Thursday, April 14, 2016

Folkstyle Is Better Than Freestyle Wrestling

The US Olympic Trials were held this past weekend, where men's and women's freestyle and Greco were decided on who would represent the US in the Olympics (if the US qualifies, as only half of the weight classes had been qualified so far). There were some absolutely incredible matches, and it was a ton of fun to watch. However, there were also some frustrating matches where when the match was over, you didn't really feel like the better wrestler won the match. That is the biggest issue I have with freestyle, and it's why my preference is still folkstyle (the type of wrestling you see in college (and basically all levels before that as well)).

My biggest issue with freestyle is exposing the shoulders to the mat. If you expose an opponent's shoulders to the mat, even if they are nowhere near those shoulders being pinned, you get two points. I get very frustrated when I see a guy go for a takedown, and the opponent reaches through his crotch, flips him upside down for a second and gets two points while the guy who initiated the action is still looking to score off that move. And yes, maybe it is extra frustrating because this is how every American loses in international competition.

But I see wrestling as the physical domination of your opponent. The ultimate goal is to pin your opponent's shoulders to the mat, and I really don't think anything that does not get you closer to that goal should be rewarded. Nobody gets pinned off of a leg lace, but Jordan Burroughs scored 8 points in about two seconds doing that to win his Olympic spot against Andrew Howe. And here's the thing, it was fun to watch, but I just feel that the points awarded far outweigh what Burroughs was actually accomplishing.

There are issues with folkstyle wrestling. Mat work can be incredibly boring, and I scream at my television anytime I see a top guy throw in a leg, the bottom guy stands up, and the ref just resets the guy to stay on the bottom with no stall call. But I still see the essence of dominating your opponent leads to victory. There are some exceptions where the guy with the takedown loses, but it's pretty rare, and the NCAA is making steps towards preventing that.

And maybe this is all just because I’m bitter about Brent Metcalf losing. He gave up two points when he shot in for a takedown, and basically did a one man gator roll to escape from a bad position. Molinaro had good defense, but he didn’t initiate any real action. Still, he got two points for a back exposure and won the 3-3 match on criteria. Now I’m not going to count out Metcalf for the 2020 Olympics, but I think this was his best shot to make it (well, 2012 actually may have been better). Zain Retherford has shown massive improvement over the last couple years, and giving him four more years, two of which he will completely be focused on freestyle make him the early favorite at that weight (Stieber would be an ideal guy at 61 kg, but that’s unfortunately no longer an Olympic weight, but hopefully they bring it back). Metcalf will go down as one of the greatest American wrestler to never make an Olympic team.

What were we talking about again?

Oh, yeah, folkstyle and freestyle. My big issue with freestyle is that you can beat an opponent without trying to pin their shoulders to the mat. Just turning a guy is more flash than substance (and I 100% understand that it is incredibly difficult to turn someone who does not want to be turned). And I’m even down for an exposure on a takedown attempt getting an extra two points, because it takes away a huge defensive maneuver for the guy being taken down, so it does lead to more action on the feet. And since turns are impressive, I’d rather just see a turn getting an extra two points, and then you stand them back up instead of racking up points off of the turns. I’d love folkstyle to look into the same thing to help with their issues of boring matches where guys just rack up riding time.

Overall, I just want to see the best wrestler win in an action-packed match. Both freestyle and folkstyle are great. I’ll admit that freestyle has more action, but folkstyle does a better job of proving who is the better wrestler, and that’s why I still prefer it to the Olympic style.

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