Yeah, just kidding, I don't care. The real must-watch televised event was last weekend in Krasnoyarsk as the Ivan Yariguin kicked off the 2019 international wrestling season with United World Wrestling's first Ranking Series event.
Much in the same way Siberia > Chiberia, wrestling is ever more entertaining, real and engaging than football.
As predicted, we learned a lot from the first weekend of international wrestling action. The biggest surprise of the weekend came when Kyle Snyder dropped a tight 6-5 match to Rasul Magomedov (Russia), his opponent in last year's final. While the result is disconcerting for American fans, it might be the loss of Ranking Series points that could really dog Snyder. Without a continental title and/or a placement at one of the three remaining Ranking Series (RS) tournaments Snyder could be vulnerable for dropping out of the top three and thus into a potential semifinal matchup with Abdulrashid Sadulaev at the 2019 World Championships in Astana.
It might be too early to predict seeds, but we did watch as Thomas Gilman climbed his way from the No. 5 in RS points to No. 3. Gilman, who is planning to wrestle at the Dan Kolov at the end of February, has the potential to keep climbing the RS ladder and putting himself in optimum position come September.
On the women's side, Tamyra Mensah took home her record third straight Ivan Yariguin title though not in her Budapest weight of 68 kilograms. That'll cost her some points, but it might not be significant enough to impact her seed for Astana. Overall, she wrestled well and showed that the American women are ever-improving results and their technical skills on the mat.
To your questions …
Aaron Pico (Photo/Juan Garcia)
Q: Aaron Pico was knocked silly in his MMA fight last weekend. Do you think this recent loss will alter his plans at all? Maybe he focuses on wrestling up until 2020?
-- Mike C.
Foley: That KO will absolutely alter his plans to chase a knockout against a dangerous opponent. That much is certain.
Overall, I think Pico will stay in MMA and stay on his championship trajectory. Any pivot to full-time wrestling training wouldn't need to happen for another 6-12 months, as he's in shape, making money and able to quickly come out of this downswing by booking another fight in the next 12 weeks.
Let's get this much clear: Pico is going to be an MMA champion. He's just learning the basics in front of way more people and with an incredible amount of expectation, which makes his losses seem more severe than they otherwise might for a less hyped fighter.
Q: Many of the most anticipated matchups in college wrestling are not happening because coaches are opting to sit wrestlers. I didn't love Brands' answer on why Spencer Lee didn't wrestle Sebastian Rivera, "It's in the plan." I know this has been a problem in past years, but this season seems worse than ever. Any thoughts on what can be done? Is it a matter of making duals more important?
-- Mike C.
Foley: The equation here is simple: Coaches are paid to win in March at the conference and NCAA tournament. Anything that doesn't serve that purpose is extraneous.
The only long-term option that will satisfy fines and the NCAA is to fully eliminate dual meets or create an incentive for coaches to place their wrestlers in these important matchups. I don't foresee the NCAA killing off dual meets for a few key reasons.
First, like football and basketball games, there is a pre-determined consumable size to the events which makes them simple for the league to sell against on linear channels. The 90-minute format rarely runs over, cost of production is relatively low (they typically use for-free student crews), and the viewership numbers are high live and on repeat.
Counter that with the two-day tournament formats and uncertainty around who will appear in the finals (the only broadcast-able portion) and you have every reason for conferences to keep dual meets.
The second reason is school pride. There is A LOT of handwringing among wrestling fans about not ruining the NCAA tournament and that it's profitable and … well, you've heard the arguments. But the real fan (and money) draw for all schools are dual meets. You can sell tickets, the event is easy to set up, and it draws in alumni to the campus which means more dollars in the till come donation season.
The NCAA also won't kill dual meets because school vs. school competition is a simple part of their culture. Open tournaments and the like are more the exception than the rule. While everyone loves to tell about the greatest weekend in wrestling, I'd argue that there would be substantially more fan interest in dual meets if they were given some bearing on the team national championship.
Q: A lot of interesting matchups in Penn State-Michigan on Friday night. If the stars align for the Wolverines, they could win 5-6 matches. You giving Michigan any chance to stun PSU?
Foley: The people want dual meets …
Doubtful that Michigan can overcome the Penn State bonus points, but I do think it'll be a 5-5 match score.
125: No. 15 Drew Mattin (Michigan) dec. Devin Schnupp (Penn State)
133: No. 1 Stevan Micic (Michigan) maj. dec. No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young
141: No. 5 Kanen Storr (Michigan) dec. No. 7 Nick Lee (Penn State)
149: Brady Berge/Jarod Verkleeren (Penn State) dec. Malik Amine (Michigan)
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) dec. No. 5 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan)
165: No. 7 Logan Massa (Michigan) dec. No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State)
174: No. 1 Mark Hall (Penn State) maj. dec. No. 3 Myles Amine (Michigan)
184: Francisco Bisono/No. 2 Shakur Rasheed (Penn State) maj. dec. J.T. Correll (Michigan)
197: No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State) pins Jackson Striggow (Michigan)
285: No. 8 Mason Parris (Michigan) dec. No. 4 Anthony Cassar (Penn State)
Score: Penn State 20, Michigan 16
Q: Matthew Kolodzik vs. Anthony Ashnault on Sunday. They are 2-2 against each other in college. Who do you like to win Round 5?
Foley: See, we all want to talk about matchups. The NCAA should recognize that fans and athletes work better when they can predict events, rather than having only to guess who may or may not show up!
Are we calling this the "Battle for New Jersey?" We should.
Q: Any rumors about another AWL event? Seems like it has been crickets since the first event.
Foley: Nada and I know that you aren't surprised.
Fans and mailbag readers know that we have discussed this issue ad nauseam. Without a clearly defined set of events and participants there is little to no chance for growth of a league or branded series of competition. All leagues, including United World Wrestling, UFC, and NASCAR, understand this fact, which is why they all release calendars and events as far in advance as possible. Having not heard any rumors the assumption has to be that AWL II is on a significant, if not maybe permanent, delay.
Rasul Magomedov (Russia) vs. Kyle Snyder (USA)
Akhmed Chakaev (Russia) vs. Nachyn Kuular (Russia)
Q: Are you going to watch the Super Bowl? If so, do you have a prediction?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Doubtful. I had to Google who was playing the Patriots, who I only know are playing because I watched the end of their game a few weeks ago. Had I not seen the game, I'm sure that there would have been a number of anti-Brady tweets and memes to let me know he was playing. Why do so many people hate this guy?!
But I really won't be watching because I leave Monday on a week-long documentary shoot in Georgia and will need to pack up a lot of gear. My team will be shooting Vladimer Khinchegashvili and Geno Petriashvili in their hometown of Gori and then heading out to a national team training camp in the mountains. Should be quite the collection of images and stories to share.
Anything you guys want me to ask the Olympic and world champs?
Tough wrestling vs. Technique
By Jon G.
In a lot of your mailbags you really celebrate technique and athleticism, and positing the rules of the sport (particularly folkstyle) to reward this. I guess this again relates to my thoughts around top wrestling, but I don't think that winning through toughness and conditioning is any less impressive. To be clear, I am not saying false toughness like face smooshing, out-of-bounds shenanigans, or illegal hands to the face. I'm saying gritty wrestling where someone can hang in a match against potentially a more athletically talented or technical wrestler and beat them through conditioning and/or perseverance. I don't think it's right to devalue that or look down upon it. In many ways it's harder than being the person best suited to succeed.
PROPOSAL TO SAVE HIGH SCHOOL DUAL MEETS
By Ken in Idaho
There have been all kinds of proposals on how to help high school wrestling in terms of scoring, dual matches, forfeits etc. I have a concept that is radically different, but solves some of the weight class issues, forfeits, having multiple good wrestlers at the same weight, etc. But it also would also establish the starter and backup concept for varsity matches and focus points of bouts wrestled and make forfeits count, but not as much.
A few things that make this possible.
Trackwrestling (3 sub points): Having weight management at the high school level in Trackwrestling given kids minimum weights and a date at which they can reach that weight. Also, using Track for seeding at tournaments help when kids tend to change weights or wrestle in multiple states and year-round. Trackwrestling would also keep track of the dual meet scoring, which would help make sure points are applied correctly.
The other main item is the flexibility in youth leagues to focus on getting mat time and developing until a wrestler is vs. winning/losing is a concept taking a foot nationwide. If we can do things to better organize and make positive impacts on the sport we should, as we have learned our lesson with the Olympics on this...
So, off to my proposal. First main concept duals follow the format. Tournaments are open to whatever the host wants to set up for weight classes and scoring. Too many times, tournaments just seem like the same cookie cutter and in some geographically isolated areas, the same kids wrestle the same kids all the time. Having some flexibility on this will be helpful to promote more variety in wrestling.
9 weight classes from 100-285. Weight classes: 100, 110, 120, 135, 150, 165, 185, 210, 285.
1 match at 100 & 285, 2 matches at all other weight classes. This makes 16 bouts in a dual meet.
In each of the 110-210 matches, the first match in the weight class to report is the "undercard" match with the result on a 4-point scale. The second match "main event" is on an 8-point scale. (The 100 and 285 are on the 8-point scale.)
4-point scale: 4 for a pin (forfeit, injury default, DQ, etc), 3.5 for a technical fall, 3 for a major decision and 2 for a decision. Double these numbers on the 8-point scale.
This makes 72 possible points on the "main event" and 28 points on the "undercard" for a total possible of an even 100 points of team scoring. Score 51 for an assured team win.
All other rules (coin flip, starting match and tiebreakers) would remain in place except being allowed to bump up a weight class, that concept would be similar in, who do I put out for the first or second match as a weight class. This would also allow for more coaching strategy on matchups.
I see this as creating more spots while also decreasing the impact of forfeits and simplifying the weight classes. I'd like to put out my list of pros/cons, but I'd like to hear comments first. If there is generally positive feedback, I might put forward a PowerPoint to walk through the concept.