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Foley's Friday Mailbag: April 12, 2019

Beat the Streets caused a publicity hurricane this week when it announced that Jordan Burroughs and Ben Askren had agreed to compete at the organization's "Grapple at the Garden" event May 6 at Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater in New York City.

Burroughs, a four-time world champion, 2012 Olympic champion, and two-time NCAA champion, comes in as a heavy favorite versus Askren, the two-time NCAA champion who transitioned to MMA shortly after his appearance at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Askren, who recently moved to the UFC from undefeated stints in Bellator and most recently Asian-based promotion ONE Championships, is fast becoming an MMA superstar in part due to his brash tweets and ability to agitate everyone from UFC President Dana White to fellow fighters.

The annual Beat the Streets event is heading into its 10th iteration, with this year's event set to be the most heavily promoted and watched, largely due to the inclusion of Askren and Burroughs. Last year's competition was also a massive audience draw, with Burroughs taking on Italy's Frank Chamizo, but the mass market appeal Askren brings will certainly open up the match to new viewers.

More eyes, means more opportunity, but its important that the core mission of the event remained intact, which is to raise awareness and funding for Beat the Streets New York. The organization is dedicated to creating competitive wrestling opportunities and life skills to underserved school kids in the New York City area. In the 10-plus years of Bea tthe Streets the program has grown from a few mats in a few schools to more than 60 program, thousands of active wrestlers and tens of thousands of school children directly impacted by the programming over the life of the program.

Wrestling is worthy of its reputation for helping disadvantaged youth find a place to develop character, discipline, and life skills. If you're reading this then you know the real value, but it's important to keep that mission in mind as we (rightly) hype this promotional match. The kids are the ones who can and will benefit from the wrestling on May 6. If you can't attend, at least consider a donation, which you can make here.

Or, if you have a BTS in your city, or a local kids program that is a better fit, find them and donate your time and money. This momentum for wrestling is wonderful, but it'll be hollow if we don't convert it to a legacy of providing more opportunities for members of our community to compete in the sport we love.

To your questions …

Myles Amine and Stevan Micic compete internationally for San Marino and Serbia and respectively (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)

Q: It seems like some are upset about Americans like Myles Amine, Stevan Micic, David Habat and others representing other countries. What are your thoughts on this?
-- Mike C.


Foley: The International Olympic Committee has allowed the transferring of athletes between nations for several years. They asked that the international federations governing each sport implement rules that would ensure that the transfers were only made when the circumstances were met, and that the competitive advantage of the native athletes was not being restricted. The international federations did as they were instructed and each implemented rules that fit their sport.

Broadly, wrestling's original transfer rules allowed for multiple national transfers, but each relocation would require the athlete to sit for two to three competitive seasons (Jan. 1, onward). That later was reduced to one year of inactivity. Later, athletes were able to be eligible immediately but were limited to one national transfer. That's the current rule; you can move once, but it's permanent.

In addition to the transfer regulations limiting the time frame and number of times you can transfer nationalities, there are also a handful of fees associated with transferring. The entire list of costs is on the United World Wrestling regulation (annotated below), but essentially UWW taxes 5,000 CHF (goes to a continental development fund) and a second payment is made to the original national federation based on the result of the athlete. However, that fee is only assessed should that federation request payment for their cost for training, which is not insignificant.

Scale:
  • Olympic & world gold medalist Swiss Francs 300'000
  • Olympic & world silver or bronze medalist Swiss Francs 200'000
  • Continental championship gold medalist Swiss Francs 100'000
  • Continental championship silver or bronze medalist Swiss Francs 50'000

    The system works well. Only serious-minded athletes with willing federations are making international transfers and nobody seems to be doing it without the blessing of the United States, Russia, or Ukraine -- the largest three locations of future transfers.

    In the case of San Marino, Ireland, and other small nations, the process assists them in creating more opportunities for existing wrestlers in that country. David Habat has enjoyed success in Slovenia and as such received training funding from Olympic Solidarity. The national federation was also able to apply for more funding in-nation based on his results. Increased exposure for the sport in these nations leads to more governmental and sponsorship support and even increases television pickups for smaller regional broadcasters.

    I get that nationalism is important and there are a lot of Americans who think we are Star-Spangled Awesome, but if you can expatriate to go be a banker in Singapore, there is no reason you can't do the same if you want to compete in your sport. Not a controversy, just an incorrect or outdated justification guiding some of Wrestling Twitter's commentary.

    MULTIMEDIA HALFTIME

    Go 'Hoos!

    Sadualev in the Matrix


    Q: Is wrestling the only sport to award points for penalties? Does that discourage refs from calling them the way they should be? All other sports award positional advantages or free opportunities to score. Should folkstyle wrestling award choice of position for a step out, a second stall, hands to the face, or other minor infraction? This might make refs more willing to make the call without directly deciding matches
    -- Paul R.


    Foley: Ahh. That's an original idea. The rules do set positional option (advantage) for an injury time. I wonder if that would work for a step out, second stall, or hands to the face. Certainly there is a lot to consider in the way of gamesmanship and how these rules might complicate the viewer's experience, but I could be for some deeper dives into how that could be implemented.

    The only major issue I can foresee right away is that the matches might drag a little bit from being put to the mat. Also, the referees might get too aggressive with the stall calls and cause wrestlers to bully into each other from neutral in order to try and draw out those calls quicker.

    Maybe a stall call puts the wrestler on the shot clock? Essentially, you're giving control back to the athletes and it's an easy-to-follow model that's been used at the international level, but is also seen in other sports.

    Q: Were you surprised that former Cal State Fullerton wrestler T.J. Dillashaw popped for performance enhancing drugs (EPO)? Do you think he will ever be a title contender again?
    -- Mike C.


    Foley: Dillashaw's EPO use was always a little too visible to believe that the UFC (or his management) had no idea this day would come. The current USADA ban is two years, but is soon increasing to four years to match the current WADA ban, which is utilized for Olympic sports. I think Dillashaw's career is over, but should he have any hope of returning to the octagon it's only because he slipped that additional two-year penalty.

    I tried to find the tweet, but there was recently a post that listed the UFC fighters with the most tests with no abnormalities. Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier topped that list. Add in the obviously-not-doping Ben Askren and I think that wrestling is represented well among the top fighters, even with Dillashaw's bust.

    Q: Why doesn't the UFC, Bellator, etc. start signing world-level junior wrestlers with the promise of one paid Olympic cycle and high-level wrestling training in exchange for a few years of fighting in their organization? These wrestlers would be able to focus on their wrestling for a cycle while being paid and the organization would already have them locked into a contract and have highly credentialed wrestlers coming in. This may not be positive for USA Wrestling or the NCAA, but it might force them and wrestling clubs to compete financially to keep wrestlers. Thoughts?
    -- Ryan P.


    Foley: They do! Bellator has signed several developmental contracts with athletes, though most require more upfront training in MMA. Milyal Makhov of Russia had signed a developmental contract with the UFC as he was wrestling for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Jarod Trice, Tyrell Fortune, and Joey Davis all signed with Bellator before picking up their first fight, which is basically a developmental contract, though it leaves no room for Olympic training.

    Maybe the UFC would consider something like your option for Bo Nickal and Anthony Cassar.

    Q: Congrats to your 'Hoos on winning the national championships in basketball! The Final Four was held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis where the NCAAs will be held next year. Did you hear any feedback from those who attended the Final Four about what the NCAAs might be like at U.S. Bank Stadium?
    -- Mike C.


    Foley: What an incredible story. To go from being knocked out in the first round in 2018 to winning it all in 2019 is a story for the ages. The amount of belief that team kept in themselves, their coaches, and each other will be talked about for a long time. Go 'Hoos!

    As for the 2020 NCAAs, Jim Harshaw, who was an All-American at U.Va. in 1998 and currently works for the fundraising arm for Virginia Sports, said something to the effect of, "The best seats from prior years wouldn't be quite as good, and the worst seats wouldn't be quite as bad."

    It's a large place. My hope is that the local organizing committee takes input from the wrestling community in Minnesota and optimizes the arena for the event. With that, I'd like to offer my input which is they need an elevated platform for all the wrestling! Each round and each mat!
  • Comments

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    Wvchamp (1) about 2 months ago
    Great mailbag this week very informative.
    JoeOhio (1) about 2 months ago
    Doesn't the Olympic governing body favor sports that distribute medals among the greatest number of nations? If true, then the exporting of U.S. talent (or that of any wrestling power) is good for the sport.
    MLJ (1) about 2 months ago
    Two quick things:

    1. Are Askren and Burroughs getting paid for their match?

    2. Regarding wrestlers representing other countries: Wrestling diplomacy should be promoted. Good for them. If anything, it will help grow the sport in the countries they are representing overseas.
    dbestsport (1) about 2 months ago
    In baseball, if a pitcher balks with the bases loaded, the opposing team scores a run. In Tennis, if a player commits a violation, the first offense is a point, the 2nd is the loss of a game, and the 3rd is Default.
    However, I also am not a fan of officials actually awarding points. I like the idea of a shot clock, but the reality is, it becomes less useful in 2 minute periods.
    One answer is having officials communicate better with wrestlers. Make their verbal warnings more clear. If a wrestler is not aggressive, than the official should make that wrestler, and their corner aware that he needs to be more aggressive. This way, when an official does make a stalling call, it is not a surprise to the wrestler of their coaches.
    cellinisubs (1) about 2 months ago
    Radiator (1) about 2 months ago
    I have mixed feelings about refs giving verbal warnings. There job is to prevent injury and score the match. Not motivate and instruct
    dbestsport (1) about 2 months ago
    In boxing, the referee communicates with fighters if they are clutching too much or hitting behind the head, etc. If the boxer persists, the referee penalizes them by deducting points.
    Communicating is never a bad thing.
    As a fan, I don't get frustrated by a stalling call, I get frustrated when the call appears unjust/inconsistent or the wrestler didn't get proper warning.
    cellinisubs (1) about 2 months ago
    Are there any sports other than wrestling that penalize stalling? Basketball uses 4 corners to stall. Football runs out the clock at the end of games. Hockey dumps the puck. Other team sports employ various stall tactics.
    Stalling is often called in wrestling when the offending wrestler lacks the ability to adequately camouflage his non aggressive behavior.
    LoneWolf (1) about 2 months ago
    Virginia won their championship the same way Nolf did. Both had fantastic seasons, earned #1 seeds, and then were the beneficiaries of unbelievable non-calls in the semifinals that even Stevie Wonder could see, which were probably the determining factor in their "wins". It's hard to celebrate that.

    As for your comments are wrestling for other nations, your comment that it's not a controversy is stupid. Since some people disagree, by definition it is a controversy. A journalist should at least understand the meaning of the words that he writes. It's fine to be of the opinion that switching countries is acceptable. I disagree. If that's your opinion then I don't see why we should compete by countries at all. We could compete as individuals. At least then we could say the Olympics truly has the best athletes in the world competing. But if we aren't going to scrap nationalities, then we should be honest and athletes should only compete for their "true" homeland. And I'm fine with them deciding which country they have more affection for. But it's not a tragedy if you don't compete internationally if you aren't the best in your own country.
    Tartan (1) about 2 months ago
    The reversed TD call in the Nolf-Hidlay NCAA tournament was the correct call. They were scrambling on the mat from neutral, and Hidlay got behind Nolf as they were coming to their feet. From that position, Nolf's hand(s) did not touch the mat and the clock ran out. No takedown.