The Freestyle World Cup takes place Saturday-Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City
The mats are down. The lights are up.
After months of preparation by the local organizing committee, USA Wrestling and United World Wrestling, the Freestyle World Cup will start Saturday at 10 a.m. CT at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
The 2017 world champion United States kicks off its tournament against India, followed in the afternoon by Japan and on Sunday with Georgia. Should the USA win all three group matches (or go 2-1 and win the tiebreaker) they would win Group A and likely face Azerbaijan in the gold-medal match on Sunday.
The World Cup is one of my favorite events to cover. The team aspect provides competitive clarity for viewers who may otherwise not know much about the sport of wrestling. If cruising through the channels on Sunday night a sports fan happens to see "USA 3, Azerbaijan 2" there is a decent chance they'll give the event a few minutes.
Outside of the media opportunity, the format is also easier to follow in-person and gives ample time for discussion of matchups, like Thomas Gilman's matchup with Yuki Takahashi -- a repeat of the 2017 world championship finals. We'll see more of this in 2018 with two-day tournaments, but it's nice to have a week of hype with which to drive interest.
On a personal note, I'm really enjoying Iowa City and Coralville. The people are friendly and helpful in a way I no longer experience as a denizen of NYC. The traffic is more manageable, facilities are top-notch, and there are even two wine bars on the same block as my hotel, serving at prices that in NYC would be considered a fire sale.
In addition to drinking underpriced zinfandels I've spent the majority of my time in Carver-Hawkeye and Iowa's legendary wrestling room. Big, without being needlessly huge and with a weight room, locker room and stands that adds to a cozy-but-useful feel. Nothing is wasted and it's not cramped. Brands and company have been great hosts to all the visitors, including me -- even taking time to tease me for prior rants. Overall, a wrestling experience that I'm sure to remember fondly.
Looking forward to the action on Saturday. You can watch on Trackwrestling.com or check your local listing for time on the Olympic Channel and NBCSN.
To your questions …
Q: Were you surprised that Indiana didn't do a national search after Duane Goldman retired? Thoughts on Angel Escobedo taking over the program?
-- Mike C.
Foley: No. I think Escobedo's on-the-mat resume and his reputation in the coaching community were on par with a lot of big-time assistant coaches. Plus, Escobedo knows the system very well and was likely the benefactor of good relationships with the right alumni.
How will he do? That is to be determined. Not all hires have to be flashy. Sometimes the right choice is the guy who is already in the corner.
Q: If Rocky Balboa, Clubber Lang, Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago were all wrestlers, what NCAA teams would they wrestle for?
-- Eric H.
Q: Did you catch the NCAA quarterfinal bout between Michael Macchiavello and Shakur Rasheed? The referee put Rasheed on injury time at the start of the match because of his hair. (Why the ref didn't mention this before the match started, since they were waiting on the mat for three or four minutes for a TV break is beyond me.) Anyway, after Rasheed gets his hair covering on, Macchiavello gets to choose the restart position to begin the match. Instead of choosing down, to get the 1-0 lead, Macchiavello chose neutral.
I was really impressed by his sportsmanship, it must have been a real test to be offered an advantage in a match that ensures you an AA finish. It's a credit to Macchiavello (and Coach Pop) that they cared more about competition than about the result.
-- Irv O.
Foley: I didn't see this match, but a lot of readers wrote in to address both the officiating and the response. I'm disappointed that the referee chose to start the match with an injury time, but Pop and Macchiavello's actions give me renewed hope in mankind.
OK, dramatic. But I am pretty thrilled we still have coaches and athletes in our sport who make good ethical decisions even in something as hotly contested as the NCAA quarterfinals. Really great sportsmanship.
Team USA training
Q: How would you rank this year's NCAA champions in terms of their likelihood to win a spot at the World Team Trials in freestyle? Obviously, Kyle Snyder is No. 1 and Zain Retherford is No. 2. Below them, I think Spencer Lee, Yianni Diakomihalis and Jason Nolf each have a realistic chance to win it, but aren't the favorites. Vincenzo Joseph and Zahid Valencia could place high, but will have a hard time unseating Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Dake or David Taylor. Your thoughts?
-- Irv O.
1. Kyle Snyder (97 kilograms)
2. Zain Retherford (65 kilograms)
3. Spencer Lee (57 kilograms)
4. Bo Nickal (79 kilograms)
5. Seth Gross (61 kilograms)
6. Vincenzo Joseph (74 kilograms)
7. Zahid Valencia (86 kilograms)
8. Michael Macchiavello (97 kilograms)
9. Jason Nolf (knee)
10. Yianni Diakomihalis (knee)
Q: What do you make of Kyle Snyder signing with RUDIS? Obviously, RUDIS does not make shoes yet. Do you think the company will enter the shoe market? If not, could Snyder still sign a shoe endorsement deal with another company?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Unless the terms are reported, I think that any insight into dollar amounts would be speculation. However, I think that RUDIS is making an effort to center their brand around Snyder and his needs, which you could conclude meant that he was given much more favorable terms than what was given as return for each article sold.
As for shoes, I've heard they've been in development. Not sure where they are in the process, but if he launches a shoe I'm certain that he'll be getting some extra incentives, and cash. It's less likely that a company would be willing to take him for shoes-only, but maybe with a guy like Snyder it would be worth the risk.
Q: Do you expect it to come down to USA vs. Azerbaijan for the title at the World Cup? How do you see it playing out?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Man, this is going to be a close match! Odds are this is the starting lineup. I've put the favored wrestlers in bold.
57: Thomas Gilman vs. Giorgi Edisherashvili (Tossup)
61: Kendric Maple vs. Akhmednabi Gvarzatilov
65: Logan Stieber vs. Haji Aliev
70: James Green vs. Joshgun Azimov
74: Jordan Burroughs vs. Gadzhimurad Omarov
79: Kyle Dake vs. Jabrayil Hasanov (Very tight. Hasanov is huge and rarely gets bullied around)
86: David Taylor vs. Aleksandr Gostiyev (Cox Beat Gostiyev at 2016 World Cup)
92: J'den Cox vs. Aslanbek Alborov
97: Kyle Snyder vs. Nurmagomed Gadzhiyev
125: Nick Gwiazdowski vs. Jamaladdin Magomedov