Though traveling I was able to read up on the TV vs. Streaming Twitter battle that seemed to consume Wrestling Twitter for the better part of 48 hours. I won't dive deep into anyone's intent in writing their pieces, as I believe that InterMat, Track, and Flo want what is best for wrestling. I also happen to know that there are a lot of people on these sites and other sites who work incredibly long hours (and aren't getting rich) to deliver fans more wrestling content.
There is also no battle between streaming and live television. In wrestling, streaming has been a massive buoy to the popularity and sustainability of our sport. Total and complete game changer with rippling effects felt through every aspect of the sport both in the United States and abroad. The amount of video content, both live and creative, being supported by media companies, organizations, teams, and individuals is simply remarkable.
The value of television (as it stands right now) is that it services a neutral sports crowd. Running on TV is like taking out a full-page print ad in the New York Times. There is intrinsic validation in having your product associate with legacy media, not to mention a massive audience reach (both potential and actual). TV can be a neat entry drug for someone to fall back in love with the sport or make positive connections since last seeing their "high school friend spit in a cup and run up and down stairs."
I'm not too concerned with whether linear is the best option for 2024 or 2034, because trend lines won't be impacted by our opinions. They'll be impacted by the needs of the advertisers, consumers, and distribution companies. However, I think that we should encourage (when possible, legal, and convenient) that the larger meets also be included on TV. From a fan's perspective that feels obvious, but from a business perspective it's much more complicated.
Robbie Lawler and Ben Askren at media day before their fight on Saturday night at UFC 235 (Photo/Getty Images)
To your questions …
Q: It seems like people are overlooking Robbie Lawler on Saturday night. I'm putting some money on him. He's a massive underdog and has serious knockout power. I realize he's on the backside of his fighting career, but he has beaten a lot of really good fighters. Ben Askren has built his resume beating fighters nobody knows. Do you think Lawler is a smart bet at odds of better than 2-1?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Yes, you bet the puncher especially when he knows how to wrestle. Wrestling ability is important, but quickly negated when fighting another wrestler, especially one with KO power. 2-1 is great value.
Q: Which rule changes below would you like to see at the high school level: (A) Step-out rule in neutral position. (B) Takedowns are worth 3 points. (C) Change team scoring for dual meets. Every other sport is simplistic and the casual fan can understand team scoring pretty quickly. Team score should be cumulative. Wrestler A scores 4 points and wrestler B scores 10 points, Team A would have 4 team points and Team B would have 10 team points. You could do a 10-point tech (you get 10 team points too), and 12 team points for pins, forfeit, disqualification, etc. (D) Every swipe for back points is a point up to 4. (E) Technical falls should be 10-point difference rather than current 15.
-- Frank S.
Foley: (A) Needs to happen as soon as possible. Long overdue. (B) No. Would be solved by A. (C) Some variation, but only if tied to larger changes in concentrating on dual meets overall. (D) No, No, No. Too many points being given already. (E) Would make for some quick matches at the high school level, especially with four-point exposure calls!
Q: If you could train or compete against any wrestler/coach, who would it be? My picks are Dave Schultz, John Smith and Dan Gable.
-- Frank S.
Foley: I'll go international: Abdulrashid Sadulaev, Buvaisar Saitiev and John Smith.
Q: I know it has been talked about to death but seriously when are we going to make a change to folkstyle rules? The thing that got me worked up was Derek White vs. Sam Stoll and in the second period they went out several times just trying to bring him back the mat. This is ridiculous and turns people off the sport watching critical minutes of match time being wasted trying to bring a guy back to the mat when it could be brought back to the feet, promoting action, as opposed to who can keep the guy on the ground longer.
-- Casey L.
Foley: Well said. The constant out-of-bounds restarts, with no added drama but the ticking of a clock, is beginning to make some NCAA matches obnoxious to watch, especially when you watch a lot of freestyle and see how much offense is generated near the edge.
Does it sometimes feel like buck 'em bronco?
First of the video content from India!
Q: I know there is a difference between high school and college, but I do not understand how Daton Fix riding parallel for two minutes is not stalling. Again, I know it's not high school but if that match was a high school match people would be screaming for a stalling call and rightfully so. Why don't we expect more from our top athletes instead of less? Very boring conclusion in my opinion. On the other hand, I thought Fix had a takedown at the end of the second period. Any thoughts on that?
-- Dan B.
Foley: Look, riding time is not that interesting! They only ride bulls for like 20 seconds and that's a 1200-pound animal with horns. Why would I want to watch one dude ride another with no turns, or even hints of going perpendicular? I don't! The incentive of riding time was to encourage more riding and thus more falls -- the true aim of the sport being to pin. However, through years and years of gamesmanship the sport has become more about who can clip an extra second during their turn on top, then run away with a 2-1 lead.
The sport suffers when the rules aren't adjusted to ensure that gamesmanship is limited. Wrestling loves to compare itself to other sports. Well, look at the new rules issued for golf. That sport is wildly successful and profitable, played by millions of Americans every weekend and the governing body made slight, but significant, rule changes and mostly to positive reviews.
Why can't wrestling do the same?
Odd that the referee missed the takedown call. DeSanto was clearly on his hip and ceding both legs. Calls get missed, I suppose.
Q: I was browsing the NAIA brackets and it appears an NAIA team can have more than one national qualifier per weight class up to a maximum number of 12 participants per team. Is this new? Do you think this would be a good idea to allow more entrants at a weight class for small school divisions in high school to help fill their brackets?
-- John W.
Foley: I don't know much about the rule or its history, but I (without knowing much more than you shared) like the idea as a way to retain larger numbers of athletes at smaller schools.
By implementing this in smaller high schools would the idea be to fill out more programs, or to fill out more spots in a 32-man bracket? I'm a little suspect that for meaningful tournaments there should be more than one wrestler from a school allowed unless there are more than 40 varsity-level wrestlers in which case I think there should be two separate squads.
Retaining athletes and giving them an opportunity to enjoy the sport is the most important aim of the rule so I'd definitely like to learn more.
More thoughts on youth wrestling
We are a small school in a rural area. We are trying to rebuild our youth program after it was run into the ground. We had some old school coaches that thought it was funny to scream at 5 and 6-year-olds and run them into the ground. Laughing as those kids quit the sport after just the first practice. Just a couple years ago the team would start with 20 kids and by the end of the year had 10 or less. Normally less.
Luckily those coaches have moved on and our high school coaching staff has taken over the program. Our current coaching staff has only been in charge for the last four years. A member of the coaching staff runs each youth practice, making sure that there is an emphasis on technique and fun. Games are played every practice that promote competition, but the wrestlers don't realize they are developing useful skills. Games such as sumo wrestling, relay races and a bit of dodgeball. When they get out in dodgeball they have to do five pushups, situps or frog hops to get back in. Never a complaint. They do the exercise and right back in the game.
We practice three days a week, but tell parents two days a week is good, especially for the novice kids. We do not have the kids go to many tournaments. We have our youth team wrestle before our varsity in dual meets with whatever team the varsity is wrestling. Coaches before the dual match up kids by weight and experience. We want the kids to be evenly matched so the match will go the distance and each kid has an opportunity to win. Doesn't always happen but we do try.
We also have our middle school team with the varsity for duals. At home we have two mats that are rolled out with the middle school on one mat and the youth on the other mat wrestling at the same time. One mat is then rolled up and the other is slid to the middle of the gym floor. We turn down the lights, put a spotlight on and then wrestle the varsity match.
Our crowds for home matches have increased dramatically and interest in the sport is starting to go up. We now have about 20-25 kids on the youth team and they are coming back the next year. We shortened the season, starting around Dec. 1 and ending in February. If kids have the drive to continue to compete then we work with another team in the area and send them to continue with them.
No emphasis is put on competing at states or any type of postseason. We want the kids to learn good technique, have fun and learn to love the sport. The winning will come later.