Foley's Friday Mailbag: January 11, 2019

It's early January and that means the high school season is winding down, the NCAA wrestling season is heating up, and the international wrestling season is about to go to Siberia.

Let us not loiter.

To your questions …

Carver-Hawkeye Arena is home to the Iowa Hawkeyes (Photo/Mark Lundy,

Q: Which school has the loudest, most hostile environment for Division I college wrestling? Which one would you like to wrestle in the least?
-- @SamWise_2006

Foley: I saw that someone on Twitter mentioned the old VMI facility, which I agree was a miserable place to compete. There were Keydets lining the track above our head, screaming obscenities, and generally being loud and intimidating. I heard they've changed venues, but I hope that's just a rumor.

Grace Hall was another fun place to compete. The fans are almost on the mat and I remember feeling like Tom Cruise in "Far and Away" or Brad Pitt in "Snatch" with a pulsating mass acting as the only real ring. Of course, that's a dramatization of the reality, but certainly it was an intimate setting with plenty of Pennsylvania's finest fans cheering along.

Still, I think wrestling center mat in Carver-Hawkeye would be the most intimidating setting possible. The passion, the tradition, the absolute anarchy that ensues should a visiting wrestler happen to take a step backward while on the mat.

What a feeling it must be to wrestle in that arena. Part of a very long tradition that is still alive and well. Wish I would have had the opportunity, but from my vantage point it remains the gold standard in arena-borne intimidation.

Q: What do you make of USA Wrestling going to two Final X events instead of three?
-- Mike C.

Foley: Three events weren't sustainable for the clubs that support the athletes, nor the coaches who corner them. Costs were far too high, and the training calendar seemed to take a ding, especially when partners were on opposing schedules. Ultimately, USA Wrestling was forced to listen to their wrestlers and advocates.

I think having only two events will help focus the attention of fans on the outcomes at each event -- holding their attention and allowing for a little better overall salesmanship. While three smaller events had the intention of shortening the event into something of a more palatable length, the cost to clubs, organizers and hosts simply couldn't support that model.

Q: Who are the Americans that are planning to go to Yarygin this year? Who are the toughest wrestlers they are likely to face? Don't forget women's freestyle as well as men's freestyle.
-- @bbb4ut

Foley: Forget the women? I'm sure you've read my stance on women's wrestling once or twice. I'd never forget them.

Barring any last-minute changes (which happen ALL THE TIME) the registration has been closed and fans can expect to see:

Freestyle: Thomas Gilman, Zane Richards, Jason Chamberlain, Zain Retherford, Cory Clark, Alex Dieringer, Isaiah Martinez, James Green, Jordan Burroughs, Sammy Brooks, Kyle Snyder.

Women's wrestling: Victoria Anthony, Erin Golston, Sarah Hildebrandt, Haley Augello, Becka Leathers, Forrest Molinari.

I suspect we will see Jordan go 79 kilograms since these events have no weight allowance, and as he's a little older a hard weight cut isn't as important as the reps against new talent. Please also remember that should he wrestle 79 kilograms and win the event, or place, or earn ranking series points, those points do NOT carry over to 74 kilograms. Only 74 kilograms counts for 74 kilograms.

The other thing to remember is that this is a ranking series event for the women, too. That's a change from last year and means it will draw out some bigger names. For example, U23 world champion Grace Bullen is signed up to attend, as is much of the Mongolian women's national team.

Q: Are we not allowed to criticize the extracurriculars in wrestling? The dancing, the face smushes, the tripping a guy while pushing him out with no intention of scoring? Am I supposed to like Terrell Owens as much as I liked Jerry Rice, just because he was good?
-- @JBKolat

Foley: I thought about this question more than most. What is the difference between the extracurriculars of one athlete versus the next? What standard should be applied to celebrations and things that happen after the whistle?

The best comparison is the world of comedy. Nobody can tell someone else what is and is not funny, but we can all agree that comedy is better (more enjoyable) when it "punches up" -- takes aim at those "with" rather than those "without." In much the same way, I think that anything happening on the mat that is celebratory and not at the direct expense of an opponent, qualifies as fun-loving, admissible and otherwise benign.

However, actions that are intended to physically harm or physically embarrass an opponent, should be regulated. That includes face mushing, out-of-bounds shoves, posturing as though winning the match means you are also able to fight. That type of action is best left off the mat.

This seems simple enough: Enjoy the moment and celebrate as you see fit, just don't do it at the expense of someone else.

Q: Should Nick Suriano and Daton Fix wrestle for 35 minutes whether one of them wins in literal regulation or not? Somebody needs to step in and take action.
-- @SamWise_2006

Foley: No.

I'm happy that their match in high school has been popularized and mythologized by media and fans, but 35 minutes was too long for something that could have been figured out in six (or seven) minutes with better out-of-bound regulations.

Also, I think that this match is what sealed criteria as a better option than overtime. The freestyle action had already been reason enough, but knowing that limitless overtime matches could extend for 30-plus minutes put a bullet in the chest of the idea of the format being TV-friendly.

That said, I look forward to this weekend's rematch.

Q: Mark Hall and Zahid Valencia are No. 1 and No. 2 at 174 pounds. After those two, is that the biggest drop in talent in any weight class from Nos. 1-2 to No. 3? It seems to me that most weight classes are pretty stacked except 174 pounds.
-- R. Burke

Foley: Joe Smith should rate as a competitive 174-pound wrestler! The match with Mark Hall at the Scuffle was one of the closer bouts for Hall and showed Smith's improvement in all areas. Also, Smith's work before that point showed that he is capable of competing for a spot at the top of the podium.


This is a perfect use of Twitter ... and celebration

Q: Out of the 10 Midlands champs, which is more likely? Two NCAA champs? Zero NCAA champs?
-- @SamWise_2006

Foley: More likely that there will be zero champions, because none of the winners are locks to win their weight. The closest lock would be top-ranked 149-pounder Matthew Kolodzik. But a second winner is tough to find.

Look at the lineup and you'll see slim pickings for wrestlers you'd choose to take top billing in Pittsburgh. Valencia took a pretty bad beating to Hall, Sebastian Rivera (aka Sea Bass) has a very tough weight, and overall I don't find it as likely that he and Kolodzik win as I do that the NCAA craziness claims more victims.

Q: In your opinion, who is the best senior level U.S. athlete to make multiple world teams but never bring home a medal?
-- @cjolanowski

Foley: The best over the course of the last 80 years would be a question best suited for a wrestling historian. Maybe it's my age driving the bias, but I think Brent Metcalf had the talent to be a world medalist. He had some awesome international performances over the years, including the Yarygin, but when it came to the season-ending tournament he came up short.

Deep dive, maybe Tim Vanni. He was one match away from 1986-1989 and then finished fifth at the 1992 Games. He made a lot of world teams.

Q: Amar Dhesi lost his first match this season to true freshman Mason Parris of Michigan. Looking at Oregon State's schedule, it doesn't appear he will face any top heavyweights before the NCAAs. Since only this year's data is considered for seeding purposes, is there a chance Dhesi will be a low seed or unseeded since he won't have any notable wins?
-- Mike C.

Foley: The NCAA has decided to seed all 33 wrestlers in each weight class for the 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Pittsburgh. Why? Dunno, but it's happening.

I think Amar will get more than 12 matches, win his conference and go into the NCAA tournament in the top six, dependent on how things shake out with the Big Ten heavyweights.

If I were a Beaver wrestling fan, I wouldn't be too worried about Dhesi's ability to become an All-American in 2019!

Q: Are we going to see Sam Stoll again before the postseason? Is he still your pick despite his inactivity?
-- Mike C.

Foley: Stoll is still my pick, but I got my eyes on Mason Parris. What a win over the above-mentioned Amar Dhesi. You have to assume that rolling with Adam Coon every day is having a massive benefit to his size and strength, as well as his confidence and game-planning for big matches. Could Parris be the real No. 1? It's not impossible. Let's see how the Big Ten season shakes out.

Q: Who is your Coach of the Year after the first half of the season?
-- Mike C.

Princeton coach Chris Ayres (right) with assistant coach Joe Dubuque (Photo/Mark Lundy,

Foley: Chris Ayres.

One would assume that he is the top choice for most wrestling fans. What'll be interesting is to see how his Tigers close out the season. Should Kolodzik win a national title and 1-2 other Tigers place at the national tournament, Princeton may find themselves in a bidding war for his services.

The money probably wouldn't be a problem as the school boasts some of the most successful alumni in the world, including wrestling philanthropist Mike Novogratz. But every coach has a bigger goal and maybe Ayres' is to win an NCAA team title.

Is it rational to think Ayres can win an NCAA team title at Princeton? Probably not. But for now I'm sure Coach Ayres' focus is on preparing his wrestlers for Pittsburgh and what could be his school's best-ever performance at the NCAA tournament.


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George Totura (1) about 11 months ago
Am somewhat surprised to see a discussion of NCAA 285lb championship contenders with no mention of Gable Stevenson. He is currently ranked #1 in some systems and seems to have serious tools to go along with other tournament experience.
uvagrappler33 (2) about 11 months ago
Yeah “The Thunderdome” in Lexington. I loved wrestling there. I remember rolling out of bounds once and some Keydets pushed me back in the middle. It was such a hostile environment but so much fun.
rfgilles (2) about 11 months ago
I don't agree with 174 not being stacked. Myles Amine is a multiple time AA and beat Bo Jordan who was an NCAA finalist. Daniel Lewis is looking to become a 4 time AA this year. Smith is already a 2 time AA. McFadden and Kutler are also All-Americans. Hall and Valencia may be a notch above the rest of the field but that doesn't make 174 a weak class. I actually think it is one of the tougher weight classes.
dbestsport (2) about 11 months ago
Rec Hall has to be included as one of the most hostile places for teams to visit.

To exclude Myles Amine as a contender at 174 is just ridiculous. He just lost to Zahid 6-4. In last years semi's, he lost to Zahid 7-5, and in the Big 10 finals to Hall, 4-3. If either of those guys are not on the top of their game when they face Amine, they will find themselves in the consolation bracket.
JosephMJamison (1) about 11 months ago
Ayres isn't going anywhere in my opinion.
footestomper (1) about 11 months ago
First, great wrestling mailbag this week. Second, I agree with dbestsport below - who mentions Myles Amine. If I had to name one guy at the NCAA tournament that I walked away thinking "Wow, that guy is a lot better than I thought he was" - that guy was Myles Amine. As the 5th seed, he beat #4 Kutler to get to the semi's, lost a close 7-5 match to Zahid, then came back to beat #6 Bo Jordan, and #3 Daniel Lewis to take 3rd.
footestomper (2) about 11 months ago
Re: face mushing, out-of-bounds shoves & the like. Shout out to the refs at the Southern Scuffle, and the wrestlers. I watched the entire tournament and I remember twice where the ref didn't make a big deal out of it, but when upon the re-start at the center of the mat you could see the ref was discreetly speaking to the offender, who then reached out his right hand, and the opponent did the same is a "quick' handshake. Kind of like touching gloves in a boxing match. The offender, in essence, saying "Sorry, I'm an asshole, I got carried away" and his opponent saying "No problem. Forget about it. I have probably done the same at some point." They go back wrestling and have a great match. Both times, no special celebration at the end. So, again. Shout out to the refs for recognizing the situation, the wrestlers for their "apologies" and their maturity. I don't remember who they were . . . but they represented the sport well.
jkwjr52 (1) about 11 months ago
Stoll could be a 3rd placer in the Big10!