Willie's Friday Mailbag: June 18th, 2021

Jason Tsirtsis in the 2014 NCAA Finals (Photo/Tony Rotundo;

Joe Caprino, my buddy from, wrote me this the other day:

Only 3 of the 13 four-time state champs in Pennsylvania have ever won an NCAA title. How come the best high school state for wrestling has such a low percentage of 4xers winning at least ONE title?

Indiana has 2 of 9 (Jason Tsirtsis and Angel Escobedo). 8 of the 25 Ohio champs won an NCAA title. I almost wonder if this is very much the same across the board.

Figure it out, Brain man!

He followed it up with these stats:

To add to Joe's totals, California has had 4 four-timers: Darrell Vasquez, Justin Mejia, Seth Nevills, and Jesse Vasquez, who is just starting his college career. None won NCAA top honors.

The low percentage is often explained away by message board posters who like to sound smart by quipping that 'they were overrated' and 'I knew he wouldn't pan out.'

It's a lame excuse and not entirely accurate. Of course, to be sure, not every state title is equal to the next. California has 25,000 wrestlers and one champ per weight, while some states have six classifications. Ohio and New York expanded classes relatively recently.

But let's not rewrite history by saying the four-timers 'weren't that good' in high school. Their success or lack thereof cannot be explained away so simply.

Let's say there's a point scale wherein a '10' is a Gable Steveson/Kyle Snyder high school senior. Not all state champions are 10's. And news flash, not all wrestlers that win a state title as a senior were a better version of themselves when they won the title as a Sophomore or Junior. It happens. Gavin Teasdale looked much better as a Junior.

All you have to do is look at rankings. Every year there is a four-timer that gets crowned that isn't ranked #1. Heck, there was a four-time finalist this year in Iowa that wasn't ranked at all.

It's a big country.

But this discussion comes at a very good time. Recruiting season is back in full swing. And here's a message/reminder to all the coaches, parents, and athletes: how many state titles you have is much less important than 1) that you're wrestling your best as a senior and 2) that you're prepared in all aspects of your life to make the transition to college.

It's unprovable, but I'd venture to say that of all the legit, top-billed recruits that didn't succeed in college to the level of our expectations, many of them were derailed not because they weren't good enough, but because life threw them curveballs. The transition to college, in a sport that is the most mentally and physically taxing, is far too often understated. New home, new friends, new coaches, balancing a checkbook, picking your own classes and figuring it all out on your own.

Jason Tsirtsis publicly dealt with a death in the family in the second half of his career. Chance Marsteller was admittedly not at his peak early in his career, with weight cutting and lifestyle choices being the culprit. I'm positive that if you heard the stories, the Ben Whitford's and Fox Baldwin's and other Top 10 recruits in the country, you'd hear similar stories.

In summation, take away two things 1) the goal is not freshman year; it's life and 2) prepare for and be there for your athlete as they make the transition to college.

To your questions -

Who will be the next Head Coach at Bellarmine? - @DutrowJim

Hey Jim! Thanks for running #WrestlingShirtADayinMay. Great stuff.

It's tough to say. Our SoCon rep, Rachel Gallardo, says that the entire staff is being replaced.

One name that consistently comes up, though, is Army's Ned Shuck, which would be a great hire if they could pry him away. A name that might surprise you is also applying: former UFC star Gray Maynard.

What school is most likely to subscribe to that Bouzakis/Mendez package deal? - @VakAttack

Ohio State. Iowa also makes sense, but they have a ton of money tied up down low and will also be in on Jesuroga. Penn State is on both their lists but has a similar situation. I don't know what the likelihood of it actually materializing, but the families do discuss it.

Why is there not more being done to get freestyle back to ten weights at the Olympics? - @iawrestlingfan

Because we fight for scraps. Because the Olympics lost their way.

You hear me whine about it all the time. They'd rather have BMX and whatever other nonsense than the sports that got them here. And to make matters worse, they refuse to up the athlete quota.

The worst thing, for me anyway, is that having six Olympic weights doesn't mess up just one year of wrestling, but three in every cycle. Follow me here:

Year 1 - few participants among the elite because they just put everything into the Olympic year. Plus retirements.

Year 2 - The best non-Olympic World Championships of the 4-year cycle and it's not close.

Year 3 - The non-Olympic weights at Worlds are a wasteland as all athletes congregate to 1) qualify the weight for the Olympics and 2) gain a seed.

Year 4 - Olympic year. 40% less weight class and a paltry 16-man bracket.

The only chance for FS (men's and women's) to get back to 10 Olympic weights is under a situation where Greco is no longer in the Olympics. (This is in the works and is the worst kept secret in the sport. One federation (in Europe, if I recall correctly) even sent out a memo.

Even still, should Greco get dropped, I wouldn't hold my breath on getting 10 weights back. Adding four weights x 16 for men, plus the same for women = 128 athlete spots they can use to start Olympic Call of Duty or some nonsense.

What is your favorite vegetable, if applicable? - @stegallB14

Peas, dog. Love 'em. Also, parsnips don't get enough love.

Why haven't they announced World Team Trials will be in Lincoln yet? - @wiems19

It sounded like that was a done deal at one point, but it still isn't set. Apparently, there's also a home football game for the Huskers that weekend.

But it's another reminder of how frustrating everything has been since Covid hit. No one knows where anything will be, or where.

Heck, UWW didn't even have their schedule and location for Cadet Worlds posted until the other day and the tournament starts in four weeks. It's disappointing for me, as a journalist. I can't imagine the frustration for the athletes and parents.


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jkwjr52 (1) about 3 months ago
Willie, Ohio has had 3 divisions since 1976. They renamed the divisions from A to 3, AA to 2 and AAA to 1 in 1988. Is that recently?
The Du (1) about 3 months ago
my apologies. i thought they went to 3 in the 90's for some reason.
grappler6 (1) about 3 months ago
Minnesota has two champions (Mark Hall and Gable Steveson) out of 30, 4xers. A handful of them still have eligibility with some being perceived in that regard. Kerkvleit and Kennedy as an example
pancakefor5 (1) about 3 months ago
Note no California on the list and the low number of 4Xers for New Jersey. Single group state setups are tough. Many factors but, multiple divisions at the HS level is probably part of the explanation on why high success at one level doesn’t necessarily translate to the next level.
dbestsport (1) about 3 months ago
Willie, in regards to PA, is the percentage distinguishable between AAA 4'Xers and AA 4'Xers?

Also, with Women's wrestling becoming more main stream and highly promoted, do you think that may be the venue by which to expand the number of weight classes?
Duffnuts (1) about 3 months ago
Great question! I decided to try to dig into this one a bit and found the answer. First, here is the list of 4 timers from PA:
James Conklin, Waynesburg (1940-1943)
Jerry Maury, Clearfield (1947-1950)
Mike Johnson, Lock Haven (1958-1961)
Matt Gerhard, Catasaqua (1981-1984)
Ty Moore, North Allegheny (1987-1990)
John Hughes, Benton (1988-1991)
Cary Kolat, Jefferson-Morgan (1989-1992)
Bob Crawford, Milton (1990-1993)
Jeremy Hunter, McGuffey (1993-1996)
Jimmy Gulibon, Derry Area (2009-2012)
Chance Marstellar, Kennard Dale (2011-2014)
Thomas Haines, Solanco (2011-2014)
Gavin Teasdale, Jefferson-Morgan (2015-2018)
Duffnuts (1) about 3 months ago
I can't find a specific year that the PIAA split the championships into two divisions. The first three all competed before 1965 and news articles from that year only list "PIAA champions" without listing divisions. So I'm splitting this into the single-division era and the modern era.
So the first thing is that we have a huge bias toward 4 timers coming from AA schools.
Only two in the modern era wrestled at AAA schools (N. Allegheny and Solanco).
All 3 NCAA champs came in the modern era and all three came from AA schools (Hughes, Kolat, Hunter).
So we have 0 out of 2 from AAA and 3 out of 8 from AA schools in the modern era. We have 0 out of 3 in the single-division era.

As a side note, I found a bit of info on James Conklin. He served immediately out of high school. After the war, he attended and wrestled at Indiana for two years. He apparently only had one loss each year. After his second year, he entered medical school and felt he would be too busy to continue wrestling, so he retired from competition.

Mike Johnson Went on the wrestle at Pitt. It appears he finished 2nd his sophomore year losing in OVERTIME. So he was a point away from give PA one more champ.
ban basketball (1) about 3 months ago
I remember the hype about Nathan Galloway when he came into college. How many state titles did he win?
The Du (1) about 3 months ago
number of weight classes for which, boys or girls or both?
dbestsport (1) about 3 months ago
I would like to see 10 Olympic weight classes.
Jefe (1) about 3 months ago
Your info about AAA and AA schools isn't correct. Hunter and Marsteller were both 4x in AAA. Crawford won his first title in AA, then 3x at AAA. Gulibon won 2x at AAA and then 2x at AA.

Check for yourself:
ResiliteMarine (1) about 3 months ago
Galloway won 3. So did Alton and Garret Scott, to name a few