The Juggernauts

By | December 23, 2020

I think it’s time for a list; they’re always popular. This one isn’t that long, but for those I mention here are the most iconic wrestlers in the history of the sport.

This group of greats, are yes, at the very least, legends of the sport. But more than that, they were the most exciting, creative and spectacular wrestlers the sport has ever produced.

How do I judge this, well, if wrestling had a professional level, these athletes would have been, not only a first round draft choice, but the first athlete selected in the draft. They were, by all accounts, the kings of entertainment and the juggernauts of success.

Each one, had a way of making life long fans out of individuals who had never seen a match before. And for the fans the sport already had, like a magnet, every time one of these greats would walk onto a mat, people would leave their seats, just to get closer to the action. These individuals were wrestling’s ultimate fan attractors.

In chronological order:

Bill Koll; the father of slam. After 4-years of hand to hand combat against the Germans in WWII, he forced the rules committee to redefine tough.

Dan Hodge; was never defeated in college and pinned 95% of his opponents, an NCAA record that’s worthy of awe, and a hell yes.

Rick Sanders; the George Carlin of wrestling; the original master of funk, fun, and flexibility.

Dan Gable; not the most creative, but he was always magical; and recently, President Trump agreed.

Some guy from Clarion; enough said.

Randy Lewis; launched more competitors than Cape Kennedy did rockets.

Barry Davis; America’s energizer bunny who disguised himself as a Hawkeye.

Terry Brands; someone who was always on the attack; always. And on a personal note, the most intense match I ever had the pleasure of watching was the battle; no, check that, the war that occurred between he and Penn State’s Jeff Prescott at the Virginia Duals.

Tom Brands; the type of warrior that would be on all of our lists as the person we’d want next to us in a foxhole.

Lou Banach; he consistency scored in wild numbers against other heavyweights far bigger than he.

Ed Banach; Lou’s little brother, and Iowa’s career pin leader.

Cael Sanderson; simply a pure joy to watch.

Ben Askren; just when you knew you had him, or thought the opening he gave you was the way out of trouble; oops.

Zane Retherford; a whirling dervish, masquerading as a boy scout.  

Bo Nichol; unpredictably electric, and the cause of many a skipped heartbeat.

Now I realize that I didn’t mention anyone before 1945, but given the technical nature of the sport then, versus now, there wasn’t a lot of oohs and awes back in the day.

If you have a name or two that you’d like to add to this list, please do so in the comments section below.

*  *  *

For this next segment, I thought I’d write something I’ve through about sharing with my readers for years. It’s what I did growing up, and I saw others do as well; that helped so many develop successful habits as athletes, and then in life.   

These concepts are not mine alone. They are a culmination of my mother’s love, my father’s guidance, and the discipline I endured at the hands of attentive coaches.

-One of the quickest ways to get out of your own way and get re-inspired is to connect with people who are positive, supportive and understand how great you can be; and as an example, why people went to Iowa, and succeeded in spades during the Gable era.

-The strength and flexibility of your mind, and your sense of wellbeing is directly tied to your level of physical fitness. Exercise more and workout often. The more you do, the more endorphins you produce, which always works wonders with self-confidence.

-You need to know why you’re doing something, especially if you’re trying to figure out the how. Motivation and optimism are the children of why, even when it feels like everything you’re doing is heading south.

-Like it or not, failing is growing. Often it’s proportional to the pain one feels. But only if you spend the time to evaluate why you failed in the first place.

-Success in anything is matching your personality and skill sets with a like-minded coach, or mentor.

-The greatest mistake you can make is the fear that you’re going to make one.

The last one is my favorite.

*  *  *

Arguably the number one state in the country for scholastic wrestling is Pennsylvania. I only mention that to point out that what I’m about to write, if it can happen in PA, it can happen anywhere.

For this year, if the season will ever get started, the high school association voted to move the number of weight classes they offered from 14 to 13.

For many in the sport, that classifies as blasphemy on steroids.

However, I’m not too sure about that. I’m more of the mindset they should have gone to 10, or at the most 11.

I know, I can almost hear the howling now. “How could you write such a thing?”

Well, when I wrestled scholastically in the late 60’s, we had 12 weights; and the word forfeit wasn’t in the sports dictionary then. We always had enough athletes to fill a full varsity line-up, and two JV teams.

If you think about it, why is that? What are we doing wrong, or not doing, that’s caused this decline in participation? More on that in a future blog.

Back to topic; Rob Sherrill, one of the best men, and sports writers we have today, recently did a study of wrestling in the Keystone state. He was trying to evaluate the number of weight classes that were offered, relative to the number of forfeits each program experienced.

What he found was, out of the 425 dual meets he evaluated, there were 1954 forfeits. That boils down to more than 1 forfeit for every 3 bouts wrestled. And, out of the 425 dual meets he looked at, only 42 of them went the distance with full line-ups.

And yet we only dropped one weight class? If Rob’s stats are correct; and I have no reason to doubt them, with 1 forfeit for every 3 bouts wrestled, they should have gone a lot further.

It’s critical that we make what few sports writers we have, and school administrations feel, that the time they carved out of their schedules to be in attendance, was worth it.

Having multiple forfeits that most dual meets have these days, doesn’t bode well for the sport, or endear us to those who paid to see a full lineup. It basically tells anyone who are in positions of power; if you have a budgetary or administrative concern, you could always drop wrestling and not worry about politically fallout; because less and lees people have a stake in the sport.

So, who’s at fault here? The athletes who are no longer coming out, or the way the sport is being handled by those whose opinions matter?

I realize what I’m writing may not be popular, but neither are these statistics very positive with anyone who’s associated with the sport. When was the last time a basketball team played with 4 athletes or football took the field without a middle linebacker? And if either one of those happened, what would you think?

The feeling out there is, not with those of you who are reading these words, but with those whose opinions count; that wrestling can’t even get out of their own way. From a non-existent fan base, to the very interest students have in being part of the sport.

Will the number of forfeits mean the demise of wrestling, oh heck no. But the point of this story is to say once again, who the hell is minding the store?

Every challenge we seem to have; we have an equal number of leaders who have their heads in the sand.

*  *  *

For those who aren’t familiar with many of the sports rules from generations ago, there was a time when there were no points awarded for a takedown, a reversal, an escape or back points. The matches were 15 minutes long and riding time clocks were used. At the end of the bout, the person who had the most riding time, had his hand raised.

And if someone got a pin in say 2:54, then the head table would put 2:54 back on the clock and the match would continue. If the pinned wrestler could reverse the situation in less time, then he would be declared the winner.

We’ve come a long way baby . . . but the point is, if we can change that much over the years, there shouldn’t be any of our naysayers stomping their feet when change is being mentioned and claiming, “but we’ve always done it that way.”

No we haven’t.

*  *  *

Regarding Stanford, and their herculean effort to have wrestling reinstated, I have a question? Is it better to have non-revenue sports than not have them? I think that’s a daa. Of course have them.

Now, given that the administration said quite vociferously, that their decision to drop those non-revenue sports was based on finances, given all the pushback they’ve received about that, if the decision was financial, wouldn’t it have been better to discontinue all non-revenue scholarships and as a result, be able to keep every sport?

Wouldn’t handling it that way saved the institution the same amount of money, and in the process, keep all the opportunities they have currently in place?

If that makes any sense, I wonder if finances was the reason for dropping the sports they did, or was it something else; which they’re not saying?

Remember, although scholarships are a wonderful thing, if you would take a poll of the athletes and coaches, would they rather lose their sports, or give up scholarships? Remember, if they drop the sport, all future scholarships go away anyhow.

Would the administration catch flack over that, you bet. But it is the best of two bad options; maybe? So, the question still remains, was their decision to drop the sports they did, a financial one? If it’s not, then the effort the wrestlers are putting forth, may be for not.

Seldom are the reasons why programs are dropped factual. And if I’m right, you can’t possibly win a war by attacking straight on when the enemy is standing behind you.

Not that this is any consolation, but D-III has lived without scholarships for decades and the world hasn’t stopped spinning.

However, if anyone can make headway in this fight, it will be Stanford. The university is tangling with a professional team of heavy hitters, and non-quitters.

*  *  *

Stay tuned, I have something special in mind for the next 3 blogs.

What I’ve done, is gone back over all the philosophies, marketing ideas, and rule changes I’ve written about over the last several years, and listed My Top 10 in priority order, complete with extensive reasoning behind each one.

You won’t want to miss this, but the sports leaders may; and I’m sure you can guess why?

41 thoughts on “The Juggernauts

  1. dennis roy shifflett

    Thanks for sharing! Although open to a wide range of views, I greatly value comments & opinions of those who are/were within a very prestigious group of wrestlers. “Some Guy” brings a perspective that developed & was experienced, from a level few belong, regardless of the sport.

  2. Ben Bohannon

    Reducing the number of weight classes to reduce the number of forfeits sounds like pulling out pews to fill our churches.

    I don’t know a lot about PA wrestling, but I would like to propose the following hypothesis: The state is rife with elite level wrestlers who have been at it from a young age. Therefore, the level for entry is much steeper to any kid who wasn’t fortunate enough to take on the sport at an early age. The result is teams with 70% elite athletes and no real way to convince others in their schools to step into that arena. You might have entire programs that lack any local program and have it even worse.

    Dan Gable famously says, “Wrestling isn’t for everyone, but it should be.” How can we make wrestling for more people? We want a bigger tent right!? I will briefly share two personal experiences that can illustrate a path forward without fundamentally changing the sport.

    Post college I discovered a new and enjoyable back yard sport, Ultimate Frisbee. If you read its history, it really is open to many including nontraditional athletes. There is, however, an athletic and skill-based element to the sport. In fact, many have stepped in and shown how much athleticism can be brought to the game.

    At one point I put together a team of some good local kids and attended a large tournament in our state. We came across teams that had us outclassed significantly in skill and team-based tactics. It was a rather humiliating first several games. However, the organizer had arranged consolation tiers so that we dropped twice and ended up playing for a cup that was composed of the 3rd rung of consolation teams. We still had a fun time ending the tournament against a team we were competitive against.

    Another experience was that in my college years I attended a state university that you won’t find listed in any of the major conferences. We were competitive within our conference though and it was a lot of fun being involved with the sport. My senior year the basketball team made it to the NIT tournament. Getting to travel with the team and work through playing some tight matches against schools you don’t see on ESPN every week was a thrilling ride. We also had filled arenas for the matches.

    So how do we apply these two scenarios to wrestling? Create opportunities for both teams and individuals to be in matches that count for something and that they can be competitive in.

    Host several beginning wrestler division tournaments or just include that classification within existing tournaments.

    Host a Sub state tournament for all the wrestlers who didn’t qualify for the state tournament and award the placers metals. Maybe even give the finalists or medalists a pig tail into the full state tournament. This could also help if a region or section had a stacked set of teams.

    The same could be applied to dual meet tournaments if you wanted to give teams some bragging rights at the end of the season. The NCAA football has been doing this sort of thing with bowl games for years.

    I love wrestling and rather enjoyed the competitive nature dual meets. Among the most exciting matches I remember cheering for was a close match between two competitors who weren’t the best on either team, but their matchup was crucial to which team won the match. To a lesser extent, it’s been exciting cheering for an out matched wrestler to not get pinned. Everyone knew including that wrestler that they were doing their part of they could go the distance.

    I’d like to give wrestlers like them every incentive to engage in the sport rather than to watch some elite athlete walk out there and have their hand raised because the other team couldn’t fill the seat.

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  6. Charles Snitchler

    1.Dan Gable
    2.Dave Schultz
    3.John Smith
    4.Tom Brands
    5.Terry Brands
    6.,Bruce Baumgartner
    7.Rulon Gardner
    8.Cael Sanderson
    9.Kyle Snyder
    10.Bo Nickal

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  19. Dave Robinson

    In my uninformed opinion, I would rank you first followed by Rich Sanders. Curious where you would rank Dake, Kemp (whom I watched you dominate many many years ago in Chicago), Lee, and Boroughs.

    1. Wade Schalles

      Thank you for the kind remarks, much appreciated.

      Dake was very impressive his first two years in college. Then as he became REALLY known, he began to hold back and become the strategist he is today. So, I kept him from my list. But he’s a legend’s legend. Kemp was a quality wrestler, arguably one of America’s best ever collegiately and internationally, but a blow out for Lee was a 4-1 win. Not iconic in juggernaut terms. Lee I almost put on the list and the only reason why I didn’t was he hasn’t finished his collegiate career yet. Burroughs had a very good collegiate career with 2 NCAA titles but no more memorable than probably 20 others greats of his time. He will be obviously remembered for his international greatness way before anyone talks about what he did in college.

      1. Neil

        There are still people who try to say Jordan Burroughs is the greatest of all time. I have no idea where they get that idea from. He is an excellent wrestler but he is one of the people I would say is “protected” by the Freestyle rules. Though I had no illusions about Askren dominating Burroughs in their freestyle exhibition, the difference was clear, every time Ben started something on the mat the referee would have them up on their feet again in seconds. I talked to Rob Koll and Mitch Clark once when I took my daughter to a camp at Cornell and both agreed that a Folkstyle match between Kyle Dake and Jordan Burroughs would be VERY different.

  20. Doug Mitchell

    Add Art Weis…founder of the Bison tradition, 33 state champs in the day you couldn’t wrestle back for the next week, multiple all American and NCAA champions, and many lives impacted beyond the WPA mines.

    His modern peer…David Crowell should be on your list as well.

    1. Wade Schalles Post author

      Doug . . . you mentioned two great men, absolutely, but the list was about exciting and iconic wrestlers, who excited crowds, not great coaches.

  21. Rick S.

    The third part of your post is about forfeits. Forfeits matter in dual meets.

    Decrease the number of weight classes? Sure. That’s a cop-out. Where does it end? Why stop at twelve? Why not ten? Why not eight? When will there be only three or four weight classes?

    I suggest a different solution. Fix the scoring system when it comes to dual meets. Decide the winner of a dual meet based on criteria.

    The team with the most forfeits loses the dual meet.

    If both teams have the same number of forfeits, the team with the most pins wins the dual meet.

    If both teams have the same number of forfeits and pins, the team that got its number of pins in the least amount of time wins the dual meet.

    Get rid of the point system. I know. This last statement, “Get rid of the point system”, is sacrilege. I’m going to make a reply post to this post on why I think the point system should be abolished.

    1. Rick S.

      You can’t define the goal of wrestling. Have you looked on the Internet for how the goal is defined? This is very bad and very confusing to non-educated wrestling fans. Don’t try to force non-educated fans to get educated; we’ll watch football where the goals are well-defined, instead.

      The goal of wrestling is to get your hand raised. You can accomplish this goal by pinning your opponent, or scoring more points than your opponent.

      The fans don’t know what to expect when two wrestlers step out onto the mat. Will the wrestlers try to pin one another? Will the wrestlers just try to score points?

      You give coaches more than one way to win a match, and they will pick the “safest”, “easiest” way to win. Don’t give coaches choices. It’s pin or get pinned.

      We are told wrestling is beating up your opponent without actually hurting your opponent. Wrestling is “legal” pain. Is it always? When is it?

      Why do some fans, who don’t know how to fight, like to watch UFC? They see two people trying to beat each other up. Is it primal? Is it an animal instinct we try to deny?

      When is wrestling “legal” pain requires a reply to this reply.

      1. Rick S.

        Can you and I wrestle without causing “legal” pain?

        I suspect the answer is yes.

        We use technique and skill. I take you down. I didn’t get you on your back immediately, so I let you up. Your ego might be bruised, but your body isn’t. It’s your skill and tricks against your opponent’s skill and tricks. It’s a form of competitive dancing.

        Competitive dancing can be very exciting if that’s what the fans expect. The fans don’t know what to expect. Where are the pins? I thought a wrestler was supposed to pin his opponent.

        It’s like the little old lady with the big voice looking at the fast-food hamburger. Where’s the beef? Where are the pins? If I wanted a veggie burger, I’d be happy with this competitive dancing.

        A lot of wrestling is technique and skill. When did focusing on technique and skill become the be-all and end-all of wrestling?

        You can have high school state champions who do nothing but take downs, releases. They throw in an occasional escape when they start in the down position.

        Is this what wrestling is? Is this lots of action? Is this exciting? Is it wrestling if you define wrestling this way. Don’t expect uneducated fans to define wrestling this way. Who knows how uneducated fans define wrestling?

        Is there another style of wrestling? Yes, there is. You can call it “legal” pain if you wish. What is it?

        You get a take down or start on top of your opponent. You insert your legs, throw in a half-nelson, and brute-force try to turn your opponent. Your opponent isn’t being tricked. Your opponent knows exactly what you are trying to do. It becomes a test of balance and strength and endurance and leverage. It becomes a test of wills.

        Let me repeat, it becomes a test of wills.

        As long as you have the point system and wrestlers get their hands raised just scoring points, you can have competitive dancing.

        Even when wrestlers turn their opponents scoring scoring points, which is good, wrestlers aren’t given the opportunity to finish off their opponents, to get the kill, when time runs out.

        This brings me to a few more rule changes.

        When a pinning situation is in progress, stop the clock and let the pinning situation last until either the pin is scored or the bottom wrestler works out of the pinning situation. In other words, a wrestler can’t be saved by the clock, just as some boxers can’t be saved by the bell.

        Another way a wrestler might try to escape a pinning situation is to go out of bounds. When the wrestlers go out of bounds, return them to the center of the mat, and put them in the position they were in, as near as possible, to when they went out.

        In summary, reducing the number of weight classes is a cop-out. Fix the scoring. Fix the rules. Give the uneducated wrestling fans the primitive struggle between two rivals, which only ends when one rival’s back is held to the mat for two or more seconds. Uneducated fans want to see kills. Kills mean pins.

    2. Wade Schalles Post author

      Rick . . . if you have two problems, you’re right, fix them. But until the sports leadership decides to attack scoring, the immediate fix is reducing the number of forfeits and the perception that the sport is dying.

      1. Rick S.

        Sadly, yes. One must be practical. Changing the scoring system will be next to impossible. One can dream.

        You are preaching to the choir.

        A silly question regarding your list.

        To make the list, did one need to be known for pinning.

        I am guessing John Smith’s strategy of taking an opponent down, letting the opponent up only to take the opponent down, is why he wasn’t initially on this list.

        John Smith made an indelible mark on the style of wrestling. Whether you agree with his style or not, his style works. He scores points. He gets his hand raised.

        Getting one’s hand raised is all that counts. This is why I argue the scoring system is one of the problems that has to be fixed.

        Lists are good. Smile.

        Someday, if coaches and wrestlers have the time and nothing to do, I challenge them to create their list of “best wrestling videos”. I challenge them to compare their lists and argue with one another to find out why one person would include a video on the list and another person would not.

        The purpose of this list is to show biases each coach and wrestler has regarding wrestling style and strategy. Wrestling, like other games where it is one against one, allow different styles and strategies.

        The game of chess, for instance, has evolved over the centuries with styles coming into and out of favor. Some styles were crowd-pleasers while being fundamentally unsound. Other styles were boring, but effective until a new style came along to challenge the current style.

        The same, I suspect is true for wrestling. The difference, I contend, between chess and wrestling is, chess didn’t decide which style would win in a rules committee. Styles fought it out on the board. In wrestling, you change the rules and way the rules are interpreted bringing one style into favor and another style out of favor.

        1. Rick S.

          Wrestling styles…let me suggest there are two big categories of wrestling styles. I welcome your disagreement. You may educate me.

          I suggest there are two big categories of wrestling styles.

          There is the John Smith category of wrestling style. Take a person down. Let a person up. Score more points. Get your hand raised.

          There is the Wade Schalles category of wrestling style. Legal pain to get the pin.

          People might argue, we let those styles fight it out on the mat. People might argue we didn’t favor one style over another in a rules committee.

          I disagree.

          It takes time to pin an opponent. If the opponent is especially strong and skillful, one must first wear the opponent down. One must be heavy on the opponent.

          Go back to Ed Gallagher’s “Amateur Wrestling” and “Wrestling” books from the 1920s and 1930s. You will find the statements in “Wrestling”, copyright 1939, page 34, “Sometimes your opponent is endowed with Super-strength and endurance. There is no better way to take the fight out of him than by the method shown. The top man has a Hook Scissor and Half Nelson on his opponent. He will keep this hold for about two minutes. The under man will have dissipated his strength by this time. It will be an easy matter to roll him over and pin him.”, or page 43 , “I have never seen a man carry his opponent’s weight without being exhausted at the end of two minutes.”

          One can find other wrestling manuals where the author speaks about making an opponent carry your weight, pumping your weight into your opponent, wearing your opponent down, making it easier to pin your opponent. Look at the “Wrestling” training manual put on by the U. S. Navy in 1943 where it talks about pumping your weight into your opponent.

          Even in a “Boy’s Life” magazine, March 1932, there is an article, “Wrestling, the Oldest of Sports by Sol Metzger”, page 28, the paragraph starting with, “There is one other general principle to follow. Whenever you get your opponent on the mat, ride him to a finish by compelling him to carry your weight all the time. This eventually wears him down. This is the reason, in big bouts, that you always see the under man struggle to keep in motion in order to shake off this wearying weight. The real science of wrestling takes place on the mat.”

          Why is this important?

          What has the wrestling rules committee done?

          By calling riding, stalling, riding has been all but eliminated from wrestling.

          By reducing the length of a match, there is less and less time to wear an opponent down.

          The rules committee has, I contend, removed tools necessary in preparation for pinning. You are left with certain pinning techniques you employ as quickly as you can before your opponent counters you or you get called for stalling.

          If we want a level playing field between scoring points and pinning, we need to allow riding once again and we need to lengthen the time for the match.

          Some will argue, this makes wrestling boring. Prove it.

          Fans are willing to watch a long boxing match if they believe a knockout will happen at the end.

          Fans are willing to watch other events that take a long time to complete if they believe the outcome will be “exciting”.

          Some will argue, this makes wrestling too hard. Wrestlers will quit. How do you know?

          Wrestlers quit when they give up hope, not when the sport is tough. Other sports are just as tough. Run a marathon every day and see if that’s tough. You will say you don’t run a marathon every day, but bicycle racers do almost the same thing when they race the Tour De France. Wrestlers want to feel tough. Start them out gradually and slowly toughen them up.

          Some will argue, having longer matches will consume too much time. There is a solution for dual meets.

          Rather than wrestle one match at a time on one mat, wrestle three matches at a time on three mats. If one has 12 weight classes, and 3 mats, a match could be 25 minutes long and the dual meet wouldn’t be too long. 12*25/3 = 100 minutes wall clock time. It’s a three ring circus.

          Yes, you would need 3 referees and 3 time keepers. The referees would have less to do if the referees weren’t concerned with stalling. Let the wrestlers deal with the problem of stalling themselves.

          Make the wrestler, on top, not want to stall. Don’t give the wrestler, on top, points for riding. Don’t give a referee’s decision to a wrestler who just rides. Allow draws in dual meets.

          When the wrestler on the bottom wants to stall, let the wrestler on top ride the wrestler on the bottom to exhaustion. This will give the wrestler on the bottom the motivation to squirm and try to get out from underneath. If the wrestler on the bottom fails, the wrestler on the bottom will be took weak to prevent getting pinned.

          Some will argue, riding is punishing. Wrestling is a tough, punishing sport, or should be. Riding that does not inflict pain and is not injurious should be allowed. Just as one needs to learn how to apply a hammerlock without turning the hammerlock into a twisting hammerlock, one needs to learn how to ride without inflicting pain or injury.

          The referee should have only four purposes on the mat. Prevent pain and injury. Return them to the mat when they go out of bounds; I suggest in the same position they were in when they went out. Ask the wrestlers’ coaches if it’s a stalemate when neither is in control and can’t gain control; I suggest the referee shouldn’t arbitrarily declare it’s a stalemate, but instead ask the coaches. Finally, the referee should call a pin; I wish it were a minimum two seconds, if not three or more seconds.

          The time keeper can keep score. Hopefully, scoring will be low. The time keeper can keep time when a pinning situation is not in progress. When a pinning situation is in progress, I suggest stopping the clock and letting the wrestlers wrestle until either the pin is scored or the pinning situation ceases to exist.

          I know, Wade. You are right. I am a dreamer.

          When you can’t even get simple things through the rules committee, you will never get the radical changes I am suggesting.

          Maybe the answer is to start a new style of wrestling. Advertise this style as truer to a backyard style brothers or cousins might engage in. Say this style brings back the importance of wearing your opponent down without causing pain or injury so you can pin him in a show of dominance. Say this style tries to find a different balance between skill and speed and strength and stamina. Say this style might be a jumping off point for training police how to handle suspects; I say a jumping off point because the police need to learn how to immobilize suspects, not just pin suspects.

          Enough from me. I feel passionate about this. I’m pissing into the wind.

  22. Rick S.

    Winning ideas–

    Winning is a matter of how you define winning. Remember your YouTube interview, Wade, where you explained about the wrestling team you started, as a coach, where everyone got pinned and they were so down-spirited. You told them they did great because they had only been practicing for a few months and you expected them to get pinned and they had much to learn. You defined winning for the team as not being pinned for an aggregate of 25 minutes. Then, when the team succeeded at that, you asked them, can they last 27 minutes. Each time they met the goal, you increased the goal to something they could meet. You said, in the interview, by the end of the season, the team had gotten much better. You kept their spirits up. Keeping their spirits up is important when people are starting out. You have to define the definition of winning, in stages, as they get better and better so they can see they are making progress and achieving goals.

  23. Rick S.

    Your post should have been divided into three posts.

    Names I learned about, Professor Schalles.

    Gene Mills?

    The Schultz brothers?

    John Smith?

    Prior to 1945–

    Frank Gotch? Pro was legit back then.

    George Hackenschmidt? Pro was legit back then.

    Robin Reed? 1924 Olympics. Before turning pro.
    Was Robin Reed as vicious as some writers claim?

    Your list focuses on American wrestlers.

    What about some of the Russian greats?

    Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Karelin? The Russian bear?

    Sergei Beloglazov?

    I’m sure there’s more.

    Since your post should have been divided into three posts, your post deserves three responses.

  24. Art Donahoe

    Great, as always; looking forward to the next several columns. Your perspective is invaluable.

  25. Neil

    Maybe you can take a moment to talk about my observations about why Freestyle wrestling is so unpopular despite it’s obsessed fans shouting over everyone to try and look like a majority? Generally bullying or badmouthing people into silence. Saying people are stupid for not liking Freestyle rather then addressing why people don’t like it? It reminds me of Hollywood insulting fans for not liking Star Wars movies.

    Any rule system that requires three referees and video replay for two athletes and STILL gets it wrong frequently is in desperate need for revision.

    I remember in one of your earlier blogs you wrote that you felt that Freestyle rules were written in such a way to give the referees a lot of control over the outcome. When I completed the Freestyle referees course that is exactly what I felt about it. One of the more revealing and appalling parts of the class was when the instructor was explaining passivity.

    “If you can’t figure out who is passive… just pick someone!”

    That was the explanation I was worried was going to come for all the times that a referee picked someone as passive and put them on the shot clock even though they had taken all of the shots in a given contest.

    Or the fact that the rules are basically asking for referees to judge physics. Who initiated that turn? Zain or Yianni? I never fully understood why we counted to confirm nearfall before scoring it in Folkstyle until that moment.

    The international bodies make silly rules changes to many sports, I witnessed the same thing in Judo when they took away leg attacks. Supposedly to make the action more “exciting”. The reality is they have made it so easy to score and so inevitably unreliable that you will get points for actions you took that you get athletes who are so paranoid to do anything that it ends up looking like two athletes circling each other practicing stance and motion. Almost without fail, the more high level a Freestyle match, the more boring it often is.

    Bo Nickal and Jason Nolf are my two favorite wrestlers of the recent past. I was never bored watching anything they did in the NCAA.

    In contrast, in Freestyle it’s often like watching paint dry.

    The rule system that is supposedly designed to incentivize risk does the opposite.

    What I often discover when I am debating this topic is a personality type I call “shot jocks”. The really macho types who want wrestling to be all about the neutral position, they like freestyle because it protects 1 dimensional wrestlers like Jordan Burroughs and hurts dynamic wrestlers like Ben Askren. They claim the mat wrestling of Folkstyle is so boring and prone to stalling, so it’s better to have the person on bottom rescued by the referee and stood back up where the “real” wrestling takes place. These personalities are often the same ones who melt down when my daughter or son takes top and starts leg riding, and when they use your spladle absolutely lose their minds. They hate scrambling/funk and leg riding and will call it junk endlessly, even when their wrestler is being tech falled by it.

    1. Wade Schalles Post author

      Neil . . . we should probably leave names out of these blogs as much as we can. When names are used, people either defend whatever is being said, or pile on. When either happens, the message, which is what’s important, gets overlooked. Hope you’re doing well, happy holidays.

      1. Wade Schalles Post author

        Oops, now I know why you mentioned John, I took it as being negative. Please forgive. John was great, absolutely, but exciting and iconic where people would leave their seats to get closer to the action, I don’t recall seeing that. But he was one of the greatest we’ve ever had in terms of titles won, and great battles achieved, you betcha. And a hell of a coach too.

        1. Neil

          Absolutely love him. His approach to shooting is the cornerstone of my son’s style.

          Did you have any comments about the flaws of Freestyle?

          1. Wade Schalles Post author

            I could write all day about the international styles. But one battle at a time please. As with collegiate wrestling, all the rules are made for the athletes who couldn’t win in shoot outs but have a chance if they slow the action down and luck out a two point scoring opportunity, then hang on for the win. The same is true for international wrestling. With a majority of the athletes who just don’t have it to place in world competition talent wise, you see the rules the way they are. The same is true for coaches. They want to be involved in the cat and mouse slow down approach to winning. All this is why the collegiate style is losing programs and the international style got thrown out of the Olympics several years ago. No fans want to watch the slow down approach to winning. No TV networks want to air programs where no one is interested in watching. No company wants to spend marketing dollars trying to sell their product to empty bleacher seats. And our leaders want it that way because they would all lose their positions of power when the sport became popular and money started to flow. With money, they would not be able to compete when those with experience overseeing successful businesses start to migrate into the sport.

  26. Bart D

    I have learned so much about the behind the scenes aspect of wrestling from reading your blogs. I always look forwaed to them.


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