InterMat Wrestling – Foley’s Friday Mailbag: July 12, 2019

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Last month the NCAA announced that the singlet will no longer the only uniform option available to member institutions and wrestlers. In short, the rule states that shorts built for wrestling — colloquially known as “fight shorts” — can be used along with a compression top (aka rash guard).

The change does not require these adjustments be made by every school, but it’s expected that at least some will adopt the change for at least a handful of matches.

The death of the singlet has been long-coming. When I began pushing for the change in earnest in 2013 it seemed like a logical way to grow interest in the sport. As more high schools have adopted it, and organizations have allowed it at state and national level tournaments, there has also been a predictable uptick in viewer friendliness.

While the high school change offered some perceptible improvements, the adoption of fight shorts at the collegiate level should mean significant financial money on the sale of school-specific clothing. To be able to work out in the same gear as your favorite athletes is a proven business model, and finally wrestling will have the chance to capitalize. As a jiu-jitsu practitioner I’m looking forward to rolling in my U.Va. gear. It offers me another chance to promote the school I went to and still support.

I imagine it will be the same for many former wrestlers and current fans. Lifting weights, running, or even surfing — to be able to wear some piece of your school’s uniform will appeal to many men and women. Schools will have added revenue, but also some conspicuous gains when it comes to marketing their program in gyms around the country.

Now, what to do about headgear?

To your questions …

Jordan Burroughs defeated Frank Chamizo in the bronze-medal match at last year’s World Championships (Photo/Sandy Slater)

Q: Who are you taking this weekend (if they meet), Jordan Burroughs or Frank Chamizo?

— Mike C.

Foley: Burroughs. He seems to have figured out Chamizo’s defensive style and learned to score whenever he can, including step outs. I also tend to think that Chamizo won’t be in tip-top shape for this competition, whereas Burroughs tends to always be in peak condition when it matters.

Strategically, I think Burroughs will retain the upper-hand. He will limit mistakes in transition, score small and often, and when the opportunity comes to score in bunches he has to go 100 percent. Chamizo almost requires you to be outlandishly aggressive. If Burroughs gets greedy, the scoring exchanges will come quickly. If he holds off, I’d expect a match closer to what we saw in Budapest.

Q: Would it be possible to have a league of RTC’s that wrestle each other in duals and a few small tournaments? Could this be the solution to having a real pro wrestling league?

— @DanielRBono

Foley: Yes! I think the time frame would need to be pretty tight. The international calendar is packed with events, but there are small gaps where off-weight matchups could be made, and the competing RTC’s could get behind a friendly rivalry.

To be fair, the model shouldn’t revolve around butts in the seats, it should rely on marketing and distribution of promotional content. There will only ever be so many people willing to watch guys down the ladder compete. With less at stake I’d predict it would be more successful and easier to implement if the overhead for the event was drastically reduced.

But again, it’s a packed international calendar and with the Olympics coming up it might mean that the very best guys choose to sit out any additional matches in favor of training and preparation for the Olympic Team Trials.

Q: What do you think about Kyle Dake wrestling in Spain before facing Alex Dieringer for the World Team spot?

— Mike C.

Foley: I’m not a fan. Either you are ready to compete for the spot, or you aren’t. The process has been wildly unfair to Dieringer and I’m disappointed that the committee allowed Dake to compete. Happy that he’s healthy, just don’t think the process was fair to Dieringer.

Q: If you could pick one wrestler to coach (for whatever reason — style, attitude, philosophy, whatever) from each style (freestyle, Greco-Roman, women’s wrestling), who would they be?

— @HalfAgain

Foley: Freestyle: Alex Dieringer. Seems to want it, but also has a way of adapting without losing sight of what makes him successful. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Jordan Burroughs. Women’s wrestling: Tamyra Mensha. I like to laugh and might as well have fun while winning an Olympic gold medal. She can and she will. Greco-Roman: Adam Coon. My knowledge of space is lacking and if the best USA Greco-Roman wrestler can also teach me about the cosmos, I’d be down to learn.

Q: I’m wondering if, based on your deep knowledge of Russian wrestling, if the southern Russian republics (Dagestan, Chechnya, Ossetia) have always been the dominant force is Russian/USSR wrestling or if their dominance is a more recent phenomenon? When I look at some of the old USSR team rosters, it seems they weren’t filled with names that were of Southern Russian origin. So if this is a more recent phenomenon, I’d appreciate your thoughts on what has fueled this change. Either way I’d appreciate your thoughts on what makes these provinces so good.

— Vince M.

Foley: I couldn’t begin to tell you why they weren’t being targeted for growth sooner, but my guess is that once Communism took hold in the Caucuses and coaching support meant more opportunity the lifestyle of the people in the area was helpful. The Caucuses are filled with very faithful people, whether Muslim or Christian. That has long been a binding attribute of many successful wrestling cultures.

This is a great question that I’ll continue to explore when I go overseas and have better access to some oral history on the matter from the men who were around to see that development!


Recent piece for United World Wrestling on rising Indian star Pooja Dhanda

Q: Spencer Lee, Nick Suriano, and now Gavin Teasdale. Is this a trend? Might something be an issue at PSU?


Foley: I wrote about this before and think that there might be something to the physically smallest wrestlers at Penn State finding positive affirmation in their wrestling. The guys your size are just as good and there is nobody littler for the smallest guys to gain some confidence.

Add in that these wrestlers were the very best wrestler on every team they ever competed on — regaling in attention — and it’s logical to assume that their egos could be bruised. And at Penn State there is little patience for egos.

Just a theory, though as you pointed out this is the third lightweight to have a change of heart, and that points to a trend.

Q: What do you think is next for Ben Askren in the UFC after getting knocked out in five seconds? How did you have that fight playing out against Jorge Masvidal?

— Mike C.

Foley: I had Askren getting KO’d. Made some money on it too!

Askren is a great ambassador for the sport of wrestling and has done more than most to promote its virtues to a wider audience. Really, he’s a legendary level competitor on the mats and will be remembered fondly. For many he is the personification of everything funk.

In the cage his legacy will be much different. Askren’s career has been remembered as much for its disjointed promotional changes as it is for his winning streak. In terms of talent development, it’s obvious that several years spent wrestle-humping lesser-than opponents in Asia wasn’t the answer to growth. That’s not a knock on his business acumen, as he made plenty of money in that arrangement with ONE Championship. I just think that his record set unrealistic expectations for his ability.

Also, Askren did essentially get KO’d against Lawler which didn’t give me extra confidence he could stand and trade against a guy with 50 fights, plenty of takedown defense, and a truckload of motivation.

By the way, Muir, ship it.

Q: It appears that Japanese women’s wrestling stars Kaori Icho and Yui Susaki will not compete at the Olympics. I assume the wrestlers who beat them will earns medals at the World Championships to secure their spots on the 2020 team. Which of the two wrestlers not being on the 2020 team surprises you more?

— Mike C.

Foley: I’m a little heartbroken.

Icho had her run and lost to a defending Olympic champion after taking three years away from the mats. Judging from her statements after the match she’s happy with her commitment and the effort she showed in the match.

But Susaki has me a little numb. She’s the better of the two wrestlers, but when it came to direct competition had struggled some with that familiarity. To make matters worse for Susaki, if Irie earns a medal at the World Championships she will be the automatic representative for Japan at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Something tells me this story is far from over, but for now I’m a little disappointed to not see Susaki take the mats in Nur-Sultan.

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