InterMat recently talked to Floreani about Flowrestling, his critics, FloNationals, the future of the sport, and much more.
Martin FloreaniWhat was your motivation behind starting Flowrestling?
Floreani: I started Flowrestling for two reasons. The first reason was that I wanted something of my own and I thought, 'Why not do something where you work with something you love?' The second reason was that I wasn't a very good wrestler. I thought I could achieve great things in wrestling. I can outwork anybody and I have a very deep fire and passion for the sport. So when I fell short, I didn't understand. It bothered me and I guess Flowrestling was a way for me to talk to the greats of the sport and really understand what was missing in me for me to be great in wrestling.
When you reflect back on your all you have done with Flowrestling, what are you most proud of?
Floreani: I'm proud of trying to take wrestling to a new level, trying to make it different by connecting the underground cult of wrestlers throughout the nation and world with video, trying to give something to the wrestling community that no one else has. It deserves it because wrestling is the most exciting sport in the world. I think we have made some difference in the last couple years. I think we have a long way to go. But if I look at the advancements, that's what I'm most proud of.
You have been outspoken about how wrestling can't follow the mold of different sports in terms of media coverage. Why does wrestling have to be different? And how can the sport receive the media coverage that wrestling fans believe it should?
Floreani: Wrestling has to be different because every sport is competing against each other. That's just a fact. Americans only have so many hours, so many minutes a week that they can dedicate to being fans of something. So it has to be different. It has to change the mold because it's behind. Wrestling is losing. You have to do something differently if you're losing. That's why it needs to be different. If two sailboats are in a race and one is behind, the sailboat that is behind has to do something differently because it's going to lose if it just follows what the boat the first place boat is doing. Right now, by wrestling just following the mold of trying to get on TV or doing the typical stuff that the old guard has continued to do despite the ever-changing world around them, then it's going to end up losing like the sailboat that is behind. Even in the 2000s, I think it has taken steps back in general, losing big name programs like the University of Oregon. It's hard to replace the University of Oregon, even with Utah Valley State coming in. I've been to Utah Valley State and I love it. But it's just hard to replace the University of Oregon with Utah Valley State. There's a big difference there. I think wrestling is losing, so it has to do something different to win.
Flowrestling has a huge following of loyal supports. You have received praise from the biggest names in the sport. However, Flowrestling also has its critics. You have had rifts with members of major wrestling organizations, including members of USA Wrestling and the National Wrestling Coaches Association. How do you respond to your critics?
Floreani: Whenever you have change, Andrew, you're going to have critics. Why? Because there is going to be a shift in power and structure. So whenever someone is advocating change in almost any field, you're going to have critics, people who say, 'That's very bad.' Why? Well, it's not in their self interest that this change is occurring. That's why I have critics ... because it's not in their self interest. I would say that they don't know what's in their self interest. They think it's not in their self interest. Some of these people have an old-guard type of mentality. They don't see a couple steps down the line. The fact is ... you run a different organization with InterMat, formerly RevWrestling.com. For me to call you my competitor in wrestling at this stage in the game, I think is a little silly. What we would really be fighting over is something so small. We really need to work together and grow this sport. Your success will hopefully translate into wrestling's success, which will hopefully reverberate right back to me. Yes, there is some competition between different media outlets. But really the most important thing is the media outlets have to work together. When people are trying to close doors at the expense of wrestling because they view Flowrestling as a competitor, or InterMat as a competitor, or any other media outlet as a competitor, that hurts wrestling, and in the end it hurts them.
Earlier this summer, you announced the creation of FloNationals for high school wrestlers, which will debut March 27-28, 2010 at Walsh Jesuit High School in Ohio. With so many national events for high school wrestlers already in place, why have FloNationals?
Floreani: We saw an opportunity where we feel like people weren't doing it right. They were trying to take advantage of the sport to really make money. I'm not a socialist by any means, Andrew. I'm a thriving capitalist. But my philosophy is you better put out an awesome product ... and especially when I have one as emotionally attached to as I am with wrestling. You better treat wrestling right ... and then make money. You better have a foundation of putting out an amazing product ... and then if you can make money off that, then that's great. Billy Barger and I came together ... actually we've been talking about this for a while. We felt like the people out there weren't putting out a great product. We felt like there was an opening to put a great product and really do great things for the sport. It took me a while to come around to it and say this is really something we want to do. Once I made the decision, it was just right. It will add value to the sport by bringing a true national championship to the high school level ... and that's in line with our main philosophy. That's what we want to do.
Martin FloreaniWhat has the response from wrestlers, coaches, and fans throughout the country?
Floreani: They love it. The philosophy we have is putting value first ... and they know that. They know we're going to run it right. If anyone has ever been to the Ironman, it's one of the most well run tournaments in the nation. Maybe even in the world. It is smooth. Those guys have a great system. I have always admired how they treated the fans there ... and the overall atmosphere of the tournament. The response has been extremely positive. People are really excited.
You have a unique content feature on Flowrestling called Technique Wave. Explain what Technique Wave is all about and why people should use it?
Floreani: Technique Wave is great because it's a unique place where people can go to see technique from all different kinds of wrestlers and coaches. They're able to sort technique, like a single leg, for example, and see 10 different examples of single legs ... single leg counters ... scoring backpoints off single legs. It's very dynamic in that way. It allows kids to basically get an overview from all these different technicians in one place. That's completely unique. Nothing else has that. I have a big belief that little things make a big difference in kids' careers. If they can take a small little piece from Technique Wave, or if they learn something that helps them win one more match in the sectional ... and that allows them to get more experience so that maybe the next year they can win more and get to state, place, and now go to college off of it. So little things make a difference. That's why I think Technique Wave is an extremely powerful tool for kids and coaches throughout the country. They're able to see all these different coaches from all over the country give examples of their best technique. And that's powerful. You can come to one place and see it all. It's constantly growing too. We're committed to constantly add new technique to it.
A lot of wrestling fans appreciate the fact that Flowrestling covers the Russian Nationals. What is your motivation behind covering that event?
Floreani: Russia has the best wrestling right now in the world. It's really hard to argue. The results speak for themselves. Flowrestling wants to showcase the best wrestling in the world. We mainly do things in the United States, but we would love to be international and do things across the world. Wherever the best wrestling in the world is, Flowrestling wants to be there to give to our audience.
You and your staff are all over the place, covering wrestling events of all types and ages, but you and your staff were noticeably absent from the Junior & Cadet Nationals in Fargo this summer. Why did Flowrestling choose not to cover the Junior & Cadet Nationals this summer?
Floreani: One of the reasons was that Joe (Williamson) was just getting back from Russia. He was pretty exhausted. So turning around and going to Fargo would have been pretty difficult. Another one of the reasons is ... USA Wrestling is starting to support us a little bit. But in the past, it hasn't been the most pleasant thing being at their events relative to other events. At other events, we're definitely taken care of. We're appreciated. Sometimes we feel like we're treated with hostility at USA Wrestling events. It's a little more stressful because we're kind of walking on pins and needles. I'll say that. We're constantly working on changing that. We want to work with USA Wrestling. Joe is trying to develop those relationships where he feels comfortable being at those events. We love what we do. It's not pleasant if we feel a little bit stressed out at a place because the relationship isn't as smooth as it can be. So it's a combination of factors.
The U.S. Freestyle Team is coming off a disappointing Olympic Games performance. Some attribute the U.S. struggles to the fact that our athletes have not been compensated well enough for them to be able to make a full-time commitment to training. Obviously, the Living the Dream Medal Fund was created to help address that issue. Others believe that folkstyle wrestling holds the U.S. back in terms of development in the international styles. In your opinion, why has the U.S Freestyle Team struggled in recent years? And what's it going to take for the U.S. Freestyle Team to become a stronger force on the world stage?
Floreani: I think it's a leadership issue. I have a firm belief that if Flocasts doesn't do well, I don't really pin it on anyone else's shoulders. I'm one of the founders of Flocasts and I put the responsibility on myself. I think it all starts from the top in every aspect. That's with the NWCA, USA Wrestling, and state organizations. I think everybody has to take responsibility. It starts from the top. The leaders have to take responsibility. We have to hold the leaders accountable. And I think they want to be held accountable. If they're good, they want to be held accountable. We're in America. We're in the greatest country in the world. Hands down. I just got back from Brazil ... just to understand and appreciate everything that we have in the United States. Brazil is beautiful and great in its own way, but at the same time, I love getting back in the United States after I've been gone for a while. It's the greatest country in the world. I don't think there's an excuse for this country to be No. 2. When you look at it, it has start at the top. That's phase one of your question.
Do I believe folkstyle holds us back? Absolutely not. I really don't believe it. On compensation, I believe wrestlers, if they can find a different opportunity somewhere, they're going to find a different opportunity. We have to take care of our athletes. We have to figure out ways where they can make money. We have to be proactive in building up the sport so that our best athletes can make a great living. Not only that, but our No. 5 and No. 6 athletes have to be making a decent living where they can go home at Thanksgiving and be proud of how much they make. Not having to say, 'I only make $13,000,' and almost feeling ashamed or guilty for continuing to wrestle because they are limiting their family's opportunities. It's not just about treating the No. 1 guys right, but it's also about treating the No. 5 guys right. I mean, those are the fifth best guys in the nation. There are only a few weight classes in freestyle and Greco. So we have to treat them right. They have to be proud to be wrestling, not feeling guilty for limiting their family's options. Those guys have to be pushing the No. 4 guys. The No. 4 guys have to be pushing the No. 3 guys. The No. 3 guys have to be pushing the No. 2 guys. And the No. 2 guys have to be pushing the No. 1 guys. I think you will have that if every weight class has 10 or 12 guys who are scrambling just to get in the top 5. When steel sharpens steal, then I think we'll be right back with the Russians.
Last year, you took a poll of Division I college wrestling coaches as well as members of the wrestling media to determine the top 10 college wrestling coaches in the country and the top 10 college wrestling coaches on the hot seat. What was your motivation behind that poll?
Martin FloreaniFloreani: We need accountability on all levels. There are instances where coaches stay too long. With the University of Oregon, that's kind of the consensus and a big reason why the program was dropped. Some coaches stay too long. Nobody wants to say it. Nobody wants to be the unpopular guy. But the fact is, just like the top people at USA Wrestling, the NWCA, InterMat, and Flowrestling want to be held accountable, these head coaches have to be held accountable for their jobs.
Being pushed, I think that's a great thing. I think it's a great thing when there are three guys battling it out for the No. 1 spot. Or if the No. 1 guy on the team is feeling pressure from the No. 2 guy. I think the same thing needs to happen with coaching. If people are staying too long and people are feeling too comfortable in their positions, that's not a good thing for wrestling. No one should feel comfortable. They should always be striving and pushing forward. No one wants to write anything bad in this sport. But you can open up a newspaper for all kinds of publications that write about major sports, and writers are calling for coaches heads left and right. In wrestling, because we're such a small cult community, no one wants to do that. At the same time, it needs to be done. I don't think it should be done in a belligerent way or in too negative of a way, but performance needs to be addressed. And if we don't address it, we're dealing with complacency. And we all know where complacency gets us. It gets us to dropped wrestling programs. I'm not the most popular guy for writing that. But I think it's healthy for the sport. Flocasts' vision and fundamental principle is what is good for the sport is good for us. So we try to stick by that even if it's unpopular.
What is the relationship between wrestling and mixed martial arts (MMA) as you see it? Is the rise in popularity of MMA helping or hurting amateur wrestling?
Floreani: I don't know, Andrew. I think as leaders of our sport, we can make it so that it helps. As far as what it's doing, I think it helps in general. But I think it's all how we approach it. I don't want to blend the disciplines at all. If I go to an MMA event, I just don't get as excited as I get when I go to a great wrestling event. I think wrestling is the greatest sport in the world. I'll say that again. I think wrestling is the greatest sport in the world. If we can use MMA to market wrestling that still keeps us independent, I think we should. Wrestling is different than MMA and needs to be different but I think we can still use MMA to our advantage while still keeping a strong independence from MMA.