Foley's Friday Mailbag: Aug. 17, 2012

InterMat senior writer T.R. Foley answers reader questions about NCAA wrestling, international wrestling, recruiting, or anything loosely related to wrestling. You have until Thursday night every week to send questions to Foley's Twitter or email account.

Do you want to read a past mailbag? View Archives.

The Olympics are over, and as if they were left alone in the corner too long, the NCAA wrestling season has done well to rear its head and make a fuss. As he was preparing Jake Varner to win a gold medal at 96 kilos, Penn State head wrestling coach was spamming Twitter with his disgust for the new NCAA wrestling season that would crown the team champion at the end of a dual meet tournament rather than the individual championships in March. That's right folks, just when everything seemed OH SO DANDY for the state of wrestling in the United States, the largest change in the sport's history was offered with nay more than a blurb.

But there is also so much more that the NCAA wrestling season has to offer us than the overall championship picture in 2014. We can start talking about the individual athletes poised to make a jump, and the teams that are gearing up to challenge Penn State and the boys for the NCAA title.

So we are left in a transitional period, the NCAA season rising up to dominate our discussions, and the Olympic cycle highlighted by two gold medals and a two bronze medals.

Oh, and though I am on vacation for the next two weeks I will still be filing mailbags and articles. They might include anecdotes about the tropical paradise from which I'm typing, but I'll do my best not to rub it in.


Clarissa Chun after winning the Olympic bronze medal (Photo/John Sachs,

I'm offering a free InterMat T-shirt to the best 250-word submission of what Clarissa Chun has meant to USA Wrestling. I don't care if you don't think you like women's wrestling, the chick can roll and has earned our community's respect.

Now for your mail ...

Q: Regarding the proposed change to the NCAA Championships: What is the major problem that the NWCA is trying to fix?
-- Jefferson T. B.

Foley: The NWCA is battling the ongoing contraction of NCAA wrestling at the Division I level by creating new and profitable ways to grow the sport. It's an old school problem without many new solutions. The new format is a proposal for BIG change.

The NCAA tournament is one of only five NCAA championship events that makes money for the NCAA. The NWCA and the NCAA recognize that an additional event -- especially one that crowns the team champion -- would pump out cash for the NCAA and provide the possibility of trickle down interest that could result in programs earning more money and ginning up interest in their team on campus.

Wrestling will always be in danger, but until this proposal there hasn't been even a feasible new idea that could curb the reduction of schools at the Division I level. Think about it, our best defense has been large individual gifts by wealthy alumni, which is akin to using. Today, with more opportunities for advertising dollars and a the growing interest thanks to MMA the sport is positioned to make some money for programs of all levels.

Look, I love the format as it stands, but if we want to maintain the 77 programs we have right now, or possibly add a few more, we'll need to find new solutions. The dual team format could be the solution.

Q: what prompted Cael Sanderson to not compete for an Olympic spot? What are your thoughts on the potential of Kyle Dake?
-- @Rweezy02

Foley: I'm not sure why Sanderson sat out, but I think he just didn't find an Olympic run as compelling as continuing his career as a coach. Judging by his work with Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner, it was a selfless choice that paid off well.

As for Kyle Dake and his future, it's obvious that he has unlimited potential. If he could make 66 kilos the USA team would be in position to win the next Olympic Games. (We finished in third in the unofficial team standings, two points behind first-place finishers Russia and Georgia.) Overall, I like Dake's chances of becoming a constant presence on the international scene.

Q: One wrestler you failed to mention at 149 is one who I think is as dangerous as any of the others. That would be Donnie Vinson from Binghamton. He went 40-5 last year but more impressively wrestled all the way back for third at the NCAAs after losing his opening round match. In that string he beat Osterman, Jantzen, Terrazas, Grajales, Lester, Nauman, and Tessari. He might have some transitional issues with the coaching change there but he was clear peaking as the season drew to a close.
-- Christopher E.

Foley: To be honest I knew that I missed on Vinson after I pushed SEND on that article. Sometimes my brain can access all the fun facts and names it needs and other times it fails me. (Brain, don't fail me now!) You'd think that the Olympics would give you so much material, but really it just made me obsessed with learning how to pronounce the names of the dudes from Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Vinson's drive through the semifinals was f$%^ing unreal! I remember sitting next to my esteemed editor and talking about the winner of the Tessari/Vinson match being the Ironman Award winner -- Tessari had also lost his first match. Vinson is a scrapper and it'll be interesting to see what new Binghamton head coach Matt Dernlan will do to progress his game. My guess is that he'll make the NCAA finals. Mark it.

I think 149 will be one of the most contested weights. As of right now we don't have the clear-cut stud of the weight, which means a season with several wrestlers occupying the top spot and plenty of conjecture on who should earn the top seed at the NCAA tournament. Should be an awesome seeding meeting.

Multimedia Halftime

Jordan Burroughs on Leno ...

Jake Varner billboard ...

This should motivate everyone to pick up a pair of shoes and hit the mats ...

Q: Enjoy the insight on the weekly mailbag feature. I've often heard U.S. wrestlers mention a different 'feel' they experience when wrestling foreign competition. What exactly are they describing? Tieups, pace, counters, or body hair? Jordan Burroughs mentioned how his match up with Gentry at the Olympics was like wrestling an American, I suspect the 15+ years of scholastic style background has a lot do with it. Is there really a big difference between U.S. wrestling style or 'feel' in freestyle than international competition? Or is it perhaps a lack of actual mat time/familiarity with opponents that causes U.S. wrestlers to describe this experience? How do the rest of the Olympic freestylers wrestle that our guys don't experience wrestling other U.S. guys?
-- Geoff S.

Foley: Body hair. I like that.

Gentry is going to wrestle like an American, because the dude is an American. You bring up an interesting point that the description of an international "feel" is rather ambiguous. Not to worry I have your explanation.

A few months ago I wrote a cover feature FIGHT! Magazine on new UFC middleweight signee Hector Lombard. The 200-pound Lombard was a judoka and competed in the 2000 Olympics for Cuba and upon seeing my ears wanted to tie up and grapple on our feet. Fine, I'll do anything for a story, but it was odd to wrestle a non-wrestler. His instinct was to GIVE ME THE UNDERHOOK and because I thought I wanted an underhook I obliged him.

Wait ... WHY was he letting me have an underhook? Do I REALLY want this underhook? Oh no ...

Lombard's past was in judo, mine was in American wrestling, so when we met in the middle it was a confusing interaction -- especially as we had no ground rules in place. Wrestlers from Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Mongolia all have an entirely different physical tradition than we do in America. Our style is incredibly physical and unique -- our rule set is such that it adds a level of tenacity and angst to our every motion. We wrestle with our muscles tense because giving up a takedown in folkstyle results in the potential of giving up back points, riding time and the pace of the match. Not so in freestyle.

Let's take a look at the Dagestani wrestler whose been rolling cine he was six with other children inside a physical tradition that is ONLY freestyle wrestling. The Dagestanis have crafted their bodies under the rules of freestyle. They're limber in some areas where we are tense and unbothered when we might become frantic. They are coming to us from a singular tradition and one that is HIGHLY regional, which is the same exact individualism of styles can be seen in Japan, India and Egypt -- every country has their physical tradition and when it shows up on the mat it varies wildly from our own.

International feel is the physical reactions of opponents and how they contract to that of Americans.

By the way if you throw an easy underhook against a Cuban judoka prepare to be thrown. It's a trap. I got tossed.

Q: What is your take on the format of the Olympic bracket? I personally think that once you're at the Games, wrestle a full bracket with a full wrestle back. Since they don't seed the tournament, a difficult draw could be the end of your day in spite of having the talent to advance and get more Olympic experience under your belt. My second rib with the format is the dual bronze medal being awarded. What's one more match? This just seems hokey on the awards stand.

I understand the rational of trying to fit the tournament in to a single day, but at what cost? I still believe in a bracket of up to 32 wrestlers you could run though a true double elimination format bracket, 31 matches in the championship and 29 in the consolations. I think rolling this in to two days and wrestling out to maybe even sixth or eighth place, just like an NCAA bracket, would be ideal.
-- Nate T

Foley: I covered this issue in the past two mailbags. You could never convince me to endorse an international seeding meeting. It would be insanity. Have you ever played RISK with family members? Shit gets real. You could never control the corruption, and the Americans would ALWAYS be given the shittiest draw imaginable.

What separates many of these top athletes is so minor that seeding is unnecessary. Yes, 96 kilos and 84 kilos got a little wacky, but it's preferable to knowing that the draws were due to luck and not a conspiracy. Repechage takes care of most of the worst draws.

You want to wrestle a full 22-person bracket? Eh. I think that would get equally corrupt with countries buying off advancements more than they already do. However, having the two bronze medal winners wrestle isn't a terrible idea, though I think that they have four medals because there used to be 30 medals across ten weight classes and this way they can have a comparable number of medals (28) across the seven weights.

Q: I read your story on our inability to win any kind of medals in Greco. I myself have come to distance myself from these two styles of wrestling as this governing body keeps changing the rules every year. It start with weights an amount of weights changes, the clinch to decide a match is horrible. But worst of all is the pushing out of bounds rule. I watched some of our Greco guys and two in particular lost because of being pushed out of bounds. I mean it one thing if you are in a hold and you get taken out of bounds, but what was happening something like a sumo match. Our styles I believe conflict mentally for our guys who attack but stay in mat.
-- Ismael M.

Foley: Greco just isn't that interesting to many wrestlers in college, and with rule changes, few places to train, and matches that come down to reverse lifts no American talent is going to dedicate themselves. For us, it's a broken sport.

As for the pushout, I think it works well in freestyle where it promotes action. Also, saying "it's like sumo" is not a good argument. Other styles around the world have boundary rules and since freestyle is meant to be a collaborative style among the various traditional styles around the world a pushout is perfectly rational. Also, it's not too dissimilar from stalling in American folkstyle, except it's not administered with subjectivity. It's more complicated than JUST punishing the less-aggressive wrestler, but functions to keep action going and prevent too many ball grabs.



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jammen (2) about 8 years ago
Two weeks in a row you have discussed the contenders for 149 weight class, yet have failed to mention Dylan Ness. Why?
trfoley (1) about 8 years ago
I wasn't focused on providing a full weight class preview and also forgot to mention Jason Chamberlain. Those two guys make this weight even MORR entertaining. Who do you think takes it?
mherrle (1) about 8 years ago
I heard he might be moving to 57 this year. Can't confirm but heard thru the grapevine
jimharshaw (1) about 8 years ago
Excellent post as usual. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the success of Coleman Scott vs Jake Herbert not medaling. They're both from Pittsburgh so it's easy to assume they'll just always win.