NCAA Tournament

We came up short at the NCAA Tournament. On paper we were supposed to go 0-4. I believed we could do better. Sadly, we did not.

Bagana wrestled well. He had the #3 seed on the ropes in the opening round. He was close to scoring the upset. He had people talking. In his first consolation bout, he lost in overtime to a guy who had pinned him during the regular season. The match was frustrating, because Bagana controlled much of the bout but made some mental errors that caused him to lose on the scoreboard. Little things make the difference in close matches. Bagana was certainly good enough to place. I will miss watching him compete. He is a fun wrestler to watch.

Vince had a tough first round draw. He wrestled a guy who ended up losing in the round of 12 for the second straight year (This year he lost to the first and third place guy in a close bout). Vince struggled making weight and seemed a little overwhelmed by the environment in his first bout. In his consolation bout, I felt he looked much better. The guys scored off of Vince’s attack to win. I think Vince has a much better understanding of what the national tournament is like and what he has to do to win. My hope is this experience will spur him on to greatness.

We had a few of the other guys attend the tournament as spectators. I had encouraged the team to attend. I believe it will help them succeed when it is their time. The more they take in the environment of the tournament, the more prepared they will be. I also think it helps give them a vision. I was excited listening to a few of them talk about their experience and how it has motivated them as a result.

Now that the season is over, it is a time for reflection. We need to analyze. What did we do right? What did we do wrong? How can we improve? There is lots of work to be done. We need to keep moving forward.

A few of my goals on the mat in year one were achieved. I had wanted to compete with a full line up in every competition. We were able to meet this goal. A few times, I had to move guys up a few weight classes, but we were able to put a guy on the mat. A few times, guys had to wrestle hurt. I appreciate the guys sacrificing for their team. It is a harder goal to achieve than one would think. I also wanted guys to wrestle a harder pace on the mat. I believe guys were making improvements in this area.

A few goals were not achieved. I was hopeful for better results. We lost some dual meets I felt we could win. I felt we could have qualified more guys for the national tournament and had guys win matches and place.

Off the mat we were able to reach some of our goals. I was pleased we were able to start a booster club. I was also pleased we were able to sell season tickets. We have worked hard to get the guys to understand that being elite requires you to commit to a lifestyle. Some of the guys are buying into it. We hope to get everyone on board.

We did falter in some of our off the mat goals this season. I had wanted to retain all 30 guys on the team (12 returners and 18 new guys). Typically, there is lots of turn over with a new coach. I had a goal to keep everyone who started the season. In the end, we had 26 guys on the roster. We lost guys due to academics, injury and life circumstances. Some things are out of our control, but some of the things were not. I also wanted to do a better job on the fundraising front, rallying alumni, and getting more people involved with the program. We need to improve our off the mat performance.

We are now headed into an important time with recruiting. The team will now change their focus to the international styles of wrestling. Our new club team will be training for Freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions. I will meet individually with every team member over the next few weeks. I will also meet with our advisory board to evaluate and plan for what we will get done in the spring and summer. The college season really never ends.

I have received positive feed back on this blog.  Thus, I will try to keep it going.  Please check back from time to time.  I probably won’t update it every Monday, but I will write as warranted this spring and summer.

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Tournament Time

It is NCAA week. This is one of the best, if not, the best wrestling event in the world. It is a great celebration of American wrestling. I am excited to be at the event.

We have two guys competing. Bagana Tovuujav won the conference tournament and received an automatic invitation. Vince Rodriguez finished 2nd in the conference meet and he received an at-large berth on Wednesday. He had a good season and was rewarded for it.

I am excited for both wrestlers. I want them to go in to the tournament with the mindset that they can win it. I want that to be their dream. At the same time I want them to focus small. I want them to focus on every scramble and to be in the moment. Dream big and focus small.

I spoke to the guys about the tournament. I want them to be prepared physically and mentally. Some of the things we talked about were:

-Worry and stress can take a toll this week. I advised the guys to control what they can control and try and let the rest of it go. I told them to give their stress to the coaches.

-I want them wrestling with excitement. If it is not there, fake it. The excitement will come.

-Be aggressive and dominating, always thinking about bonus points. Think about how much you want to do and how little time they give you to do it. Have a sense of urgency. Have a purpose.

-Push the style and pace you have trained. Force the issue. Do not let a guy hang in the match. Force your style.

-Sometimes you will get a bad break during a match, change it. You have the power to get a fresh start. You can do so in the blink of an eye.

-Do not change your style. Finish all periods with intensity. Keep intensity on the edge of the mat.

-Sometimes you will need to make adjustments during a match. Do so. If you are not sure what to do, look to the coaches.

-If you lose your wits, things get out of control. Take a second to center yourself and get refocused.

-Great times to score – second shots, re-shots, go behinds, right after an escape, right after a flurry.

-If you are riding, think how you are breaking the other guy. If you are getting ridden, think about how tired you are getting the other guy. Change your mind set to help you see the positive for you.

-If you scramble hard when a guy shoots on you, think about how you took his best attack and shut it down. Know that you have gained ground by fighting so hard.

-Sometimes the easy route is not the best option. Force what you want. Drive instead of crack down. Lift instead of cutting your opponent.

Thursday can’t get here quick enough.

CAA Tournament

I felt the guys represented themselves well this weekend at the CAA Championships. As a whole, we wrestled better matches against our CAA opponents than we did earlier in the season. I believe it is a positive sign for the program. We had 3 guys place.

Denny Herndon wrestled a great tournament. He lost a close match to the top seed in the quarter-finals. After the loss, he won 3 straight matches to finish 3rd. He wrestled with lots of determination. Denny put himself in position to get an NCAA bid, but lost a close bout in the true 2nd match. He will now have to wait and see if he gets an at-large bid.

Vince Rodriguez finished 2nd. He scored bonus points for the team in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. Vince came up short in his finals bout, so he too will await the committee’s decision on the at-large bids. I believe his body of work this season puts him in a great position to receive an at-large bid. We will wait and see.

Bagana Tovuujav won the 197lb CAA title. He wrestled well. The only points scored on him during the tournament were escapes. Even though he was the top seed, he ended up wrestling the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishers. He definitely earned the title.

I am amazed at how fast the season has gone. Time does fly. Next week, we will head to St. Louis for the NCAA Championships. We will find out later this week if Denny and/or Vince will join Bagana. I would love to coach all three at the NCAA tournament.