The United World Wrestling Ranking Series kicked off this week with the 2019 edition of the Ivan Yariguin Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
The Ranking Series tournament awards ranking points to the top finishers in Ranking Series events, Continental Championships, and the World Championships. While the prize for winning the Yariguin starts at a somewhat paltry 10 points, they are important to add when looking at how they could allow for someone to earn a seed at the World Championships.
And that seed will matter. In earning valuable points and buffering their position in the rankings, wrestlers entered at the World Championships are delayed from having to meet top-notch opponents in the opening rounds, giving them a somewhat more predictable path forward at the World Championships. Remember Burroughs’ route in Budapest? That is less likely to happen, and even less likely should wrestlers participate in tournaments that earn them ranking points.
While an easier path in Astana might seem like an advantage with little long-term benefit, remember that the top six finishers at the 2019 Senior World Championships in Astana will qualify their nation for the 2020 Olympic Games. The angle — and the one that may work well for Thomas Gilman at 57 kilograms — is to build on the points from Budapest, earn some more at Yariguin, Continentals and another Ranking Series event and nudge your way into a third or fourth seed.
The Gilman math is actually pretty solid. Assuming he wins his first repechage match on Friday (I’m writing this before Day 2 action starts) he’ll come away with at least a fifth-place finish (2 points) and another 8 points for the weight having more than 10 entries. Fifth place would then earn him a total of 10 points, while bronze would give him 12 points.
Not much? Well, Gilman currently sits only five points behind Atli of Turkey and Takahashi of Japan. With a fifth-place finish he becomes the No. 3 wrestler in the world in ranking points.
Yariguin is only the first event of a long and arduous season, but already it’s clear to wrestlers and fans that the system built to encourage and reward athletes who participate is doing just that.
To your questions …
Q: It sounds like college wrestling programs are getting a lot less tickets for the NCAAs than they are requesting. Any idea why? Do you think there will be a lot of fans who get shut out on tickets?
— Mike C.
Foley: More requests meant that the NCAA changed their ticket allocation formula and that all schools received fewer tickets because of the change.
Eric Knopsnyder of PA Power Wrestling recently wrote about the ticket issue.
“That total number of requests has been roughly under 15,000 requests,” Holmes told me. “Typically, the number of tickets available is around 10,000.”
The NCAA was able to fulfill the requests for schools that requested 100 tickets or fewer. Those that asked for between 100 and 500 tickets usually got 80 percent of their requests filled, and those that sought more than 500 received 70 percent of their request.
“Traditionally the vast majority of schools were requesting less than 100 tickets,” Holmes said.
This year, the number of requests for tickets from the Division I programs shot up 67 percent, according to Holmes.
“What happened this year, the same amount of tickets is available, but instead of somewhere around 15,000 requests, we received over 25,000 requests,” he said. “That necessitated that everybody received less tickets than they normally received in their allocation.”
Q: Is the recruiting situation for Maryland as bleak as it looks? Would the Terps have been better served staying in the ACC instead of getting curbstomped every week in the Big Ten?
Foley: Man, I don’t know, but it bums me out too! I want the Terps to do well. I admire and respect their coaching staff and want my Mid-Atlantic brethren to succeed! Maryland has enjoyed some top-level talent, but as you not-so-eloquently mentioned they’ve not enjoyed a lot of success in the Big Ten. I’m hopeful for a good NCAA tournament and some positive momentum for the 2019-20 season.
Q: Do you think Spencer Lee avenges his loss to Sebastian Rivera on Sunday?
— Mike C.
Q: Is 125 pounds officially cursed for Penn State? If so, what wrestler breaks it?
— Ryan P.
Foley: Maybe weight classes have memories too? Maybe the walls are filled with stories of fellow 125-pound wrestlers and ghosts of their personal journeys through the Penn State program?
I doubt it. Cursed? No.
Suspiciously poor luck for the past few seasons? Yes.
My “out-there” theory is that many of the wrestlers that have made their way on to the Penn State roster at 125 pounds were probably the most popular and well-known people at their high school. When they got to college they expected a certain level of deference, if not in the classroom, then they were at least used to being the alpha male in their respective wrestling rooms.
Try finding deference in the Penn State wrestling room. Try being the alpha in a room with five active NCAA champions. You’re the smallest, least accomplished collegiate wrestler in a room dripping with greatness. Where do you find your confidence building wins? The other 125-pound wrestlers?
Successful programs understand that you can’t fill your lineup with all alpha males. There needs to be men and women on a team who compete, but that also play support roles, or can win without being the leader of the program. That’s even more evident with smaller wrestlers in crowded lineups like that of Penn State. If the alphas can’t command the room, they at least need someone to beat up on to help boost their egos.
At some programs the 125 pounders can float up and hand out a whipping to the 133 and 141-pound wrestlers.
At Penn State? Maybe that’s not the case.
Q: When The Citadel wrestled Gardner-Webb on Wednesday night, the teams used the experimental NCAA rule allowing weight classes to be chosen in an alternating manner by head coaches. The order was 133, 125, 149, 174, 141, 197, 184, 285, 165 and 157. Do you like the rule? Do you think we will start seeing it happen more often?
— Mike C.
Foley: I do. Why not? Programs wouldn’t have to proceed with the flips, but it’s a fun option to have and adds some coaching gamesmanship to the mix!
The 57-kilogram finals are going to be awesome. Here is Abasgadzhi Magomedov (Russia) putting it on Ahmet PEKER (Turkey) …
That front head …
Q: I assume you saw this, but wanted to make sure. I know both kids and they are very much as refreshingly decent as this story shows.
— Chris E.
Foley: Wrestling is the perfect vehicle for this type of storytelling. Individuals choosing to make a sacrifice to help improve someone else’s position or take a moral stand. As you’re alluding to, that clarity has backfired in recent weeks with bad press about the sport. But wait long enough and a wonderful story like this will pop back into the public consciousness and put wrestling back in a positive light.
Q: I read your article on the Daton Fix-Nick Suriano match and how college rules need to change. I agree with you in principle but not necessarily with all of your ideas on how to change things. For example, I agree with your thoughts on hands to the face, but I think the pushout rule will be hard to implement fairly especially when a wrestler escapes on the edge and then steps out. I am frankly indifferent about riding time since I see positives and negatives in having it. However, one idea I have is to award 3 points to the wrestler who gets the first takedown. I think there is nothing worse than a college match that ends 0-0 after the first 3-minute period. It makes me want to turn off the TV or walk out of the arena. It seems like an easy way to incentivize a wrestler is to award 3 on the first takedown. It essentially negates a subsequent escape (ie the wrestler is still up by 2). It would also be easy to implement consistently. So what do you think about a 3-point first takedown ?
— Vince M
Foley: Agree re: 0-0 matches. Three minutes and you got … nada?
The three-point takedown has been getting a lot more attention in recent weeks, and I can see why. Fans want to make sure that the tougher actions are rewarded well, thus incentivizing more activity from the feet. That the end of the second period could have a 2-2 score with one guy having 3:30 of riding time and a takedown and the other guy only two escapes is indeed very frustrating. A three-point takedown may better balance those efforts.
But what a three-point takedown also does is point-stacking — or add points in one area to make up for a gamesmanship or scoring area in another. The best example of point stacking is the four-point near fall. Adding a fourth point for one less second may drive up the score on paper, but it doesn’t necessarily drive action. We’ve seen plenty of matches where that’s exactly is the case; a four-point tilt causes the winning wrestler to shut down and the losing wrestler to attack, but as it’s in vain there comes a weird back-and-forth where some points are ceded, but not enough to make it a real match. It’s all very odd to me.
That should stop. Points for a cheap tilt shouldn’t be worth more than a takedown. The rules should reward dynamic actions from the feet. Adding back points leads to more riding on top and less turning after a turn has been achieved, since the top wrestler doesn’t need to risk control in order to create a winning margin of victory.
To me that three-point takedown just adds to a series of problems around scoring and riding yet to be addressed.
Q: I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this scenario:
1. Hard out of bounds — pushout is one point.
2. Riding time — still in effect — action goes out of bounds, restart in neutral, no points scored.
3. Overtime would be like NFL: one minute, pushout is one point but doesn’t end match, takedown is two points and is match ending, repeat until winner is determined.
I understand your takes on the freestyle scenario; but culturally, America loves having winners and losers dictated by score, not criteria. Implementing the three points above increases scoring and increases the likelihood of a winner, eliminates the tactic of playing the edge to avoid risk, allows folkstyle to maintain riding time (for whatever reason it’s wanted), and then resolves overtime to a degree by giving wrestlers two ways to win.
— Dylan M.
Foley: I … don’t hate this. There could be some interesting gamesmanship in getting out of bounds as the bottom man to avoid being ridden forever, but also the top man might be pulling a guy more into the center to ensure they continue earning the riding time. But what would stop someone from dropping to an ankle, fighting for a finish and then making his way out of bounds. That way he’s never ceding the point for the escape.
Those overtime rules are also pretty compelling. Pushout would win, but only if it went the full time, right?
Q: Did you see the Henry Cejudo-T.J. Dillashaw fight? If so, do you think the referee made the right call to stop the fight? Who would you pick in a rematch?
— Mike C.
Foley: The referee stopped the match because T.J. Dillashaw’s head looked like a speed bag for Cejudo’s right hand. Not a controversial stoppage. Cejudo would’ve put him to sleep in the next ten seconds. Dillashaw would be better off sending flowers to the referee.
That’s not to say Dillashaw isn’t a total beast, but it seemed that the weight cut affected him.
At 125 pounds, Cejudo. At 135 pounds, Dillashaw.