Foley's Friday Mailbag: January 22, 2016

At the end of a technical fall victory last week, Thomas Gilman caused a minor message board stir when he stood up at the end of the match. The problem wasn't some Cam Newton-inspired celebration, but that Gilman used the back of his opponent's still prostrated body and head to up himself from the Resilite.

That action, known colloquially as "face-mushing" is essentially grinding your opponent's face in the mat in a manner that is neither sporting, nor kind. Though unlikely to cause physical damage, face mushing is a disrespectful gesture meant to prove dominance opponent -- something you would think a 15-point victory already achieved.

This type of brutish and combative behavior isn't just dumb, reductive and immature; it also propagates the wrongheaded culture within wrestling that aggression and intimidation are weapons to be utilized. While fan boys of needless hostility might find gestures like face mushing as an endearing necessity of (faux) tough guy culture, in reality it's nothing more than a display of misplaced testosterone and underlying insecurity.

Winners don't denigrate and disrespect their opponents. Are they tough? Yes. Unrelenting in their forward pressure? Sure. Are they unapologetic in dominance? Of course.

The great ones were known as great in part because of a technical elegance, but also personal grace. John Smith, Gholamreza Takhti, Kaori Icho and Alexander Karelin -- none of these greats are prolific smilers, but they also weren't total jerks.

Trash talking, chest-bumping, and punch-throwing outbursts come about when wrestlers are taught to hide and protect their weaknesses and failures rather than explore them. The true champions don't see shortcomings as weakness, but as opportunities to improve. You don't get better because you emphasized the walloping of an opponent with a parting gesture more befitting a jailhouse than a wrestling mat.

Dollars to donuts, Thomas Gilman wins more matches if he tones down the bad boy rhetoric, and ceases to use intimidation as main wrestling skills. To fill the void of anger he (and others) could instead look at the technique missing from their repertoire and analyze it honestly and without bravado.

Wrestlers like Gilman (and there are many who act out in a similar fashion) could find enrichment from self-awareness and by default probably win more wrestling matches. But more importantly they could become better brothers, sons and teammates.

To your questions …

Q: J'den Cox is supposedly moving down to 86 kilos for the Trials. Ben Askren seems to think he can be a contender there. Do you think he can challenge the likes of Jake Herbert, Kyle Dake, David Taylor, Ed Ruth and Keith Gavin?
-- Mike C.

Missouri's J'den Cox celebrates after his victory against Cornell (Photo/Mark Lundy,
Foley: You can't discount an NCAA champion at a weight class that seems to be wide open. However, not surprisingly, I don't agree with Ben. The paper might look good for Cox, but there is little chance he's having the type of run needed to secure an Olympic spot.

The first big hurdle Cox will need to overcome is his lack of experience at the international level. Rules have changed, winning takes experience, and a strategy is almost as important as athleticism.

On the technical side of the argument I worry most about Cox's shot defense. The way it seems to me, Cox: 1. Won't hold up to a set of attacks (Taylor, Herbert), 2. Leaves himself vulnerable to trap-arm gut wrenches in scrambles (Dake, Taylor), 3. Is often out of position, making him vulnerable to pushouts (Gavin, Ruth).

For now I'm thinking this is Dake's spot to lose, but do remember that someone still needs to qualify the weight class in order to even have this discussion.

Q: There has been a ton of talk recently about creating action and scoring, especially from the neutral position. First, I hate the four-point near fall rule and second I hate the funk roll defensive tactics.
-- Jason M.

Foley: Funk can be fun in places, but since the maturation of defensive techniques we are seeing a burst of stalemates. That essentially means we have 30 seconds of feeling out, a shot on the edge of the mat, a whizzer into some skank roll and finally an out-of-bounds or stalemate call. We are two minutes in and there is no score, which means there is little incentive to score.

With the additional point for the same exposure, I can see why it shouldn't matter much, but I still disagree since there is nothing balancing out that extra point.

For example, the international rule set added a point to the takedown, but they did so because too many people were using the pushout as an equal scoring opportunity. Athletes, coaches and fans wanted to see more techniques, but instead were seeing more of a shoving match.

By incentivizing the turn the NCAA has forced more ground wrestling, which they hoped would increase action. In reality, two things have occurred. First, the top guy is so focused on that extra point he goes into a traditional snore ride between tilting attempts. Second, the moves that go from feet to back which were once five points are now six, but there is no extra opportunity for the wrestler who is down to make up that point. There is no balancing of scoring opportunities.

If somehow takedowns were three points and those throws still only counted for six points there would be an equitable balance. But for now, any turn or any successful throw (in coordination with successive defensive wrestling from the knees) essentially eliminates the trailing wrestler's opportunity to wrestle back from his deficit.

Q: Isaiah Martinez and Jason Nolf meet on Saturday. The betting line is Martinez -5/Nolf+5. What side are you betting?
-- Mike C.

Foley: That's a fantastic line. I think that Nolf gives up too may points and Martinez will be charged up for the challenge.

Martinez by 7.


Highlight video from Ivan Poddubny (Hope you like house music … )

Interesting points: Brands moves mats, John Smith wears cowboy hats (even on the road), and boy-oh-boy do kids these days look young.

Grapple on the Gridiron

42,287 fans. Kinnick Stadium. Iowa vs. Oklahoma State. Thanks to DPD Productions, you can relive that historic November day:

Posted by NCAA Wrestling on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Link: Massive human reported to do 5k pushups per day

Link: Unfortunately this is the most-viewed wrestling story of 2016

Trump and Cruz FINALLY killed the singlet

Never mind … this also helps eliminate the singlet from ever being a viable, popular uniform …

Q: I'm afraid my Gophers are going to have the worst finish in 25 years. They are in danger of having a losing record for the first time since 1991-1992. They also just dropped out of the top 25 rankings. I know the Gophers have had some rebuilding years but nothing like this in a while. Even in those rebuilding years you'd see a freshman or two have a very solid season. Other than Tommy Thorn I don't have faith anyone is going to step up.

Do you think J Rob is not getting it done like he used to? It seems like the team is becoming very Minnesota-only focused yet still lose top recruits to Penn State, ASU, and Purdue. Do you think if the Gophs could recruit all the top wrestlers in Minnesota they could get back to the top?
-- Jeff M.

Foley: The Gophers are in trouble.

As you cited there is less talent in their room than recent seasons and recruiting has been down for the last few years. The toughness J Rob imbued into the performance of past teams seems to be missing in 2016.


The chemistry may just be off. They've lost coaches over the past few years and those missing contributions may have finally stacked too high. There is "sum greater than its parts" element to the formation of a top-caliber squad and sometimes that concoction can be volatile, and other times just flat wrong.

Given his track record I'm certain he's not accepting this season as the new status quo. New wrestlers, maybe a new approach to training -- anything and everything will be up for review in 2016.

The only thing lost from a down season (or few in a row) is the element of mystique they once enjoyed. That reputation is near impossible to earn, but can be lost in just 12 months.

Q: Did Brian Shute wrestle in college? If so, what kind of college career did he have?
-- Mike C.

Brian Shute was a three-time All-American at Oregon
Foley: Absolutely Shute wrestled in college. He took the loss to Louden Swain and parlayed it into a sales pitch on his ability to showcase improved sportsmanship.

Shute attended the University of Oregon where he was a three-time All-American for the Ducks. After the school dropped the program Shute made appeals to the administration and local officials. Nobody listened, so Shute disappeared. Nobody is quite sure where he is today, but legend has it he stalks Eugene, waiting for Phil Knight and the perfect moment to strike.

(Seriously though, have you seen a recent picture of Les Gutches? Was he not the inspiration for Shute?!)


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jamper1 (2) about 7 and a half years ago
99% of the points Nolf gives up are escapes that he is giving to his opponent because he is very good on his feet. I don't expect Nolf to win but I will not be surprised if he does and I can't see him losing by 7.
rjbielat (4) about 7 and a half years ago
Kudos on your Gilman comments. I recall his pre-match intro handshake with Ethan Lizak at the Gopher/Hawkeye dual in 2015 and remember thinking, "what an a-hole!" There's no need for that garbage.
trescuit11 (1) about 7 and a half years ago
sounds like Foley got face mushed at uva often and didnt like it. proper chokes bro! that's a lot of iowa kids i've seen. they're agressive on the mat and try to intimidate and dominate (im not a iowa homer btw). after tomasello or dance beat him in the tourney, gillman will mush his face into his pillow crying. this "incident" was undeserving of any press...move on.
Widowmaker (3) about 7 and a half years ago
Gilman has what you call the " Bantee Rooster Syndrome" I believe it all started when he got Spanked, Flap-jacked, whipped by Brancale a couple years ago in MN. If he tries to pull that crap with Tommasello he may just get his nose broke.
Unlimited424 (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Jeff M., I appreciate your passion for Gopher Wrestling...I have it too! And yes, they are having a serious down year, which most of us who are used to a Top 3-5 program, are having a hard time accepting.

Having said that, you have your facts wrong. The Gophers are ranked #11 and #17 in Intermat's Dual and Tournament rankings, so they're not out of the top 25. In terms of Freshman, Tommy Thorn is doing very well and is up to #8, and Brandon Krone has come out of nowhere to be very competitive at 165. Yes, Petry and Polakowski have been up and down at 125...with both, it's a simple matter of having the confidence to execute. They may not get there this year, but I suspect one of them will in the future. Sam Brancale is having the same problem, and I still believe that he will come around shortly.

As for recruiting, we have some excellent redshirts in Bobby Steveson, Larry Early, Fredy Stroker, Rylee Streifel and others who are doing very well on the redshirt tournament circuit. They will be big additions to the varsity roster next year. Also we have 4 Top 100 recruits coming in: Mitch McKee, Hunter Marko, Owen Webster, and Lucas Jeske, so this recruiting class is very good, like last year's class. You said we've lost recruits to Purdue; we didn't lose Griffin Parriott, we had no place for him in the line-up so he was not pursued. We can't take everyone.

You and TJ are exactly right that we need to do more / better out-state recruiting of elite level wrestlers. This is where we are lacking...if we ever want to compete with PSU at the very top.

In terms of the toughness, you watch!! The toughness has not left the wrestling room and it will reappear as some of these younger wrestlers mature over the next couple years.

Yes, right now we have fallen a little bit back. But, we have already improved a lot this season. Look at our performance at the Cliff Keen, the Southern Scuffle, (then ignore IN!) and look at what we did to #8 Rutgers last weekend. Rutgers was starting to pull some of that Thomas Gilman macho stuff on our Gophers, so we turned around and laid a beating on them.

Was this not toughness??
tjonas (1) about 7 and a half years ago
that seems like an iowa thing. they used to just be tough guys, nothing wrong with that, but it seems lately its more than just being tough guys. maybe it's the fact that the 'iowa mystic' really doesn't exist anymore and they have to try something else. why on earth spencer lee would want to go there is beyond me. he can do just as good or better elsewhere. unless jody is getting him a 'good deal'.
Bench_wrestler (2) about 7 and a half years ago
I'm an Iowa fan and I'd say many of us don't like the bravado illustrated by brutish behavior. If you want to show how tough you are, pin, or tech your opponent.

I, like any dedicated fan, want my wrestler to win, but if they lose and the opponent does it dominatingly and civilly how can you not respect him? Acting like a brute during/afterwards? Not so much....
mlantz (1) about 7 and a half years ago
I moved to Iowa 20-odd years ago from WI and have been a season ticketholder most of that time. It does seem to be the IA culture. I would say Brands culture, but I remember Marty Kistler just about ran a guy off the Williams Arena floor in a tournament in 1984 or 1985. That's about a 4 foot drop. That was not only idiotic, but dangerous.
jammen (2) about 7 and a half years ago
Foley has said a lot of silly things in the past, but "The Gophers are in trouble" may be the pinnacle of his folly.
With a recruiting classes ranked #8 and #5 the last two years and another strong incoming class, Foley should have said "The Gophers are reloading".
mlaser (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Many thanks for making your points on sportsmanship. I agree 100%. The leaders of the Iowa program are ultimately responsible and recent years have resulted in more bravado and less National championships. Perhaps they can learn something from your comments. Well done!
Widowmaker (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Robert M. I agree with you on most of the gopher recruits and the position of the team as a whole this year but next year even looks as bad. Granted Stroker, Early and Steveson should fill in nice next year. Streifel unless he beef's-up to about 260 he may only be in the line-up for a year maybe two. The real recruits we need to obtain in the next 2-years are naturally Brady Berge and Gable Steveson, with both of their brothers already Gophers it would be a major kick in the teeth if our coaches could not get those two signed. Gable "The Prodigy" Steveson's goal is to be the next Big Thing at Gopher HVY, Sorry Rylee
Unlimited424 (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Widowmaker, I agree with you except I think next year looks better. Gable Steveson we should get; I hear Brady Berge still likes IA, and maybe NE. If he doesn't go hawks, then he should stay home and help us build something great!

Stayed tuned in Gopher fans, it's going to get better!!
dbestsport (2) about 7 and a half years ago
Calling out the wrestler (I.e. Gilman) is only part of the solution. Last year in the National Duals Gilman slammed Waters to the mat and the officials failed to call the slam and disqualify Gilman. Officials have the responsibility to ensure the safety of wrestlers and that inappropriate actions are penalized to prevent escalation (see the Iowa State/Kent State match where a punch was thrown).
highlander (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Colleges, like states, have windows of great wrestlers. This year, California sits with three (home grown) wrestlers rated #1. Maybe Minnesota should recruit more from the golden sure hasn't hurt Penn State, Illinois, or Cornell by the looks of the standings.
stealthtrade (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Great dialogue on Gillman. If he receives that treatment from someone at the NCAA tournament (hopefully he will) I hope he "takes it like a man."
eighthplacebahaha (1) about 7 and a half years ago
I'm thinking Iowa's Joe Johnston must have "mushed" ol' mr 8th place Foley in KC circa 2003. Sour grapes!
rizzo (1) about 7 and a half years ago
Gillman is low class.
rizzo (2) about 7 and a half years ago
IMar by 7. Eat crow Foley.