With the Olympic styles in full swing, the Beach Wrestling Odessa stop will have a limited number of competitors, but as with prior events the winners will receive 100, 500, and 250 CHF for taking the top three spots in each of the four men's and women's weight categories.
There is always a desire for more competitors and bigger events, but what we are seeing with beach wrestling is something even more unique -- a lot of return competitors. That's powerful for a young sport because it allows us to see familiar faces and follow along in their year-end quest to win the World Championships (Sept. 7-9 in Zagreb) and qualify for the Beach World Games (Oct. 11-13 in Doha).
Hopefully the sport can catch fire in untapped wrestling communities as well. Africa has several traditional styles that are very similar. The popularity of those local styles is multigenerational and profound, making wholesale change to freestyle difficult for some. Beach wrestling is a gateway form of international wrestling for many of these nations who would be certain to find success quicker on the beach than the mats, given the lack of ground wrestling.
It's all pretty interesting and as we enter the midway point of this first full year of the world series I hope that we can start to find some more fans and build this new and exciting form of the world's oldest and greatest sport.
Action starts Friday at 3 p.m. local time and continues with two sessions on Saturday at 10 a.m. local time and 3 p.m. local time. Coverage of the event can be found @uwwbeachwrestling on Instagram and @uwwbeach on Twitter. FloWrestling will be streaming the event live on their platforms.
To your questions …
Zain Retherford gets in on a shot against Jaydin Eierman in the semifinals of the U.S. Open (Photo/Sandy Slater)
Q: What did you make of Jaydin Eierman replacing Zain Retherford for the Pan American Games?
-- Mike C.
Foley: The most obvious conclusion is that Zain is slightly more injured than previously disclosed/announced/rumored. As for why Team USA didn't bring Yianni, the notification of injury was made after he'd already left for Poland. Interestingly, the event has a strict guideline for who may enter as an injury replacement. Only the names noted in the early forms delivered to the organization are eligible for competition. That rule left the list pretty confined to a few names, hence Eierman getting the nod. Let's hope he crushes!
Nestor Taffur wrestling James Green at the World Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Q: What are your thoughts on Nestor Taffur's win over 2012 Olympic champ Toghrul Asgarov at 74 kilograms? Is Asgarov a medal threat at 74 kilograms?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Taffur has been training regularly at the NYC RTC and has even gone on the road to train some with Team Georgia. He's likely to wrestle for Colombia at the World Championships at either 74 kilograms or 79 kilograms.
I'm not shocked by the results both because Taffur is in excellent shape and well-coached, but also that anytime a wrestler "debuts" at a new weight it takes time for them to adjust. Any loss for Asgarov would have felt unacceptable, but the way he lost made it seem as though he has an uphill climb to make the Olympic lineup for Tokyo 2020. A little pudgy, pretty slow, not as dynamic and while 70 kilograms and 65 kilograms are out of the question, the Azerbaijan staff may want to ask themselves if Asgarov isn't better off wrestling a little leaner in order to retain his timing and reactions.
Great win for Taffur!
Watch the Junior World Championships next week on Trackwrestling!
Q: Pan Am Games vs. Pan Am Championships: Can you explain the difference? Is one more prestigious? Is one an Olympic qualifier? It looks like we are sending a stacked squad.
-- Nick D.
Foley: The Pan Am Games are the quadrennial athletic competition for the Americas, hosted by the Pan Am Committee. The Games are like the Olympics in that they are outside of United World Wrestling's event management and they hold high esteem among the Pan Am nations. In almost all sports winning a Pan Am Games one of these events will mean increased funding from your home nation.
In that way the event is more prestigious than maybe a Pan Am Championships, but you cannot qualify for the Olympic Games from the Pan Am Games. The qualification (in wrestling) is World Championships (6), Continentals (8 total), and Last Chance (2). Also note that the continental championships in the Olympic year are not the qualifier, only the continental qualifier, which is everyone from the continent who didn't qualify a spot during the World Championships. The Championships accepts everyone and will host non-Olympic weights, too.
Q: With the question about Kyle Conel in last week's mailbag, I have another question along the lines of medical redshirt/hardship. Have you or any readers ever heard of a wrestler getting two extra years like Anthony Cassar was granted? I have heard of many getting one year, but two seems to be unheard of, I would think. To me, it reeks of "Cael getting whatever he wants" with the NCAA. And because of the PSU machine and its domination like the Iowa teams of the late 70's and 80's draws in eyeballs/ratings at the end of the year, along with the fact that the broadcast kept raving on about Cassar and how great of a story he had led to an individual title, it seems to be that he is getting much more favorable treatment on "medical hardship" then others around the NCAA. I would understand him getting one year, but two … really? He'll probably be what … 25 if he uses both years?
-- Dustin B.
Foley: Not an unfair examination, but I don't think this was a Cael or Penn State-specific ruling. In recent weeks I've spoken to several coaches about medical hardships for sixth-year waivers and the response was pretty reliable: The NCAA doesn't want litigation and would rather grant opportunities to athletes rather than limit them unnecessarily. It's the same idea behind the transfer portal and other recent developments.
I wish the NCAA had this mindset when I applied for my fifth-year medical hardship waiver in 2003. Instead of an easy grant they chose to find any way possible to block my hardship, eventually forcing me to go to court to have a (very) obvious bad judgement overturned even as they admitted in conversation there was no reason they shouldn't be able to change it internally.
Either way, the NCAA is erring on the side of the athletes, I think that is the most notable change, less that they are assisting Cael and Penn State.