Foley's Friday Mailbag: September 6, 2019

The Zain Retherford-Yianni Diakomihalis saga came to an end on Labor Day as Retherford defeated Yianni 2-1 in a low-scoring defensive affair in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

In the one scoring exchange, Zain stopped a Yianni single leg attack and turned it into a crotch lift, scoring two exposure points. Yianni, for his part, hooked the bottom leg during the action causing some to speculate that he may have earned a counter exposure. I'm not so sure, but what is certain is that Yianni's side didn't throw the challenge cube.

Maybe the staff noticed the apparent exposure too late and dared not to disobey the ever-critical "five-second rule?" Or maybe they thought they'd lose the challenge and not have one to use later in the match? Unclear.

In the post-match interview Zain expressed sincere frustration and anger at the way matters had played out over the last several weeks. The Penn State grad even alluded to a marriage proposal that needed to be changed in accommodation of the arbitration and wrestle-off for the World Team spot. As someone who slyly booked a magician for his engagement, I can attest to the frustration I'd have felt should my plans have been thwarted. Either way it was a very human moment that should serve to remind fans that Zain too was affected by this boondoggle.

I get it. Wrong calls happen, bad calls happen, and we want to ensure that everything is always one-hundred percent perfect. But ask Ian Miller if everything is fair and perfect. It's not. When matches are over, they should be over. We shouldn't relitigate the past because we FEEL as though we've been wronged. This event has reminded many in the wrestling community that it's always more instructive to move forward than to drag the Resilite into the courtroom.

Now it's official: Zain is on to Worlds and Yianni is back to training. No doubt Yianni will be in contention next year and possibly even make the 2020 Olympic team and win a gold medal. In looking back, let's just hope that next year's Olympic Trials don't turn into ongoing court actions and can instead be lived and celebrated on the mats. While I have feared that this situation would prompt more litigation, I'm somewhat optimistic that the negative taste from this affair will dissuade most parents and team leaders from asking for dates on the court docket.

To your questions …

Q: What did you think of the Zain-Yianni match? Do you think it was necessary?
-- Gregg Y.

Foley: The Court appointed arbitrator found it necessary, so as a law-abiding citizen my opinion is secondary to his. As for what I thought of the wrestling, I think the match went as I'd predicted (for once) with a healthy Zain able to shut down Yianni. Had Zain been injured I think we could have seen a much different game plan from both wrestlers.

All-in-all I just hope that Zain has the energy to refocus for the World Championships and is able to wrestle at one-hundred percent in Nur-Sultan!

Jordan Oliver gets in on a shot against Montell Marion at the U.S. Open (Photo/Tony Rotundo,

Q: Do you think Jordan Oliver's decision to leave Ithaca for Chapel Hill had anything to do with Yianni being in Ithaca? It seems like they have a close relationship and have helped each other, but it probably wouldn't have been the ideal situation to have them in the same room. On a related note, what percentage chance do you give JO to make the 2020 team?
-- Mike C.

Foley: Anything? Of course. I think that to be the best in the world you need a training environment that caters to your needs and that attention can't be split with your biggest national opponent. I think that UNC will be a nice home for JO and that Coleman Scott and Tony Ramos are exceptional coaches and training partners for someone looking to make the team at 65 kilograms.

What percentage? Just about 30 percent. Zain and Yianni are arguably both in the top ten worldwide so to overcome both of them to make an Olympic team will be decidedly more difficult than making the national team at a non-Olympic weight. Still, JO has attributes that can make him a problem for any opponent, domestic or international. The real indication on how he'll fair in the Olympic year is what he can do in overseas competitions in 2019. There are a few coming up this winter that would be great entry points for him to work on timing, weight cuts, and match management.

Happy to see JO at UNC and back in the conversation!


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Q: Practically no national wrestling media coverage of the charges and subsequent sexual assault and battery conviction against Wayne Boyd. Why?
-- JM

Foley: Eek. I can't speak for other outlets or for anyone's perception of coverage, but I think that there could be a few factors in play.

First, Wayne Boyd -- despite his title as head coach of Titan Mercury -- was always seen as a small-time player in the current landscape of the sport. He really didn't make a ton of high-level decisions and certainly wasn't on the mat coaching.

Second, people don't want to speak ill of Titan Mercury because of the support the club has shown to so many wrestlers over the years. (And just to nip it in the bud, this wasn't a Team Foxcatcher situation where the benefactor was the issue, this was someone in the orbit.) They'd rather focus on the positives and move forward, which I think includes a wrestling press that often does choose light-hearted or inspirational stories to those that are dark or lurid.

Finally, Wayne committed terrible crimes, acted in a boorish and gross manner often, and will be sentenced for his crimes accordingly. The lesson here is the same one that was taught to the wrestling community any number of times over the past 50 years: Keep the sycophants, leeches and spaniels at arms-length.

Also, don't be creepy.

Q: What potential matchups (one in each style) are you most interested in seeing at the World Championships?
-- Mike C.

Foley: Just one?! See below.

Greco-Roman: Frank Staebler (Germany) vs. Artem Surkov (Russia): World champions who go absolutely wild in their matches and gave us an epic match earlier this year in Germany. They won't often send each other for four points, but Staebler's fitness and Surkov's will make for the best matchup of two high-level Greco-Roman wrestlers in Nur-Sultan.

Women's wrestling: Mayu Mukaida (Japan) vs. Vinesh Vinesh (India): The 53-kilogram weight category is stacked, but one of the most interesting wrestlers could be Vinesh. She's a star on the rise, up a weight from 2018 and very determined to become India's first Olympic gold medalist. If she can take out Mukaida that would be the first step towards her Olympic goals. Stylistically it would also be a problem since Vinesh (and many Indian wrestlers) has a handful of moves that most opponents haven't trained to defend. Just look at Sarah Hildebrandt's match against Vinesh at the Dan Kolov.

Freestyle: Outside of Snyderlaev III, I'm probably most excited to see Daton Fix match up against Zaur Uguev of Russia. While I certainly respect Uguev's title run last year, I feel like Daton can give him fits for seven minutes. No question Coach John Smith has Fix ready for all the major opponents, which will be an advantage since Uguev doesn't have a preponderance of recent footage on Fix, especially not against foreign opponents. Should Fix catch his rhythm early, or even catch the matchup with Uguev early, I like the style matchup and Fix's chances. Uguev can dog it, the question will be if Fix can turn up the heat.

Forrest Molinari at the Final X: Lincoln press conference (Photo/Tony Rotundo,

Q: What American (if any) will be a breakout star at the Worlds? What non-American will be a breakout star?
-- Mike C.

Foley: Breakout American star will be Forrest Molinari. She's wrestling 65 kilograms as the top seed and with pretty decisive wins over many of her opponents. There is a very good chance that she makes her way into the World finals and takes home the world championship. If she does so then I'm basing the breakout star moniker on the fact she'll give one hell of an interview backstage.

On the international side I'd keep a close eye on 22-year-old Artur Naifonov of Russia. He won Euros last year but is making his World Championships debut at 86 kilograms. Maybe he's the answer to fill the Olympic weight behind Sadualev? Or maybe he'll be a dud. My bet would be on the former.


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NJDan1 (3) about 9 months ago
I have read many message board comments on the Yianni protest. Tho you are a professional journalist (kinda) yours are among the dumbest. Yianni did not just "feel" wronged, he was wronged. That's how the arbitrator ruled. You have not even read the decision, but seem to believe you know better.
D_W (1) about 9 months ago
NJDan - I'm sure you are in the minority of people if you think there was any good reason for a rematch. Now that it's over and Zain won - again, any reasoning looks even more errant.
dob092095 (1) about 9 months ago
To me the point is not ‘was Yianni wronged’. I consider that irrelevant. Wrestling has implemented challenges and a review process. The review should be the final word. Allowing an arbiter who probably is not versed in wrestling rules to decide makes no sense. I guess next year if there’s a bad call during the Ohio State PSU match, the losing coach should file for arbitration. Now it’s started, where does it end? Bad calls unfortunately are a thing and have been in the past. You won’t convince me that Logan Steiner is more than a 2 time champ. I feel his opponents were robbed twice. When would you want to allow arbitration? Final X, NCAA finals, college matches, your sons tball game?
cjb28 (2) about 9 months ago
To me, there is also a valid argument to be made that this process will also limit future issues where there could be a change to the final score a minute after the exchange took place and the match has been considered complete. For all those that complain "where does it end" I would say the same case could be made with challenges. I think the silver lining lies in the opportunity for improvement to a potential inherent flaw in the challenge process.
Coach Creamer (1) about 9 months ago
I agree with Foley, arbitration here was unnecessary and sets a bad precedent. The Ian Miller reference is perfect for drawing in here. The referee/scorer messed up the points, but because it wasn't caught at the moment, tough luck for Miller. The referee made a call in the Zain-Yianni match that others didn't agree with. It may have been blatantly terrible. Tough, get over it. Joe Nathan's pitch will always be two feet low and outside, but you know what? Ben Zobrist, to this day, is still struck out. That's real life.
Saint J (2) about 9 months ago
The problem with Foley’s position is that he doesn’t think that wrestling is important enough to have to submit its governance to the review of law. He says, “Well, egregious errors happen. They are part of the game. Live with it”.

But, that’s the same argument that protected bad laws, bad regulations, bad administration, until somebody or some group had the guts and gumption to say, “this is not right it is not just. We can do better. We can be better.” ...AND IT IS OUR COURTS AND LEGAL SYSTEM AS LAST RESORT THAT CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN.

I like Foley for his generally progressive views and simply find his conservative can’t change blind-eye attitude on refereeing at odds with his his otherwise healthy willingness to accept change.

Yianni & Koll and company did the sport of wrestling a big favor, by defending a fairness principle that will force improvement, training and awareness in freestyle refereeing. Kudos to them for helping to make the sport better

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