Observations from the NCAA’s

I was honored to once again be part of the Semi-Final Preview Show at the WIN Memorabilia Show. During one of the segments, I mentioned that Iowa is going to have a very rough time of it getting back to the days of Gable.

One gentleman, in particular, took offense at my observation. He challenged me to defend my position regarding the Hawks.

Here’s what I told him:

Blame it on Dresser! No one disputes Kevin’s ability to coach or recruit as witnessed by what he did with a non-existent program at Virginia Tech. And given what he’s in the process of doing at Iowa State, he’s going to plow through the recruiting fields who have, for the last 30 years, been the exclusive property of the Hawks.

Granted, Iowa is a wonderfully powerful state to recruit in, but with 1/3rd the number of high school programs a person can find in Ohio, PA, NJ or NY, the law of percentages dictates that sharing the spoils with the Cyclones doesn’t bode well for either program.

And, given that, South Dakota State is doing an exceptional job northwest of the border with Iowa, and the Golden Gophers working hard to keep a majority of their state’s faithful local, it’s simply a mathematical certainty that the Hawks aren’t going to sign as many blue chippers as before.

Sure, they landed Lee this past season from Pennsylvania, but I would imagine they wouldn’t have if the Suriano story would have played out sooner than it did.

In summary, I could be wrong here, but it’s my contention that most athletes would rather wrestle within a 200-mile radius of home especially if they could stay local while being a part of a Top 10 program with quality coaching and a competitive wrestling room.

Right now, most of these programs are in the east; Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, VA Tech, NC State, Lehigh, Cornell, with a list that is larger than what I just mentioned. So why would kids want to travel to the heartland of America to compete?

Add to that, the shining star that was Iowa isn’t quite as bright as it once was. So, for them to just maintain what they’re currently doing, Tom and Terry are going to have to work even harder. And that’s difficult when they’re already living, eating and sleeping wrestling.

What I was and am trying to point out is everything is a numbers game, and that doesn’t bode well for the mid-west now that the east coast is thriving. I wish it were different because parity is always a good thing.

As a side note, for those who remember the good old days when Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Iowa were constantly Top 5 programs, these four teams only had a grand total of 1 finalist at this year’s NCAA tournament and he was actually from PA. And to add insult to injury, if you combined all four of those schools into one super team, they wouldn’t have won the tournament.

Thank you, Joe McFarland. I sincerely hope that retirement agrees with you. As many coaches find, being able to walk away from a career that has demanded so much of your time is tough. But I’m sure you’ll have the time to figure it out, that’s what winners do. Thank you for your service to the sport we all love, you were one of the best – job well done.

I don’t know if I should love or hate the NCAA and ESPN? How both organizations have elevated our championships over the years can only be described as amazingly transformative. Lights, camera, action, the tournament is now a complete show, with wrestling the winner. Well done everyone.

On the hate side, people who witnessed the event in person or from the comfort of their couches, certainly walked away thinking wonderful thoughts about the sport. The arena was more than packed, and this is the first year that tickets were actually as scare as hen’s teeth.

All this is a good news/bad news scenario. The good is that scalpers were actually able to get upwards of a thousand dollars per ticket denoting genuine product demand, actually proving the sport can carry the day as a business, if given the chance. The bad news is that wrestling is not being given the chance. Wrestling’s leadership, not the NCAA or ESPN, is the problem. They’re day to day business of incompetency is still astounding.

I’m sorry, I just refuse to give those who are “calling the shots” any credit for what the NCAA and ESPN just did and where the sport isn’t right now. Man’s oldest sport, a program that makes men, winners, doers, achievers out of young adults, the only sport that activity accepts, encourages and embraces both males and females, all forms of alternative lifestyles not to mention every conceivable form of handicaps; from blindness to birth defects, from deafness to amputees. There’s nothing like our sport, it’s a complete microcosm of life.

And as witnessed by the meteoric rise of the UFC, if leadership thought differently, and decided to embrace scoring rather than encouraging and legislating inaction, we’d be right up there with the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball.

What a job the referees did. I was blessed, at one time, to referee the NCAA’s myself so I know how tough the job is, and I’m pretty damned good at evaluating performances. And the best of the best we have today are so much more comfortable in their skins than those who preceded them. There’s a relaxed nature about these men, oozing confidence and a comfortableness not seem before. Their mechanics are clear, deliberate, and smooth. Overall, I give them an A+, I can’t say I saw any call in Cleveland where I thought, “they have to reverse that.”

The city did a wonderful job. Cleveland opened their hearts to us. The arena staff was second to none in kindness and willingness to help. Other than it being damn cold with the wind whipping off the lake, I left with a new-found appreciation for the city and its people.

Intermat . . . If you want to know almost anything about the NCAA’s or wrestling in general, go to intermatwrestle.com. There you’ll find solid observations, opinions and viewpoints from some great writers. They do a tremendous job, especially their Senior Writer, Mark Palmer.

High School Numbers . . . as an aside to all the wonderful things we saw in Cleveland, since the 1970’s, our high school numbers have dropped 32% when the population of America grew by 34%. That means scholastic wrestling is one half the size it once was when Lee Kemp and Dave Schultz wrestled.

Currently we’re at 244,000 when we should be at 477,000 if we just maintained our numbers. And God only knows how many wrestlers we’d have, and how many forfeits we wouldn’t see if we were even remotely popular.

So when you hear that wrestling is a growing sport and doing well, be sure to remind the person that numbers say otherwise.

Is USA Wrestling Predatory?

Once upon a time there were clearly defined lines regarding the various wrestling seasons. Mid-October to the middle of March was always reserved for folkstyle competition. Then from April to the end of summer the international styles took center stage.

But in the last 20 or so years things began to move from black and white to various shades of grey while USAWrestling started becoming increasingly emboldened with their programming schedule.

Instead of having clearly defined seasons, the international side has been steadily encroaching into the folkstyle season and its programming. This is obviously good for Colorado Springs but if you like folkstyle, alarm bells should be sounding.

Now I’m not trying to influence anyone’s opinions here, but I did want to make sure that everyone understands what’s taking place by mentioning that USAWrestling is not a fan of the NCAA or the National High School Federation. They might claim to be but if they’re in business, which they are, then by definition the other two organizations are the competition; each one controlling roughly 1/3rd of wrestling’s base of power and revenue production.

Now I realize that some of you might find this blog illuminating while others shrug their shoulders. Personally, I enjoy both our international programs and domestic style of wrestling but I’m not crazy about losing folkstyle without a fight.

Wade, really, you need to get a grip here.

Well maybe, but maybe not. I just happen to believe that USAWrestling is quietly, methodically and deliberately expanding their corporate reach into folkstyle; and it’s wrong.

My supporting evidence; it wasn’t too long ago that Colorado Springs decided for our colleges and universities that the newly formed women’s movement should compete in freestyle. And now they are.

So, why was freestyle chosen instead of folkstyle? Because the National High School Association and the NCAA shrugged their shoulders regarding the women. They were wrong then, and I’m afraid to say it, but it appears they were also intolerant of the movement which is why Title IX got started in the first place.

But either way USAWrestling saw an opportunity and jumped on it with both feet and may I say more power to them while adding; shame on the countries folkstyle leaders.

But still, for those who love folkstyle, be forewarned, Colorado Springs is quietly displacing our domestic style of wrestling. And if that’s okay with everyone, then so be it. But for those who enjoy the entertainment value of the state high school championships and the NCAA’s, you’d better notice there’s a paradigm shift taking place.

And I also happen to believe if USAWrestling could, and not catch hell over it, they’d eliminate folkstyle tomorrow.

You might think that statement is ridiculous.

But it isn’t if you look at it from a business perspective. USAWrestling has bills to pay and programs to run. The faster they grow; the more revenue they generate, the greater their power base becomes.

And I happen to agree with their vision, there’s nothing wrong with Rich and company growing their presence and trying to control the marketplace in the same way that companies like Google and Amazon are busy trying to control their slice of the American pie. It’s just business as usual with competing forces at play.

And here’s the point I’m trying to make; you need to be aware this is taking place. So when that day comes you can’t say, “I never saw it coming.”

Now, if you’d ask USAW about their future goals they would vehemently deny any interest in such a silly notion. But again, if they’re a business, and they are, isn’t the NCAA and the National High School Association an impediment to their growth?

Maybe I should start at the beginning and dip into this objectively. If both the NHSA and the NCAA discontinued their interest in wrestling, would the sport disappear?

No, not even close. It would just morph into the type of programming that every country in the world has except America; city and town based international wrestling clubs, each with their athletes and coaches holding USAWrestling membership cards. The sport wouldn’t disappear, it would just transform itself from having three major governing bodies to just one which happens to be headquartered in Colorado Springs.

That would effectively move USAW’s athlete membership numbers from roughly 160k to 700k while quadrupling the number of coaches who carry their cards. That would effectively raise Colorado Springs annual budget from 16 million to over 50 million while tripling the salaries, and power base of their executives, coaching staffs and state leadership teams. So, anyone, why wouldn’t they want this to happen?

And just to ask a question, “if USAWrestling was so supportive of our folkstyle programs, how come they haven’t contributed one dime to the sports battle with Title IX, something that is completely a folkstyle issue. I believe you can figure that out on your own.

Again, I’m not writing this to say “how dare they”, I’m just pointing out there’s a danger here for those who love folkstyle.

More recently, Colorado Springs has begun taking redshirted collegians overseas during the folkstyle season for competition. This is easily justified, “they’re redshirting, why not provide them with some quality competition during the year?”

And that makes sense but buyer beware, this is just another crack in the dyke, an intrusion into the business of folkstyle.

Come on Wade, that’s silly.

Not really. Once a group or organization gets a footprint inside the opposition’s camp, the story of the Trojan Horse comes to mind.

If any of you still think I’m off base here or over blowing something that doesn’t exist, how do you explain Kyle Snyder? USAWrestling is not only encouraging him, but more importantly allowing him to travel abroad in the middle of the collegiate season.

This is so wrong on the face of it. USAWrestling isn’t paying for his education, Ohio State is and the Buckeyes expect him to be present for competition. Or at least they should expect that.

But this is Kyle’s decision you say. Well, maybe it is, maybe it shouldn’t be. I know what those who are supporters of our international effort are saying, but they’re wrong. USAWrestling should know better, they should have and then honor a “hands-off” policy regarding collegiate athletes during the collegiate season. But the fact that they don’t should speak volumes about they’re intentions.

As an aside here . . . I wonder if Kyle would have majored Nevills to defeat Penn State had he not just returned from Russia or not lost to Coon the following weekend? He looked more than tired, and he wrestled that way.

Now for my Penn State and Michigan friends, I’m not trying discount that both Nevills and Coon aren’t two of the best big men in America. Nor am I trying to downgrade their performances, but rather point out something that anyone who has ever watched Kyle wrestle already knows . . . when he’s fresh, he’s the best in the world.

Maybe we should ask USAW what they would think if the NCAA voted to expand the collegiate season into the Spring and early summer months?

It’s no secret that USAWrestling would like to control wrestling and have folkstyle disappear all-together. And they’re not wrong, they’re in business. What CEO doesn’t want to expand their reach by overwhelming the competition?

It’s just that folkstyle had better get their heads out of the sand and realize they’re in a fight.

Russia’s At It Again

It’s actually laughable. The Winter Olympics are now over and of all the competitors who were in South Korea, from every continent on the planet, only two of them tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Want to take a guess what country they were from? Good old Team OAR (Olympic Athletes of Russia).

Wow, they really learned their lesson from Sochi and Rio. I can only imagine how livid the leadership of the IOC must be at having to once again wipe egg off of their faces. They bent over backwards to give the Russians a 37th chance at getting their house in order, or was it their 72nd; I’ve lost count.

When is the IOC going to learn what the rest of the world knows, the Russians are not to be trusted; whether in sports, on the floor of the United Nations or with America’s uranium.

They unlevel any playing field they participate on and when caught bending the rules they just smile and give you a stoic what’s your point look.   

The fact of the matter is they can’t win without cheating as witnessed by the number of medals their “clean” athletes didn‘t bring home.

I guess their promise of being “squeaky clean” in South Korea doesn’t mean what it used to and for a penalty, the IOC did the unthinkable.  They didn’t allow them to carry their countries flag in the closing ceremonies.

That ought to teach them a lesson.

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16 thoughts on “Observations from the NCAA’s

  1. I believe Wade is also spot on here in his assessments. I love Folkstyle wrestling as it’s USA’s “indigenous style” of wrestling. I’ve especially noticed that there’s a movement to try to change Folkstyle wrestling into Freestyle. Coaches & wrestlers are in a trend (by and large) to make “takedowns” the most important position. Most everybody is now into “cutting an opponent loose from the bottom position.” The Top position is also being neglected (by “cutting”) an opponent free? What happened to the Top wrestler that used to grind away in efforts to breakdown, ride, turn & PIN his opponent? They’re trying to mimic Freestyle by basically eliminating the importance of the Top & Bottom positions. My opinion is that it’s bogus to turn Folkstyle wrestling into a “Takedown Tournament.” Back in the day (as the official rules stated) if a wrestler on Top was not working for a PIN: he was stalling! If the Bottom wrestler wasn’t working to get off the Bottom: he too was stalling! Now “cutting” is allowed & encouraged? To prove my point: there has been a lot of discussion on changing the point value of a Takedown from (2) to (3) points? How about making an Escape worth (2) points & a reversal worth (3) points. I bet you’d see “cutting” go away & we’d get back to working for back-points & PINS instead of neutral takedowns.

    • I agree about the emphasis on Neutral getting out of control. It also makes for bad wrestlers. And some people are not built for it. Mitch Clark had only 32 takedowns in his senior year when he won the NCAAs. But if he got on top of you, you were in a lot of trouble. Wade has said he himself was not very talented in neutral. I wonder how many kids quit wrestling because they were told if they were not natural shooters they had no future in the sport?

      Meanwhile, my daughter loves taking advantage of kids who didn’t learn how to get out of bottom.

    • Ken . . . I like the idea of 2 point escapes and 3 point reversals. That
      would certainly change some strategies. At least it’s fun to think about.

  2. I enjoyed the NCAAs from the couch. My only problem was the announcers. They are Terrible. Quint Kessnick I am sorry there is another place in wrestling for you but it is not after match interviews. I feel like there was no excitement from the announcers. I would hire Dick Vitale before I put any of them back on the mic. Where was the excitement? Some of the greatest matches this year and no excitement by the announcers.

    • Michael . . . I have to agree. I have a lot of respect for those who came from wrestling who helped announce, but not as announcers.

      Hell yes to Dick Vitale or someone like him. Whoever that is doesn’t need to know that much about wrestling, just get excited, and excite those who are watching the action.

      Thanks for your 2 cents. I appreciate your comments.

  3. With all of the corruption in the International scene it’s never been a huge priority of mine to push towards the Olympics for my kids. If they do actually bring Women’s Greco Roman my daughter has shown a genuine interest but her goal is to be an MMA fighter and Freestyle is easily the most useless of the wrestling styles when it comes to MMA.

    (Sorry to post three times, for some reason when I tried to do this as all one post it would push the “post comment” button out of reach so I had to divide it up)

  4. What you were saying about USA and Folkstyle vs. International also depends on the location. Here in Michigan it’s the opposite. The local Folkstyle NuWay organization chapter of MyWay crushed the competition with AAU abandoning the state entirely and USA barely holding on to life support. You go to Freestyle/Greco tournaments and the numbers are so low they combine weight classes and age groups. The poor quality of brackets discourages new people from trying it. I have heard it’s pretty much the same throughout the “Central” region of USA. One of our states doesn’t even have a USA chapter. And our regional has lower numbers then local tournaments.

    • Neil . . . all good points and possibly another reason to be concerned regarding USAWrestling’s designs on the sport.

  5. Iowa has been sliding down the podium for a while now and I think it’s largely due to them still trying to do the “be tougher” style wrestling when wrestling has evolved. Penn State rose to the top because they have a room that encourages innovation and creativity. (And funk). Honestly Wade (and ironically) we could just point to Bo Nickal hitting a spladle on a boy from Iowa to illustrate exactly what is wrong. Being tough is not enough anymore.

  6. I meant ISU, not OSU…dang auto correct!

    • More parody I presume? I figured it out. :>) Thanks again for your contributions. That’s why I write, and I’m so glad people respond. Together we can make a difference. Apart, we’re only as accomplished as Congress.

  7. Although “Parody” is a good thing…i think you meant “Parity” 🙂

    As usual, you’re spot with your observations and although coach Dresser is a phenomenal coach, I think Iowa’s problems started with Cael leaving OSU. What he has done in the East is gather some of the top talent from wrestling hotbed PLUS sign the kids from California, Texas, and Minnesota. Kevin Dresser is only going expound on Iowa’s recruiting Lulls. Lastly, Tom Ryan is building his own beast in OSU and now with this rivalry heati g up between the two schools…its only going to make wrestlers want to be a part of it.

    Thanks.for all that you do Wade.

  8. Your explanation regarding the challenges facing Iowa is spot on. As college wrestling continues becoming more high profile, the competition for attracting gifted wrestlers wlll increase significantly. Wrestling coaches will soon have to look at how the top football programs organize their recruiting efforts because recruiting in the world of big time college football has been intense for decades.

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