Foley's Friday Mailbag: December 5, 2014

This week came news that Ohio State wrestler and football player Kosta Karageorge died of an apparent suicide. Much of the discussion surrounding his early passing focused on head trauma and his recent messages to family members describing his suffering. With any life, there is much more to the story than an easy headline, or investigative report.

The wrestling community is well-knit -- not only are we uncommonly bonded through our experiences on the mat, but when we communicate in times of loss we often share our own powerful experiences and opinions. Those experiences were shared on Facebook and other forms of social media and painted the portrait of a well-liked, dynamic young man. I've always thought our little subculture was among the best at comforting each other in these times and this week we showed special care in looking out for our friends at Ohio State and Oklahoma. As a wrestling fan, I was proud of my community.

There will be more made of Karageorge's passing in the coming weeks, and with the arguments about the dangers of football swirling, much will focus on what his death means to that sport. There is an important discussion to be had, but it's equally important that we stay aware that while costs are real, we shouldn't remember anyone as a series of analytical feature stories.

And for what it's worth, remember that if you know someone in trouble that it's always worth your time to reach out. Showing someone that you care can for some expend a lot of courage, but in the end it's always the right idea to let someone know that you are there to provide them unconditional love and support.

To your questions ...

Q: Why do Iowa wrestlers seem so miserable after winning? They can major a kid and you'd swear someone ran over their dog.
-- Tim J.

Foley: My friend Peter Maguire recently published a brilliant book called "Thai Stick" about drug smuggling in which a band of surfers traffic the titular form of marijuana from southeast Asia to Hawaii in the 1960s. Maguire is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Rixson Gracie and a well-respected authority on criminality in wartime.

Early in his book Maguire describes the protagonist's failed spiritual journey to India, and his eventual (and fateful) audible to tour Thailand. Maguire notes that unlike many western cultures, which believe life is to be endured with a grunt, the people of Thailand (and much of SE Asia) believe life is to be enjoyed with a smile. For a pot-smoking surfer protagonist this culture shock was the spiritual awakening that helped set him on a decades-long ride of surf trips to exotic locations and making millions in the marijuana trade.

I see institutional approaches to the sport of wrestling in much the same way as the book's protagonist saw SE Asia versus much of the Western world. Wrestling is a difficult physical sport that requires struggle. Often that struggle is easiest to motivate through the lens of a larger tension, maybe one with those in the society around us, or maybe with other programs, values or ideas.

Iowa's Nick Moore gets his hand raised after defeating Minnesota's Danny Zilvberberg, 3-2, in a dual meet in Iowa City last season (Photo/David Peterson)
For Iowa, winning and losing is life and death. From the head coach to the backup, the idea is to accomplish the goal of winning by enduring the suffering necessary to achieve it, while other programs like Penn State, Cornell and UTC seem to take enjoyment from the same journey to the podium. Maybe it's my perception, but the outlook of these programs is more positive, and with fewer dogs being run over by farm equipment.

The enjoy vs. endure comparison is admittedly broad, but for me it puts into focus how and why we lose wrestlers, and the viewing audience. If wrestling is more about the Iowa way than the SE Asia way, then aren't we teaching our wrestlers and fans that wrestling is not fun, that it, like life, must be endured before ultimately being lost to time? Should wrestling hold on tight to the Puritanical spiritual hand-me-down of suffering for a cause, or should we final incinerate that notion with the heat of passion and enjoyment of pursuit?

I prefer the latter and see a lot of progress towards that being the new style of American wrestling. I'm hopeful that the success of programs like Penn State, new youth programs like Jake Herbert's and the growing number of wrestling fans dedicated to growing the sport will help us make this important cultural change. I think that change will reap results and encourage even more enjoyment of sport, and maybe even life.

Multimedia Halftime

Terminator Genysis -- Go ahead and geek out

Drop. The. Beat.

I love this. Enjoy and endure.

Q: I think 2014 was certainly a year when MMA took to combating PEDs seriously. Will 2015 be the year the sport will focus on dangers of weight cutting???
-- Chester Z. Arther

Foley: The popularity of the sport produced better journalism, which in turn did pump out enough pressure to make the UFC a touch more strict regarding PEDs. Weight cutting won't live the same life because it's often seen as a decision to gain the natural edge, and given that 95 percent of fighters engage in massive weight drops there aren't guys in the UFC calling for a restriction. There are few examples of guys missing weight and going to the hospital.

While weight cutting is unpleasant and unhealthy, a one-time drop three times a year is significantly less dangerous than five months of holding a lower weight and yo-yoing to weight in college wrestling. I'd like to see those rules amended well before anything that happens in the cage.

However, that said, I do think the UFC will start to send out notes to their fighters about image posting their weight drop. The UFC is image conscience and they would rather not have fans seeing their fighters lying on the ground wrapped in towels with only gaunt faces exposed to the air ... and Instagram.

Q: What percentage of this week's Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational champs were made when no one was watching?
-- @Rob_SwagginU?

Foley: Assuming that you have a standard margin of error of +/- 4.5% in polling, and accounting for the Polar Vortex, Ebola and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, but also noting that international ballots have yet to be counted, the current percentage of champions coming from the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational whose championships were won when nobody was watching is 70 percent.

This was a very scientific study. The number could have been much higher, but it seems that a large portion of the Cornell wrestling team are videotaped for promotional videos using 24-hour body camera technology, a la "The Circle."

The future is now.


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donski2323 (2) about 7 and a half years ago
Winning is not enough in today's youth wrestling. You have to destroy your opponent. Even when you destroy your opponent there is no time to celebrate. Must win before Tuesday's rankings come out. Kids verbally committing to D-1 schools before they even begin junior years? My 8-year-old nephew just had to wrestle-off so he could wrestle on the weekend...huh? Okay, rant over.
Duhawk45 (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Foley, I usually agree with the mass majority of your responses and posts, but you're wrong when it comes to your assessment of Iowa wrestlers enduring their way to victory.
Endurance is definitely a part of it, but that is not the driving force. Frankly, I don't see any successful wrestling program being successful for long if their wrestlers had to "endure" the season. Excellence drives wrestlers. At Iowa, excellence means dominating your opponent, mentally and physically. Mark Ironside talked about a time after he won a big match when he wrestled for Iowa. Ironside sat down after the match (think he beat the #1 guy in the country) with his chest puffed out expecting high praise from his coaches. Gable walked over and slapped Ironside on the knee and said "Good job".
Ironside recalled thinking, "That's it? That's all I get?" But, Mark realized when Coach Gable was saying shortly afterwards. That match is over, it's time to start working and thinking about the next one.

When Iowa's wrestlers get their hands raised and it's not a dominant performance or maybe even if it is. They don't look pissed because they're enduring, it's because they're already thinking about the next match and how they can better themselves to be better prepared.
DannyClarke (2) about 7 and a half years ago
I like the Ironside story and I appreciate the notion of not letting one victory go to your head. I think never getting too "up" or too "down" (emotionally) is important. Best to keep an even keel and look ahead...

That being said, when an Iowa guy knocks off a top 5 and his hands being raised in Carver Hawkeye at that EXACT moment I highly doubt he's thinking about next Saturday.

I think it's - "If I didn't pin, I didn't win by enough" ... that's the mentality. Whether that's right or wrong I'll reserve judgement.
tjonas (1) about 7 and a half years ago
The iowa fans posting are missing the point completely. A good job is fine but every match i watch the iowa kid only focuses on the negative. Seems like such a downer and no joy. Fix the mistakes in practice. no clue why any high school kid would want to go there, especially the ones who live in pa or michigan.
cradleman (2) about 7 and a half years ago
That is one level but we can't forget about the thousands of kids who wrestle throughout the country that are simply just trying to enjoy and benefit from all that wrestling offers. A kid might think they are a failure by reading something like this. I tell my kids that if losing a wrestling match or any other contest is the worst thing that happens to you in life then you will have a pretty good life. This life and death example is probably not a good one for 90% or more of our wrestlers. It's never fun to lose or not perform to your capabilities but it's not life and death. I had very successful coaches in HS and in College and I never got the feeling that it was life and death. Pick yourself up after getting knocked down. That's probably why I enjoyed watching Ed Ruth and David Taylor over the years. Especially the year Taylor lost to Bubba Jenkins and watching how he composed himself. Class act from a class coach to a class program. Just my two cents.
Pat Fetter (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Iowa wrestlers are trained to dominate and to score points. They want to put on a show for the fans. Read Tom's comments earlier this week about Sammy Brooks becoming a fan favorite. We want points and a lot of them. Big wins and wide margins is what they want. They are upset if they feel they left points out there. Dominate. Make a statement. Put on a show. Fans want points. Hawkeye wrestlers aim to give the fans what they want.
Coachbiskits (2) about 7 and a half years ago
deweydew (2) about 7 and a half years ago
being a former d1 wrestler I have seen them behind the scenes and know first hand that the iowa way breads a certain type of individual... they are like marines that have no personality or thought process .. they just do as told from their psycho maniac coach.. and act as told also.. within other top tier programs they are a laughing stock... not because of their accomplishments on the mat,, which are un denied .. but because of their less than appealing personalities.. there is a reason why guys like cael sanderson are revered outside the wrestling realms ... John smith and J Robinson also ... They have personalities!! it's no wonder WHY Iowa Doesn't get top recruits anymore.. Gable at least had people skills.. For lack of a better parody... going to wrestle for Brands is almost the equivalent to being a Hitler youth !!!
greff (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Iowa is a has been program that will never be again! Gone are the days of plucking multiple star recruits from other states and the Iowa high schoolers just can't compare with PA,Min,CA,Nj, or even NY. Yea they can have second rate ringers like Stoll,Marinelli, or Kemmer but the best will not be heading to the cornfields anymore and that's a fact jack
Ohio_Hawk (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Uhh...which cornfields would your "first rate ringers" be avoiding, Mr. Greff. The cornfields around Columbus OH? Or perhaps you meant the cornfields around Minneapolis, MN? No? Then, maybe the cornfields of Bloomington or W. Lafayette, IN? Champaign, IL? Perhaps Lincoln, NE, home of the Cornhuskers? Come to think of it, there are cornfields around both E. Lansing and Ann Arbor. So, I guess your special and chosen star athletes won't be going to any Big 10 schools other than Maryland or Rutgers, huh?
Bono (2) about 7 and a half years ago
deweydew; the Hitler comparison ruins any credibility you may think you have
tonyrotundo (1) about 7 and a half years ago
That got to Goodwin's Law quickly.
Ohio_Hawk (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Wow. Another in a seemingly endless series of attacks on the character of the Iowa wrestling program which...just a minute while I re-calculate...yup, is perhaps the most successful college sports program in the past half century...and a program whose former athletes now occupy coaching chairs in some of the best programs OUTSIDE of Iowa (including half the Big 10). But right here in Foley's mailbag, you'd never know that. Instead, I read about comparisons to life-wasting pot-smoking surfers, sideways denigrations of farm equipment and cornfields, and for God's sake even Hitler youth. Maybe, guys, Iowa wrestlers prefer to celebrate the NCAA podium over one dual match! Maybe they have higher goals, like Olympic medals! Maybe they just prefer not to gloat in victory (as so, so many do), and it's actually a mark of sportsmanship! Whatever the real reasons behind your brilliant psychoanalyses, gentlemen, it's obvious that Iowa still remains the pinnacle of your wrestling ideals. I rather think that your ugly talk only makes smarter kids WANT to go to Iowa, not just because they will get the best training and coaching, and because they can virtually smell your envy: "Wow! Some people hate Iowa that much! Must be something good going on there for critics to get all riled up for so long!" No, the Iowa program is not perfect. But it's damn good. And that's a fact that I think will cause Mr. Foley to look back on this column of his, in years to come, and feel a bit ashamed. All you did with your commentary was to bring out the ugly side of competition. And others of you jumped on the train and chose to denigrate excellence in your own beloved sport. Thanks, though, for your unwittingly placing Iowa back at the center of the wrestling world.
DannyClarke (1) about 7 and a half years ago
lol you are the most delusional butthurt iowa fan on the internet. congratulations.
Ohio_Hawk (1) about 7 and a half years ago
I rest my case, Mr. Foley. What a forum this has become, a place for epithets against Iowa rather than a discussion amongst wrestling fans. And you started it.
deweydew (1) about 7 and a half years ago
This comment goes out to Ohio Hawk .. I didn't realize that what most logically thinking individuals would take in as some fun banter would hurt your feelings so much .. Im sorry for getting u so worked up.. I didn't realize in this day and age that given all the predicaments this world, and our society for that matter , faces ,,, that someone speaking bad of your beloved hawkeyes would get you so worked up !!! I am truly sorry for hurting your feelings .... p.s. I think the truly "smart " kids go to schools like Cornell or Penn or Harvard !!! just saying !!!
Ohio_Hawk (1) about 7 and a half years ago
1) I rather think that my logic was quite clear. I was responding to your profoundly illogical comments about coaches either "having" or "not having" what you call "personalities." I was also responding to your poor taste employment of the "Hitler youth" metaphor. That kind of name-calling, for your future reference, is never in the category of "fun banter."
2) My feelings were not hurt. I was pissed off by your remarks. Iowa fans hear that kind of crap all the time, by the way.
3) This is a blog about wrestling. It's not about "all the other predicaments in the world," about which you marveled I would ignore. So, I could only respond to your remarks about Iowa, and not to what you might think about other global social issues.
4) My "smarter kids" comment (note, not just "smart kids") was about those who would be smart enough to see through purely derogatory comments about Iowa's wrestling program launched by the envious. It was not about the academic reputations of universities which, in many educated people's minds, are grossly stereotyped anyway. Smart kids, by the way, don't just choose schools. They choose DEPARTMENTS at schools (i.e., Columbia for journalism, Harvard and U. of Chicago for law, Iowa State for Vet Medicine, Iowa for Ophthalmalogy, etc., etc.).
5) I guess you offered an apology, but I'm not quite sure. If so, apology fully accepted!