Foley's Friday Mailbag: February 1, 2019

The Super Bowl is this weekend, and …

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?
-- C.R.

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?
-- M.R.

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.


War Tiger.

Q: Any rumors about another AWL event? Seems like it has been crickets since the first event.
-- L.R.

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.

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.


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johnmac47 (4) about 7 months ago
Foley there is no way on God's green earth that Michigan will win 5 matches, probably 4 at the max and that is being kind!
mzendars (4) about 7 months ago
JOHNMAC47 you are totally right. Foley must be trying to create feedback to his story. PSU by at least 10 points with at least 6 to 4 matches maybe 7 their way..
jamper1 (2) about 7 months ago
I think at worst PSU loses 3 matches especially wrestling at home. Massa beating Joseph and Parris beating Cassar is wishful thinking on your part Foley.
footestomper (1) about 7 months ago
Re PSU/MICH: As a PSU fan I'm a little nervous about this one. PSU might go 8-2, or it possibly could go 5-5. I do think 5 is the ceiling for Michigan.

Re Weekend Results: I was interested to see PSU Recruit Aaron Brooks win the Dave Schulz. Including a huge win over Nate Jackson in the Finals. Nate is an Indiana Grad & 2X AA and owns a win over Bo Nickal(7-6). Looking forward to seeing this guy in a PSU singlet. The big question is "When?"
uvagrappler33 (1) about 7 months ago
Issue is now that Pico has had his lights turned off a few times it becomes more likely this can and will happen again.
bbedford62 (4) about 7 months ago
Is it me or is Foley not much of a Penn State fan?
sfeye (1) about 7 months ago
I completely agree on your assessment of dual meets. In fact, if it were up to me I would make them more important in the bigger scheme of things. That will ultimately help promote the sport more than any two or three day tournament. Beyond the NCAA tournament, live attendance at tournaments is poor at best. Getting attendance up for duals if achievable for all institutions. They can promote to the student body, area wrestlers and fans, and have some great rivalries. It will make the sport better for sure
smattiko83 (2) about 7 months ago
Dual meets only work if every school has 9.9 scholarships. It isn’t going to grow anything. It will be the same 5-10 schools. High school dual meet championships at Ohio and pa have been a total flop and those are the two best in the country. Foley is so short sighted and def doesn’t think big picture. No wonder the sport was dropped with people like him.
djhart69 (4) about 7 months ago
Mich wins at 125 & 133. PSU wins from 141 through HWT, PSU wins 31-7. Best case scenario for Mich is they win 141 & Hwt and lose 25-13. They will not win at 165 and it won't be any closer than 12 points.
bdhof (1) about 7 months ago
"Are we calling this the "Battle for New Jersey?" We should."

No, we shouldn't. Kolodzik is an Ohio native that did wrestle for NJ HS Blair. As most who follow HS wrestling know, Blair has about half of their lineup in any given year from out of state. So we should call this The NJ vs Ohio battle. But I do agree with your pick of Kolodzik.
paulgwinwin (1) about 7 months ago
I really like Ken's idea. I think 16 may be too many matches so I would consider sticking with 14 matches, with all 10 weight classes wrestled and each coach gets to choose two additional non-forfeit weights.
Another idea would be to make it 12 weights and each coach gets to pick one additional match where each team has a wrestler. This is probably an easier transition from the current system.
donkeylips (2) about 7 months ago
Your prediction is LAUGHABLE. If you truly believe that Michigan stands a chance, you're in the wrong business of reporting wrestling (although I've said this before and I believe it in earnest, you are). You're like a petulant child trying to stir the pot. We get it, take your ball and go home.
Slake (2) about 7 months ago
1st I am a Penn State fan and yes they could lose 5. 125 and 133 are Michigan. Hwt is a toss up, the Michigan kid is very good, Massa at 165 is a top of podium candidate and this is D1 competitive wrestling, Lee and Berge are not locks. The fall from your high horse (No way we lose 5) can be painful..We are...does not guarantee anything
forwrestling (1) about 7 months ago
Watching both matches above. If you watch the first few moments of each Snyder has 4 scored on him and Kuular has 2 scored on him in very similar moves. Could someone help me understand if there is a difference or if there is a bias. Please real responses. Or a description as to why you may see them as different
mzendars (1) about 7 months ago
Looking for a good site to wager on wrestling. Someone on this site recommended DSI but when I went to the site no lines were available. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
DannyClarke (1) about 7 months ago

Uhh.... they both wrestled in HS in New Jersey and they both go to colleges in New Jersey.

That's why it's a "Battle for New Jersey".

Ohio fans out here referencing middle school LMAO okay bud. Insecurity running rampant.
DannyClarke (2) about 7 months ago
Mattin will for sure bonus Schnupp.

141 is a toss up but I think Lee guts out the W.

Massa most likely doesn't beat VJ. Michigan most likely only wins 3-4 matches and PSU wins this dual easily.
D_W (1) about 7 months ago
It's pointless to speculate on how good Pico might become. He'll never be that great in MMA. He made a mistake, or perhaps he just figured that the revenue made it worth a shot, but he's wasting his wrestling youth.

He can get knocked out in low/mid level fights, or he can wrestle in yaryguin and other world events.

He's been submitted or knocked out twice now. It'll happen again (maybe both) if he keeps going. The promotion can try to protect him via matchup choice (like they did with his second and third matches), but the upside is over.
dbrown1967 (1) about 7 months ago
Pico lost because he stayed too long in the pocket. He is relying on his hands too much. Needs to wrestle more.

As for Mich v Penn State. I'm a Mich fan and I don't believe Massa will beat Joseph. I'm not sure about Storr over Lee either. I do however, give Myles Amine a chance of beating Hall - less than 50/50 but a good chance 40/60. Either way, it will be fun to watch tonight with my sons.
Yohanjg (1) about 7 months ago

Does your username stand for Dana White? JK.

All joking aside though, there is a lot bringing Pico down in your comment. The risk of being knocked out or submitted again is no reason for him to stop fighting at a high level. I challenge you, would you repeat your statement to someone like Chad Red Jr., of Nebraska? He was an All-American last season but has lost a remarkable number of bouts this year, for someone of his caliber.

Should he not then quit according to what you said? Or rather, do you prefer wrestling to MMA and would have hoped that Pico stayed around to make a world/olympic run?

D_W (1) about 7 months ago
Yohanjg - I'm not bringing Pico down. I think he has(d) a very bright future in wrestling, but maybe not beyond wrestling itself. It's a matter of challenge, and perhaps arrogance to go into a different sport and feel like you can dominate - especially after watching a lot of other elite wrestlers make the transition and only a very few have fighting success beyond their preliminary work.

Point being, you can be a great wrestler, but only a small percentage of great wrestlers are going to be really great MMA fighters. A lot of them will go and find out they're not the best. When you have the chance to be a medalist wrestler on the national team, why do you want to go and be a mediocre fighter? There's nothing about Pico's fighting that would lead anyone to believe he'll ever even be a contender. If that's the case and a couple of kids come out of college that he can't beat wrestling, he's nowhere.

There's probably 100 guys at his level in MMA. There will be ten more next year. Ten more the year after. What'll happen when he actually starts fighting better fighters? The same thing he does to lower ranked junior wrestlers.
ResiliteMarine (1) about 7 months ago
You started with "'It's pointless to speculate on how good Pico might become."
What happened?
bbedford62 (1) about 7 months ago
I am a Penn State fan also and I didn't mean to offend anyone and I didn't mean to get up on a high horse.

As a Penn State fan I don't think 165 is a lock but I think Joseph will win.

I think PSU wins at 141, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184, 197 and 285

Because I am a Penn State fan but 141, 149, 165, 174 and 285 should be great matches and could really go either way.

Should be a great match!
Coach Carey (1) about 7 months ago
My dual team fix.
1, Make scoring easier for casual fans. I beat you by a score of 8-2, then my team gets 8 and you get 2. If I pin you, I get 12. Techs are worth 10 points (if you get a 10 pt win). This also helps you to keep trying to score late to help your team instead of just hanging on.
2, Make fewer weight classes so there are less forfeits. There are fewer super small kids, so I would go with 110, 115, 120, 125, 130,135, 140,145,155, 165, 180, 195, 285. It's easy to remember for the average fan as well. I get there are some really good small kids, but encourage them to lift weights and gain good weight. If a freshman can't start, that is ok, most freshman in hs don't start in other sports neither.
Coach Carey (1) about 7 months ago
My dual team fix.
1, Make scoring easier for casual fans. I beat you by a score of 8-2, then my team gets 8 and you get 2. If I pin you, I get 12. Techs are worth 10 points (if you get a 10 pt win). This also helps you to keep trying to score late to help your team instead of just hanging on.
2, Make fewer weight classes so there are less forfeits. There are fewer super small kids, so I would go with 110, 115, 120, 125, 130,135, 140,145,155, 170, 185, 200, 285. It's easy to remember for the average fan as well. I get there are some really good small kids, but encourage them to lift weights and gain good weight. If a freshman can't start, that is ok, most freshman in hs don't start in other sports neither.
jamper1 (1) about 7 months ago
So in your logic for scoring if a wrestler wins by a score of 15-1 that would be +14 for your team but if he tech falls him 15-0 your team only gets +10 or if he pins him it's +12 for the team, try again.
dbestsport (2) about 7 months ago
I am trying to follow Foley's logic about sitting out wrestlers and the importance of dual meets, but it is just so ridiculous. Someone please explain to me how not wrestling Lee or Young impacted the match??? Iowa won 31-8. How would placing more emphasis on dual meets make a difference? The answer is, it wouldn't. 'Nuff Said.
Coach Carey (1) about 7 months ago
No, techs are winning by 10, so you would get 10 points. Pins are worth 12.
Also, 3 seconds for 3 Near Fall. No 2 point or 4 point NF.
Duffywrestling (1) about 7 months ago
Foley, love your column. I think thenmost intriguing coaches change this year has been Tim Flynn’s move to West Virginia and Matt Hill taking over at Edinboro. Any thoughts on the future of either team.
D_W (1) about 7 months ago
You started with "'It's pointless to speculate on how good Pico might become."
What happened?<<

By that, I mean that it's pointless to talk about how much upside he has. There are tons of guys with upside, tons of guys with desire. Good wrestlers often do well in MMA. Not always. Pico always does well in wrestling.

When do we stop talking about his upside, once he's taken 8 or 10 "learning process" losses?

I guess the point for him is that there's more money in it than there is in wrestling. Just my opinion, but I don't get the same sense that he has coaching potential, but I'm picking the likelihood that this experiment runs its course, he returns to wrestling, the history books say little about him.

I don't know, maybe he never would've beaten elite wrestlers, either. That weight class is crowded, and there are always a dozen guys in russia and former soviet states who are hammers.

I'd like not to hear anything else about the kid until he's beating notable guys consistently. There are other better fighters and good fights to watch.