I know I'll most likely get ostracized from this board forever for posting this, but I feel it is true.
The problem with USA Wresting is twofold. The folkstyle vs. freestyle debate has been discussed at length here so I won't get into it though I believe it is a huge part of the problem. Wrestling is NOT wrestling. Folkstyle and Freestyle are vastly different and expecting wrestlers to switch techniques after 15 or more years and compete against people who have been doing the same technique for their entire lives is ridiculous.
The second problem is just two words: Dan Gable.
You hear every wrestling dad, youth coach, and casual fan rant and rave about what an ispiration he is and how he is everything that is right with wrestling. They assume he is the wrestling bible and everything he says is the Word.
The problem is, Gable's philosophy of out-working, out-lasting and out-hustling your opponent only works for so long. The most finely tuned athlete in the best possible shape with the most time spent doing cardio will still lose to a fat, out of shape Georgian who's muscle memory is finely tuned and experienced.
When a kid loses in the States, parents and coaches often say he or she didn't work hard enough beforehand and should run more sprints and lift more weights in practice leading up to the next tournament. Why? Because Gable did it. Because Gable out-worked his opponents. Because Gable and the Brands out-trained and out-grueled themselves for hours in the gym. So instead of improving technique, strategy, mental preperation, etc, a lot of kids just run for longer in the mornings, wrestle through more injuries in practice or lift more weights after practice hoping to improve.
But not everybody is built that way. The Gables, Brands and Slays of the world are few. Only a minority respond well to that type of abuse on their bodies, yet wrestling culture in North America respects and reveres those traits. For example, would your coach growing up allow a teammate to spend 2 hours of a practice leading up to a State Championship drill a duck-under over and over and over again? Drilling at low-speed, focusing on hand position and body position? Most likely not. But would yoor coach allow a teammate to run wind sprints until he puked and do rope climbs until his hands were bare for 2 hours in practice leading up to a State Championship? I'd assume yes and your coach would most likely praise your teammate for having heart and wanting it more than anybody else.
The philosophy, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" is a rally cry for North American wrestlers. I think it is false. But, its part of Americana. Rocky, the Miracle on Ice, Brandon Slay, etc. are parts of American culture that worships the underdog with no talent who works harder than their opponents and wins despite all the odds. The problem with this philosopy? They rarely, if ever, win twice. Because they burn out or catch somebody off guard. Talent and skill, though upsetable, wins more often.
The successful wrestling nations (former Soviet Republics, Middle East, etc) have wrestling as part of their culture. They are taught, watch, and experience wrestling from a ridiculously young age. They know and do complex technique at age 5 better than North American high school kids do. They focus on minute details and develop strategy at an advanced level that North American college wrestlers can't even comprehend. Think about it. An Iranian Olympian has been gut-wrenching since he was 4. A typical American? Didn't do a gut-wrench in practice until his senior year of college. No amount of weight lifting or wind sprints can even that out.
I'm not saying that wrestlers don't need to work harder. They just need to work smarter.