Foley's Friday Mailbag: August 21, 2015

With the Junior World Wrestling Championships in the rearview and the Senior World Wrestling Championships looking on the horizon the wrestling community had a lot discuss this week.

So with no further ado, let's get to your questions …

Q: Has there been any consideration of eliminating the double bronze medal in order to increase the number of weight classes from six to eight? Eight weight classes with three medals per weight class is 24 medals; six weight classes with four medals per weight class is also 24 medals. If the IOC wants to limit the number of medals, this seems to be a good compromise.
-- Alex R.

Foley: I think that a reduction in the number of bronze medals was considered during the movement to Save Olympic Wrestling, However, the IOC wasn't as interested in reducing medal counts as much as they were ensuring gender equity and stabilizing the overall number of athletes to 10,500.

In the hopes of creating a powerful partnership the sport of wrestling delivered on the promise of a 6-6-6 format for men's freestyle, women's freestyle and Greco-Roman. That move and the positive reaction, subsequently led to the Super 8 campaign, which again brought an immense amount of positive attention to role of women in wrestling.

As for weight classes I understand that eight weight classes feels like it would be better for the sport because there are more opportunities for weight class competition. But the reduction in the number of weight classes actually offers wrestling a myriad benefits.

Contrary to the idea that wrestling has crowded national fields at many weights (e.g., 74 kilos in USA and 65 kilos in Russia), no country, including the United States and Russia, was able to fill every Olympic qualification spot in 2012. That means that no matter what the funding, training system, or location near the Caspian Sea there was no nation able to fill an entire Olympic roster.

The ability to fill a roster is something that the IOC considers in their quadrennial reports, along with just about every other metric of worldwide success and popularity.

To accommodate growth, wrestling also sticks with two bronze medals because the average number of medaling countries at the Olympics and World Championships with one bronze is 22, but is 29 when there are two bronze medals. That seven nation difference results in a tidal wave of potential funding to wrestling programs from their NOC's. More money means more travel and more training, which means a more worldwide sport.

For now 6-6-6 with two bronze medals is a working model. Almost certainly there will be changes made to the format of wrestling in the future, but this is not the top concern.

Q: Since Stevan Micic won bronze at the Junior Worlds in Brazil, how does this impact his first year at Michigan?
-- David C.

Foley: I don't think it will have much influence outside of any personal confidence he's acquired in reaching the status of international medalist. Micic looked tough in the repechage, but his semifinal matche was a bit of a letdown. The youngster was winning 8-4 against India late in the second when he seemed to tire and possibly panic.

That loss will be a good learning experience for Micic and something he can carry with him as he embarks on his career at Michigan.

Q: I read about a little league softball game being thrown in order to eliminate a tough competitor (Iowa) they had already beaten. By losing to another team, Washington would still advance but eliminate one of its toughest challenges (Iowa) in the process. The coach from team Iowa protested and the board of directors made these two teams play again. Iowa won and advanced. Washington went home. The board said that Washington "did not play with the effort and spirit appropriate for any Little League game." Huh? I'm not sure there is even a rule about that anywhere and if I were Washington I would appeal but I digress.

This long intro leads me to my question. Have you seen this in wrestling? I'm pretty sure that I have. After coaching midget wrestling for years, I know that I've seen some pretty good wrestlers get 'upset' by lower ranked kids to not face one of the top seeds. Then, come storming back through the loser's bracket by winning against the supposed easier half of the bracket. Knowing the child probably couldn't win against the top dog, the strategy is to have an easier consolation route to the highest place possible.

I've never done this, but I see the strategy. What are your thoughts? I'm sure the comment section will have some opinions on this one.
-- Brad H.

Foley: I've never seen this. Like ever. Has anyone else? What are some anecdotal stories? We have a kid on my team at Virginia who took third a bunch in high school and people joked that he felt more comfortable wrestling in the consolation rounds. That was a joke and the implication was that he wilted under pressure, not that he intentionally took a dive.

Compelling question!

Q: Is Aaron Pico done wrestling after 2016? I'm hearing mixed reports.
-- Mike C.

Aaron Pico battles Teymur Mammadov of Azerbaijan in the semifinals of Junior Worlds (Photo/Martin Gabor)
Foley: Pico is a great kid, and after speaking with him in Brazil I have no idea what he'll do in the future. My opinion is that 21-22 is too young to enter MMA and that with a few more years of experience he'd be the favorite to make the 2020 Olympic team.

My prediction isn't worth much, but if you look at the average age of American medalists it tends to be much higher than other countries. Pico has a lot of money on the table that he'll also need to consider before making his decision, but in speaking with him I know that the only decision he made is the one he made two years ago, and that is to go full throttle at the 2016 Olympics. No matter if he does or does not make the team the way in which he's attacking his dream is an admirable.

Q: Assuming Coleman Scott makes 57 kilos, he has to be considered a strong favorite to win the Olympic Team Trials in 2016, right? Or do you think the weight cut and his duties with UNC hinder his chances?
-- Mike C.

Foley: That's a big cut, but if he's well fed and rested up he could be dangerous at 57 kilos and give Ramos some trouble with that size. Scott is a super talented wrestler and especially well-disciplined human. If he wins the spot it'll be another great accomplishment for his career. If he falls short, then you have to assume that the pressure he puts on Tony Ramos and the rest of the 57-kilo division will add up to a better roster for Team USA.

Q: If UWW was able to double the number of weight classes and expand the Olympic freestyle competition to a 32-man bracket, would it be worth sacrificing Greco? It seems that if we put the best Greco and freestyle guys together in one tournament, the differing styles would result in more high amplitude throws in freestyle and perhaps more scoring and fan appeal.
-- Matt C.

Foley: That is a wild idea. It would never work, but it sounds REALLY fun and entertaining for at least one year.

There might also be a few too many injuries!

To give you some indication of how that turns out, I wrestled a touch of freestyle. The video team for United World Wrestling is Serbian and one of their guys is/was an accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler. Both past our primes we chose to see what would happen if we split periods. It was ugly.

Multimedia Halftime

Freestyle vs. Greco-Roman


EXCLUSIVE AND UNOFFICIAL Wrestling Match FS/GR(2x2minutes... like cadets/veterans)Timothy Foley (UWW Press Officer) VSSlaven Dokmanac (UWW Serbian Competition's Results Manager)ASIAN GAMES 2014 - Incheon

Posted by S├ębastien Guenat on Monday, September 29, 2014

Junior World freestyle action

Junior Greco-Roman action

Junior World women's freestyle wrestling

Q: One gold medal and four medals for the U.S. Junior World Team in men's freestyle. Did the team underperform? Or were some expectations unreasonable?
-- Mike C.

Foley: Underperformed. That team was good enough to win three gold medals.

As seen by many, Pico should have beaten Teymur Mammadov save that first-period leg cutback and wacky last-second scramble.

Joey McKenna not making weight was a huge blow.

Zahid Valencia could have beaten the Russian, but because they battled so hard the Russian quit (literally QUIT) against the Iranian in the next round, eliminating Valencia from the repechage.

Mark Hall also fell asleep at the end of his match, giving up a last-second takedown versus an opponent who was several steps below him in talent. The issue in Hall's match seemed to be playing for the win and overcommitting to the collar tie, rather than staying active on his feet.

As discussed before, Micic SHOULD have made the finals, but blew a later lead. I think he still loses that matchup in the finals, but it would have meant an improvement to silver.

Overall a subpar performance for Team USA, but with young wrestlers it's about the learning experience and a hiccup in Brazil in 2015 may prevent similar errors in 2016 and in Tokyo in 2020.

Q: Do people really doubt Isaiah Martinez? I saw him in person at the Big Ten tournament and he blew me away with his power and quickness. I spoke with Mark Perry about him and he had nothing but good things to say about Martinez.
-- Curt H.

Foley: Yeah, I was also flummoxed that anyone would doubt him! The guy is on his way to greatness, whether that will be at just the NCAA level or also the international level has yet to be determined, but it would be foolish to predict anything but gold for Imar.

Q: Joey McKenna missed weight at the Junior Worlds, which really hurt the U.S. Did you ever miss weight in a competition?
-- Mike C.

Foley: I did not, and I know that there are many wrestlers who pride themselves on never missing a cut. That said, I don't have a quarter of the medals that McKenna does and I'm sure he'll outperform me on the college stage.

McKenna tried very hard to make weight, but he was obviously too big for the class and ill-prepared for the cut. For the sake of his career (and health) it looks like now is the time to enjoy a higher weight class and see how he competes with a better year-round diet and exercise regimen. Stanford might be the best place for him to reanalyze things and make a smart decision about his future competition weight.

McKenna is one of America's best young talents and there is no doubt he bounces back from this failure a little bit stronger than he was before.

Q: Care to update your thinking about Spencer Lee vs. Tony Ramos? We recently saw what someone who won a Junior World title while in high school could do to an Olympic champion.
-- Ronald M.

Foley: Spencer Lee is a buzz saw and after seeing him wrestle at the last two World championships I'm CERTAIN he will be an NCAA champion and make a World team. However, given his lack of size I don't see him challenging Ramos at the senior level in 2016. There is a chance that we see him mature into a full 57-kilo wrestler for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, but as of yet he has a lot of learning to do.

Also, should Lee land in Happy Valley I think that the chances of him making an Olympic run are greatly improved since he'll have a room full of young talent and Franklin Gomez with whom he can roll and learn.

I was in Brazil for the Junior World Championships and like many fans I spoke with, I really enjoyed watching Lee wrestle at Worlds. He was dominant, but it came to be not because he's physically talented, but because he scores in bunches -- something that shows other athletes, coaches and press that he's mentally tough and never satisfied. Team USA has a lot to look forward to with Lee.

Q: Mason Manville is attending Wyoming Seminary for his senior year. He is from Virginia and has attended Apple Valley (Minnesota), Blair Academy (New Jersey) and now Wyoming Seminary (Pennsylvania). What do you make of all this transferring?
-- Mike C.

Foley: He wants the frequent flier miles?!

I'd only be speculating, so I'm fine with leaving this question alone.


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TLS62PA (1) about 6 years ago
I've got a great "take-a-dive" story.

I wrestled at WVU, where we had Brandon Rader, 2x-AA whose career was derailed by a massive knee injury. He went to legendary Parkersburg High School, who has an equally legendary rivalry with Parkersburg South High School.

One year, with what would have been a tight team race at states, the #2 kid in the state, a Pburg South wrestler, lost in the semis at regionals. In WV, the top 3 in the region move on to states. Rader promptly walked out onto the mat, shook hands, and injury defaulted.

They met up for third place, where Rader dominated, knocking the kid out of qualification for states. Parkersburg South took the matter to court, saying it would hurt the other kid from getting a scholarship, but the judge did not rule in their favor. Rader finished his career as a 4x WV state champ.
reco49221 (1) about 6 years ago
In regards to Micic does him earning a bronze medal qualify him for an Olympic redshirt?
jasonbryant (1) about 6 years ago
There was a kid back in Virginia when I was announcing the AAA Eastern Regional who defaulted his first match to get a more favorable draw to qualify for states out the back side of the bracket. Don't recall if he actually did it or not. Had he won his opener, he'd have hit a state champ (or runner-up) and him dropping back down through would have had another. His draw starting from an L to start out was "easier" but don't think it worked out because someone good got upset on the topside and messed up the dream draw.
frankenberry (1) about 6 years ago
Pfff, this was common practice at the AAA Eastern Region Wrestling Tournament up until the early 2000's....
DannyClarke (1) about 6 years ago
Awesome mailbag, Foley. Really enjoyed this one.
Herkuleez5 (1) about 6 years ago
Foley stop the talk about Lee going to Happy Valley and all the young talent their. All Hawkeye fans want to see him come to Iowa City where he would have some of the best lightweight talent and coaches period. With Terry Brands coaching a young Lee from the start of his college career I can't think of anybody better can make him into an absolute beast in college AND an Olympic gold medalist.
Hyhu28 (1) about 6 years ago
A few years back, Illinois switched to a three-class format for high school state (had been a two-class system). In addition, there would be four qualifiers for state out of each sectional, instead of three. There has been a newer, not-so-rare trend of kids stepping on the mat, shaking hands, and then injury defaulting out of the match to lesser opponents so that they can avoid top seeds on their side of the bracket. Then they go through the opposite side wrestle back, ideally to reach the third place match. Even if they lose to one of those top kids there, they'll still qualify for state. It sucks and I REALLY think that the IHSA needs to look closely at how injury defaults are handled.
CoreyCA (1) about 6 years ago
In days of yore PA used to announce the state brackets prior to the regional tournaments. Lets just say there were some interesting results in regional semi-finals or final so that you could end up in the other half of the bracket from a Kolat or Ty Moore, or Kwortnick
spencerszewczyk (1) about 6 years ago
@Herkuleez5: yeah, we all want to see an offensive dynamo like Lee go to Iowa where he can learn to stall and do nothing like most of the Iowa wrestlers (see Evans, Lofthouse, St. John) etc. Penn State is way more exciting (see David Taylor, Ed Ruth, Quintin Wright) etc.
Herkuleez5 (1) about 6 years ago
@spencerszewczyk I am not going to argue the fact that Evans and Lofthouse were boring to watch and did not go after any offense. As a Hawkeye fan I completely agree with you but before you call out all Hawkeyes and list the last 3 studs PSU had take a step back and relax a minute. Look back over the last 15 or 20 years and I bet I could list 5 Hawkeyes to every 1 PSU wrestler in terms of offense and excitement. That could change in the future and PSU has a great team and I expect them to going forward, that is what will make future meets between the two so fun to watch regardless of who you are a fan of. Hard to argue with our lightweight success for countless years and whether you love him or hate him Terry Brands knows how to coach lightweights as good as anyone. I did not intend for my comment to put down PSU in anyway either FWIW. Here's to the season ahead and good luck!