Foley preparing for Midlands by double-checking style

I once heard that former Pittsburgh NCAA finalist Carl Fronhofer ate a 12 oz. steak and drank a glass of milk the night before weigh-ins. I assumed it was an apocryphal story about a wrestler that most fans recognized as being especially tough (and don't tough guys eat steak and drink whole milk?). I have gotten to know Fronhofer over the years and he is a witty and engaging conversationalist, but I still have never asked him if it is true. I don't want a silly thing like facts to ruin a good story.

In the offseason Fronhofer was named the head wrestling coach at Columbia University and already some of his wrestlers have started mimicking his mentality on the mat: moving forward, hands in good position and solid technique. Fronhofer not only looks like a guy who slid down the back of a Brontosaurus, he teaches his wrestlers to follow his lead.

T.R. Foley gets in deep on a high crotch
I would like to eat a steak and drink a glass of milk before weigh-ins Thursday, and after coaching I also know the benefit of staying in good position. However, I'm no Carl Fronhofer. My style, whatever it was in 2004, will just have to work in 2011.

Competing in seven-minute wrestling matches over two days in a style built for younger men with stronger backs would mean tears to three letter ligaments all over my body. I won't be attempting lateral drops or Jordan Burroughs' open doubles. I enjoy watching these moves, but my style is less aggressive and athletic, more opportunistic and controlling.

Outside the padded rectangular cell of a college wrestling room, I have only seen a handful of grapplers competent and conditioned enough to make it a full go in one wrestling match, much less a half-dozen. For my friends and family, it is an important reminder in tempering expectations according to my overall level of physical conditioning.

But there is room for compensation, instead of doing just what I did in college, I will use my time at Midlands to be ever-more the wrestler I was in college, essentially caricaturing my wrestling style in the hopes of creating more scoring opportunities and catching my breath through efficiency rather than stall techniques.

T.R. Foley was an NCAA Division I All-American and Midlands placewinner while wrestling at the University of Virginia
So how will my early-aughties style match up to today's techniques and strategies? Where do my techniques, especially from top and bottom, fall into this muddle?

I don't know, but I have theories.

Yesterday's most popular moves are often countered by tomorrow's -- where the fireman's carry was once a dominant takedown used by millions of wrestlers over several decades, it has now been mostly neutralized by college coaches who acknowledge the need for a dependable counter. However, that ignorance can also open an opportunity for validation of the theory that "all that's old is new again." Rob Rohn and the cement-mixer, Scott Moore and the headlock, guys have made careers by perfecting moves of the old guard.

History is an indicator of where moves might be going, but there are persistent techniques that almost never leave our physical heritage, primary among them in American wrestling is the head-and-elbow tie -- a moved seen in recreational leagues in southern California and the best of college wrestling in the northeast.

T.R. Foley recently held his own against Mongolian wrestlers, but will he be able to hold his own against college wrestlers?
The collar-and-elbow tie is seen in styles around the world (e.g. Indian Kushti), but it was the collar-and-elbow wrestling that migrated from Ireland that influenced our current folkstyle wrestling heritage. Like we do with food and drink, housing and art, Americans simply expanded on that tradition. More than 160 years after the first Irish Scufflers faced each other on the hay-strewn floors of Vermont barns, we still reach one arm out for our opponents' neck, the other for their arm and pull them tight -- as impossible to eradicate as the use of wrestling shoes or weight classes.

Physical style is always primary, but a secondary style I have committed to understanding is why we have adopted the singlet and headgear as part of our nation's uniform. Dan Sayenga can speak to the sartorial history of American history better than I can, but it has not always been lycra and headgear. Look back little more than half a century and you're transported to a time when knobby ears were accepted collateral damage for competition and shirtless chest bumping an innocuous condition of participation.

I reached out to Jeff Pape, owner of, for recommendations on how to get a singlet made in time for Midlands. (I had less than two weeks.) He referred me to his partners at Brute, but with only 10 days before the tournament, he warned me that the chances were better that I'd be recycling a Team Virginia singlet, rather than strapping into a Wrestling Roots-specific model.

Jeff "Peanut" Bowyer, former head wrestling coach at James Madison University (and coincidentally the first college coach I met as a prep wrestler living in Virginia) was my contact within the Henson Group Sports and set similarly low expectations, "It's the holiday's and we have to get these things sublimated and have all the artwork on our desk in a few days."

"Sublimated?" I asked.

I'm still not clear on exactly how the paneling works, or what material is used (I'll save those details for post-Midlands), but Peanut described it by saying, "Remember those garbage bags you wore in college? These aren't those."

Now that I knew what they weren't I moved onto to asking about Doublets, the two-piece uniforms that were seen a few years ago in college matches primarily by The Citadel and the Univ. of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

I've been doing all my grappling for jiu-jitsu in a similar rash guard and spandex combination, and had grown to feel comfortable in the combination. At 30 years old I'm less excited to show off my body as I was when I was 21. It's a sentiment I'm certain is shared by middle and high school wrestlers across the country.

A few days after our initial conversation I received from Peanut the mock-ups for both the sublimated singlet and the Doublet. It looked incredible and they had done the job in little less than a week.

I have chosen to wrestle my style in the fashions of the day. But what about the traditions that immediately precede a college wrestling tournament, will I relive and recount those?

Shouldn't I be trimming a few extra pounds? Running around the gym in plastics, finding the nearest exercise bike, climbing into an illegal sauna, drilling for an hour longer than I would like, stressing about my starting role, watching film, reading scouting reports, or at the very least walking around the floor of my hotel with a bucket of ice?

Maybe I should, but I am not. Tonight I will watch some television, eat sushi, and enjoy a few glasses of wine before heading to bed around 10 p.m. Tomorrow I will weigh in, eat a breakfast scramble, and have a cup of coffee.

I like steak and milk, good head position, and cutting weight, but I think a plate of chicken, some funky scrambling, and a new singlet are much more my style.


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Sandy Stevens (1) about 6 and a half years ago
Loved reading this story, T.R., and I look forward to calling you to the mat at the Midlands!
dkman610 (1) about 6 and a half years ago
I will be rooting for ya all the way! Saves me from having to try this and get maimed... Good Luck!!