August 2016 Update

Summer is almost over. It is an exciting time as there is a buzz of activity around campus. Classes start on Monday August, 29. We will have our first team meeting of the new school year on Tuesday, August 30.

I was able to attend the NWCA Convention at the end of July. It was a great time to learn, meet people and to fellowship. I felt our meetings with the D1 coaches and the NCAA was especially beneficial this year. We will see if the seeds planted will bear fruit. I think they will.

We recently finished our summer wrestling camps at the GMU Field House. I was pleased to see our number of campers grew again this year. We also did a high school only camp for the first time which I believe was well received. Sahid Kargbo was at every session of every camp. I was thankful to have his help and I know the campers benefited from his expertise. It was fun having my brother and dad at some of the camps as well. Both of them do a great job, so I know they helped the participants grow as people and wrestlers. Several GMU wrestlers stopped by camp to lend a hand which was great for all involved. I was encouraged to see several repeat campers.

If anyone is interested, my brother Dan left several signed copies of his book, “Finish Strong” for me to sell. You can contact me or stop by the wrestling office if you want to purchase an autographed copy of his book.

We will host the Paul Maltagliati Memorial Golf Tournament on Wednesday, September 14 at Bull Run Golf Course. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year for the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club. Hopefully you can attend or be one of our sponsors. For more information, go to http://www.patriotelitewrestling.com.

Like most of you, I will be watching as much of the Olympic wrestling competition as possible. There will be some amazing stories written this week in Rio.

July 13, 2016 Update

Lots of updates, so hold on it might be a bumpy read. As most know, Tom Carr has started his new job as the head coach of Central Christian College. I am confident he will do well. Dave Marble has stepped down from his role as our volunteer coach. In his role as the volunteer, Dave has proved valuable to the program. My hope is he will continue to stay connected to George Mason University Wrestling. Israel Silva has recently decided to take on the task of helping rebuild the Fresno State University wrestling program. I know it was a difficult decision for Israel and his family, but I do wish them the best with their new adventure.

I am now working to make sure we have a staff that will help the current team members achieve their goals and move program forward. I am excited to report Greg Flournoy has decided to assume the role as the volunteer assistant coach. As a recent grad, he will be able to impact team. His knowledge, skill level and recent experiences will be easily relayed to the team. He has walked in the same shoes and on the same path the team is traversing. As I have written often, his wrestling IQ is very high, so I know he will have a positive impact on the mat.

The show of support from Alums during the alumni-athlete giving challenge was outstanding. In fact, we finally won the overall giving percentage. We have come in 2nd a few times, so I am happy we finally won. We will receive $3,000 thanks to the challenge made by Dan and Patty Wotring. To my surprise, we lost the young alumni portion of the challenge to the Masonettes (Congratulations), but we did win another $1,000 by having the most improved giving percentage. I want to thank those who donated and those who helped rally the troops. Hopefully, my phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook posts and in person requests were not too annoying. I am thankful and appreciative, even if you did not donate, for alums putting up with my zeal for success. I also want to thank the former coaches who helped me twist arms (Jerry Mullins, Roger Rinker, Mike Moyer, Brian Shaffer and Mark Weader). I heard from more than one alumnus Mark Weader made sure to get their donation.

I have been on the road quite a bit recruiting, speaking, and doing clinics. I will be in town more as my camps will be starting soon. Hopefully you can help me spread the word.

I am excited to report Sahid Kargbo will be at all of my camps. Sahid will certainly be an asset to me and those who attend. Sahid will be a senior at George Mason University where he has been 3rd in the EWL tournament twice while serving as the team captain. Sahid has also excelled on the international scene as he represented the USA at the Junior World Championships and last year he won the University Greco-Roman National Championship.

July 25-29 we will be hosting a high school only camp. My hope is to be able to gear the camp toward the needs of this age group and help them prepare for the upcoming high school season.

August 1-5 we will host an all age folk style camp. I am excited to report my father Rick will be at a session of the camp, as he was last year. In addition, my brother Dan will be at a session of the camp. Dan is a 4x NCAA II Champion, 4x undefeated high school state champion, and current high school coach. Dan recently wrote a book about his life entitled “Finish Strong” which, despite some of his recollections of things I did as a kid, is a great read.

August 5-6 our Father/Son camp now called Parent/Child camp is back. This year it will feature Rick and Dan Russell. This has traditionally been our most popular camp and for good reason. Those who have attended have said it is a great weekend where they have benefited. I hope the room is packed with parents and wrestlers. This year my son Taft and I plan to participate so we can learn along with everyone else.

August 8-12 we will host our first youth only camp. This camp will be geared toward wrestlers ages 6-12. Rick and Dan Russell will help run a session. Sahid Kargbo and I plan on being at the camp for the entire week.

For more information you can go to http://www.joerussellwrestling.com or contact me via email at jrusse13@gmu.edu. Don’t worry, if I can’t assist, Sadie Russell can. She is great and really runs the show.

Thanks for your support and I look forward to what the future has in store.

University Nationals

We had a good contingent of wrestlers choose to go to the University Nationals this past weekend. Although I would have liked everyone train and attend, we did have 14 wrestlers attend the competition – Ibrahim Bunduka, Bill Prochniewski, Ryan Renkey, Logan Harvich, Sahid Kargbo, Tejon Anthony, Matt Raines, Sean Raftery, Daniel Mika, Patrick Davis, Austin Harrison, Justin Hite, Gary Miltenberger, and Matt Voss. 13 competed in Freestyle and 9 guys competed in the Greco-Roman tournament. My hope is the matches will help them learn what they need to work on over the summer months. I believe competition helps with the evaluation process and can increase your learning curve.

Although we did not have anyone place in the Freestyle competition, we did have several guys win matches. Notably, Patrick Davis led the team with a 4-2 record. Matt Voss finished with a 3-2 record. Sahid Kargbo was 2-0, before being injured in a bout. We made the decision, despite his protest, to withdraw him from the remainder of the competition.

We had 3 placers in the Greco-Roman Tournament. Matt Raines and Ryan Renkey both placed 8th. Despite their lack of Greco-Roman experience, it was good seeing them have success. Matt Voss found a way to when the Heavyweight division. It was fun watching him compete. He wrestles a high pace and is willing to take risks. He won 3 matches in order to qualify for the best of 3 finals. In his semi-final match he won by a fall early in the bout after throwing a great left-handed head lock. He lost his first bout in the finals, but won the next two to punch his ticket to the University World Championships in Turkey. His composure and effort level were outstanding.

Off season wrestling is also good for team bonding. We were able to spend lots of time together. Every evening we were treated to great hospitality and food by the Meadows family. I know the guys are thankful. On our last night in Ohio, we were able to celebrate Tom Carr’s birthday and watch UFC 199 at the Meadows home. I think we might have overstayed our welcome as Mike and Connie went to bed before we left their home.

On Monday, I was able to attend the 29th Annual Patriot Club Alumni-Athlete Golf Outing. It was a beautiful day for the event. I ended the day by getting a tour of the Inn at Evergreen by Mike Garcia. I was more than impressed by the work done to renovate the historic home. The only bad thing about the event is we lost the award for the team with the most alumni in attendance to Baseball. I certainly prefer winning. Hopefully we can win it at the 30th Annual.

Speaking of winning, I am hopeful we can win the 2016 alumni-athlete giving challenge that concludes on June 30. We are currently in 3rd place. Thus, please pester alums in to giving. For more information about the alumni giving challenge and to give go to http://www.gomason.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=205073218&DB_OEM_ID=25200

The guys are now taking a few days off before beginning our summer Strength Program which will be led by John Delgado and Israel Silva.

University Duals

For many years, several people in the wrestling community have talked about having a dual meet tournament in Freestyle and Greco-Roman for the University Age Division. I believed it was something people wanted. I believed it would help the development of our Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers. Finally, thanks to the efforts of Teague Moore and the staff at USA Wrestling, they were able to come up with a format that would fit within the mandates of the NCAA rules that so many of our USA Wrestlers operate under.

Equally important was the fact the Wrestlers In Business Network (WIBN) saw the value in the endeavor. Derek Donahue took the lead for the WIBN and ran with the concept. Many of the Washington DC area chapter of the WIBN contributed time and money to make the event a positive one. Following Derek’s lead, the group did a great job running the first time event.

We were fortunate to host the event at George Mason University. It afforded us the opportunity to high light our institution and our Patriot Elite Wrestling Club (PEWC). I especially enjoyed the Career Event put on by the WIBN which enabled over 250 college students to interact with some great companies. It was amazing seeing wrestlers, a few hours past weigh ins, dressed for success and charging forward with their future career paths.

We had 24 teams compete in the University Freestyle Dual competition (pretty good turn out for a first time event). Each team was able to wrestle 5 dual meets. In the finals, Stanford’s Wrestling Club was able to win a 5-4 dual over the Wolfpack Wrestling Club. We were able to enter two teams from the PEWC. Our two teams finished 1-4 and 2-3 respectively. I believe guys were able to learn from the event and I also think they enjoyed the team aspect of the duals.

The following day, after the Freestyle duals, we held the University Greco-Roman Dual Meet Tournament. We had five teams compete in the Greco-Roman event. We wrestled a round robin, so each team was able to wrestle 4 duals. American University won the Greco-Roman tournament while the PEWC finished second. Sahid Kargbo and Matt Voss were both 4-0 on the day and were part of the all-tournament team.

I want to say thank you to all who made the event possible and to those who attended. I think we have the makings of something special.

Spring 2016

We have finished our spring training cycle. I was pleased to see the guys put in the work. Overall, I think guys made progress. For the next two weeks we will have no structured training as the guys complete their course work for the semester. I want them to finish well in the class room. We need to have a good semester as a team.

Two of our wrestlers will compete this weekend at the UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals in Las Vegas – Tejon Anthony and Cameron Houston. I wish we had more guys competing at the event, but the timing is not ideal given their school schedules. Israel Silva will coach Tejon and Cameron this weekend.

Once guys finish final exams, most of them will stick around to compete for our club team. We are going to host the University National Duals at George Mason University on May 21-22. This is a first time event that is being led by the Wrestlers in Business Network. As you know, this group is doing great things for wrestling. They are doing the extra things to make the tournament a one of a kind. They are hosting a career day, social, training session, and other special events as part of the duals. To learn more about it go to http://www.wibnevents.org. We are capping the field at 24 teams. I believe it will be a great weekend for those that attend and should help wrestling grow.

We recently held our end of the year banquet. I was pleased with the event. It continues to grow. Tom Carr ran the event for us and did a great job. We had 4 wrestlers win awards. Cameron Houston won the Freshman Academic Award. He is diligent in life and it is and will pay dividends. Tejon Anthony won the Most Improved Wrestler Award. Tejon used his redshirt year to get better. It showed in a 20 win season as a redshirt freshman. Ryan Renkey won the Upperclassmen Academic Award and the Paul Maltagliati Most Dedicated Wrestler Award. Ryan has shined in the classroom by getting a perfect 4.0gpa and he has also raised the level of our room. He is a hard worker who will do great things. Greg Flournoy won the Most Valuable Wrestler Award. He is on the Mason top ten career win list and finished his career as a two-time NCAA qualifier.

Six seniors gave speeches. I especially enjoyed listening to them talk about their time at Mason. These six guys will be missed. Greg Flournoy will graduate this spring with a degree in Economics. He was a four year starter who won 2 matches at the NCAA tournament during his career. Ryan Forrest plans to graduate in the fall with a degree in Finance. He was a three year starter who finished 3rd in the EWL tournament this year. Konbeh Koroma will graduate in a few weeks with a degree in Criminology. He started many duals for Mason during his time in the program. Luke Ludke will receive a degree with Konbeh in Criminology. Luke represented GMU at the EWL championships this past March. Vince Rodriguez will graduate in May with a History degree. Vince was a four year starter, three time conference placer and NCAA qualifier for Mason. Blake Roulo will get his degree in Integrative Studies. After transferring from Buffalo, Blake placed both times he competed for Mason at the EWL tournament.

Tom Carr has accepted the head wrestling coach position at Central Christian College. He has spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Mason and has left a positive mark on the program. We wish him well and will be cheering for his success as he leads his own program.

Last Chance Olympic Qualifier

Sahid Kargbo competed in the last chance Olympic qualifier this past weekend. In order to move on he needed to win, he did not. Nevertheless, I believe it was a valuable weekend for him. He was able to wrestle lots of matches. He learned and will be better due to the experience.

Even though the competition was in Cedar Falls, Iowa, we flew into Chicago and drove the rest of the way. Thus, Sahid was stuck on a plane and a car with me for way too long. In route to Cedar Falls, I took a short detour to Iowa City. I wanted Sahid to see where the final Olympic Trials was going to be wrestled. We were impressed by the warm welcome we received as we toured Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Sahid also had to listen to my many stories about when Minnesota won the 2001 NCAA tournament in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Our hotel was in Waterloo, Iowa so instead of getting his pre-tournament workout at the arena, Sahid worked out at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum. We were well taken care of and given a personal tour by Kyle Klingman. Once again, Sahid had to listen to endless stories as Kyle and I reminisced.

Sahid finished with a 3-2 record in the Greco-Roman Tournament. Even though I knew he was disappointed, as soon as he walked off the mat from his last bout, I asked him to check his weight and to consider entering the Freestyle tournament. Sahid checked his weight and told me he thought he could make the weight so he wanted to try. Over the course of the next 2 hours he worked out trying to make the weight class. Due to the international rules Sahid was able to use a sauna to assist his weight loss, so he finished his workout at the historic West Gym facility on the University of Northern Iowa Campus. I was able to share some of the old tricks we used in the old days to help shed the last few pounds. Sahid made the weight. After he was down to weight, he told me 2 hours earlier he was 3.3 kilos over. He did not tell me beforehand because he thought I would not let him try. I was impressed by his toughness.

The next day Sahid finished with a 4-2 record in the Freestyle competition. He beat some quality wrestlers. In one of his losses, his opponent and he got a large crowd of people encircling and watching their match. The tournament featured 26 mats going on at the same time (it was also the site of the age group folkstyle nationals), so it was quite a spectacle they were displaying. The crowd got so close to the mat I was distracted by the buzz. One hall of famer commented to me, during the match, how impressed he was with my wrestler. Sahid represented himself well.

After Sahid was done competing we quickly headed back to Chicago to catch our late night flight back home. About the time we were passing the home of Ulysses S. Grant (yes we stopped to take a picture) we found out our flight was cancelled and that it would be until Tuesday before the airline could get us home. We laughed. Fortunately Tom Carr was able to find a way to get us home the next morning. I am unsure if Sahid could have handled much longer of a trip with just the two of us.

We are approaching the date of our end of the year wrestling banquet. On April 17, we will celebrate the season at the home Jerry and Carol Mullins. If interested in attending, please contact Tom Carr via email at tcarr11@gmu.edu.

2016 NCAA tournament

Greg Flournoy represented George Mason University at the 2016 NCAA Championships. As he has done repeatedly in his career, he represented himself, team, program and institution well. Greg finished with a 1-2 record. In each of his matches, I was pleased with his attitude and effort. He made a couple of mistakes in each of his matches. Because the margin for error is so small at the NCAA level, he was only able to overcome the mistakes in one of his bouts.

He opened up the tournament against a familiar foe, Chad Walsh from Rider. He lost by a major decision, but the match was much closer than the score. He gave up a take down late in the first period and then gave up 6 points when holding onto his opponent’s leg late in the match trying to get a stalemate restart.

In his first wrestle back bout, Greg fell behind 6-0. He gave up a take down while aggressively going after a cradle in the first period. Later in the period he gave up a 4 point near fall. At the start of the second period, his opponent chose bottom. Greg was able to lock up a cradle and get a 4 point near fall. Knowing his opponent was good on top, Greg chose neutral in the third. The strategy paid off as Greg was able to take down his opponent and then ride him out for the 7-6 victory. I was especially pleased with his composure. Greg battled back and showed great heart to secure the win.

In his final bout, Greg was unable to stop his opponents go to move on two occasions. Greg knew it was coming (he was prepared), but was unable to counter his under hook to a single. Greg did a good job of battling back. He scored a take down in the third period to get the score to 4-5. Greg let his opponent go in an attempt to secure the tying take down, but he could not convert it.

I will certainly miss watching Greg compete in a George Mason singlet. He has great wrestling skills and wrestles a hard pace. It is fun listening to other wrestling coaches and fans comment about how they are impressed with the effort they see from the GMU 157lber. Although I should probably give Greg a little time off, I have already bugged him about continuing to compete for the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club in Freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Now that the season is over, it is time for some self-review. I will be reflecting on where we are at and what we need to do to continue moving forward. I did learn from watching the NCAA tournament and with talking to others, we are a long way off from where we need to be. I do believe we are closer, but it is going to take extraordinary effort to close the gap.

At our team strength training practice this morning (yes the guys are already training for next season); I spoke to the guys about the need to work hard at closing the gap. I spoke to them about doing it the old fashioned way by trying to outwork others and by doing the little things right. Attention to detail and being consistent will assist us in closing the gap. Without getting lucky, I can’t think of a better way of increasing our odds of success.

I also told the team a few stories of why I believe a wrestler led team would help us move faster in the right direction as opposed to a coach led team. I do believe I can give them the answers to the test of what it takes to be great in this sport, but it is still up to them to get it done. I think peers pushing peers often leads to greater success than it always coming from a coach. Our team needs to do a better job of raising the bar for each other. They know more about what is going on within the program than I do. Teammates helping teammates make the right choices in life, school and in training has unbelievable value. I saw it as an athlete myself. I had great teammates who helped push each other. I have seen it as a coach. On the NCAA Championship teams I have been part of, one of the things they had in common was the wrestlers led each other to greatness. They were able to help each other grow to greatness. If we can get a larger group of guys loving the journey to be great together, it will pay dividends. The more invested the group is the easier it is for the individuals to grow.

My charge to the team is to love the journey. Be consistent in heading down the correct path. Do it alone if need be, but try to bring others with you. We can win at George Mason. We can have guys wrestling on Saturday at the NCAA tournament. It will require guys to sacrifice day in and day out, but it can be done. I hope they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get the job done. There certainly are no guarantees, but the odds are increased by doing things consistently the right way.