answer is that tournaments generate money for the host federation, which allows them to attend more events and send more wrestlers to those events.
The Senior World Championships bidding process isn't bid by national federations, but by cities (the same is true with World Cups, but that too is different still). The big difference with World Championships is the amount of money paid by the local organizing committee, which is upwards of $2 million. That money gives them the right to host, which they assume will be returned to them in the form of tax receipts generated by such a large event.
The bidding for the 2019 World Championships went through several stages, with cities showing varying degrees of interest along the way. Ultimately, the decision was made between Istanbul, Astana and a few other semi-interested cities. Astana, like Istanbul, has a track record of success, but also had a lot of support from the local and national government, which is always important in ensuring the details of the event don't go overlooked (read: fast internet).
Ultimately the bureau votes and … Voila! … you have a host city.
As a side note, Astana is one of my all-time favorite cities. It's going to be an awesome event!
Q: Why are so many of our guys dropping from U23's?
Foley: The timing is tricky for the college season. The tournament is in mid-November. So for Vito Arujau and Mitchell McKee it could be any number of issues stemming from that timing.
Michael Macchiavello was just too old and missed the competition's pre-determined deadline.
Q: I saw Jaden Abas committed to Stanford. Did his father Gerry have a falling out with the Fresno State program? Was it because Gerry was passed over for the Fresno State head coaching position? Or was it just a matter of Stanford being a better fit?
-- Mike C.
Foley: I'm a proud alumnus of U.Va., but if my kid was able to attend Stanford I too would be buying new workout sweatpants. Stanford can provide educational opportunities you can only find at a handful of institutions around the world. No matter what any parent feels about their own school, you have to give your kid the ability to choose their own direction, or if need be push them through the front gates of The Farm.
Q: What are the odds both Spencer Lee and Austin DeSanto win national championships next year?
-- @Mindof Maine
Foley: The chances are low that anyone wins an NCAA title. Even lower when you haven't made the podium. Spencer Lee has my vote to win the NCAA title, but the parlay gets dicey when you add in DeSanto.
To be clear, that means DeSanto as of today. He very well may light up the nation out of the box and give a clear indication that he's a threat to win the title. I'm hopeful that's the case too. A super competitive Iowa Hawkeye program is great for college wrestling, and DeSanto winning a national title would help put them in a title race.
Q: Conor or Khabib?
-- The People
Foley: Conor by knockout.
I've never bet against a Dagestani, but I don't think that Khabib has enough firepower from ground and pound to put McGregor away from that most advantageous position. I'm also suspect Khabib can even hold McGregor down long enough for more than a few swats at his head.
Every so often I'll train with someone getting ready for an MMA fight and I'm continually impressed with how well fighters have adapted to bouncing off the mat during a takedown. Most of these fighters understand the consequences of being lazy on their feet and fight like hell to get vertical the moment they are challenged. Part of that effort is based in determination, and I don't think there is any question that Conor has a huge heart. I just don't foresee him getting cuddle-humped for 25 full minutes.
Also, I'm suspect about Khabib's weight cut. If he's coming down hard there is a good chance his conditioning will be out of whack, which could tire him out. From my vantage point Khabib looked exhausted against Al Iaquinta and allowed some nice openings on his feet. If Khabib gets exhausted and drops his hands against Conor it won't be but a second before he's eating 3-4 jabs. With Conor's mobility I find it difficult that he could return fire with any accuracy.
Finally, even if Khabib executes and controls Conor on the ground I think that the threat of submission has been muted. Conor trains with my former teammate Dillon Danis, who is an expert at both leg locks and guillotines, which would be Khabib's only real attacks from transitional position or top. Conor is much more mobile from his back now than he was against Diaz a few years ago.