May 14, 2021

InterMat Wrestling – Willie’s Friday Mailbag: April 2nd, 2021


Iowa Hawkeyes All-American Jaydin Eierman (Photo/Tony Rotundo,

Welcome to the new Intermat. I officially took the reigns yesterday – a hectic time to be undergoing a big transition – on the heels of NCAA’s and just ahead of the much anticipated Olympic Trials. I’m hoping it’s smooth sailing, but there’s undoubtedly much I’m not looking forward to – expense reports, analytics, site maintenance, payroll…

But there’s much to be excited about, too. It’s been a tumultuous spell filled with uncertainty, lawsuits, highs, lows, lockdowns, and politics – none of which could ever have been predicted (by me, anyway).

And now, it seems, I’ll be able to do what I’ve always wanted to, which is have a large platform to write and direct a wrestling voice in a way in which I believe is best to represent the sport I love and to, in some manner, elevate it.

Years ago – in what seems like a previous life – as a college sophomore or junior – I wrote to Bob Preusse of Amateur Wrestling News. I knew nothing of wrestling media or journalism and though I was going to school for a Fine Arts degree in writing, I wasn’t a journalist. All I knew was that I loved wrestling and loved writing.

Bob was the only person I knew in wrestling media on a national level. He put together the first Ironman and the first Reno TOC, both of which I’d wrestled in.

When I asked Bob, ‘Hey, I was thinking about getting into writing about wrestling. You know of any opportunities,’ he replied, “You don’t want to do that. There’s no money in it.”

He was wrong about the former; right about the latter. I wouldn’t find that out until later, though – after a few years of spending half my time doing school work and the other half reading and posting on wrestling message boards.

After getting my degree, I bothered people enough until I got a start at The Open Mat and picked up some freelance assignments for W.I.N Magazine.

While the sustainability of any business comes down to dollars and sense, it’s the purpose that gives it meaning and fosters passion. So, in addition to producing content that wrestling consumers love and deserve, part of what you can expect at the new Intermat is an objective to both bring the wrestling community together and to offer them opportunities. My expectations are to foster new writers, give a platform to existing talents to broaden their reach, build message boards to create interaction, and run contests where all can take part. As much as anything, I want it to be a hangout; I want people to feel included and to have their voices heard.

I was once in your shoes. At heart, I’m a wrestling message board poster just like you. I’m just really, really smart.

Oh. And yes. I will be writing the Mailbag from now on. It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most, and actually quite a surprise even to me. I hadn’t expected TR Foley to move on. When the release was put out that I was acquiring Intermat, many people assumed that TR and I would have a conflict. Sure we’ve had spats on Twitter. But hell, name a person in wrestling I haven’t had it out with. It’s part of my charm.

Many thought I might not like the politics that his columns are often steeped in. And while it’s true that I don’t always have the same perspective as him, and often thought he peppered a tad too much of it in, I also don’t believe in censorship. The solution to having different opinions should not be a muzzle.

No. It was none of that.

TR is a friend. And I consider him to be among the finest wrestling writers to put pen to paper. He’s a much better writer than I am. Maybe than I’ll ever be. I would have been happy for him to stay on, and I will be happy if he ever rings me up and has an idea for another column.

TR wrote his column for nine years for Intermat, and for that, I will always be grateful. Like me, you never knew quite what he was gonna say next. That’s a good thing; it kept us all coming back.

The opportunity to fill Foley’s shoes in the Mailbag is not only one (like the reputation and legacy of Intermat itself) that I feel responsible for, but also one I relish. It will allow me the opportunity to exercise my writing ability. I’ve been in wrestling media for over a decade, but previews, and recaps, and ranking notes aren’t exactly the genre in which you hone a craft in prose.

Anyway, enough of the mushy stuff. Thanks to those of you who are reading – to those that have been following my work or to those that have just discovered it because you’re a loyal follower of Intermat and/or TR. I hope it’s the start of an enduring chapter at Intermat, and I hope you like what you see from us in the near future. (And by ‘us’ I mean myself and Earl Smith, who will be captaining this ship. I’m honored and excited to have him as the Site Editor for the new Intermat. We’re gonna make sweet, sweet musical content).

Now to your questions…

You tweeted that you didn’t have a problem with Spencer and Gable sharing the Hodge. Why? – Mike C.

I understand that it wasn’t a ‘true tie.’ W.I.N. Magazine themselves said ‘virtual tie.’ So apparently, the masses are upset that Spencer or Gable led the vote by a margin that W.I.N. deemed insignificant or unconvincing and made the decision to split the honors between the two. SO WHAT!?

What’s the harm in splitting it? Yes, yes…wrestling is the ultimate egalitarian milieu. We all expect a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser.’ But what’s the harm? What’s the harm?

Spencer and Gable had phenomenal seasons. By the math, Spencer (who I voted for) held the edge. But is it so outlandish to think Gable was equally deserving? He faced better competition and wrestled a whopping 30% more bouts. Both are significant and, I believe, served as the impetus for such a close race.

There was, too, an omen of sorts that foretold this. Gable won Intermat’s Wrestler of the Year. Spencer won MatScouts’ Wrestler of the Year, but Gable took the honors in the Big Ten Conference. The most knowledgeable and discerning eyes in the sport were split and I’m glad both of them were recognized. I’m not sure why I’m in the minority on this; you’d rather see just one guy win it when 1) they both had excellent seasons 2) the vote was THAT close. (They tied in 1st place votes). You’d rather haggle about decimals?

One of them had 49.8%; the other had 49.7% and the staff at W.I.N. said, ‘let’s give it to both.’ And y’all went bonkers. I don’t get it. You know who isn’t crying about it? Gable and Spencer.

When would be the best time for holding our Olympic Trials if college weren’t a factor? What can be done to make the NCAA and USAW calendars line up better? – @oldestgreatest

USAWrestling walks a tightrope. They want to have the qualification process start after NCAA’s so that college wrestlers can attend. But they do it so dang soon after. And I don’t know if the juice is worth the squeeze. By that, I mean the percentage of college wrestlers making senior teams is very low. Heck, a great deal of them are still UWW Juniors.

That being said, the timeline and order could accommodate the college guys (and every age level) in a more sensible manner.

The US Open is in April nearly every year. Move it back to May or June. Move Final X to July (making adjustments in OLY years which always make a mess).

It’s a really simple solution. USAW makes its money on events. And they have to squeeze them in a rather tight (March-July) window. But the juxtaposition of them has always confused me – including, but not limited to, having rapidly growing 15-year-olds (Cadets) make World Teams several months before they have to make weight for the World Championships.

Yes, the order and cadence of USAW events have always puzzled me and that problem will only get exacerbated should NCAA wrestling go to a 1-semester sport (which likely leads to a later end date).

What I don’t understand (and never have), is why USAW feels the need to start their qualifying process so soon after NCAA’s. There’s really not a rush, which would further benefit the college guys, and the college coaches hate it.

Iowa will have a much lower impact at the trials than I can ever remember. What’s the situation? – Message Boards Everywhere

I don’t think they are ‘out’ on freestyle; I think it’s a confluence of circumstances. Spencer Lee would certainly be there without the recent injury. The only one that has me scratching my head is Eierman, who I feel like is both a real threat to make the team and also a guy I’ve generally thought would prefer free to folk.

But it was a long two years – one filled with Covid and injuries and pressure to get the team title back to Iowa City. As stated above, the turnaround was crazy. Eierman would have had to wrestle NCAA’s-Last Chance-Trials in consecutive weeks.

I monitor wrestling message boards all day long and the fact that Iowa has just one or two athletes at the trials this year has been much discussed. However, there are two things the message boards didn’t bring up:

1. The Hawkeye Wrestling Club underwent an overhaul last summer. I think it was part of a long-term plan. A “Trust-The-Process” type plan in which the stable won’t be quite as full for a year or two, but then they reload. Essentially, their graduates will have to go from scholarship athlete to funded pros – that’s Spencer Lee, The Bull, Eierman, perhaps Kemerer and DeSanto. That’s a great deal of top-flight World Team threats. It’s also a lot of dough.

2. The New Room. I don’t know if the reduction in HWC members had a ton to do with the new facility, but I do know it’s taking a lot of bandwidth and attention. In conjunction with item. I would imagine it played a factor. Spend less on athletes for a year and use that money to put in the facility fund. Then fundraise for the new era of HWC athletes.

That’s my theory, anyway. I believe it makes sense, and I also believe that – should that be the case – it was probably a very heady move by TNT.

Your 2021 Olympians! (or who I think wins this weekend)

I have to admit, the cancellations over the past year have made me very International-styles-rusty. I think, if you’re honest with yourself, it’s made us (fans) all rusty. We simply haven’t seen these guys and gals compete as much as we normally do. So my picks will be rather boring, but you can bet your butts there’s gonna be some major curveballs.


50kg – Sarah Hildebrandt over Whitney Conder

53kg – Jacarra Winchester over Katherine Shai

57kg – Helen Maroulis over Jenna Burkert

62kg – Kayla Miracle over Maya Nelson

68kg – Tamyra Stock-Mensah over Kennedy Blades

76kg – Adeline Gray over Victoria Francis


57kg – Daton Fix over Thomas Gilman

65kg – Yianni over Zain Retherford

74kg – Jordan Burroughs over Kyle Dake

86kg – David Taylor over Zahid Valencia

97kg – Kyle Snyder over J’den Cox

125kg – Gable Steveson over Nick Gwiazdowski


60kg – Ildar Hafizov over Max Nowry

67kg – Jamel Johnson over Alejandro Sancho

77kg – Ben Provisor over Pat Smith

87kg – Joe Rau over Alan Vera

97kg – G’Angelo Hancock over Luke Sheridan

130kg – Adam Coon over Cohlton Schultz

Who’s going to Fort Worth!? Say hi. Let’s have a beer.


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