This past weekend we had 6 guys compete in the National Collegiate Open in Richmond. It is great having this event so close to home. I was happy the guys chose to compete. They all wrestled unattached which means they had to do everything on their own. When guys choose to pay their own way and compete when not required you know they are trying to get better. It is a good sign of effort and drive. I was excited one of the guys won his first college match. It was also fun to see some of the guys I use to coach at Minnesota competing at the event.
The CAA championships are on Saturday at Binghamton. Our training is complete. As the old sayings go, “the money is in the bank” or “the hay is in the barn.” The remainder of the week will be geared to rest, recovery, making weight and getting mentally ready to compete. After our dual with Virginia, the guys went through a couple of short training cycles. The intent was to fine tune their technique, supplement their conditioning, and get their intensity level as high as possible. For the most part, things went well.
We have a few guys who could not participate in the entire training cycles due to injuries sustained during earlier competitions and sadly another guy got hurt during the last training cycle. This time of year is always tough as a coach. You want to push the guys and make sure they are ready to go, but you certainly want to make sure they go into the tournament as healthy as possible. I gave a long speech before we started our final push stressing being careful, being good partners, and protecting each other as best we could from injuries. After the speech, I spent the next week worrying about guys not getting hurt. It is hard for me to keep it out of my mind. Nevertheless, in the last workout, one of the guys was hurt. He was hurt in a scramble position I find extremely dangerous. It is a position; I think should be immediately stopped as potentially dangerous in competition. I have seen numerous knee injuries from guys in this position. I told the guys to stop if they were in this position in practice. As luck would have it, during a live go, one of the pairings got in this situation and did not stop. Unfortunately, one of the guys got hurt.
The injury and the timing of the injury are disappointing. The situation is hard on everyone involved. Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. Being in a combat sport, injuries happen. You just hope they don’t happen when a guy doesn’t have time to recover.
We depart Friday morning for Binghamton, New York. The seeding meeting will be Friday at 4pm. We should know our first round draws by that evening. The school is allowing us to take extra guys to the event. These guys will act as training partners for the starters. I think this will help the starters. I also believe it is beneficial for the training partners to be at the event. It will help them grow as wrestlers and someday as coaches. I am excited the administration is supportive of the growth of the student athletes and helping the starters during the competition.
The regular season has come to an end. Now it is time for the fun to begin. I want to make sure the guys are prepared for the conference tournament. I want them excited to compete.
We finished off the regular season with 2 duals this week We hosted Maryland on Thursday. We lost the dual, but felt good about the effort. Vince Rodriguez beat a hirer ranked opponent. Denny Herndon and Bagana Tovuujav both won their matches in their final home competitions.
We were also able to honor 5 seniors at the dual. All of them are on pace to graduate – Brian Benton (Art and Visual Technology); Denny Herndon (Finance and Management); Frankie McLaughlin (Finance with a minor in Economics); Hunter Manspile (Education) and Bagana Tovuujav (Business and Global Affairs). There is nothing easy about college wrestling. To be a division 1 college wrestler for 4-5 years is impressive. These guys have also done well in the classroom and will leave George Mason with their degrees. I have tons of respect for a guy who competes hard in the wrestling room and in the classroom.
While I was watching the Virginia AAA State Wrestling Tournament, it was determined we would leave a night early for our dual against the University of Virginia. There was a winter storm warning, so to be prudent, we decided to depart Saturday night. The snow didn’t start to fall until it was time for our dual to start on Sunday afternoon. Oh well, at least we were prepared.
We lost to UVA, 29-7. Again, I did feel the guys were wrestling better. There is no doubt they have improved this season. We lost a few close matches to ranked opponents. We also had 2 guys win individually. Bagana Tovuujav continues to impress. Shohei Takagi stepped up in weight class and won his bout at 157.
The CAA championships will be on March 3rd at Binghamton University. The next two weeks we will focus on getting ready for that tournament. This time of year, you hope to get guys as healthy as possible, excited about competing, rested, and firing on all cylinders. I love this time of the season.
We finished the weekend road trip with a 1-1 record. I really liked the pace at which some of the guys wrestled. They are starting to figure out what I expect out of them. I don’t expect them to win every match, but I do expect them to wrestle a hard pace. I want them to give me their best effort.
We need to have better first periods. I think some guys need to get in a better warm up. Other guys just need to believe more in their ability. They are doing a better job late in matches, but could certainly have more resolve in the first period. If a guy hits his best move on you and you stop the attack, it will help you as the match progresses. Our guys need to learn the value of having great defense. If a guy shoots, stop his shot and then try to score on him. We need to threaten a guy after he attacks us and make our opponent pay for having the audacity to think he can take us down. If we stop his shot and make him pay for taking the risk, it will help us in the mental game later in the match.
We went 3 for 3 in overtimes and scored the last point in several other matches this weekend. It is good to see our guys getting more comfortable late in matches. They have trained physically and mentally so the longer the match goes the better off they are. They are learning to function when they are tired. They are being told to speak positively about overtime. I want them saying, “I love overtime.” I want them believing the third period is their best period. When a wrestler can conquer their fear of fatigue, the wrestler becomes extremely dangerous.
Once again, I felt spoiled as we rolled down the highway in our luxury bus. The guys gained some wisdom from Patrick Swayze in the movie Road House. I am unsure what, if any, long term benefit they gained from the movie, but we did have a good laugh about the rules from Road House.
Thursday night we will have our final home meet. We wrestle Maryland at the RAC at 7:30pm. We hope to have a big crowd to honor our 5 seniors – Brian Benton, Denny Herndon, Hunter Manspile, Frankie McLaughlin, and Bagna Tovuujav. The dual is the night before the Virginia AAA state meet that will take place at nearby Robinson High School, so my hope is wrestling fans will come early to Fairfax and support GMU and Maryland. Our final dual of the year will be at Virginia on Sunday.
It is hard to believe it is already February. Tournament time will be here soon. If we didn’t have a sense of urgency before, we better have it now.
Saturday was a busy day on campus. We hosted a few youth wrestling duals during the day and at night we hosted Central Michigan in a dual. I was pleased with the team’s effort level. I felt the guys wrestled at a better pace. Making changes is hard and I see the guys making changes. They should be commended for their effort. We lost the dual, but did win 4 of the 10 bouts and competed hard in the bouts we lost.
We have competed at home for 4 straight weeks. I can’t recall being home so many weeks in a row during wrestling season. It has been great getting to know our home crowd. The team certainly appreciates the support.
This Saturday we will be on the road. We will compete at Drexel at noon and then at Millersville at 6:30pm. Drexel will be our last conference dual of the year. Performing well will help our guys prepare for the CAA tournament.
I like that after we compete against Drexel, we will have to travel to Millersville and compete again that evening. A little adversity will help our team grow. We will get a chance to test our mental and physical toughness. I hope we pass the test.