True Wrestling

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True-Wrestling’s Top Wrestling Stories of 2016

1. Media coverage of wrestling has exploded. Fans can watch their favorite teams more than ever before. It’s incredible the level of reporting that is available. You can subscribe, follow streams, pay and/or periscope the majority of matches going on around the country on a weekly basis.

2. This has led to one of the biggest changes in the sport over the last century. It’s impossible for a coach to hide a wrestler and his attacks, style or moves from opponents. For decades coaches tried to hide their wrestlers to improve their chances come championships season. You can see the effect of this everywhere. Wresters know that people have seen their attacks and are ready for them. So Wrestlers are varying, changing and disguising them to remain at the top. This video exposure has forced the coaches and wrestlers to continually evolve and develop. From my perspective the coaches are still resistant to a lot of the exposure but it’s the new reality and they adjust. I’ve had several wrestlers tell me that they don’t want to have a go to move, they just want to be ready for an opponent’s opening. Based on the number of college coaches that subscribe to my You Tube channel or other feeds they are getting on board.
3. Jason Nolf beats Isaiah Martinez in the dual match. IMar came into this meeting shortly after his father passed. Nolf came into it with a pace that was dismantling most foes. IMar and the Illinois staff might not have given Nolf enough credit or respect as there didn’t seem to be a game plan to deal with his pace. The anticipation for this match up was felt through-out Pennsylvania. It goes down as the only match or sporting event my then 8-year-old son has ever watched. Even my wife was tied up in the collision of talent. These guys traded takedowns in the first period. The second period belonged to Nolf. You could see the pace and action was putting IMar into positions that he wasn’t used to. Nolf got the pin during a pretty awesome scramble. Everyone in my house went crazy. IMar avenged this loss at B1G’s and NCAA when his game plan to slow and control the pace and action worked almost like they drew it up in the practice room. This slowed pace to win is the only reason IMar isn’t on my most exciting wrestler index. 133lbs had moments of insanity.
4. NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden. I’m a fan of the Garden and its sporting history. There was a ton of really good wrestling. Megaludis won his first championship in his finals season as an underdog. Garrett vs. Brewer and Gilman were worth the price of admission. Seriously.141 Meredith went on a pretty amazing run before Heil derailed the Cinderella story. Retherford bonused to his first championship. IMar game planned for Nolf and won his 2nd championship. Ringer went out with 3 straight championships. 174 No one was betting on Martin to win and that’s just what he did. Dean brought home his 2nd championship. 197 Cox won his first and set the stage for his Olympic team trials run to a bronze finish in Rio. The culmination at 285 was amazing. I thought Gwiz was gonna win. He had the body and attack types to stymie Snyder. He just mentally wilted in the end. Snyder man added a NCAA Championship to his resume before piling it on further in Rio with Gold. This has to be the best 285lbs finals in my lifetime. Penn State wins a 5th title in 6 years. Iowa finished 6th, its lowest finish in memory.
5. DII Joey Davis III finishes his career at Notre Dame undefeated and a 4-time champion. I have wondered how his wrestling would have been different at the D1 level? It was interesting to watch him and Alex Deiringer go at it a couple of years ago at Beat the Streets. I was hoping that Davis would get to the senior level at a top club but he has turned to MMA. I’ve got to think that his future is going to be bright. He’s got tons of skills and a personality to go with it.
6. Spencer Lee chooses Iowa. Most PA wrestling fans were a bit stunned. Insiders were hopeful but not counting on PSU. If Iowa doesn’t win it all this year, this single act might turn out to be the biggest event for Team Brands next 4 or 5 years. Lee won his 3rd World Championship. The fashion that he won this one was amazing. Lee usually dominates his foes with a top game that seems unstoppable. In the finals he had a come from behind win in the final seconds.
7. Olympics: JB didn’t place! The media was pushing him as the best American wrestler ever in the run up to the Olympics. We won a bronze medal on one leg a couple of years ago. Was he distracted during preparation? Did they game plan for him better than ever? Was he as hungry? I have no answers, I just know that this was the biggest surprise of the Olympics to me. Kyle Snyder became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in history. He’s got a great mindset and has changed up his attacks and game plan a couple of times, which is amazing at such an early age. Snyder was joined by J’Den Cox another D1 wrestler on the medal stand. Cox’s Bronze would be the only other medal in a disappointing men’s performance. Helen Maroulis won her and Americas first gold medal in women’s wrestling. Knocking off a 3x Olympic gold medalist and 13-time world champion is pretty impressive. NBC decided not to cover this historic story. The lasting story from Rio might be the corruption that has been exposed at UWW and the International Olympic committee. There is no real way forward for the UWW. All large bureaucratic governing bodies necessarily create corruption and won’t be able to fix anything that they created in the first place. Since so much of what American sport fans watch is fixed I find it hard to understand the level of surprise. I guess that the unsophisticated manner of money and bribes at the international level appear more egregious than the corporate legal game fixing of American basketball and football. Corruption won’t ever be eliminated and written match fixing goes all the way back to ancient Greek Olympics.
8. Non-Olympic weight World championships were held this year. The Olympics’ and wrestling governing bodies have been try to kill men’s wrestling by slowly eliminating weight classes over the last generation. 6 weight classes might be good for fans seeing studs collide at “trials” but it’s not good for the wide net that our sport casts when attracting talent. Logan Stieber is one of those Americans that doesn’t seem to have a good weight class amongst the Olympic weight classes. His run at the 2016 World Championships was incredible.
9. J Robinson was forced out of coaching by the University of Minnesota. I don’t have all of the real details J is waiting for legal stuff to be resolved. I’m not a Minnesota fan but I’m most assuredly a JRob fan and hope that he gets back involved with wrestling at some level soon.
10. Cael Sanderson. He is helping change the landscape of D1 wrestling. Penn State is on a roll and the NLWC is becoming one of the best freestyle clubs in America. He’s brought a world-class freestyle team to State College. But it’s not just about what he’s done. It’s the ripple effect. PA high school studs used to have their sights set being a state champion. No more. They want National championships and gold medals. There is a flow of graduates from PSU going into high school coaching around PA and the state is going to get even better. This is part of the demographic change of many kids wanting to stay home for school. In the next generation we will see the results of the great mid-Atlantic arms race as the Universities, regional training centers and clubs develop more talent to a higher level then in years past. I’m not sure that economics will allow for the same level of development in California but I hope that something similar happens.

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