World Freestyle Championships

It was a wonderful showing for the Red, White and Blue. Besides the level of class that each of our athletes demonstrated off the mat, 7 of the 10 came home with medals. Not too shabby, but the best year we ever had was in 1987 with 8 medalists.

That was when Barry Davis won a Silver, John Smith a Gold, Andre Metzger won a Silver, Dave Schultz a Silver, his brother Mark won a Gold, Jim Scherr a Silver, his brother Bill a Bronze and at heavy, Bruce Baumgartner garnished a Bronze.

Relative to down wrestling . . . thank you Bill Zadick. I believe we’re now starting to enjoy the benefits of Folkstyle to Freestyle. Actually, it’s always been a great benefit, but in the past our international coaches have been so reluctant to encourage down wrestling when their personal skill sets were on their feet. The result has been more medals lost than I care to think about.

What I’m suggesting here is we’re finally becoming “complete” wrestlers. Something we need to be if we’re to be competitive with the Russians, Iranians and the best of the rest.

Think about what we’ve always heard in support of the international styles. “Greco is a great discipline to teach our young men because knowing how to throw, or at least counter being thrown, can only help you in Freestyle as well as in Folkstyle.” That’s what we’ve always been told, right? And Freestyle enthusiasts, in order to sell their discipline to the Folkstyle community, have always insisted that learning Freestyle makes you so much more aware of where your back is in relation to the mat.

As a result, if we’re to accept that each of those claims are true, which they are, then it only makes sense that the reverse might also hold true for folkstyle to assist athletes in the two international styles.

But in the past, it seldom if ever did. Training camps were always about positioning on your feet and keeping the Europeans off your legs. And exactly how our Olympic coaches failed Ben Askren in 2008.

Basically, those who train in Europe don’t understand, nor see, much down wrestling so when Taylor gets on top or Dake throws in the boots, their opponents not only end up crying, but they lose a lot of points in the process.

I wonder how many of Kyle’s 37 to 0 tournament run on points came by way of down wrestling? I didn’t see all his matches but I can guess it was a bunch.

Now it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the nation’s international coaches have a philosophical epiphany that folkstyle experiences, and techniques, covered in practice, compliment international success. Finally, the beginning of a revolution of thought.

Changing subjects, I don’t know what to make of this but of the 6 Olympic champions from Rio, 4 of them lost in Budapest. Relative to that anomaly, the Iranians, in both styles, didn’t have a single finalist. They took their lead this year from watching the Russian’s fall on their faces in Rio. I wonder what their coach will be doing next year? He won’t be leading the senior team, you can bet on that. Maybe working on some oil rig several hundred kilometers from the nearest town will be the best he can do.

Regarding America’s individual performances, of our 10 athletes, 5 finished higher than their world ranking, 2 tied their ranking and 3 fell short of expectations.

Here’s how they were ranked and then their finishes. Gilman 7th, finished 5rd// Colon ranked 4th, finished 3rd// Stieber 5th, DNP// Green 4th, DNP// Burroughs 2nd, finished 3rd// Dake 2nd, finished 1st// Taylor 1st, finished 1st// Cox was not ranked, finished 1st// Snyder was ranked 2nd, finished 2nd// Gwiazdowski 5th, finished 3rd.

Overall, the freestylers had a great showing. In most years, their performances would have been good enough to win the team title. But instead, the Russians didn’t have a great showing, they had an amazing showing. And the rivalry between the two can only mean the spectators win.

I can imagine there were a lot of exciting moments over the 9-day event. Several young guns making their presence known while some of the older guard reminding those with less experience that it isn’t quite their time yet.

Overall, things look good for wrestling to become an Olympic core sport again in 2020. Given all of our collective screw-ups and the arrogance of FILA’s officers leading up to 2013, there’s been an amazing turn around. We’ve actually become the IOC’s sporting phoenix. I guess it sometimes takes a roundhouse to the jaw before those who call the shots wake up.

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Can anyone say collegiate freestyle for the men at the NCAA level? No, not an addition, but replacing folkstyle. Yea, that’s scary. I use to believe that there wasn’t a chance in Haiti that our scholastic and collegiate programs would eliminate folkstyle. But I’m not so sure anymore.

The NCAA Rules Committee made a monumental mistake several years ago when they didn’t care enough about the women’s program to insist that colleges, whenever they were about to start a wrestling program, did so in folkstyle.

USAWrestling wasn’t complaining though, they were the first ones to say, “we’ll take you,” if the Rules Committee and the NCAA’s male leadership isn’t interested. Actually, it was extremely intelligent on Colorado Springs part. Some might even suggest that the good old collegiate boys mind set here had some “ism” or “ogyny” issues. But regardless, the sports collegiate folkstyle dyke is leaking and the crack is widening each year.

If you were to ask how all this happened, the common response would be, “well, we chose freestyle for the ladies because that’s what they have to wrestle in the World Championships, the Pan American Games, and the Olympics. So it only made sense to select freestyle.

But isn’t that also true for the men?

What might very well happen over time is our domestic international community will begin to espouse the same reasoning regarding the men’s collegiate program. “Hey look, the precedent was set with the women and it’s working rather well.” Historically, over the last 10 years, the ladies have been doing better than the men internationally because of their collegiate freestyle training. So, why don’t we do the same for the men?

I’m not sure that’ll ever happen to folkstyle, but if it does, you’ll know how and why, and then who was at fault.

And the fact that I’m even writing about this, means there’s now a chance.

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The NCAA Rules Committee latest gaffe . . . no more hands to the face. Can you believe they actually spent time debating this and thought it was enough of an egregious action to add another paragraph to our already over-bloated rule book? OMG, there are at least a dozen things they could do to help the sport, instead, they select to side with a millennial anti-bullying mindset.

Someone should have reminded them that they already have rules covering this action, or inaction; it’s called stalling if that’s why a person is doing it or unnecessary roughness. Let’s add more rules, great.

By the way, can you think of any rule that has been enacted during your lifetime that was incentivizing vs. penalizing? If they really wanted to help wrestling, they should be incentivizing action, not penalizing it. Come up with ways to encourage skirmishes rather than safeguarding positions.

I’m sorry, the 4-point near fall was incentivizing and I gave the RC kudos when they made that change given it was in one of my blogs for a year before they enacted it. But other than that, the rule book continually gets thicker as the action becomes thinner.

Just curious, but how should these three situations be called? Wrestler A sits out, reaches over his shoulder and pushes off his opponent’s forehead while kicking away for the escape? Allowed, not allowed? What if wrestler B is caught in a single leg, but has a whizzer on and is sprawling away. Can he use his free hand to push off his opponents forehead or the side of his head in an attempt to free his leg? Legal, illegal? What if the wrestler whose face is being pushed, turns to look toward his opponent and makes the legal action illegal? Who’s going to get dinged? How about countering a bear hug from standing? Can the defensive man use one of his free hands to push off of his opponents forehead to stop from being thrown to his back. Or is this new rule only in effect when both athletes are neutral and have yet to tie-up?

There’s more “what ifs” to this rule than absolutes. It’s all up to the referee, once again, and of course how vocal the offended coach can be?

I think everyone gets what the committee was trying to do, protect an athletes eyes from being poked or scratched; which is laudatory. But why not just say that and penalize accordingly. Isn’t that a rule already?

If this is what we have to look forward to in the future, I don’t know. Tight waists might be next. They slow the action, fall into one of the categories of bullying while hindering the digestive system of the bottom wrestler.

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Amateur Wrestling . . . is such a demeaning term for the professional level the sport continues to aspire to financially and athletically. Can anyone say, with a straight face, that Cox or Snyder, Burroughs or Gwiazdowski aren’t skilled, experts or specialists in the sport of wrestling? Those words are exactly the terms that Webster uses to define professional.

So why are we still calling what we do amateur? Wrestling has never been amateurish.

But it did make sense in the early 1900’s to initially adopt the term because it was the correct expression at the correct time. We embraced the word so our athletes wouldn’t be classified as professionals. Most might not remember, but during that period of time, once any athlete was classified a professional, for almost any reason, his career was over.  Period, end of conversation, ineligible for the rest of the athlete’s life.

So, the term amateur made sense, we had to hide behind its definition in order to protect our athletes. But for the last 40 years, when there was no difference between amateur and professional, at least relative to eligibility, why are we still having a love affair with the term?

Could it have anything to do with our leadership not taking the time to think about what it says about our sport? Is there anyone on any of our committees that understand marketing, promotions, or their importance?

Now I realize the term Professional Wrestling was hijacked almost a century ago by the grunt and groan boys of television fame. And unfortunately, if we were to call ourselves Professional Wrestling today, those who don’t know much about us, might think we’re a minor league feeder system for the WWE.

But how many sports do you know, that have any meaningful level of spectator interest, or importance, or revenue base, that uses the word amateur to describe what they do?

To the point, a Thesaurus describes the term “amateur” as being unprofessional, sloppy, incompetent and unskilled. Is that really the way we want to be thought of by those who don’t understand man’s oldest sport?

Do you think a doctor, lawyer, mechanic or anyone in business would describe themselves as being unprofessional, sloppy, incompetent and unskilled? So why are we still treading water and hanging onto a life-preserver that won’t float and weighs 100 pounds?  

It’s time to drop the term amateur. It’s not helping.

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A friend emailed me this phrase the other day. It relates to our sport and what one receives for having gone through the discomfort of practice and competition. I liked it enough to want to share it.

Wrestling; work now and win forever.

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This past week the No. 5-ranked team in the country, the University of Michigan hosted the No. 6-ranked team, Lehigh University. The outcome of the match isn’t important for this conversation, but the attendance numbers are; slightly over three thousand.

Had this been football, or basketball, it would have been televised nationally and labeled the Game of the Week.  The stadiums would have been full and each sport would have had a waiting list for tickets 10 times greater than the number of fans the Wolverines had in attendance.

That was all they could interest in the match, a little over three thousand fans. Heck, most college campuses could draw that many co-eds to watch a hot dog eating contest.

But as we’re continually being told, the sport is in great shape. No need to do anything different, the numbers are fine.

If they truly believe that, if they’re satisfied with our spectator numbers, then I’m glad the Rules Committee isn’t managing my financial portfolio.

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My next blog will revisit “Wade’s Top 5” changes the sport has to make, in priority order, out of the dozen plus I’ve been espousing for some time. Each will come with rationales as to why they’re needed.

If I may ask you a favor? In the comment section below, I’d love to hear what you believe the number one change we should make to the sport is, and why.

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As always, thank you for taking the time to visit the way I view things.

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3 thoughts on “World Freestyle Championships

  1. What change does our sport need?!

    Wade Schalles leading the NCAA Wresting Promotion and Marketing Committee!

    Your point about #5 vs #6 is good. We all need to work harder to promote our sport. We ALL must act locally to grow nationally and globally.

  2. Suggestions: Coaches stop pretending they’re Dan Gable and making the excuse “kids aren’t tough” as to why they don’t have numbers or improvements.

    I coach inner city and I have more kids than well off kids

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