The wrestlers were released 36 hours later after police were unwilling or unable to file charges against the pair. The investigation is still underway, and charges could be posted at any time, but as of Thursday night the only action taken is that the University of Minnesota has placed the wrestlers on a mandatory suspension from team activities.
Nobody in the wrestling community enjoys hearing about the arrest of our top athletes. Our sport receives such little attention, that when it's wasted on the negative some in the community wish to not discuss it or have outlets like InterMat carry the facts. That repulsion to the facts were on display this week.
While I can understand wanting a moderated response (innocent until proven guilty), there is no precedent for burying news just because fans don't want to hear it. In fact, the opposite is true. If self-censorship was more common among media outlets (as is now being promoted on message boards and comment threads) then it only harms the fans, since the discretion moves from one of newsworthiness to one of a fan's feelings.
The accusations against Steveson and Martinez are serious and should they be found guilty of wrongdoing the punishment will be severe. Sexual assault is a criminal offense, but it's also an offense that can fall under EEOC for dismissal from school, and one that can trigger a SafeSport violation. The latter two may not need a criminal outcome, much like civil court doesn't depend on a criminal verdict.
At this point, there is no way for me (or you) to know what happened, but there is room to discuss how we as a community should approach this topic in the future. While the news coverage is interesting, it pales to some of the more reprehensible attitudes. Some members of our community mismanaged this discussion by making victim accusations rather than showing compassion and utilizing patience.
The internet often finds a way to promote its platform's most controversial opinions. Just look at the comments on articles from this column over the last 18 months -- there is no topic boring enough to escape the ever-expanding bilge of hate-filled trolls. Like many of you, I saw the article and thought of how incredibly awful for this young woman -- someone's daughter, sister, best friend, coworker -- to be attacked by two men. To have a turbulent mixture of sadness, anger, and doubt swirling in her head is difficult to fully grasp. To maybe have had an innocence forever taken from her. Sexual assault -- rape -- isn't just a physical assault, it's a crime that can injure the mind and soul forever.
But there were prominent wrestlers and former wrestlers who looked past those feelings and immediately found comfort in making efforts to victim shame. That this was another example of the non-existent trend of "false reporting" -- women who inaccurately describe sexual encounters in order to slander a man's name.
While false reports have happened the numbers are dwarfed by real assaults -- women who haven't suffered just reputational damage but rape. Individuals arguing that this case is false based on the premise they like the wrestler and they've "heard it happens nowadays" doesn't make them the member of some enlightened elite, it convicts them of uncurable stupidity and moral failure.
According to RAINN, more than 320,000 Americans older than 12 years old were victims of sexual assault or rape last year alone. Seems that even the trolliest troll would admit that half a million women aren't faking their stories of sexual assault.
The cruelty necessary to question the honesty of a victim is incompatible with the values of any community, large or small. When members of the wrestling community chime in with ignorant statements they are seeking attention because they need validation. They need to be seen because they need to feel loved or hated to feel validated; to be exalted by praise or motivated by anger to have a purpose.
So for these athletes and keyboard jockeys finding humor in this women's pain, you're a disgrace. But for the fans out there seeing it, do us all a favor and take away the thing that gives them power: ignore them in earnest. Discard their self-serving opinions and myopic world view in favor of something more productive, creative, kind, and loving. We have a wrestling community filled with beautiful, trustworthy and sincere people. Find them. Promote them. It'll make for a much better world, and sport.
To your questions …
Q: If Gable Steveson requests a special wrestle-off for the U23 team, should it be granted to him?
Foley: I'm not sure what the procedure would be with USA Wrestling, but there is nothing legally (that I'm aware of) that would limit his participation in those types of events. Now, were it an NCAA-sanctioned event he would need to be in good standing with his team, which as of today he isn't as he is still suspended.
However, if charges are filed there is likely some guideline in place that would limit him from competition. Also, there is SafeSport which would almost certainly come into play, though I can't speak to how that policy is enforced and what would trigger its implementation (charges vs. conviction).
Q: Now that Bo Nickal requested a special wrestle-off for the U23 team, do you think any of the other eligible wrestlers will? I believe Daton Fix, Yianni Diakomihalis, Ryan Deakin and Gable Steveson are all eligible.
-- Mike C.
Foley: As of now three of the eligible nine wrestlers who lost in Final X have requested a wrestle-off: Bo Nickal, Cohlton Schultz, and Brady Koontz. I wouldn't suspect that Fix will look to wrestle in both tournaments. Yianni's team is currently attempting to litigate him onto the senior team, but could go ahead and schedule the wrestle-off in case they aren't granted what they are seeking. Would be a shame to not see him compete at U23 because of the situation that was created.
Imagine Deakin will submit but don't know for sure!
Daton Fix scored a late takedown on Thomas Gilman at Final X: Lincoln (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: What did you think of the takedown call awarded to Daton Fix against Thomas Gilman late in their third match? Seemed really close, but I personally didn't think it was a takedown.
-- Mike C.
Foley: After Final X Rutgers I chose to watch a comedy show rather than Final X, so I didn't have the benefit of seeing the scramble live. That means I've probably been manipulated a bit. Still, my take is that it's a pretty straightforward takedown. Gilman switched legs at the end of the scramble and went double under on the left leg, but was flat to the mat. The international rules and interpretation are not very compassionate when control is established with one wrestler in total par-terre position.
The leg was also underneath the body. Had Gilman kept his hips off the mat and the leg over his head, or elevated, he could maybe have avoided the points. But I think that if you're flat on the mat and your opponent is parallel with arms locked around you it's a takedown.
Q: With Takuto Otoguro and Kaori Icho losing at the Meiji Cup last week, do you think there is a real chance we won't see one or both at the Tokyo Olympics? Icho would be going for her fifth Olympic title in her home country. Would be stunning if she didn't make the team.
-- Mike C.
Foley: Kaori Icho is 35 years old and has been hammering the mats since she was 5 years old. That's a lot of know-how, but also a lot of damage to the body. She has slowed significantly the past three years. She isn't protecting her legs as well as she was in Rio and everything from her ankles to her back looks stiff as wood.
While I'm a card-carrying member of her fan club, I think that Risako Kawai (a fellow Olympic champion) has more steam at the moment.
As for Otoguro, he too is facing an accomplished opponent in Rio 2106 silver medalist Rei Higuchi. Otoguro has a number of wins over Higuchi, but looked a step slower in their finals match, often waiting until Higuchi was deep on an attack to launch a counter scoring move. Wasn't pretty, and when you add in his sock pull and suspect lungs maybe Japan would benefit from Higuchi in Tokyo.
Nice thing is that this is all settled on July 6 and we get to watch!
Q: This makes nine straight world teams for Jordan Burroughs, I think the record is 14 straight by Bruce Baumgartner (1983-1996) having medaled in all but '91. Any idea where JB stacks in consecutive or total world teams made?
-- Frank C.
Foley: Way, way up there. Only modern comparison would come on the women's side with Adeline making her eighth world team. As for a historical reference I don't have the pull for that at the moment, but I think that someone in the comments can add their best guesses.
I mean John Smith made six and won six. Yikes.
Spencer Lee defeated Jack Mueller to claim his second straight NCAA title (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Q: Why didn't Spencer Lee compete for the World Team? Is he injured? A healthy Lee might have beaten out Fix for that spot.
-- Andy S.
Foley: Unclear and Iowa isn't talking at the moment. It's been a bit since Spencer has competed in freestyle. Maybe he's deferred to Gilman? Maybe he's not that good at freestyle anymore?! (just kidding). Either way, if he's planning on making a run at the team in 2020 I'm not sure that sitting out the entire quad was the right call.
Q: Now that Aaron Pico has taken three losses in seven MMA fights, do you think it could alter his original plans? Do you see him making a run for the 2020 Olympic Team at 65 kilograms? Obviously, he is 6-0 against Zain, but would he have enough time to get back into form? Is he eligible to compete for Mexico?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Last I've heard he's eligible in terms of transfer, but unclear if he's activated that transfer or what he wants to do in order to compete. There is likely no way he can be on the team for this year's World Championships, since the transfer would have needed to be done last December. He could still enter and qualify from the continental championships or the last chance qualifier.
I'd love to see Pico back on the mats!
Q: What wine pairs best with watching international tournaments at 4 a.m.? I've got a nice semi-dry Riesling from 2014 I may break out for the Medved.
Foley: If you like a dry Riesling I think you'll enjoy a Gruner. Typically a little cheaper, drier, and frankly better. But are you trying to drink wine at 4 a.m.? What about an Irish coffee? Trick is to make your own whip cream for the mug and use Jameson. I think I'd start there and move into a 7 a.m. Bloody Maria (tequila) before moving to a more sustainable beer choice -- like Guinness.
I'm genuinely interested in hearing what you choose. Also, this reminds me that there will be A LOT of tired fans in September, with the 2019 World Championships in Nur-Sultan.