So in our part 1 we talked about where J'den Cox has been and how hes done since the NCAA season ended in NYC. Before we get to Rio and our expectations, lets talk a bit about international freestyle wrestling. What we're most familiar with here in the US is folkstyle. Its what is wrestled in high schools and colleges through out the country. Most wrestlers will spend some time in freestyle and greco-roman over the summers, but its certainly not their main focus.
So, Shaffe, what is the difference between US folkstyle and international freestyle?
We could do a whole piece on the differences between the two styles, so I’ll hit up some of the big ones and let you clean up what I forgot (and maybe didn’t know myself). In freestyle wrestling there are three ways to end a match just as with folkstyle except a technical fall is a 10 point lead instead of the 15 point lead you see during the college season.
As for how those points are scored there is a pushout rule in freestyle where if a wrestler is pushed out of the area of the mat the aggressive wrestler is awarded a single point. Two points are awarded for a takedown just as with folkstyle but two points are also awarded each time a wrestler exposes his opponent’s back to the mat. If the right hold is achieved one wrestler can continue to roll their opponent exposing their back multiple times and a match can be over in seconds by technical fall.
Two excellent examples (and the two most popular ways to achieve this) happened in the Olympic Trials finals in April. Jordan Burroughs used a leglace to end his match while Daniel Dennis used a tight waist to achieve the same result.
As far as the actual action and flow of the match one of the biggest differences between the two styles is that in freestyle once a takedown is earned a wrestler has just a few seconds to try and improve their position and score more points before the ref will stop action and stand both wrestlers back up in the neutral position.
There is never a point in the match where the wrestlers are put in a top and bottom starting position like you see at the start of the second and third periods in folkstyle so somebody like a Daniel Lewis who really thrive at riding out an opponent would lose a bit of an advantage wrestling in this style.
Lastly there is a rule against being too passive in the match. I will admit that this is a HIGHLY subjective rule subject to interpretation by the ref, but the end result is this: if a wrestler is called for passivity once it is a warning, the second time he is put on a 30 second clock in which he must score a point. If he does not score in that 30 seconds action is stopped and his opponent is awarded a single point. This, much like the stalling rule in folkstyle, creates a lot of confusion among experienced and novice fans alike and is honestly probably even more vague than stalling.
How about non-action differences, BST? What if there is a tie? How is time kept for the match?
So, the tie breaker scenarios work a bit different for freestyle, of course. If the score is tied at the end of a period, there is very specific tie-breaking criterion that must be followed to determine a winner. The criteria must be applied in the following order, moving on to the next rule when one rule does not apply:
1. The wrestler with the least amount of cautions or penalty points against him wins the period.
2. The wrestler that scored the highest number of technical points with one offensive maneuver wins the period.
3. The wrestler that scores the last point before the end of the period wins.
As for the time of matches, its 2 periods, that are 3 minutes long each, with a 30 second break in between periods, which is shorter than folkstyle matches, but more condensed with the 2 longer periods.
OK, we've gone over the differences both style and rules wise between American folkstyle and international freestyle wrestling. What would you say, has lent the most to J'den Cox's abilities to transition so well in freestyle? Especially when considering that he has barely focused on it since getting on the Mizzou campus.
Honestly I’d have to go with J’den’s general badassery. That dude is seriously talented in all facets of technical wrestling and transitioning to freestyle was, and continues to be, more about modifying his focus in training to bring out the right skills instead of having to learn the right skills. With the talent reserve he’s got I’m not surprised at all at what seems to me like a relatively easy transition.
I'd agree on the general badassery but would also add that his explosiveness is just out of this world. Explosiveness is big in folkstyle, of course, but with the longer matches, and more emphasis on control its not as game changing as it is in freestyle. 1 or 2 big moves can win you a match, quickly, and staying aggressive with that kind of quick power makes ya damn near unstoppable.
Ok, ok, ok, ok. We've kinda beat around the bush here a bit. Lets talk about RIO!
What does the field look like for the 86kg freestyle weight class?
We’re all aboard the J’den Hype Train, and it’s certainly screaming down the tracks right now – but the best I could honestly see out of him is a silver medal. The heavy favorite in Rio will be Russia’s Abdulrashid Sadulaev who has amassed a 58-1 international record and hasn’t lost a match since his very first senior tournament in 2011. His results in last year’s world championships in Las Vegas went tech fall, fall, tech fall, tech fall, 6-2 win, and a 6-0 win in the finals. Oh, and he’s only 20 years old.
Outside of Sadulaev I’m not really familiar at all with the international scene, so instead I’ll link to the July UWW rankings where Cox made his debut at #10. If J’den can find himself on the opposite half of the bracket as Sadulaev and maybe catch one more break I think he could make the final. Otherwise I could also see him wrestling his way back for a bronze medal if given that chance as well.
Do you concur, or are you calling for the upset and a gold medal for J’den?
I'd love to call for the gold. Do I think its possible? Yes. Likely? Not really.
I think that J'den is poised for a run at a medal for sure tho. There are some super talented and seasoned guys in the 86kg bracket, but with his blend of size, power, explosivity (my new term of the day) and most of these guys not having seen him before, I think it sets up really well for him.
Anything else you'd like to add, or are you just ready to watch some wrasslin'?
I think we should go over how exactly the Olympic wrestling tournament is structured. If you'd like to follow along you can click here for a visual aid. Anyhow, in Olympic wrestling the first thing to note is that the field is not seeded at all and wrestlers are drawn blindly into the bracket. This means that you could have the two best wrestlers in the world squaring off right out of the gate, though it is rather unlikely.
The bracket then continues in a single elimination format until the two finalists are determined and they wrestle for gold/silver. To determine the third place finisher there is a repechage for anybody who was directly beaten by the two finalists. How far you advanced before losing to a finalist determines at what point you are dropped into the repechage.
That bracket is played out and eventually two bronze medalists are determined. In the example above note that Coleman Scott lost his semifinal match and was dropped directly into one of the bronze medal matches. Wrestlers keep to their half of the bracket so if J'den draws a favorable half he could find himself in position to secure a bronze medal through the repechage if and when that time comes.
Yeah, totally not confusing at all....
Well it is the Olympics, what else would you expect?
Wrestling competition will begin on August 14th, but the 86kg freestyle weight class won’t take to the mats until the 20th. HERE is a schedule from NBC, which includes links to streaming options. We will have a live thread up for the day as well.