Thank You

When I arrived at George Mason and decided it would be beneficial for the program for me to share my thoughts via a blog, I did not anticipate how to write my last blog. Please forgive me if it falls short, but I guess that keeps it in line with other attempts (I believe I posted over 150).

On a personal note, I want to say thank you. There are so many who poured into the program, my family and into me. Thank you to all.

I guess I should start with the hiring committee and those in the decision making process to bring me on board. You took a risk and I hope you were not disappointed.

Thank you to the team who inherited me as their coach. I know it had to be difficult to welcome the new guy. We made it through the transition and as a result we had some success.

Thank you to the wrestlers who chose to be part of the program while I was the head coach. It means the world to me personally you chose to trust me with your college wrestling career.

To the guys still on the team, please continue to stick together and build something special for each other and George Mason University. You are off to a great start. Watching you compete from afar was bittersweet for me this weekend. I loved seeing so many of you step on the line to compete. I look forward to cheering for you from afar. Do great things. I will miss being one of your coaches.

Thank you to the coaches who gave so much to me and the team. You guys helped me lead the crew. I think we worked well as a team.

Thank you to my board of advisors for the wrestling program and the board of the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club. You guys did great things in moving the program forward and for helping me make wise decisions.

Thank you to the athletic department staff. It takes so many people giving of themselves to run a D1 program. From the big difficult decisions to simply helping pick up the trash, all of us serve a purpose, and your support of the program was appreciated. I look forward to seeing all of you continue to build the Mason Wrestling program.

Thank you to the former wrestling coaches for George Mason University as you offered me so much support, wisdom and help. Now that I am a former Mason Coach, I hope to follow your lead and continue to support the program.

Thank you to the boosters and donors who made the program stronger while I was at Mason. Your efforts made the decision makers take notice of the program. We are better positioned because of you.

Thank you to the alums. I hope we increased the pride of your Alma mater. It was meaningful to me to have your support. It made a positive impact on my tenure at Mason. The President of the University affectionately called you the “Wrestling Mafia” because of your strength and unity. We needed it and the program will continue to need you to be vested.

Sadie, Taft and I are grateful for our nearly six years in Northern Virginia. Thank you to George Mason University and Patriot Nation. We pray we made a positive impact.

4 Freestyle and Greco-Roman Tournaments

We had guys compete in four different tournaments this weekend. I am pleased they got the experience and hopeful they take the time to evaluate and improve as a result. I am hopeful the guys who did not take advantage of the opportunity did so for the right reasons. Often time, competition helps with improvement. Athletes tend to be more focused in their preparation and can learn from the match experience. Nevertheless, it is not always the best decision.

Matt Voss performed well at the Greco-Roman World Team trials. He finished in 4th place and showed he can compete with the best USA Greco-Roman wrestlers. I think it was an eye opening experience for him. He won 3 matches. In his first bout he won by a tech fall. He lost his next match and would ultimately lose to the same guy in the consolation finals. He won by a pin in his first consolation bout. In the consolation semi-final he won 10-5 over the recent winner of the Dave Schultz Memorial Tournament. I believe Lio Quezada and Talha Farooq had the most matches over the weekend as they both had 8 matches at the NE Regionals.

The team will be training on their own for the next few weeks as we enter the end of the semester. They need to be focused on finishing well in their studies. We need to have a good semester as a team, so everyone needs to step up and do the best they can individually.

Our next competition will be May 20-21 as we will have the University Duals at George Mason University. We plan on having most of the guys stick around after final exams to represent the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club at the duals. It will be great for us to have teams from all over the country on our campus.

Banquet and BSU

Thanks to all who attended our end of the year team banquet. It was great to celebrate and honor the team. Being a successful NCAA student-athlete is a great accomplishment. When you realize only about 1% of high school wrestlers go on to compete at the division one level, it is certainly something we should take time to tell the team “good job.”

Last week was a tough one for college wrestling and me personally – Boise State University administrators announced they were dropping wrestling. My heart was broken. When I think of college wrestling I think of Boise State. As a baby, the Boise State wrestling room was the first wrestling room I experienced. At the time, my dad was training with Mike Young and sometimes he would take me with him and put me in the corner of the room while he wrestled. One of my uncles wrestled for Boise State. When I was a sophomore in high school, I competed in a college open tournament at Boise State. Back then, high school athletes could enter. This competition had a big impact on my career as it helped my learning curve and I made huge gains as a result. When I was an assistant coach at Minnesota, we competed at Boise State on one occasion. The gym was packed. When the bleachers filled up, people set on the gym floor all the way up to the edge of the mat. It was a great atmosphere. I have many friends and people I know that have wrestled, coached and supported the program since its inception. I have family members who attended Boise State all the way back to when it was just a 2 year college to the present day. I feel terrible for the current team and coaches whose lives have been turned upside down. It hurts.

This weekend several of our guys will be competing at tournaments. My guess is while at the tournaments, there will be lots of discussion about the loss of the Boise State program and what can be done now. Assistant Coach Canaan Bethea will be competing at the US Open for Freestyle. Sahid Kargbo and Matt Voss will be competing at the World Team Trials in Greco-Roman. Finally we will have a hand-full of guys competing at the NE Regional Championships in the University division. These are great opportunities. I am pleased they get to compete.

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.