2017 NCAA Tournament

It was an honor to have Ibrahim Bunduka and Sahid Kargbo represent George Mason University at the 2017 NCAA tournament. They represented the institution, program, team and themselves with class. We ended up departing a day early to the tournament due to an impending storm headed to our area. In hindsight, it was a good decision as our originally scheduled flights were canceled. We had a good contingent of staff and fans to support the wrestlers at the event. After we arrived in St Louis, we were able to watch a television interview aired back in DC about the two athletes representing GMU at the NCAA tournament (http://wjla.com/sports/rising-stars/rising-stars-sahid-kargbo-ibrahim-bunduka).

Ibrahim Bunduka lost both of his matches. He struggled to make the necessary adjustments during his bouts in order to win. Nevertheless, he gained valuable experience and gave great effort. IB can bring back the knowledge gained to improve personally and to help his teammates. Even though it was tough to do, IB was interviewed shortly after his last NCAA bout (http://www.flowrestling.org/video/1135473-bunduka-puts-life-and-wrestling-in-perspective). I believe he did a good job. Sahid Kargbo finished 1-2. He lost by a decision in his first bout to the eventual runner-up in his weight class. He won his second bout by decision. In his final bout, he challenged his opponent in his opponent’s best position. Sahid almost won the position, he went for it, but was unable to come out on top. I was heartbroken for IB and Sahid, not to reach their goals.

I am ashamed to say I also had a pity party of my own after they lost. It is not about me and should be about the athletes and the program. Nevertheless, I spent the remainder of the tournament questioning myself and staying away from people. I do believe it is important to do self-review. We need to figure out how to consistently move the program forward. Thus, trying to figure out my mistakes and short comings is important. On the other hand, I should not feel sorry for myself and be a person that is negative to be around. I wasted a day and a half we could have gotten better by wallowing in self-pity. It was a tough weekend. I apologize for having a bad attitude and for not positively developing relationships during the weekend. I missed the opportunity to spend time with friends and meet new people.

As a college coach, there is always work to be done. Our staff has been working hard since we returned from the 2017 NCAA tournament, so we can prepare the team and program for the 2018 NCAA tournament. It is amazing how fast things seem to move.

2017 EWL Championships

We did not have the best EWL tournament, which has caused me concern. I want to make sure we are properly preparing the team for post season competition. I thought our plan and preparation went well, but we did not get the results I had anticipated. We were 9-19 overall (excluding 5 byes we received). We had 4 guys finish 0-2 (excluding 3 byes received). We finished 5th as a team. If we want to move up in the league standings, we will need to have more guys scoring points and have a better win percentage.

Our first round of competition went as expected. All 5 of our seeded wrestlers advanced to the semi-finals. It was close to being a good round as we almost pulled off two upsets. Ryan Forrest and Matt Meadows both lost close overtime bouts to higher seeded wrestlers. Those losses were painful and might have contributed to us struggling later in the tournament. Momentum is real. Whether in your favor or against, it can snowball.

In the semi-finals, we did as expected. We went 1-4. I was hopeful we would be able to get more guys in the finals. Even with the losses, I liked the effort and determination of the semi-finalists.

In the first consolation round, we only had two guys draw matches (the other 3 guys received byes). We went 1-1. Lio Quezada was able to win his bout with a first period fall. It was the only pin we would get as a team. Speaking of momentum, his fall did give his teammates energy. He gave us some positive momentum.

Last year we had a great consolation semi-final round. I expected the same results this year as we tend to do better the longer we are in a tournament. Nevertheless, it was not to be. We went 3-5 in the consolation semi-final. Ibrahim Bunduka and Matt Voss won decisively, while Matt Raines won a crazy back and forth bout. Tejon Anthony lost a heart breaker as he had done earlier in the semi-finals. It was tough to see him so close but not get his hand raised.

In the placing matches we went 1-3. Sahid Kargbo had a disappointing finish in the finals. Matt Raines and Matt Voss lost close bouts in their respective consolation finals. Fortunately, Ibrahim Bunduka had an upset win to place third and more importantly a win that qualified him to advance to the NCAA Tournament. I was very excited for IB. It was also a big win for our team. It is important to have guys step up when there is a lot on the line. No doubt IB’s preparation and determination played a role in his success.

I am excited to have IB and Sahid representing George Mason University at the NCAA Championships. Both are shining examples of guys who have made great gains by doing the right things to be successful at the D1 level. Less than 1% of high school wrestlers are able to say they are on a D1 roster. Thus, D1 wrestlers are often the cream of the crop. Neither Sahid nor IB won a high school state title. They were not blue chip recruits added to a D1 team. They have rose to an elite level by stringing together good decisions and putting forth great effort. They are examples of the Masonway. They have a lifestyle that is conducive to success. Both are consistent in their training and find reasons to lace up their wrestling shoes as opposed to doing something else. They have foregone many things to be in the place they are today. When I speak to the team and give guys direction, often it falls on deaf ears. IB and Sahid have listened. They have made choices to follow the Masonway. They believe in the system. They trust the program.

With great anticipation, we are helping IB and Sahid prepare for the NCAA tournament. My prayer for them is that they will embrace the opportunity. I want them to wrestle with excitement and have fun. I want them focused on putting on the best performance they can. I want them to go get what they have earned. I want there to be as little thought as possible on winning and losing. The results will take care of themselves. Both are capable of doing something special in St Louis. If they focus on giving their best effort and have the correct attitude, they will do great things.

American and Sacred Heart

In planning the schedule last year, I was pleased when I was able to lock down 4 dual meets in 12 days to end our regular season. I felt having this team make weight and compete 4 times in such a short time span would be a great test for them mentally and physically to end the regular season. As a coach, I fear giving the guys more than they can handle late in the season. I fear late season injuries. In hindsight, I was pleased how things worked out. The team handled the added stress well. They are better as a result of the late season duals. I was pleased to see the plan work out as I had hoped.

On Friday night, we went to American University where we lost the dual 7 matches to 3. I was frustrated by the lack of offense by our team. We were only able to score 3 takedowns on the night. I felt we left too many points on the board. I was frustrated, for the team, as I know they are capable of more than they showed. Sahid Kargbo, Ryan Forrest and Matt Voss were all victorious. Matt Voss avenged a loss from the previous season and showed his improvement. Tejon Anthony lost an 11 minute multiple overtime match as he was unable to finish his attacks. I was disappointed with the result but pleased with his effort. Matt Raines lost a close bout in regulation, but I was pleased to see his effort level. I know if he wrestles at the pace he did on Friday, he will find success down the road.

On Sunday afternoon, we hosted Sacred Heart University. We were able to send our seniors out with a team win. I was pleased we were able to honor 6 seniors – Patrick Davis, Ryan Forrest, Sahid Kargbo, Matt Meadows, Ryan Renkey, and Andrew Thomas. It is rewarding to see guys make it through 4 or 5 seasons of D1 wrestling and graduate from the institution. It is a difficult path to navigate and I tip my hat to these seniors.

We won the dual 6 matches to 4. Ibrahim Bunduka won by a forfeit. Lio Quezada fell behind early and fought hard to come back. Although he fell short, I was pleased to see his resilience. Tejon Anthony scored a quick takedown and made a mistake which resulted in him losing his bout by a fall. I know he learned as a result, but I wish he could have learned the defense without it being so costly. It was painful to see his disappointment. Sahid Kargbo won by a major decision. It was great to see him let lose, have fun and score points. Matt Raines did a good job of hustling and was rewarded with an important win for his team. Daniel Mika scored 2 offensive takedowns and was able to get off bottom in the second period. Unfortunately, he was unable to close out the match with a win. He needed to keep scoring points and moving on bottom. I was disappointed for him. Ryan Forrest scored lots of points in route to a major decision. He made an adjustment to his single leg shot which proved beneficial. Austin Harrison stepped aside so Andrew Thomas could wrestle in front of the home crowd one more time. I appreciated Austin’s willingness to let Andrew compete. Although Andrew lost, I hope he enjoyed the opportunity to compete one last time at the RAC. Matt Meadows finished his home career with a win. I was pleased so many of his family were able to watch his last home competition. Once again a dual meet came down to Matt Voss. Once again he stepped up in a big way. He pinned his opponent in the first period to seal the deal for his team.

On March 4, the team will compete at the EWL tournament with the plan of securing a spot at the NCAA Tournament. The anticipation is exciting and fun. We will spend the next few weeks preparing mentally and physically for the post season. I am excited for these guys to have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams which have turned into goals. Let’s do our utmost to reach the goals we set at the start of the season.

USNA and F&M Duals

On Wednesday night, we had a home competition against the United States Naval Academy. We ended up starting the dual meet over an hour late as our scheduled official did not make it and a replacement had to be found. It was a unique situation and is one I would rather not repeat. I want to say thank you to all those who attended and stuck it out while we waited. I also want to say thank you to the USNA for assisting us with putting on an impromptu clinic for the youth wrestlers who were in attendance. I heard from more than one person that the kids loved the clinic and it made the event even better.

We ended up losing the dual 6 matches to 4. Lio Quezada won his bout by a major decision. Ibrahim Bunduka, Sahid Kargbo and Matt Voss all won by decision. Tejon Anthony and Matt Raines lost very close decisions. We gave up bonus points in the other bouts we lost.

Tejon Anthony lost a controversial match to the #13th wrestler in the nation. Tejon was leading 3-2 with 23 seconds left in the bout. At that time, the official signaled a takedown for the Navy wrestler. I immediately challenged the call. The official saw my challenge but let the action continue until there were 3 seconds left in the bout. Initially the official ruled there was no takedown at the 23 second mark. He then said there was a takedown at the 6 second mark and the wrestlers went out of bounds at the 3 second mark. It was a tough call for all involved and I was certainly disappointed. Tejon is getting better and it is being noticed as he was recognized in the coaches’ ranking and RPI later in the week.

Matt Raines lost 3-2. With less than 10 seconds to go Matt was able to secure a single leg with his opponent’s leg in the air. He was not able to finish the shot before time expired. It was a tough way to lose and it did result in a teachable moment for the team. We worked on quick finishes to single legs in practice the following day.

On Saturday, we traveled to Franklin & Marshall College. Our new Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Banville traveled with the team. It was a first for me to have a FAR travel with us. I appreciate her taking the time and interest to attend the dual.

We won the dual 7 matches to 3. It was a good team performance. I believe we finished matches by scoring the last offensive points in 9 of the 10 matches. This was good to see. I liked the effort. We also had 3 guys win by pin (sorry to those in the pin club as it was an expensive night for you). It has been awhile since we had that many pins in a dual meet. It was Austin Harrison’s first pin of his college career. Sahid Kargbo pinned his first opponent of his senior season. Matt Voss pinned his opponent in the first period. Ibrahim Bunduka won by a major decision. Tejon Anthony, Matt Raines, and Ryan Forrest all won by decision. I was also pleased by the effort of the guys who lost. They competed with toughness in the later stages of their bouts.

Thanks to Daniel Mika’s uncle we found a new go to place to eat in Lancaster. It is always fun listening to the chatter of the team after weigh ins and competition. Even though Ray Yamrus beat me badly in driving the other team van back to campus, our drive home went well due in part to full stomachs and a team victory.

This will be a busy, yet exciting, week for us as we complete our regular season. On Friday we will compete at American University at 7pm. On Sunday, our club will host a youth tournament at the RAC – the Patriot Pummel (www.patriotpummel.com) followed by our final home dual of the year against Sacred Heart University.

Our dual with Sacred Heart is scheduled to start at 2pm. We will honor our seniors at half-time. Please come support the team and our seniors – Patrick Davis, Ryan Forrest, Sahid Kargbo, Matt Meadows, Ryan Renkey, and Andrew Thomas.

Rider

Last weekend, was positive for the George Mason Wrestling program. We invited alums back to campus. It was great to see them reconnecting with each other, building new memories, and supporting the current team. Alums are unbelievably important to our program. They helped shaped the past and will help shape our future. Thanks to those who came to support our alumni weekend, including former head coaches Jerry Mullins, Mike Moyer and Brian Shaffer.

We lost our dual to Rider, but did split matches 5-5. We gave up a discouraging 9 bonus points in the 5 matches we lost. We were not competitive in some of the matches. I was frustrated by the number of stall calls against us. Part of the problem was the gap in skill level, but part of the problem was a lack of fight. We need to address the short comings that are within our control.

There were certainly positives as well. Things we can learn from and build upon. I was pleased to see Ibrahim Bunduka find a way to win a match where he was struggling physically and mentally. I loved seeing Lio Quezada overcome a 6-2 deficit heading into the last period of his bout to come away with the win. 3rd period comebacks are fun to watch – they show grit; they show a person who has prepared properly; they inspire others…Tejon Anthony and Sahid Kargbo picked up their 16th and 22nd victories of the season. Both are helping lead their team. In the last bout of the day, Matt Voss won and exciting match over a wrestler who beat him twice last season. It was a statement win for him in his bid to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

We have a rare weekend off from competing. Many times I have scheduled competitions on Super Bowl Sunday. Many times I have been told I ruined the day. When I coached at Minnesota, the Big Ten often mandated we compete on Super Bowl Sunday. It really was not my fault, but because I was in charge of travel more than once I felt the anger from the team. I remember being jeered by the team when we were in the air and the pilot gave Super Bowl updates. I remember guys waiting to the last moment to board a flight as they watched the game near the departure gate. This year, while putting the scheduling jigsaw puzzle together, I actually blocked off Sunday as a date we could not compete.

I think the team appreciates my forethought, but I also know they now see we have more training days than normal. As a coach it feels good to get in training days without trying to balance guys cutting weight and allowing recovery before competing. In the end, I think some of the guys might wish they had a competition instead. Funny thing is some of the team will compete this weekend in Open competitions.

Our next home meet will be on Wednesday, February 8. We will compete against the United States Naval Academy at the RAC. The first whistle will be at 7pm.

Deans List, Clarion and Edinboro Duals

I am pleased to announce 5 members of the wrestling team made the Dean’s list fall semester (GPA above 3.5). Congratulations to True Freshmen Trevor Mello, Lio Quezada and Philip Stolfi; Redshirt Sophomore Matt Voss; and 5th year senior Ryan Renkey. Their efforts in the classroom will serve them well down the road and are a blessing to our wrestling program. Although it has yet to be announced, I also believe Ryan Renkey will be named a Provost Scholar. This award requires a student-athlete to maintain a GPA above a 3.75 for a minimum of 3 semesters. It is also worth noting Trevor Mello and Lio Quezada were starters for the wrestling team as true freshmen during their first semester in college. Thus, they were cutting weight, traveling and competing shortly after their arrival on campus. It is great to see they possess the skills to balance the demands of being D1 student-athletes. Thank you and congratulations to our Deans List grapplers.

We had 2 conference duals this past weekend. On Friday we traveled to Clarion where we lost 7 matches to 3. I felt our effort was good, but we lost critical situations during the bouts. Clarion won more of the close matches as a result. Sahid Kargbo won by a major decision. Matt Raines and Matt Voss won their matches by decision. I was also pleased to see Tejon Anthony wrestle a close match against his #16th ranked Clarion opponent.

On Sunday, we returned home and faced Edinboro University. They beat us 8 matches to 2. Matt Meadows won 14-0. It was great to see him get his offense going. Tejon Anthony also won. In Tejon’s match he rode his opponent the entire 3rd period to force overtime. It was a dangerous strategy, but it worked. As a result of the effort he put forth, I believe it gave him an advantage in overtime. Ryan Forrest led his opponent for all but the last few seconds of his bout. It was a disappointing finish as he was in a good position to win. Matt Raines did a good job in his bout but lost a critical situation at the end of the second period to lose. In the remaining bouts we lost by major decision or technical fall. It was disappointing to see the gap so wide in bouts where we wrestled ranked wrestlers. We need to close the gap and close it quickly. I was also surprised how many times we gave up near fall points while in the down position this weekend. Giving up back points makes it difficult to stay in matches, let alone win. We must do a better job of staying off our backs.

We host our final EWL dual on Sunday, January 29 2pm at the RAC. This is also an important weekend for us as we are trying to get our alums back on campus. We will have a reception for alums on Saturday, 7pm at Brion’s Grille, we will also have a pre-match get together at 1pm at the RAC and honor the 1995, 1996, and 1997 CAA championship teams at half-time on Sunday. Please help spread the word to alums.

Cleveland State

We had a home dual against Cleveland State University on Sunday, January 15. We won the dual 8 matches to 2. The guys did a good job winning the tough situations. In close matches it takes extreme effort to win the tough situations. Our guys did well. Thanks mostly to our freshmen; we had a good crowd considering school was not in session. Just so people know, it is a big deal for our guys to see people in the stands. Before the dual, they were excited by the crowd. Lio and Matt Raines were proud their friends and family had come to watch in mass. It was certainly noticed by the guys competing. Thanks to those who came to the dual. Thanks for giving our team extra energy to compete.

Ibrahim Bunduka continued his unbeaten streak by scoring points. His energy level and attack rate help get our team going in the right direction. He does a great job preparing and competing. He continues to get better.

Lio Quezada stepped up again for himself, his team and his community. He gave great effort in his bout. He did a good job defensively in the first period. I was pleased to see him stay a bit more basic. He did a great job in the second period by riding his opponent. It requires effort to hold your opponent down. Lio used the extra effort and as a result, it put him in a great place to win the bout. He won a tough situation in the 3rd and was able to get a reversal and gain riding time to win.

Tejon Anthony wrestled a tough opponent. He had a good game plan and stuck to it. Toward the end of the bout he was thrown off the mat and onto the gym floor. It looked and sounded bad. Nevertheless,Tejon hustled back to the center and proceeded to be unfazed by the incident. It was fun to see.

Senior captain Sahid Kargbo wrestled another senior who had recently placed at the Southern Scuffle. I was pleased to see Sahid win positions and score points. In the end, Sahid was able to win by a major decision for his team. I know the crowd appreciated his effort as their reactions were loud and visible.

Matt Raines did a good job of putting pressure on his opponent. He took risks. In the end, I believe it helped him to score the winning takedown. With so many from his community in the stands, it made the third period win even more special.

Ryan Forrest made his season debut. Ryan had originally planned on not using his red shirt year. Thus, he did not compete this fall. After many months of wearing him down, we finally got him to agree to wrestle spring semester. Ryan did not disappoint as he won his bout. Without Ryan in the lineup, we would have been forced to forfeit a weight class. It was good for Ryan and the team to have him back.

Daniel Mika weighed in a weight class lower than he competed. He, as he has often done, sacrificed for his team. Although he did not have the result or performance he wanted, I tip my hat to him for sacrificing for his team. He helped us win the dual and field a full line up. The team aspect of an individual sport is special to see.

Austin Harrison represented the University this weekend at a conference. He got back to campus in time to compete. He wrestled a tough opponent. Although he struggled during the first two periods of the match, I was pleased with his third period. Even though he had been ridden and turned twice, he chose the down position to start the third period. He was able to get away and take his opponent down. It was good for him to learn he could score points on his opponent.

Matt Meadows was able to win his bout by not allowing his opponent to score. Although I wanted him to score more points, I was pleased to see him shut out the opponent for 7 minutes. Wins help with confidence. My hope is he can gain confidence and use it to his favor.

Matt Voss scored lots of points and won his bout by a technical fall. Often time, heavyweight bouts are low scoring. I was pleased to see Matt scoring from several different positions.

We have a quicker turn around this week as we compete at Clarion on Friday night. Then, we return home to face Edinboro on Sunday at 2pm at the RAC. Both meets are conference matches. Clarion and Edinboro have better results thus far against common opponents. Thus, both duals will require us to wrestle at a high level to be competitive. Nevertheless, the team is coming together and getting better. I have confidence we will give our best effort and have a great attitude. If we do those things, we will do something special. There will also be multiple individual match ups against ranked foes.