Foley's Friday Mailbag: December 14, 2018

Kyle Conel, who placed third at the 2018 NCAA Championships last year, announced on Twitter this week that he'll be undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. In the note Conel also said that he was almost certain to retire from the sport.

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,

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.

Foley: Oy.

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.

But …

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!


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dbestsport (1) about 8 months ago
The final 8-2 score in the Valencia/Hall match is extremely deceiving. Zahid picked up close to 20 seconds of riding time while Hall held his leg trying to get a reversal, before getting an Escape point - a rule that needs to be changed post haste. Zahid also got 2 on a last second desperation TD throw by Hall.
howiefartz (2) about 8 months ago
@dbestsport..... Sweet Jesus could you possibly try to put the best spin on hall's loss anymore than you just did? Foley's description of dominant by Valencia is totally accurate. The fact Hall was in a "desperation" situation as you call his last second td attempt is proof enough. Quit being a homer.
dbestsport (2) about 8 months ago
I am happy to say I will never listen to the opinion of someone who calls themselves howiefartz. Why would anyone?
Yes Man (1) about 8 months ago
You mean never after your reply to the honorable HowieFartz? Never again, I guess.
pjw134lbsAA (1) about 8 months ago
Hayes is done at 125. Moving up.
MikeC (1) about 8 months ago
"If they wrestle each other at all …" Really beneath you Foley, (although the Penn State forum thinks it's par for the course), or maybe not, since it's a stupid notion.
Jdans (1) about 8 months ago
ESPN2 is counting on Hall-Valencia wrestling.
My understanding is that they have already announced that the meet will start at 184 pounds.
Jdans (1) about 8 months ago
@dbestsport: It was a great performance by Valencia. The match featured one of the greatest scrambles I've had the pleasure of watching.
I'm of the mind that I thought Zahid was pretty much in control once he was able to score first. I don't want to say it was deceiving, but I think the final score left no doubt. That being said, they have to weigh-in closer to match time, and I'm going to bet that Mark spent a whole lot of time wrestling with Shakur Rasheed this week to get a feel for the length and size of Zahid.
dbestsport (2) about 8 months ago
I never said the bout was close or that Hall should have won. But the 8-2 score was misleading (I already pointed out why). The final score could easily have been 5-2. In my opinion, that is a score more indicative of the competition of the match.
johnmac47 (2) about 8 months ago
I guess your prediction on Zahid Valencia vs. Mark Hall didn't work out to good. We Are Penn State
Yes Man (1) about 8 months ago
Thanks for clarifying; thought you are Marshall.
Penn State is famous for Jerry Sandusky too and for removing the statue of Joe Paterno.
ched64 (1) about 8 months ago
I have always wondered why anybody would let their kid go to a program inwhoch the next shiny gem could distract the coaching staff from your kid...kinda gross no?
ched64 (1) about 8 months ago
And as usual PSU...none has beaten Kyle Dake
dbestsport (5) about 8 months ago
The reason is some parents understand that there are no guarantees in the world. They want their children to understand that to be successful, you have to overcome adversity and that there will always be competition for your goals. That is why parents line up to send their wrestlers to Penn State. What is gross is the growing number of Americans who believe in entitlements and guarantees.
Jbsteel (1) about 8 months ago
It's not about the next shiny gem. For those of you who missed it, Cassar beat Nevills at the Keystone Classic. Nevills will have a chance to earn his spot at the Scuffle January 1st or 2nd.
jamper1 (1) about 8 months ago
Cassar has just looked so impressive at 285 which I never thought he would be big enough for that. It's nice watching a Hwt match where your wrestler shoots more than once or twice the whole match. Cassar is going to be tough to beat.
slushhead (2) about 8 months ago
@ched64: Not sure your "next shiny gem" remark really applies to Nevills-Cassar. They were in the same recruiting class. Best guy earns the nod.
WeArePennState (1) about 8 months ago

Positive: One of many of course, RBY is a amalgamation of Zain/Nolf/Hall in the making.

Negative: Anthony Cassar's arrogant no-class celebration gesture after the pin. Jersey, right?