This week there comes a new addition to the catalogue of wrestling content. Working along with United World Wrestling and some talented videographers there comes the first documentary series to ever focus on international wrestling stars. The first of the subjects is Battsetseg Soronzonbold, a two-time women's wrestling world champion from Mongolia.
Wrestling is a sport that takes us many places and while for some it's only emotional and educational, for Battsetseg the journey started on the Mongolian countryside -- raised as the daughter of nomadic herders -- and continues this summer in Rio de Janeiro where she looks to become that country's first-ever Olympic champion. The money, housing, education and social mobility she will (and already has) experienced is nearly incomprehensible.
The teaser for this first docu-bio is in place with the full video (10 minutes) to be released in 3-4 weeks. A variety of teasers and trailers will also be released in the coming weeks with each subject and their story at center stage. I'm proud of what I think will be a significant contribution to pre-Olympic hype, but I'm happiest that these four extraordinary athletes will have their stories told.
BATTSETSEG: Mongol Queen
To your questions …
Q: Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia has to be the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world. He wins everything, and in dominant fashion. When is the last time the "Russian Tank" has lost?
-- Mike C.
Russia's Abdulrashid Sadulaev (86 kilos) after winning a gold medal at the 2015 World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Foley: Sadulaev last lost at the 2013 Golden Grand Prix where he wrestled Gamzatat Osmanov at the senior level and lost via a five-point move with a total score of 8-2. He was 17.
This guy is arguably the best wrestler the world has ever seen at 86 kilos. There are legends and guys with small collections of world and Olympic titles, but not many have combined The Tank's size, strength, technical acumen, athleticism, mat savvy, confidence and command of the mat.
You asked about his last loss, but it's interesting to note that before the Poland tournament he hadn't given up an offensive point overseas in almost two years. We revere Dan Gable for his shutout Olympics (no stepout), now imagine that happening for two years.
This is why I have a shirt with his face on it. Not because I love Russia (too cold), but because you have to admire that type of dominance.
Q: When is this University of Minnesota situation going to be resolved? The early recruiting period is fast approaching, and this scandal can't be helping Minnesota's recruiting efforts.
-- Mike C.
Foley: Given this week's release of Coach Robinson's emails to the administration -- which plainly showed the coach's attempt to include their involvement -- I'd suspect the new AD will have little choice but to lift the paid suspension and reinstate J as head wrestling coach.
The other alternative is to fire J, which I'm assuming the school's lawyers have informed the AD would be costly to defend against if/when J would file a wrongful termination suit.
This entire incident is the function of poor reporting and this inane desire to get clocks for headline journalism. An essay to reflect on poor decision making is not some unforgivable sin of leadership. J Robinson has been the leader of young men for quite some time and in all his years as coach there has been very little criticism of his treatment of his wrestlers (harsh or otherwise).
Let's hope the good coach is back on the recruiting trail by July.
Q: I recently came across your 2014 article on the best female amateur wrestlers at that time. Pretty impressive list.
Have you -- or do you know of anyone who has -- ever prepared a top 10 (or 20) list of the best female amateur wrestlers of all-time? My Google searches have not revealed anything like this.
-- Patrick P.
Foley: Here is a top six list. Who are four more to add? Let the arguments commence!
1. Saori Yoshida (Japan)
2. Kaori Icho (Japan)
3. Carol Hunyh (Canada)
4. Kyoko Hamaguchi (Japan)
5. Adeline Gray (United States)
6. Natalia Vorobieva (Russia)
Q: It sounds like Gabe Dean and J'den Cox could potentially meet at the NWCA All-Star Classic. If that match happens, how do you see it playing out?
-- Mike C.
Foley: A match between Gabe Dean and J'den Cox would certainly drive a lot of interest in one of wrestling's premier early season events. The idea that an Olympic Team member (and potential Olympic medalist) is facing off against a two-time NCAA champion will certainly compel me to briefly shut up about snore rides and lack of an established out of bounds. Briefly.
Dean is strong, but I wonder if he'd have enough strength to break through Cox's positioning on his feet. If freestyle is teaching him lessons for folkstyle it's that remaining in good position is as important as proper shot selection. Cox may also benefit from match poise that comes with facing Olympic-caliber talent.
Where Dean may find his advantage is on the mat. Cox is unlikely to be held down, but who knows if a whole summer of waiting for the referee to return him to his feet will have an impact on his desire to act on bottom.
Overall I'm thinking this stays on the feet and that Cox strings together enough offense to secure a nice 2-3 point victory. However, Dean has every chance to even the odds on the mat and if I were Cox I'd be aware of that slight mismatch.
Though for now, I'd prefer he worry more about Abdulrashid Sadulaev than Gabe Dean.
One takedown is enough? Doubtful.
Q: What's going on at Columbia? Do you think there will be a decision soon? Any thoughts on who the next coach will be?
If you don't put in the mailbag, I would love to know your thoughts. My son committed there and will be attending in the fall. We really liked Carl, but understand the situation. We are getting a little anxious and love to see what's going to happen next.
-- John W.
Foley: I wouldn't be doing anyone favors if I released the names of who they were seeking, but I will say that when I heard two of the names I was VERY impressed. If they are able to land one of these guys, or even guys in this ballpark, I think that you'll be exceedingly happy with the outcome.
My thought is that the delay means one of these big names is in serious discussions, but that is just my own speculation.
As an alumnus I want to see the program in the hands of some top-level talent!
Q: Is there any way you and/or Intermat could tweet a link and encourage fans to vote for Beat the Streets Philly? Link: https://www.thewawafoundation.org/hero-award.
Voting takes about 15 seconds (even for me!). Obviously, no pressure and no worries if you can't. Totally understand. Just wanted to throw it out there.
-- Nick M.
Foley: Done. Vote!
Q: Are Andy Bisek and Robby Smith Team USA's only legit shots at medals in Greco-Roman in Rio?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Jesse Thielke has plenty of the world's top wrestlers wary of him appearing in their bracket. How do you know -- I mean have 100 percent confidence -- that you win a matchup with Thielke when you've seen him come back from 6, 7, 8 even 9-point deficits. There is something special about him. Maybe he won't place, but he certainly can place.
Other than Thielke the best shots are Robby Smith (40 percent) and Bisek (30 percent), but much of that will be determined by repechage and draws.