Foley's Friday Mailbag: August 16, 2019

The United States Junior freestyle team finished second this week at the Junior World Championships in Tallinn, Estonia. While short of its goal to capture team gold, the team walked away with an array of hardware, including top finishes by David Carr and Mason Parris.

The results confirm that the developmental program in America has succeeded in curating talent for freestyle success, with sustained year-to-year results on display at the World Championships. Victory has 1000 fathers and in this case USA Wrestling deserves praise for both supporting young athletes for international competitions and lifting up the RTC system which has connected post-graduate freestyle wrestlers with developing athletes.

As the gold medals pile up it's important to note just how unique the American system as compared to other nations. Funding aside, the hallmark of the American wrestling srtyle is that there is no one style defining the nation's top performers. They do share good conditioning and strength, but from Jordan Burroughs to Kyle Snyder to J'den Cox to Alex Dieringer the variation in offensive attacks, defensive strategy, and general gamesmanship varies wildly among our nation's best.

At the root of their success is what makes America successful in a variety of professional industries. There is a variety of backgrounds, experiences, skills, and motivations working together for a single goal. Strength through diversity. Diversity of race, religion, socioeconomic status, LGBTQ status, and a million other variables incumbent to a uniquely American lifestyle.

That diversity and sharing of experiences has meant that as Team USA ascends the world ranks it's doing so with unpredictable assets in place. A nation may well be prepared for Jake Varner, but were they ready for Kyle Snyder? If a nation focused on Snyder's style, would they be ready for James Green? No one person gives a full insight into the other, which is in contrast to nations like Japan, Iran, and Russia which wrestle in a single predictable manner. They too have success, but ours has much more potential for growth.

A wrestling tournament can be one of the most diverse places in American sports and much of that has to do with wide acceptance of individuals as they are in size or gender. We are the original melting pot of the sporting world and it's something we should continue to elevate and celebrate. We are a wildly diverse meritocracy. Everyone is aiming to achieve the same outcome no matter where, or how, they started their journey. Ours is a winning formula it's something we should continue to celebrate and never fail to protect.

To your questions …

Yianni Diakomihalis and Zain Retherford after their second match at Final X (Photo/Tony Rotundo,

Q: I can't be on your side given I'm Section V, but what's your take on the Yianni decision?
-- Don C.

Foley: According to a release by USA Wrestling, the arbitrator in the Yianni-Zain case has nullified the match due to irregularities in the timing of the final challenge and asked that the second match be re-wrestled. The date and time of the match are as-of-yet unknown, but will require the input of USA Wrestling and possibly the freestyle commission.

My opinion on the matter hasn't changed. The ruling was awkward for many fans, but no rules were broken and the match followed a known pattern of challenges used at the international level. Furthermore, matches at international events are no longer re-wrestled for any reason and given that the national federation abides by the international federation's general guidelines there should have been heavy deference paid to that standard. Finally, this is Pandora's Box for litigation up-and-down the wrestling community.

Yianni has proven himself to be a great wrestler and what is somewhat saddening is that his reputation is somewhat affected by this challenge. I have nothing but respect for him and his wrestling style and believe he is a surefire medalist at the World Championships.

But are we OK with this? Are we OK with a non-wrestling arbitrator misinterpreting rules to defy the common functioning norms of international wrestling?

Now to the details. When will this wrestle-off take place? The national federations are meant to have their entries in by Aug. 14 with exceptions given to Russia and the United States for some ongoing wrestle-offs. If Zain is hurt and is only able to wrestle right before the World Championships, is it OK to make him wrestle injured based on the timeline? Taking a step back, is Zain able to injunct the decision? When this happens, or is able to happen, it will be an incredibly difficult dustup to manage. What rights does Zain have in this process?

Overall, this is a sad day for wrestling. The arbitrator is a smart man, Yianni is a good wrestler, but wrestling suffered under the suspicion of corruption for decades partly due to re-wrestled matches. United World Wrestling put a firm end to that process, but now it's sneaking back in and the only consequence is more corruption, more suspicion, and ultimately a less fair outcome for the majority of athletes. The reintroduction of the legal process into a competed match will lead to negative outcomes.

Good luck to these wrestlers the rest of the way. This is not their fault. I guess we can only hope for the best outcome for them in their professional and personal lives.


Upset? Watch this woman get dropped on her back. Yowza.


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Hype (6) about 6 months ago
Can we please have some wrestling commentary for the weekly review and roundup? We got Mekhi taking a Olympic redshirt, Dake vs. Ringer, JO going to UNC. So much going on and yet again we are forced to read about diversity and gay love. No one wants to see this honorable sport become culturally radicalized like the pathetic NBA and NFL other than the degenerates trying to politicize it.
jngregory (2) about 6 months ago
"Misinterpreting rules?" What rule was misinterpreted by the arbitrator?
Hokie wrestling (7) about 6 months ago
Please, please leave the social justice warrior commentary out of your Friday mailbag and stick to wrestling only. We have a lot of great wrestling stories to hear and talk about. Please stick to wrestling and leave demographics out of the conversation completely.
mcaroten (1) about 6 months ago
Indeed the legal precedent could be pandora's box for other challenges even if I think Yianni was on the receiving end of a horrible call in that match. Zain and Yianni are both class acts, so no fault to them in this situation. I wonder what Cary Kolat would think of this situation.......

As for the trolls who seemed to be threatened by your championing diversity in our sport---- ignore the obvious bigotry---wrestling is for everyone!
Hokie wrestling (7) about 6 months ago
No trolling, bigotry or hatred on my part whatsoever. There are plenty other forums to discuss any topic you’d like. I come here for wrestling and only wrestling.
cobiz (2) about 6 months ago
Enjoyed the "social justice warrior" and "gay love" commentary, keep on educating the neanderthals.
poliseo (7) about 6 months ago
There's only one word that comes to mind after reading your progressive diversity pablum ... nauseating. We are bombarded with PC nonsense everywhere these days. We love wrestling because it's a pure combat sport between two people to see who's the best based on merit and skill. Not diversity. Not because of quotas. Not because of political correctness. You should write for the Village Voice - the readers of that rag might actually care about your liberal progressive vomit.
seeyajohn2 (1) about 6 months ago
I don't agree with the criticisms that this column should deal with wrestling only. The Mailbag is an opinion column not a news column. There are plenty of news pieces in Intermat and elsewhere.
cooper (3) about 6 months ago
I also do not see a misinterpretation of rules by the arbitrator and think that comment is highly debatable.

I find your take on this situation and concern about corruption in the sport on the International level to be in contrast to your unwillingness to comment at all on the 2016 Olympic Men's Freestyle cheating/corruption that actually led to officials being dismissed from the games! If my memory is correct you largely avoided comment on corruption in the 2016 Games in this mailbag.
BuckeyeWrestler2000 (1) about 6 months ago
Foley, I usually feel like you come from a perspective of doing justice, but how is this not justice? You wrote, "According to a release by USA Wrestling, the arbitrator in the Yianni-Zain case has nullified the match due to irregularities in the timing of the final challenge and asked that the second match be re-wrestled. The date and time of the match are as-of-yet unknown, but will require the input of USA Wrestling and possibly the freestyle commission."

The majority of the people in the wrestling people that I spoke to in the wrestling community actually expressed the complete opposite of what you expressed, and they felt like Yianni Diakomihalis was dealt a severe injustice by having a wrestling match overturned after it was over. That wasn't in any way "keeping wrestling on the mat".

Yet, you doubled down and stated: "My opinion on the matter hasn't changed. The ruling was awkward for many fans, but no rules were broken and the match followed a known pattern of challenges used at the international level."

Changing the scoring AFTER the match when confusion happened with PLENTY of time left is not a "known pattern of challenges". That's what caused the major stir. A challenge in and of itself would not have caused the ruckus. Changing the score AFTER the match when the wrestler that thought he won was wrestling to protect his lead would have been wrestling to get a takedown, much like when Jordan Burroughs was behind against Isaiah Martinez at Final X and KNEW he needed to get a takedown to win and DID IT! Yianni had no clue he was down in Match 2, so his wrestling strategy was DRASTLY different than if he was down by a point. Who stops a rogue referee from playing God or the other officials from covering their friends when they make bad calls? Who stops someone from making an unfair decision against a wrestler like it was against Yianni? Had the call been challenged DURING the match and the points rescored and time reset to the moment the confusion occurred, there probably would not be anyone filing for arbitration.

So I think many people feel the complete opposite of you that "Yianni has proven himself to be a great wrestler and what is somewhat saddening is that his reputation is somewhat affected by this challenge." In fact, Yianni standing up for himself and fighting in court gives me even more respect for him, and this is coming from a person who saw him benefit from what I thought was a bad call against someone I know in the NCAA Finals. So I have no reason to take Yianni's side on this. I'm just calling a spade a spade, and it appeared that Yianni was completely screwed in Match 2, so Yianni going to arbitration and having the arbitrator side with him on Match 2 sounds like the most fair thing in my opinion...which is the same as the arbitrator's opinion which is probably the same as at least 51% of the population's. Maybe Intermat should do a poll and see if people think the arbitrator made the right decision. I usually stay quiet when people fire off at you because I don't care about presenting things from a liberal or conservative perspective, but what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. If Yianni and other wrestlers shouldn't go to arbitration, officials shouldn't be able to rescore matches after matches end because it gives the wrestler NO chance to change their attack strategy which they would have done if the score stated they were down or up by a point.
dbrown1967 (3) about 6 months ago
I'm not sure I understand how diversity through LGBTQ status is a strength of USA Wrestling. If you think it's true - ok. You have every right to think that and write it.
Nowadays, these social justice topics seem to find a way into every world of interest and sport. I and others have a right to say we don't see how it fits or is needed as a part of how we enjoy the sport. We have a right to do that without being labeled homophobes or racists. As for Yanni and the decision - my opinion of him is not negatively affected - not a cornell fan or a PSU hater. I've just seen that kid win too many matches in the last 10 seconds to count him out. I have to believe if he knew he was down he might have found a way to win it. I look forward to the rematch. Lastly, despite my difference of opinion on the diversity angle Mr. Foley, I do look forward to your Mailbag articles each Friday. Thanks for putting in the time to document the sport
jkwjr52 (1) about 6 months ago
Why would Yianni’s reputation be affected by the challenge? And if you look at most other sports an arbitrator comes in to make the final decisions in most cases. Like you’ve stated before we want our Best to represent us in the World Championships, and in my opinion Yianni is the better of the 2!
pjw134lbsAA (1) about 6 months ago
I support wrestling in many financial forms. A paid subscription to this site used to be one. Your SJW nonsense will keep me boycotting that. Save your breath and energy calling me intolerant...I have a special needs adult child and the best man in my wedding was gay.
trfoley (1) about 6 months ago
Man, who knew that diversity was going to trigger so many negative responses?! The wrestling aspect of diversity’s power to strengthen the technical proficiency of a team was well-stated and justified. I don’t know what to say if you hate the idea of a diverse team, but ultimately it’s happening and should be recognized and celebrated.

As for Yianni/Zain the challenge during the match was good. The 5s interpretation was misapplied and the overturning of the match was incorrect. The arbitrator got it wrong.
cellinisubs (2) about 6 months ago
Has the Arbitration decision been published? It has been reported that match 2 was thrown out in its entirety due to a late Cael challenge. If that is the only reason, then why not throw out the result of the challenge and award match 2 awarded to Yanni? Is this conclusion too simple
jngregory (2) about 6 months ago
Please explain the misinterpretation.
BuckeyeWrestler2000 (1) about 6 months ago
Foley, I appreciate you commenting again, but you spent more time addressing the diversity issue, which I have no problem with along with half the other commenters, but I believe you’re missing a major point that nearly ALL of us have expressed whether we be conservative, liberal, or moderates: “We want MORE wrestling coverage and LESS political commentary...period.”

Looking through the majority of the comments, a vast majority of folks commenting have made it quite clear that they felt Yianni 2nd Match with Zain gave Yianni a very unfair decision. I haven’t seen a single commenter say “Yianni is a jerk for challenging the decision.” So the thought of this ruining Yianni’s reputation is FAR from a reality. Even if I were to say the challenge rules were correctly applied, how is Match 2 ending in Yianni losing good for wrestling? Again, almost every commenter on here have expressed that they’ve never seen a challenge overturning points implemented so late after the even occurred, and in this case points were changed AFTER the match was over. How is that fair to EITHER wrestler in a sport where we value “leaving it on the mats”? This was “leaving it on the scorers table and replay officials”, so yes, Yianni should have challenged the match. Had everything been “on the mat”, then I’m with you. But Yianni’s ruling happened AFTER time expired, and there was nothing he could do about that. We want answers to this. You keep saying, “I’m right...and all of you are wrong” in a nutshell, but you aren’t addressing our points of WHY the initial ruling was jacked up. Perhaps you could admit, “Yeah, you have a point there. We might need a rule change in the future, but these are the rules at the time so we can’t change those.” However, you’re making it seem like the Match 2 decision is fair, and that’s very hard for me to swallow and looking at the comments I think many people feel the same way.
Hype (1) about 6 months ago
trfoley - no one knows what diversity even means in the wrestling context, nor what weird justification is being used to justify its promotion as technically relevant. The whole reference makes no sense and sounds ridiculous to normal people.

And what are you talking about people hating diversity, no one even understands it enough to hate it. How about you quit slandering your audience who obviously resents everything you represent. What is happening is the under-developed are mimicking distorted intellectual heroes, no one with a sane mind has to recognize or celebrate this obvious delusion.
thewhorehouseisbusy (1) about 6 months ago
Unhinged conservative whack jobs unhappy with Foley. Too funny.
rowboat (1) about 6 months ago
Foley lacks the ability to have independent thoughts that do not conform to some mass, 'morally righteous' mode of thinking. And, what is the proof for what he asserts, what is the evidence to back these claims? Does it exist? To me what he says is just theoretical and borrowed from another source.
D_W (1) about 6 months ago
I have no problem with the LBGTQ stuff, but I don't see how it's relevant to wrestling. Our wrestlers are varied because their background isn't freestyle. They learn to attack and score points or ride or be elusive in folkstyle wrestling. For years, we heard that maybe folkstyle should be more like freestyle because it wasn't preparing our kids for international wrestling, and now we even have Russian commenters on youtube applauding Taylor's attacking style and criticizing the slower style of Dake, and saying that he's "like a Russian wrestler".

The comments in your article, however, feel either like a reach, stuffing the topic in because there was nowhere else to go, or like an intentional pot stirring to try to get the more rigid fans to read out of anger rather than interest.

100% agree on the Zain match. It should never have occurred, and in my youth, my father would've said (about the appeal to get the match re-wrestled) "if you have to win that way, then you shouldn't be in the sport in the first place".

If I ever complained about a third strike call in baseball, or a bad call costing us the game, or one kid making a bad play, my dad would've said "what happened the rest of the at bat", or "what did you guys do in the first place to put yourselves in position to lose on one bad call?".