This is my attempt to discuss this week's revelations without the drama.
"Final X" is the new format to determine the World Team representatives in Men's and Women's Freestyle (greco doing their own thing). The trials have been adjusted a few times over the past few years mostly on how to qualify for the trials. This year will be mostly similar from a qualifying standpoint. There will be returning medalists (a lot of them!), the US Open, the challenge tournament, and the best 2 of 3 final.
Final X is taking the best 2 of 3 final, making it at separate dates, and splitting it into three. Locations are yet to be determined, likely based on who is wrestling in what.
The challenge tournament will be in Rochester, Minnesota May 18-20.
June 9, 2018
● Men's freestyle weight classes (57 kg, 70 kg, 74 kg, 97 kg)
● Women's freestyle weight classes (55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg)
June 16, 2018
● Men's freestyle weight classes (65 kg, 79 kg, 86 kg)
● Women's freestyle weight classes (62 kg, 72 kg, 76 kg)
June 23, 2018
● Men's freestyle weight classes (61 kg, 92 kg, 125 kg)
● Women's freestyle weight classes (50 kg, 53 kg, 57 kg, 65 kg)
Let's start with the positives:
Splitting the finals is a good thing. Rarely (only in medical exemption situations) have we had more than a couple hours to talk about the match-up with the challenge tournament champion and the wrestler in "the seat". Having weeks review the madness that usually is the challenge tournament and to preview/discuss/predict the finals is much needed.
Since Bloodround began, one of my common themes is my desire for barnstorming and the complete lack there of by USA Wrestling. Freestyle wrestling is a great product and bringing it to more cities is great. It's a little tough on coaches and media, but it needs to happen. More matches in non-tournament formats is a big opportunity for USA Wrestling to grow the fan base.
"Final X" isn't a league or series really. Jordan Burroughs still only wrestles in the United States two or three times a year. He's one of the most marketable athletes in the country and I was hoping Prowl, or something similar, would have him wrestling more and in front of more people. Burroughs is in the seat having won the 2017 World Championships. This means he will probably just wrestle one American this year, the challenge tournament champion. To me, this is similar to Tom Brady just playing the Super Bowl or Jordan Spieth just playing the Masters. No other sport would fail to promote their stars this way. I know "fail" is a tough word, but I am sticking with it.
TV/Production still may be a distance off, but casual fans still end up watching Wrestling on Big Ten Network and the NCAA Saturday night finals on ESPN. This isn't a knock on FLO making money, but making a leap to getting these very marketable people wrestling on TV could have proven to be a big bump. Sometimes you have to jump in to the deep end.
A step in the right direction with some good potential. It's not a very big step though.