Foley's Friday Mailbag: July 12, 2019

Last month the NCAA announced that the singlet will no longer the only uniform option available to member institutions and wrestlers. In short, the rule states that shorts built for wrestling -- colloquially known as "fight shorts" -- can be used along with a compression top (aka rash guard).

The change does not require these adjustments be made by every school, but it's expected that at least some will adopt the change for at least a handful of matches.

The death of the singlet has been long-coming. When I began pushing for the change in earnest in 2013 it seemed like a logical way to grow interest in the sport. As more high schools have adopted it, and organizations have allowed it at state and national level tournaments, there has also been a predictable uptick in viewer friendliness.

While the high school change offered some perceptible improvements, the adoption of fight shorts at the collegiate level should mean significant financial money on the sale of school-specific clothing. To be able to work out in the same gear as your favorite athletes is a proven business model, and finally wrestling will have the chance to capitalize. As a jiu-jitsu practitioner I'm looking forward to rolling in my U.Va. gear. It offers me another chance to promote the school I went to and still support.

I imagine it will be the same for many former wrestlers and current fans. Lifting weights, running, or even surfing -- to be able to wear some piece of your school's uniform will appeal to many men and women. Schools will have added revenue, but also some conspicuous gains when it comes to marketing their program in gyms around the country.

Now, what to do about headgear?

To your questions …

Jordan Burroughs defeated Frank Chamizo in the bronze-medal match at last year's World Championships (Photo/Sandy Slater)

Q: Who are you taking this weekend (if they meet), Jordan Burroughs or Frank Chamizo?
-- Mike C.

Foley: Burroughs. He seems to have figured out Chamizo's defensive style and learned to score whenever he can, including step outs. I also tend to think that Chamizo won't be in tip-top shape for this competition, whereas Burroughs tends to always be in peak condition when it matters.

Strategically, I think Burroughs will retain the upper-hand. He will limit mistakes in transition, score small and often, and when the opportunity comes to score in bunches he has to go 100 percent. Chamizo almost requires you to be outlandishly aggressive. If Burroughs gets greedy, the scoring exchanges will come quickly. If he holds off, I'd expect a match closer to what we saw in Budapest.

Q: Would it be possible to have a league of RTC's that wrestle each other in duals and a few small tournaments? Could this be the solution to having a real pro wrestling league?
-- @DanielRBono

Foley: Yes! I think the time frame would need to be pretty tight. The international calendar is packed with events, but there are small gaps where off-weight matchups could be made, and the competing RTC's could get behind a friendly rivalry.

To be fair, the model shouldn't revolve around butts in the seats, it should rely on marketing and distribution of promotional content. There will only ever be so many people willing to watch guys down the ladder compete. With less at stake I'd predict it would be more successful and easier to implement if the overhead for the event was drastically reduced.

But again, it's a packed international calendar and with the Olympics coming up it might mean that the very best guys choose to sit out any additional matches in favor of training and preparation for the Olympic Team Trials.

Q: What do you think about Kyle Dake wrestling in Spain before facing Alex Dieringer for the World Team spot?
-- Mike C.

Foley: I'm not a fan. Either you are ready to compete for the spot, or you aren't. The process has been wildly unfair to Dieringer and I'm disappointed that the committee allowed Dake to compete. Happy that he's healthy, just don't think the process was fair to Dieringer.

Q: If you could pick one wrestler to coach (for whatever reason -- style, attitude, philosophy, whatever) from each style (freestyle, Greco-Roman, women's wrestling), who would they be?
-- @HalfAgain

Foley: Freestyle: Alex Dieringer. Seems to want it, but also has a way of adapting without losing sight of what makes him successful. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Jordan Burroughs. Women's wrestling: Tamyra Mensha. I like to laugh and might as well have fun while winning an Olympic gold medal. She can and she will. Greco-Roman: Adam Coon. My knowledge of space is lacking and if the best USA Greco-Roman wrestler can also teach me about the cosmos, I'd be down to learn.

Q: I'm wondering if, based on your deep knowledge of Russian wrestling, if the southern Russian republics (Dagestan, Chechnya, Ossetia) have always been the dominant force is Russian/USSR wrestling or if their dominance is a more recent phenomenon? When I look at some of the old USSR team rosters, it seems they weren't filled with names that were of Southern Russian origin. So if this is a more recent phenomenon, I'd appreciate your thoughts on what has fueled this change. Either way I'd appreciate your thoughts on what makes these provinces so good.
-- Vince M.

Foley: I couldn't begin to tell you why they weren't being targeted for growth sooner, but my guess is that once Communism took hold in the Caucuses and coaching support meant more opportunity the lifestyle of the people in the area was helpful. The Caucuses are filled with very faithful people, whether Muslim or Christian. That has long been a binding attribute of many successful wrestling cultures.

This is a great question that I'll continue to explore when I go overseas and have better access to some oral history on the matter from the men who were around to see that development!


Recent piece for United World Wrestling on rising Indian star Pooja Dhanda

Q: Spencer Lee, Nick Suriano, and now Gavin Teasdale. Is this a trend? Might something be an issue at PSU?
-- CMC

Foley: Lee didn't transfer, though he didn't stay in-state which might be another layer to the issue you're discussing: Why can't Penn State retain top lightweights? As for Lee, from I understand he just connected with the Brands' who his Top Guns coach Jody Strittmatter knew well.

As for Teasedale and Suriano, I think there is something very difficult about joining a team of national championship wrestlers. As the lightweight you don't have positive reaffirmation of your talents very often since there are few easy wins in the room. Imagine you were the hero of your high school, and then suddenly you're the 9th or 10th best guy on the overall roster. Now imagine you're struggling for a takedown in the room? That's a tough life and I'm sure one that is difficult for young wrestlers.

So does this mean there is a Penn State lightweight problem overall? No. But there is little denying that they aren't seeing the success from 125-141 that they are 149-285.

Q: What do you think is next for Ben Askren in the UFC after getting knocked out in five seconds? How did you have that fight playing out against Jorge Masvidal?
-- Mike C.

Foley: I had Askren getting KO'd. Made some money on it too!

Askren is a great ambassador for the sport of wrestling and has done more than most to promote its virtues to a wider audience. Really, he's a legendary level competitor on the mats and will be remembered fondly. For many he is the personification of everything funk.

In the cage his legacy will be much different. Askren's career has been remembered as much for its disjointed promotional changes as it is for his winning streak. In terms of talent development, it's obvious that several years spent wrestle-humping lesser-than opponents in Asia wasn't the answer to growth. That's not a knock on his business acumen, as he made plenty of money in that arrangement with ONE Championship. I just think that his record set unrealistic expectations for his ability.

Also, Askren did essentially get KO'd against Lawler which didn't give me extra confidence he could stand and trade against a guy with 50 fights, plenty of takedown defense, and a truckload of motivation.

By the way, Muir, ship it.

Q: It appears that Japanese women's wrestling stars Kaori Icho and Yui Susaki will not compete at the Olympics. I assume the wrestlers who beat them will earns medals at the World Championships to secure their spots on the 2020 team. Which of the two wrestlers not being on the 2020 team surprises you more?
-- Mike C.

Foley: I'm a little heartbroken.

Icho had her run and lost to a defending Olympic champion after taking three years away from the mats. Judging from her statements after the match she's happy with her commitment and the effort she showed in the match.

But Susaki has me a little numb. She's the better of the two wrestlers, but when it came to direct competition had struggled some with that familiarity. To make matters worse for Susaki, if Irie earns a medal at the World Championships she will be the automatic representative for Japan at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Something tells me this story is far from over, but for now I'm a little disappointed to not see Susaki take the mats in Nur-Sultan.


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djhart69 (3) about 11 months ago
Singlet vs. Shorts=Non-issue. Who cares (besides Foley)?
tapout125 (2) about 11 months ago
12 year old kids just starting out in the sport care
jasonbryant (1) about 11 months ago
... and not-so-skinny 15-year-olds who haven't yet learned how to be tough.

Or, in short, people like me.
dbestsport (1) about 11 months ago
Penn State's Nick Lee (141) and Roman Bravo-Young (133) were both "True Freshman" All Americans.
If they have a problem at those weights, I am guessing it is a problem a lot of teams would like to have.
Suriano certainly changed the landscape at their lower weights, and I think your comments about being the 'Star in the room' applies to him. He certainly has that status at Rutgers.
In regards to Teasdale, I have read where he has bigger and considering 141 now. Clearly that was a problem at Penn State. Reading more into it than that is simply conspiracy theories.
Duffnuts (2) about 11 months ago
Technically, Foley is telling the truth. PSU has had a string of 2 and 3x NCAA champs between 149 and 197 in the last 5 years. Post-Megaludis, there hasn't been a champ below 149. Then again, he included HWT . Before this year, I think Kerry McCoy was the last PSU HWT champ.
Anyway, he is comparing one of the best runs in history across the upperweights with a good run in the lower weights. So yeah, by that standard, Foley's technically correct...

As a side note, before Nico, was Hunter the last PSU champ at 125?
jammen (1) about 11 months ago
Somehow Masidal's 5-5 record in his last 10 fights inspired Foley to bet on the heavy underdog. Post a pic of the betting slip or it didn't happen.
grapplefan (2) about 11 months ago
Now's the time to prove that fight shorts will save wrestling. Show us the improved numbers, or show us that you've weakened the brand/image so much that it's no different than any other sport.

12-year-olds are 15-year-olds may have body image issues, but that shouldn't change what makes college athletic memorable.
Jefe (2) about 11 months ago
Nico Megaludis was the 125 national champ as a senior only 3 years ago, but Penn State can't retain top lightweights.
rfgilles (2) about 11 months ago
What does "there has also been a predictable uptick in viewer friendliness"? mean? Pure gibberish.
D_W (3) about 11 months ago
There's a little more to the story (based on teasdale's resopnses) than whether or not he has takedowns. He must've failed to do something well (that's not wrestling) or done something he shouldn't have and then said the coaches don't have his back.

Cael et. al. probably have reasons for that and they're not going to discuss them. They have one guy who flaked out over an ankle injury and another guy who is leaving the school over disagreement with how some unknown situation was handled.

They also had nico M not long ago and they have RBY now. "they have trouble with lightweights" is probably not accurate. They've had trouble with a couple of wrestlers who had some personal issues. It's not really a big deal. To assume that it's somehow associated with lightweights and that they won't have someone stout at 125 in the next couple of years because it's impossible there is dopey.
ConnorsDad (1) about 11 months ago
Mr. Foley, Come on! Really? Who says there is an "uptick in viewer friendliness"? Where and when did you get that notion? Sources? Hard data? Me thinks you probably realize you should not have said it. And even if five or ten people said it, it's so far from statistically significant that it might as well be zero. I think your bias has made you write something you want and hope to be true but in reality it is not and you know it.
mikelo (1) about 11 months ago
yea it seems your comments are alittle unfair to askren. wasnt he some 19 and 0 and he was pretty much winning with wrestling only. yea lawler was a tough match up for him but he did get through it. i saw it and lawler looked out. if he wasnt that was his mistake. if askren didnt catch that knee, i thought he would win a good fight.
ncaa and usa wrestling makes me proud. so does DT
rajatgaikwad7277 (1) about 11 months ago
I think this is an informative post and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article