Conel was an unlikely and inspiring All-American in 2018, beating top-seeded Kollin Moore of Ohio State twice on his way to a third-place finish. That performance along with his go-for-broke style made him a mini-celebrity in the wrestling community, and there were high hopes for his 2019 campaign.
With his career likely over, it's worth re-watching Flo's short movie released earlier this year on Conel. He's had a winding and difficult story, but it's one that can hopefully inspire young wrestlers of the future to believe in themselves no matter what's going on in the classroom, wrestling room, or social life.
While he won't be on the mat, everyone is wishing Conel the best of luck in the future!
To your questions …
Nick Nevills is an All-American (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: It appears that Nick Nevills was beaten out for the starting spot as a senior. It's crazy to think about considering his talent. Three-time California state champ and NCAA All-American. I viewed him as a title contender this season. Is he still in the mix to start? Will he battle for the spot the rest of the season? If not, I can only imagine how difficult it would be for him to practice knowing he won't have an opportunity to wrestle for a national championship.
-- Mike C.
Foley: Man, this is tough. You want to see a guy of Nevills' talent compete for an NCAA championship as a senior. He seems to have been a good teammate and competed well for Coach Cael, but as it stands, he's no longer the best wrestler Penn State can field at the weight class.
Wrestling is an unforgiving sport and we have to recognize that part of what makes it such a special sport is that anyone at any time can earn their spot in the starting lineup, often without politics or hands-on coaching decisions.
Q: What is happening with the Virginia 125-pound slot? Two forfeits, no Louie Hayes, no backup. Should I worry?
-- CM Cooper
Foley: Concern is certainly warranted, but I'd wait another two weeks before we start sending hand written letter of inquiries to Charlottesville re: Hayes.
As for the lack of a backup, that is a little more difficult. A lot of schools can find that their little guys grow out of the 125-pound weight class, but you'd want your own school to have the depth to survive that type of midseason loss. Can't speculate on the reasoning for the lack of backups for now, but like I mentioned I think there are a few more weeks before the bone-deep level of worry starts to sink in.
Q: Do you have a prediction on Zahid Valencia vs. Mark Hall on Friday? What's the key for each wrestler to get the win?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Valencia was dominant in their meeting at the 2018 NCAA Championships, winning 8-2. He also managed a runner-up finish to Kyle Dake at Final X.
I like both these guys and see Mark Hall as the type of wrestler to respond to his loss with a passionate seven minutes in the rematch. However, I think that if Valencia competes at an expected high level his length and ability to finish on Hall without getting too caught in his defensive upper body transitions the match will be straight forward.
Expect good penetration from Valencia into an outside single. He'll look to finish fast, but what's more worrisome to Hall fans is that Valencia can finish with pressuring low into Hall, or by creating separation and finishing high. The other issue for Hall is that he has a little more trouble generating offense against Valencia -- who to his credit also limits mistakes in scrambles.
I think Valencia wins 6-3, but I also recognize it's a losing proposition for me to try to predict the score of two national champions wrestling in a first-semester dual meet.
If they wrestle each other at all …
Age-Group Wrestlers of 2018!
Q: I know Kyle Snyder is planning on wrestling at the Yarygin. Do you expect Abdulrashid Sadulaev to wrestle there?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Kyle Snyder is wrestling at the Ivan Yarygin, likely on the condition that it will be a ranking series event for United World Wrestling. That event schedule has yet to be determined, but if it repeats as a ranking series even then I would imagine nothing would change for his travel plans.
Sadualev is a little trickier. The Yarygin tends to be the qualifier for Russia's squad for the European Championships, but from my understanding that can often excuse the reigning world champions. I'd guess he makes an appearance, though that too may depend on it being a ranking series event.
Should they both attend I'd be hyped for an early-season trilogy as it would give us another look at these guys before the World Championships, which will be the first qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games!
Q: What do you think of the Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillishaw upcoming fight? Who do you see winning?
-- Gregg Y.
I've come around on Cejudo. He's the champion of his sport and has improved all aspects of his fight game. There is a very effective standup game, top-level wrestling and serviceable defensive jiu-jitsu.
Dillashaw's kickboxing is arguably the best in any division and his aptitude at throwing damaging low leg kicks will change the distance at which Cejudo can take the fight. Also, even if Cejudo can close the distance without taking damage I doubt that his in-the-cage wrestling is THAT much better than Dillashaw's. To be able to take down a Division I wrestler and hold them down for a significant amount of time (at featherweight) seems somewhat unlikely.
I'll take Dillashaw by TKO, but I will be pulling for Cejudo!
Q: Thought I would share this article with you. Super cool to get that kind of turn out. Kingsway in South Jersey always puts out some tough teams. The girls are going to be just as tough!
-- Ryan G.
Foley: Girls high school wrestling is a game changer! What an awesome time to be involved in the sport. Lots of credit to these coaches and to the national organizers of this movement like Sally Roberts at Wrestle Like a Girl!