I'm not sure why this crop seems so much more talented than those in years past, but as I watched technique and live session I was struck with the thought that a lot of the guys I was watching had the talent to be future Olympic and world champions.
And this isn't fanboy behavior. I've been fortunate to watch a lot of international wrestling over the past several years, from practice to competition, and what I saw last week in Colorado Springs struck me as some of the best yet. Some of my perspective was shaded by the consideration of their "potential," but the raw talent level was simply undeniable and awesome.
Zain Retherford is a hammer who haunts my thoughts. Imar is a generational type of talent with the winner's attitude that'll extend past the NCAA. Kyle Snyder is a transformative figure in USA Wrestling who beat the defending Olympic champion in back-to-back years en route to winning a world title and making the Olympic team.
There others that impressed but simply put I will watch the University World Championships with a lot of red, white and blue-themed optimism.
To your questions …
Q: Bill Zadick was hired over Kenny Monday and Lou Rosselli to lead the U.S. freestyle program. Did USA Wrestling get it right?
-- Mike C.
Bill Zadick coaches Kyle Snyder in the gold-medal match at the 2015 World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Foley: The USA Wrestling head coaching position is about much more than simple name ID and is dissimilar to many traditional coaching jobs in what it asks of occupants. Before Zeke Jones and Bruce Burnett the main goal of the head coach was to convince the various stars to live at the training facility, sleep in dorms and take international tours.
The new model will be one of development -- to attract younger wrestlers to the camps earlier in the careers, let them discover what the place is about, develop skills and get them on the freestyle path. For that job Zadick was most qualified given his understanding of the development program and his thoughts on where it may lead. I'm also sure that Lou Rosselli could have followed through on that mission as well, but Zadick (who I think is the man) has a much better vision given that current role and years of experience.
Also, I think that right coach needed to understand what the modern wrestler is getting from his club programs and find ways to supplement their training rather than remove them from their surroundings. From what I can tell, being at "home" in their respective college towns has assisted both Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs.
Q: Is Brock Lesnar's return to the UFC merely a publicity stunt to sell PPV subscriptions? Or is he a real threat to become the UFC heavyweight champion again?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Everything the UFC does is a publicity stunt to sell PPVs! Brock Lesnar is a more transparent move to grab PPV buys, but it's not a move outside of the promotion's recent history of moves.
I'd normally be very vocal in stating the obvious -- that Brock can't win the heavyweight crown -- but with so many big stars getting knocked out at heavyweight I suppose anything could happen.
Then again, no, there is no chance that even a series of softball fights would lead Brock Lesnar to another UFC championship.
Q: When will countries buy in to the World Cup as a real long-term option? Will there be qualifiers beside the World Championships?
Foley: I'm not sure what you mean by "long-term" option, but I do think that there are difficulties in hosting the World Cup concurrently with the Olympic Games. For example, while the United States, Iran and Turkey are using this as a warmup for Rio 2016 the Russians are staying inside the borders. That could affect the quality of the competition overall, but I don't think it's discouraging viewership.
Q: I want to hear some more technical in-depth talk about Fresno State. What are the big hurdles? Who do you think will be on the staff? How long until they're contending individually and maybe as a team? What do you think their singlets will look like?
-- Ben R.
Foley: I like that you started with wanting to hear about the technical in-depth and then trailed off with a sartorial inquiry into their color and design of their singlet! Love the focus.
The coaching staff could be anyone, but I think that Fresno State will certainly have two years of recruiting before they are allowed to compete at the Division I level in 2017-2018. That's going to mean a tough start for the program as they are starting from scratch -- no existing wrestlers or mentality, only that distant memory of the program's glory years in the 1990s.
I think I'd be aggressive in projecting an All-American before the 2020 NCAA Championships. For now, the team title will be a 15-20 year goal for the program. Not sure even Cael Sanderson could put all the keys for victory in place with any more efficiency than that.
Q: What's the biggest thing that watching international wrestling from every angle has taught you? What is the 'key' to wrestling? I wouldn't/you don't need to tie it into American wrestling. God knows when you say anything critical the Anons of the community dig in ridiculously.
-- Ben R.
Foley: The Anons already love to dig in, so I don't mind pushing all in! From what I've seen there are typically a few factors at play with the very top competitors from around the world.
The first is that they have tight family relationships and rely on those for emotional support during their career. Someone to cheer you up is an important factor to keeping it on an even keel as your wrestling (unavoidably) goes sideways at times. Another VERY consistent theme seems to be faith. Whether Christianity, Islam or Hinduism wrestlers at the highest level tend to have a lot of faith in their God. Just an observation.
In terms of training I've seen that most of the world's top wrestlers don't train with insane in-the-room intensity, or that those moments are much more rare than we see and feel in America. For example, I was in Germany this week shooting a documentary on Greco-Roman world champion Frank Stäbler and watched his practice routine. Last week I was in Colorado Springs filming world champion Kyle Snyder for another documentary and saw his practice routine. These guys aren't relying on aggression to solve their on-the-mat issues, but are instead intensely focused on technique, strength, conditioning and situational live. More with Frank and older wrestlers, but there is WAY less head-banging than you may imagine -- and Frank is known for his conditioning and aggressiveness on the mat. Were I to head up a program I'd love to foster that type of mentality and training schedule as I think it keeps wrestlers much healthier and more psychologically capable to manage longer careers.