This Thursday marked the Mid-Autumn Festival for the people of China, Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan. The festival shifts depending on the lunar calendar but is the 15th day of the 8th month and coincides with a full moon.
The diversity of cultures celebrating the same holiday means you have a variety of events and traditions accompanying the day. For the Chinese it's important to give moon cake to friends and family and release floating sky lanterns. Filipinos play a dice game and Koreans cook a massive feast called Cheosuk, which is essentially their version of Thanksgiving.
The festival takes a slightly different form in each country, but there is another common thread to these festivals outside of eating and seeing a new moon rise: traditional wrestling.
The Chinese hosts a variety of matches in villages throughout the country, but one of the biggest is in Xinzhou, Shaanxi, China where competitors take part in a version of traditional wrestling (known as Shuai Jiao) where they look for takedowns against six straight opponents. There is no touching of anything except the bottom of your foot and opponents simply walk out from the collection of fans. The winners (there are usually three rounds) are awarded a sheep and roughly $1500.
The Koreans celebrate Cheosuk with a traditional wrestling event as important as watching the Lions get smashed on Thanksgiving. Traditional Korean wrestling tournaments -- the style is known as Ssireum -- are held nationwide, with the top tournament being shown on national television. The style is most closely associated to belt wrestling, but is extremely entertaining and high-flying.
In Vietnam traditional Dau Vat tournaments are held in villages and town centers, often in stadiums built only for wrestling. Like with the other styles there are no weight categories or other classifications and prize money is awarded to the last wrestler standing. The aim of the style is to either lift your opponent off the ground or expose his belly to the sky. The Mid-Autumn tournament is usually the most important of the year, with the possible exception of the New Year tournament in February and the end of season tournaments in April and May.
Wrestling is everywhere.
To your questions …
Q: What do you make of Kyle Snyder's comments about wanting to fight in UFC? What kind of fighter do you think he will be?
-- Mike C.
Foley: I mostly have mature thoughts that tell me he can handle learning the new techniques without taking away from his wrestling. However, my initial reaction was more "eww" than anything positive. While I think MMA is a great career path for athletes to take after their career has ended, I don't think you can be great at more than one sport at a time.
Snyder hasn't spent much time in jiu-jitsu practices, Muay-Thai sessions or boxing classes. While he is a physical freak and natural athlete there is A LOT to learn and those interested in excelling need to have an appetite for humble pie. I'd prefer that he tackle school, NCAA wrestling (if he HAS to) and compete overseas. Most mortals would break with only having to approach the above, never mind the additional considerations of family and a significant other.
I'd be a touch depressed to see Snyder miss an opportunity to be a legend of our sport, just for the chance to be decent in another.
Q: Here is an idea for an offseason tournament that would make matches interesting. Matches would consist of three, two-minute periods all starting in neutral. The three periods would each be a different style (folkstyle, freestyle, Greco-Roman). The match would begin with a flip of a coin, the winner could either pick the style of the first period. The second period the other wrestler gets his choice of the two remains styles and the third period wrestled is the remaining style. It would take a lot more strategy. What do you think?
-- Mark M.
Foley: I'm totally in for this type of madness!
As you might be able to figure out there are a variety of nationalities at work during most international wrestling tournaments. Among the group of IT workers and cameramen, is a former Serbian Greco-Roman wrestler in his young 30's. After two years of talking trash to each other about wrestling each other we finally took to the mats at the Youth Olympic Games in 2014. Like your scenario, however, we faced an issue of which styles to wrestle.
Ultimately, we flipped a coin and went freestyle first and Greco-Roman second. My Serbian friend was completely incapable of stopping a shot, which helped me rack up an eight-point advantage. That spread was almost eliminated in the second period when I was tossed through time and space for a five-point throw. The match was certainly difficult in terms of my conditioning, but I liked that the various styles forced us into strategies -- some of which worked, others that ended with me being tossed onto my head.
Q: I am working on recruiting some football players right now. Do you have or know of a list of current NFL players who have wrestled? The only lists I can find have some great players, but most of the middle school guys I am trying to recruit are too young to know who they are.
-- S. Mead
Foley: I did a quick Google search and came upon this list, which might be the one you are referencing. If you look around there are quite a few quotes from big-time college coaches that advocate for their recruits to wrestle as it teaches them about balancing and conditioning.
Q: Team USA failed to get a medal at the Cadet World Championships and Olympic Games. The Americans won a couple bronze medals at the Junior World Championships. Why is Team USA struggling so much in Greco-Roman, especially on the senior level? Is it simply because the best athletes in the United States just aren't wrestling Greco-Roman?
-- Mike C.
Foley: There are a number of issues for the Greco-Roman team to solve, primarily how to score early, in bunches and hold a lead. For many American fans (and wrestlers) the sport is just too distant, with very few entry points. There are limited youth club opportunities and very little upper-level coaching.
Even if the majority of American athletes choose freestyle, there are enough eligible athletes in this country to make any dream a reality. The numbers are an issue, and I'm not sure that we have the correct development program in place to help the middle and high school-aged wrestlers improve quickly. Even if they chose to only wrestle Greco-Roman year-round there are almost no tournaments to enter between September and April. No tournaments means no style-specific training or on-the-mat learning session and that is a massive concern when considering the likelihood of positive growth and development for Greco-Roman in the United States.
Q: Do you think Chance Marsteller will focus on senior level freestyle wrestling now? Or do you think we will see him back in college wrestling?
-- Mike C.
Foley: I think Chance's days on the mat are over. There is always room for forgiveness, but from what I'm being told Chance doesn't want to make the tough decisions. He was great for his span of time. He excelled and then he hit a downward spiral. As much as I'd love to see him fulfill his potential, my instinct says this behavior is part of his character, not an exception.