For those who have always been wrestling-obsessed the event is already circled on the calendar, but for those who are just dipping their toes in the international styles Euros is the perfect opportunity to buff up on freestyle (and Greco-Roman) and get acquainted with the rivalries and storylines before the World Championships in Nur-Sultan.
Be sure to tune in on Trackwrestling.com and follow along on United World Wrestling's social media channels and wherever else you get your news.
To your questions …
The recent Beat the Streets LA event took place at The Wiltern Theatre (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: Any thoughts on the Beat the Streets women's event that recently took place in Los Angeles? Looked like an interesting event.
-- Mike C.
Foley: The Beat the Streets events are awesome. They bring together a number of top athletes, raise money and awareness for their mission to deliver wrestling to under-privileged communities, and always deliver action-packed events.
Everything about the LA event worked. The India vs. USA dynamic worked well, it made press, they raised money for their program, and it increased the exposure of women wrestlers in our community. Also, there was a five-point throw!
The LA event is looking to stay female-focused and I think it'll only get more dynamic and draw more fans.
Also, these are major events that take a lot of time to put on, so it's awesome to see them being mentioned!
Q: From Real Pro Wrestling to Tour ACW (and I'm sure a few other leagues I'm missing), it doesn't seem like the concept of a professional wrestling league has ever caught on. These leagues usually attract top talent and put together intriguing matchups with former college standouts and potential Olympians. It seems that alone should garner some positive momentum, but even for an avid fan it falls flat and develops very little inertia.
It seems like the promotional attempts to create a groundswell seem very inauthentic. The pre-match pageantry always tends to adopt a boxing-like approach (i.e. the stare down, the smack talk promo video). It doesn't work. In my opinion, even if you get a stellar match card but don't have a concept that fans feel passionate about (or have some history in a league to the point where a title belt has some prestige) a pro wrestling league will not work. What are your thoughts on a wrestling league with a concept that is not only team focused, but also asks the wrestlers on that team to wrestle only for their home (high school) state? My point is that no one cares about a match with Jordan Oliver and Frank Molinaro when it feels so random and the promotional "vendetta" feels forced. But if JO were representing Pennsylvania and Frank were representing New Jersey and then you put four or five other matches together around them (all top post-grad Pennsylvania guys vs. all top post-grad New Jersey guys), then you have something people care about. It won't need a fake, boxing/MMA style promo to get fans in the stands and keep them there. The attraction is based on a debate that comes up on every district message board in the country. Who is better: Pennsylvania or New Jersey? Maybe throw in teams from California, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New York and you have a league or at the very least a six dual meet tournament every year?
-- Jake B.
Foley: The main issue with professional wrestling leagues is that the majority are funded by benefactors who come to realize that the time suck, brain damage, and monetary loss isn't worth (insert: their personal motivation).
The idea behind most professional leagues has been to fund the athletes. That is a noble gesture, but it's not a business model. For the investor there is the belief they are helping the financial pinch felt by athletes pursuing their passion; while the wrestlers -- who pull in between $1,000 and $5,000 -- tend not to be the very best in their weight divisions since those guys are locked into a crowded international calendar.
The other truth is that a large majority of the athletes on the Olympic ladder are in stable economic situations. I can't speak for them all, but the RTC system has pumped money into training programs and allowed a number of athletes on the outside of the national team ladder with good incomes. Many are also coaches.
The money won't be a factor unless whoever comes into the professional space has a plan to generate income. Maybe not right away, but if there isn't a plan to turn a profit at a company level then these plans will be doomed to fail. I have a plan, but I have no desire to get involved in the space because there is a good chance that I would lose my investment, or not be able to adequately fund it when it needed it the most. Or worse still, make money, but not enough to justify the time suck.
The state vs. state is a good marketing ploy and may just work, but instead of a league there should just be events set up quarterly. The issue becomes who would lead that full-time and how much of a gate could it draw? One option is to saddle the events next to existing events where you could capture fans already in the area for wrestling. Maybe the NHSCA Nationals, FloNationals, or Fargo.
Oh, and if the professional league is ever about national exposure it is bound to fail. The space is too crowded and the money to enter the market and sustain is not realistic for what is sure to be dreadful returns.
Q: How important is an Olympic redshirt year if a wrestler is serious about making an Olympic run? Obviously, people will point to Kyle Snyder as an example of not needing one, but I would think they could be very beneficial to others. Any thoughts on this topic? Along those same lines, who do you expect to take one? I heard Jaydin Eierman is going to take one and Gable Steveson is not, but have not heard about any others.
-- Mike C.
Foley: Each wrestler will have an individual reason for taking, or not taking, an Olympic redshirt. There is not guiding philosophy outside of the oldest one which is that it would allow the wrestler to concentrate on freestyle. That's pretty broad.
Gable is probably better off competing all the time for Minnesota, as it'll give him an advantage in conditioning over the heavyweights who are only competing a few times overseas and training in the room. Also, I think that the focus of the college season is good for a young Gable. Jaydin could use the redshirt year to improve his freestyle technique and strategy. Also, the year off buys him a maturity year to hopefully come back to the NCAA and win a title.
As you can see those are much different philosophies and when you apply that to the 20 or so college wrestlers flirting with the idea you can start to see a variety of decision making trees coming into focus, including, but not limited to the reality of if they could really make the team given who is currently atop the ladder.
Overall, I think that those with a chance to make the team at 57 kilograms and 65 kilograms should ABSOLUTELY take an Olympic redshirt and add competitive depth to these weight classes. I'm excited to see Yianni, Jaydin, and the rest make their run at these weights. Team USA will only benefit from the competition both in 2020 and in 2024.
Q: Next year's NCAA Championships are in an NFL stadium. How do you think this will affect the fan experience with regards to proximity of the spectators to the eight mats on the floor? The floor on a football stadium has to be at least four times larger than the floor on an arena built for basketball/hockey. This was a big topic of speculation among fans at this year's NCAAs in Pittsburgh. Please give us your thoughts on a possible mat arrangement that would maximize the fans experience.
-- Rod Q.
Foley: I'd have assumed that the stadium would drop a black curtain to limit the size and capacity. Looking at the available tickets, I guess that's not the case. However, it looks like they've blocked the 300-level corners so those really far-off seats won't be for sale. Maybe the curtains will be used there?
Does anyone know how many tickets they are selling, or fans they are planning to seat?
The first thing they need to do is FINALLY raise the mats for all the sessions! There is no reason to not have a platform. This is a three-day event held once a year and a platform is a minimum standard that should always be met as it adds to every aspect of the event, including the images that TV and photographers are able to create. The United World Wrestling events are all mandated to use raised platforms and the difference in presentation is remarkable.
The mat will almost certainly remain the same, since pushing to any one side would limit the other side's ability to see that mat. Overall, I think that the traditional arrangements will remain in place, but with some really, really big screens to view the action you can't see with your naked eye.
Q: Which city that has not hosted the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships could benefit from it being held there? Do you think it could happen?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: Baltimore would be a terrific host site. There are three airports for the Midwest and western-based fans, and there is easy driving access for the East Coast. There is actually a very good rail system that most fans from New Jersey/New York would probably use to attend the event. For example, I could come down from NYC, watch the finals, and be home in my bed by 2:30 a.m. ET.
Baltimore is a cool city but has a large selection of low-cost hotel options, proximity to Washington DC (for fans who want to get more out of their NCAA travel), and has venues to support the crowds. Would also be a nice boon to the city's coffers!
Also, don't forget that New Jersey dominated the NCAA tournament this year and Baltimore is close to those families and fans.
Oh, and Penn State fans may like the idea …
Beach wrestling is pretty cool!
Abdulrashid Sadulaev info video
Q: For me, when considering the all-time great NCAA champs, I like to consider who they beat to get their titles. How many previous or eventual champs did they beat in their finals. Bo Nickal is now up there; he beat Gabe Dean who already had two and Myles Martin who had one. Kyle Dake would be another one. I think almost everyone (three out of four maybe) he beat in his four NCAA finals was already a champ or eventually became one. So, under this consideration, who are your all-time top 10 (or so) champions of champions?
-- Ryan P.
Foley: I'd have to do some major research to get the perfect mathematical analysis on these premises, but I do like the theory. Essentially you gain the strength of your opponents and how many times they've won. However, the problem is that sometimes the very best guys box out their division for two, three or four years and might not face another champion in the finals. Maybe they met in the semifinals … that math is making my head hurt.
Dake is a good example of someone who beat other national champions, largely because he's a four-time (more opportunity) and moved weight classes every year (could beat a defending NCAA champion). Bo Nickal came out victorious in three NCAA finals, but is his win over Martin discounted because he lost to him the year before? Maybe.
Anthony Cassar defeated Derek White to claim in the NCAA title at heavyweight (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Q: Do you see Anthony Cassar as a threat to make the world or Olympic team? Seems like he would have some potential in freestyle. He's a past member of the Junior World Team and obviously has a great training situation with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club. I also heard he has MMA aspirations.
-- Mike C.
Foley: Rumor has it that Cassar has TWO years left on campus. If he keeps improving at his current pace then he is absolutely a threat in 2024, and maybe 2020. As for MMA, I think that like Bo Nickal it's a good fit for him following an attempt to make the Olympic team.
Q: Now that Virginia Tech and Rutgers finally broke through, who will be the next school to have their first national champion? And of the three new teams for 2019 (LIU, Little Rock, Presbyterian), who will have the best season?
-- Rocco L.
Foley: The next team with their first national champion could be the 'Hoos! Jack Mueller into the finals could happen again and if Spencer Lee takes an Olympic redshirt or moves up a weight class that path to a national championship gains some clarity. That might seem like a homerish take, but there aren't many programs who are without a national title who are returning a finalist.
Coincidentally they may also win their first NCAA basketball championships this year, too!
Oof. I haven't seen any of these programs on the mat. However, I'd think that LIU has the inside track given that their program isn't starting from the ground and they can get access to local talent with a little more ease than the southern schools.
Q: Edinboro finished tied for 63rd at the NCAAs this year with 0 points, which appears to be the first time since 1987 they've failed to score team points. In 2015 they were third. How have they fallen this quickly? What needs to happen for them to rebound? Losing longtime coach Tim Flynn surely didn't help, but that's quite the fall.
-- Jon G.
Bruce Baumgartner is an administrator at the university and was once their athletic director. Honestly, I don't know who better to have checking your six than a 13-time world medalist and president of the national governing body for the sport of wrestling.
Tim Flynn's departure was in part due to the perfect opportunity and dwindling opportunities at Edinboro. The PSAC schools are in trouble when it comes to enrollment and that means they are in deep, deep trouble when it comes to sustaining funding for more than a few years. They have the 2015 result, but without something to gin up support from the base they could lose that alumni resource, which for so many smaller schools is the only way to keep them afloat.
The problem with the smaller schools is that they have to start with young and hungry coaches, but they rarely have the money to keep them. It's happening right now. Scott Moore is the leading candidate at Maryland and will be working with a budget/facilities increase probably in the neighborhood of 10 times more valuable than that of Lock Haven. He'll also be making three times as much money. Even if he was willing to give up the budget and take only a modest pay increase, I don't think Lock Haven could find the budget.
That's the cycle. And if you miss on a hire that can mean a 6 to 10-year slump, less-qualified candidates, and depleted recruiting. All those factors also make programs ripe to be cut by budget-focused AD's.