Like all larger organizations the NCAA is deeply flawed, but for the past few years the wrestling action has been improving. I'm hopeful that the 2016-2017 season will see a more aggressive style brought to the mat and that the competition stays intense from wire-to-wire. Our fans are the best in the world and I'm sure everyone is looking forward to supporting their teams. I know that I am.
Happy wrestling season, folks!
To your questions …
Q: Adeline Gray's signature shoe was recently released. Do you expect Helen Maroulis to get her own shoe since she was the first American to win a gold medal in women's wrestling?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Given the release date, Adeline's shoe was in the pipeline prior to the Olympic Games. Like most of us it would seem ASICS saw Adeline as a lock to win the Olympics and with her massive social media following and mainstream media appearances she was a slam dunk.
Also interesting to consider that Helen Maroulis was competing to win her Olympic title facing Japanese legend Saori Yoshida. ASICS, I'll remind you, is a Japanese company.
Taylor Massa gets in on a shot against Utah Valley's Ethan Smith at the 2015 NCAAs (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Q: Taylor Massa's name does not appear on the 2016-2017 University of Michigan wrestling team roster. Any news on him?
Foley: Taylor has retired from competition after a series of injuries left him sidelined for good. He's still enrolled at Michigan and helping out at Davison High School.
Wrestling is an incredibly grueling sport and Taylor Massa racked several hundred, if not more than 1000, matches in his prep career. That kind of wear and tear can't be endured forever, and unfortunately for Taylor it seems that his clock ticked to an end in Ann Arbor.
Best of luck to the young man as he pursues a coaching career!
Q: 165 pounds looks super loaded to me. I didn't realize Logan Massa, Anthony Valencia and Vincenzo Joseph are all projected in this weight class, along with Brian Realbuto going down to it from 174 pounds. Who do you think poses the biggest threat to Imar? What percentage would you put it at that Imar will not win the title this year?
-- Ross B.
Foley: The idea that there is a deeper field certainly increases the chances that Imar could drop a match, but I don't think any of those individuals reaches his level of talent or is better than a one win out of ten matches. Collectively it feels like he's more likely to face a roadblock given the names, but one-to-one he's still unmatched.
Look back at last year and review the match Imar lost. It was a dual meet with one hour weigh-ins. Give that kid more time and a few extra pounds each day and he seems to increase the likelihood of his winning any individual match. Now he's got an extra eight pounds! Buckle up.
Realbuto can threaten most top-level opponents with his mixture of offense and creative scrambling, but both are areas where Imar is already more established. Also, Realbuto seems deficient in whatever gene Imar has coursing through his DNA which allows for scoring early and/or late.
Also, while you cite Logan Massa, I think we need to see him on the mats in the Michigan singlet before we draw too many conclusions. He's certainly got the firepower to be an All-American on his first trip to NCAAs, but I'm never willing to put a lot of stock in national championship potential unless the wrestler has worn the uniform.
I think Imar is better than 90 percent to win the NCAA title at 165 pounds.
Q: I'm old school, two piece wool top/long pants combo….
I don't have any great preferences … the rash guard tops seems an improvement, and it does NOT appear that the looseness of the top resulted in any inadvertent snags or illegal grabs requiring penalty, but the shorts are a non-starter.
I attended the Flo Who's Number One meet again this year, and again this year the majority of the participants either sewed or rolled up the shorts to get them out of the way. Too long, they covered the knees when in neutral position, and too loose, they caught while in the down position. Perhaps a work in progress?
-- Mike M.
Foley: One size does not fit all. Imagining that they were given the uniforms that day it's easy to see that they would adjust them a touch. I wear a long sleeve rash guard and shorts for every no-gi jiu-jitsu practice and can think of almost no time my feet (or exposed toes) were caught in my opponent's shoes. From where I sit there doesn't seem to be a functional issue, though I agree the wrestler's may *think that they disagree.
A work in progress indeed. The human body varies significantly and there will need to be a way to cut the cloth to allow for a better fit. Likewise a moderate amount of stretch may help. Lucky for wrestling there is money to be made in these uniforms which means that those invested in creating competition clothes might look to innovate.
On that note …
Nebraska will now allow fight shorts and moisture wicking as a suitable alternative to the singlet!
Q: Is Andy Bisek done competing? I haven't seen anything come out after Rio.
-- Mike C.
Foley: There hasn't been much for the Greco-Roman team to enter since Rio. Also, the stress of the Olympics wears people down. If he's like Jordan Burroughs, Adeline Gray, or any number of top-level wrestlers, Bisek is trying to spend time with family and get his circuit boards cleared up for the next step in life.
I'd like to think that Bisek would continue to wrestle. With the rules changing to no forced par-terre I think that the Americans are going to see a significant increase in their winning percentage. We aren't the most technical bunch, but the Americans are certainly in shape come match time, and few more so than Bisek.
If you do want to watch some wrestling this weekend the freestyle team will be in Khasavyurt. Check out Wrestdag and Wrestrus for links.
Q: These are my picks in order of likelihood to win the NCAA title this season:
Hwt: Kyle Snyder
197: J'den Cox
149: Zain Retherford
157: Jason Nolf
165: Isaiah Martinez
125: Thomas Gilman
133: Nathan Tomasello
174: Bo Jordan
141: Joey McKenna
184: Zahid Valencia
Thoughts? Obviously, Zahid Valencia is a risky pick in what looks to be the most loaded weight class and has Gabe Dean in it, but I like him as an upset pick.
-- Ross B.
Foley: C'mon, man! Gabe Dean is looking for his third NCAA title. You can certainly make the argument he doesn't light up the scoreboard, but he's consistent in March. Not loving that you sleep on Dean or that you chose Valencia to emerge as a freshman atop the podium.
Also, the McKenna pick is a touch risky. Heil gets the job done.
Q: Dana White just announced that Ronda Rousey is returning to the UFC and fighting Amanda Nunes on Dec. 30. How do you see that fight playing out?
-- Mike C.
Foley: The UFC would love to see Ronda Rousey return to her pre-Holly Holm form, but Amanda Nunes poses a mighty difficult obstacle for MMA's queen. Nunes is without question a better striker than Rousey and her grappling IQ is equal. Rousey certainly has an advantage in earning the takedown, but she won't be as equipped to find a quick submission from top. Ground and pound? Maybe.
Rousey's coaching staff is abysmal. Should she find the heart to leave them before her fight then she has a chance to create a nuanced and successful fight plan. If she stays with Edmund she's destined to fight from HEART and, I see Nunes having an immense tactical advantage.
It should be noted that Rousey opened as a 2-1 favorite when the fight was announced on Thursday.
Q: Do Iowa Hawkeye fans tailgate before wrestling meets? I've never been to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and always wondered that.
-- Mike C.
Foley: I've never been to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and not certain I'd be welcome. In an ideal world I'd dress up as Dan Gable and slug Bud Lights in the parking lot with Brent Metcalf.
Road trip, anyone?