A Combination of Thoughts

I’d like to start by complimenting USAWrestling and for some that might mean breaking out the smelling salts. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while now given I don’t hesitate to call their leadership out when their priorities get out of whack.

So to begin, I’d like to recognize their staff and every one of their volunteers who work tirelessly not only for the sport but the children in their care. I can’t begin to tell you how much I respect what they do, why they do it and believe their unselfish sacrifices shouldn’t go unnoticed. Wrestling has always been a solid family unit and they’re all part of what’s good about the sport.

In a nutshell, USAWrestling is simply one of the best NGB’s that the USOC has in their stable. They are to wrestling what Secretariat or Sea Biscuit was to thoroughbred racing. Even its leadership is functioning close to Triple Crown levels when it comes to administering the organization.

But notice I chose the word close to describe their efforts. They certainly should receive a great deal of kudos for growing their organization but I guess I have to ask, at what cost to others and are they fulfilling their role as National Governing Body?

For the answer to the second part I went to the USOC website. I wanted to see how they defined the responsibility of being a National Governing Body. Here’s what I found; USAWrestling has two basic obligations:

  • To generate resources in support of its mission statement to help American athletes achieve sustained competitive excellence.
  • To ensure that their resources are used both wisely and effectively to that end.

When I began above, my praise of USAWrestling was reflective of their capabilities to generate a level of resources that are the envy of most, if not all the NGB’s in Colorado Springs, even given the USOC’s reduction in performance funding due to a decline in medal production. But relative to measuring their “sustained competitive excellence” they’re falling woefully short and regarding “wise and effective” use of resources that I’ll cover later in the blog.

To be an NGB, sustained international performances are half of the equation.

It’s not the number of memberships an organization sells or the quality of USAWrestling’s monthly magazine which is amazing by the way or the robustness of their website. But rather or not are they developing competitive excellence, do our singlets evoke a sense of global respect like Iowa’s did on a national basis during Gable’s tenure?

This should be easy to answer; it’s a yes or no question. Are we or are we not being successful internationally? If the answer is yes, all’s good. If it’s a no, before pointing fingers we should ask two questions; are we close and are our programs moving in the right direction?

Unfortunately the answers are no and no. We’re not competitive and if I can say anything positive here it’s we’re not headed in the wrong direction. We’re just remaining constant.

Were you aware, out of the Top 72 ranked freestyle wrestlers in the world; America only has 2 of them; Burroughs and Snyder. That means the United States; a country that is #1 in the world in every support category imaginable only has 2.7% of the planets best freestylers. Yes that’s correct, less than 3% of the world’s studs are American.

And unfortunately we’re only half that successful in Greco with 1 wrestler in the Top 72 and he’s ranked 5th in the world. That means America is dominating 1.3% of the Greco field.

On the women’s side we do a little better with 3 of our ladies ranked in the Top 72 or 4.1% of the field.

How is any of this possible? With everything we have going for us in the Land of the Free and Plenty; these numbers are beyond excusable. And it’s NOT the fault of our athletes. They are every bit as resilient, talented and amazing as anything the Europeans can put on the mat; but the two groups as a whole are vastly different.

The developmental years for the Eastern Europeans is far more physically challenging than what we have to go through here in the states. As children they have to fight for their next meal and the word bullying doesn’t exist in their cultures; nor is politically correct something they understand. The result is their physical builds and mentalities tend to mirror the immoveable object in relationship to the irresistible force of the Americans. We tend to be more creative, stubborn and proud than our counterparts. These differences and the way we don’t train to take advantage of our skillsets should be a blog by itself.

Our system is broken and leadership refuses to bite the bullet and do what is politically uncomfortable to fulfill their obligation as wrestling’s NGB. To find out why not you have to ask the President and Executive Director, they control the organizations direction and narrative from their offices on Lehman Drive.

Continuing comparisons, in men’s freestyle Iran, a country that is 20% the size of America in terms of population, has every member of their starting lineup ranked in the Top 10. As for depth, Russia with a population that’s less than half that of the United States has 8 times more ranked freestylers in the Top 10 than we do; 8 times.

As a breakdown, they have 3 of the top 4 ranked wrestlers in the world at 97kg and they have the #1 and #2 guys at 89kg. At 65 kg they have a World Champion and a formerly ranked #1 in the world. At 61kg they have stabled a World Champion, a formally ranked #1 and an Olympic Champion all battling it out to make the trip to Rio. To give you even a better idea of their depth; the worst guy on their team is ranked 3rd in the world and rumor has it he’s being sent to Siberia to mine for that which has eluded him on the mats.

At last year’s World Championships in Las Vegas, with home field advantage we finished a disappointing 7th as a team; not a memorable effort. And for those of you who are statistic junkies, the combined population of all six countries who finished ahead of us is 10 million less than what we have in the United States.

Let me reiterate once again; USAWrestling is a wonderful organization and it’s important for everyone to know how I feel because it’s so easy to think the opposite given the number of times I write unenthusiastic things about our NGB.

I hate losing as much as I’m sure you do . . . that need for dominance is what makes America great and I suspect why you’re reading this just as it’s why I write. God knows it’s not that I’m looking for a job, applause or some political appointment; I just want our athletes to be the best they can be.

With that being said I work particularly hard at double checking my facts and being as open-minded as I can with regard to how I portray individuals, events and happenings. Being factual, fair and balanced is always my goal.  

But like beauty being in the eye of the beholder, what’s fair isn’t always seen as being balanced and what’s balanced isn‘t always seen as being fair. Way too often those whose ox is being gored turn to the weakest 2% of any article and spend 98% of their time challenging the perceived inaccuracy of the point that was trying to be made. But that’s fine; you can identify who those individuals are by reading the responses they post.

But the reason for this particular blog is not to appear displeased by the actions of USAWrestling’s leaders but to point out their deficiencies because I will never give up on the American athlete.

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As to the other 50% of being an NGB, using resources wisely and effectively, USAWrestling is not doing well there either.

Given that over half of the events they sanction are in folkstyle where they spend resources promoting and at times producing, one must question how that assists their athletes in the quest for international dominance; especially when Colorado Springs continually uses the excuse that folkstyle undermines their ability to be competitive internationally. Certainly developing folkstyle helps increase membership numbers which can’t be a bad thing. However that also has to divide their staff’s attention between the various wrestling styles and place a strain on budgetary resources. That’s not what an NGB is supposed to do and for those who might not know, the real reason why they got into folkstyle in the first place was to obstruct the operation and development of Nuway, the AAU and all the other independent event operators. To say otherwise would be misleading.

Regarding the latter, if it’s true that the more milk a dairy farm produces, the more cream they have available to sell, then I’m confused why USAWrestling is trying to kill all the cows in the country other than their own? Remember an NGB is supposed to be responsible for the health, safety and development of the sport they oversee which logic dictates would lead to sustained competitive excellence overseas. So given that fact relies on how much cream they have to work with, why are they purposely trying to put all the other dairy farms in America out of business? It sure doesn’t sound like USAWrestling is a National Governing Body if we use the USOC’s definition of what constitutes one.

On the subject of the recent events surrounding Frank Molinaro, I’m very happy for the young man and so looking forward to watching him compete in Rio. I think “the Tank” will roll because 1) He’s motivated and 2) He understands a great opportunity when he sees one.

In closing were you aware that USAWrestling recently spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $175,000.00 to try and punch the tickets of those athletes that hadn’t qualified for Rio. And out of that expenditure we weren’t very successful. Only 2 more athletes qualified which has to be a huge ouch to the budget. Good thing is doesn’t take $87,500.00 to qualify each of the 18 weight classes.

As much as I appreciate USAWrestling’s willingness to do whatever it takes to put Americans on the Olympic team, why weren’t those weights qualified earlier? Almost a fifth of a million dollars is a heck of a hit to take for leadership boo-boos. But then again, when it’s not personal money being spent, I guess that’s okay.

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8 thoughts on “A Combination of Thoughts

  1. It seems to me that until we can change our wrestling culture to freestyle and Greco, we will always be at some disadvantage against international competition. Where would we be if our kid wrestling, grade school, high school and college competition were no longer based on folk style?

    • Probably better off but given that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, we need to get USAWrestling firing on all cylinders. And it’s not that the engine is broken, those who control the car want to do it their way more than they want to win.

  2. I loved that you used to data to support your claim. But I would like to see specific solutions to these claims–beyond a vague reference to policies and procedures being administered by the NGB. If you were given the keys to the car, specifically where would you take it? Last, as an English teacher (and fan) I would ask that you pump the brakes on the semi-colons and fix your first “they’re” (“…they’re priorities get out of whack…”)

    • Mike . . . thanks for the head’s up on “they’re”. I missed that, oops.

      If you had a chance to read some of my previous blogs I do mention what I feel needs attention how and why.

      I guess I have to ask, is your interest in specific solutions to edify or a political interest where one asks for solutions so they can mire the detractor in the minutia of nit-picking? I think I have always been pretty straight forward in mentioning problems along with solutions. The fine points of which I can’t provide until I become privy to the behind the scenes issues. So typically I only provide maybe 70% of a solution to any shortcoming given what I don’t know all the facts.

      I did enjoy your reference to being vague . . . I can’t remember the last time anyone accused me of being vague. I guess that reference qualifies for an Executive Director position.

      If you want one thing I’d absolutely do is I’d have all the athletes in one location training with one another and immediately discontinue Regional Training Centers. (See the previous blog) Will that cause some hardships, yes. But we’re in this war together, which is defined as being the best we can be. Something we’re clearly not.

      But the main thrust of my USAWrestling blogs are to make people take a hard look at our performances given all we have going for us here in America. Then come to the same conclusion that I have, something is very wrong.

  3. Aaron . . . good point, reasonable questions. But the United States is disliked by pretty much everyone. There’s nothing they like more than to see us stumble or better yet be humiliated. So nothing we propose in respect to the rules will the Europeans ever support. This is one thing that isn’t our leaderships fault, we only have but one vote so we have to forget that suggestion as being an option and focus on those things that will make a performance difference.

    Don’t know what scoring changes you’re referring to that helped us? Reducing the match time from 9 minutes to 5 and then to 6 and if you win the first 2 minute periods you win the match – they don’t help up. Americans have always been conditioning freaks and many times we beat those with better skill sets by running them out of gas. Shorter matches help everyone but us. The issue is USAWrestling couldn’t stop those changes from being instituted.

    As to the scoring changes, yes, they made changes but what’s the difference? A takedown is a takedown, whether it’s 1 point or 2, as long as it’s the same for both athletes, all’s fair and nothing has changed except the scores are doubled and the same athlete still wins.

    When they also voted to eliminate stalling calls that cost the offender a point, that hurt us as well. We must always assume that the rest of the world will change rules whenever they can to put us at a disadvantage. So we must concentrate on that which doesn’t/won’t hurt us, by having athletes that are better on their feet than any other country does. A takedown will always be a takedown and king.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Warm Regards, Wade

  4. Wade, you might also want to mention all the points brought up here by Brock Hite: http://www.flowrestling.org/article/41876-post-soviet-states-taking-medals-at-unprecedented-rate

    Russians/Former Soviets in abundance, Iran working with South America, Cubans defecting, fewer weight classes. Not to mention that the last MFS championships won (93 and 95) coincided with the immediate collapse of the Soviet Union, so all those countries were not on their feet yet, and the worlds those years were in Canada and USA.

    I want America to be #1 and win 18 golds just like you do, but you are not providing context with your numbers. As well as doing a lot of top down blaming, when we could certainly be doing a better job at the grassroots level to root out coaches who only make kids wrestle folk and make kids cut weight.

    • In any organization the person or person’s who decide direction and supply the leadership to achieve goals is at the top. You make a good point about grassroots but the person or person’s who have to address the problem is at the top. Top down is the only way things change.

      I have no idea what you mean by context, I dug through the statistics to show where we are woefully inadequate in relation to other countries and then placed them in the article.

      If you missed my point, we could be doing a lot better and we’re not; and it’s directly due to the policies and procedures created and administered by the top.

  5. Doesn’t it make sense for USAWrestling to spend a significant amount of time to lobby the international organization for rules changes that favor our athletes and bring the freestyle rules closer to american folkstyle wrestling (as opposed to the other way around)? It seems like the last set of freestyle scoring changes did this – I’d like to know if USAWrestling had a hand in that and what they’re doing for our wrestlers at the level of the governing body.

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