Late November Training

We did not schedule a Thanksgiving competition again this year. I hope the guys took advantage of the time off to spend time with family and friends. I also hope they were able to do lots of studying as final exams are just around the corner. The guys had a rare 3 day break from school and team practices. I know most trained while at home, but at least they did not have to listen to my voice for a few days.

We ran a clinic on Saturday. Our numbers were lower than last year, which was disappointing. Nevertheless, I think the wrestlers that showed up had a beneficial experience. They did receive lots of attention.

After the clinic, we held a public practice. I remember last year being disappointed in the energy level of the practice after the clinic. This year, the guys did much better. They wrestled at a harder pace. It was good to see the improvement.

The guys have been helping promote the program. The clinic is a fundraiser for the team, but it is also a good outreach. I know several guys attended high school practices over the break. We also had every guy on the team request businesses to hang up our team poster. I was proud to hear all the places they were able to get our team poster displayed. We purchased more posters as demand had been high. Hopefully, the investment will pay dividends.

Originally, I had scheduled us to compete as a team at the Penn State Open on December 2nd. I took it off the schedule when we were asked to attend the Grapple at the Garden. Nevertheless, I believe several guys will still compete at the Open, but they will go unattached. I am excited so many guys want to make the investment to get an extra competition.

The guys not going to the Open will have two weeks of training before our next home dual on December 8. I like that they will be able to have a concentrated period of training without the concerns of competing, traveling and making weight. If we do it right, we should be able to gain some ground.

We are having a few late night workouts to prepare for our 8pm dual on December 8 vs. Navy. I think it helps the guys mentally and physically to have some late night training sessions. If there are doubts they can compete when the sun goes down, the training will help squash the doubts. They will have been there before in their training.


Navy Classic and First Home Dual

We competed back to back days again this weekend. I like the idea of competing in consecutive days because it simulates what the guys will face at the NCAA tournament. They will have to make weight and compete on consecutive days in March, so we had better be prepared. On the down side, it is very early in the season to have the guys make weight in consecutive days. I am sure it took a toll on them physically and mentally. My hope is the extra pain now will make them stronger physically and mentally later on in the season.

I thought, for the most part, the guys competed well at the Navy Classic. Like most competitions there was some good and some bad. The trick will be to have the entire team wrestling well on a more consistent basis and when it really counts. We did have 3 guys place on Saturday. Sahid Kargbo, Matt Meadows and Jake Kettler all placed 5th. We also had other guys win some matches.

On Sunday we came home and wrestled Washington and Lee University. The coaches at Washington and Lee are in their second year of running the program. From the look of how their guys competed, they are making positive gains. I was pleased we were able to win our first home meet of the year. We also had 3 guys pin their opponents, which was good to do for our home crowd.

We will continue to train hard and then take a few days off for Thanksgiving. My hope is the guys will enjoy time off for Thanksgiving, but also continue to grow as wrestlers, students, and people. Personally, I think it is a great time to get ahead in their studies. I hope they heed my advice and spend some extra time on course work. I also hope they take some time to heal nagging injuries and get refreshed mentally.

We will host a wrestling clinic on November 24 and hold a public practice. The clinic and public practice are good to promote the program and also put the guys in a more stressful environment. My hope is it will help them prepare for competitions. A couple of guys will miss the clinic, because they plan on competing unattached at the Mat Town Open. I am excited they have chosen to compete on their own.

I think the Pin Pool is working to help motivate guys to pin their opponents. I think we are ahead of last year’s total at this point in the season. We are already in double digits for pins.

What a Crazy Week

What a crazy week.

I know we elected the President this week, but we also had a busy week at George Mason University. Tuesday I arrived at my polling station at 6am. I figured I would beat the rush to vote. I did. It only took me about 1.5 hours to register my vote. Turns out the lines got much longer. I spoke to the team prior to Tuesday about the importance of voting. I hope they got it done.

Later on Tuesday, our club hosted our inaugural Paul Maltagliati golf tournament. The weather was cold, but the event was great. The committee who organized the event did a great job. We are in good hands with the directors of the Patriot Elite Wrestling club.

We finally had our first team competition of the year. We competed at Gardner-Webb on Saturday. We wrestled Virginia in the first dual. We were out manned in this dual. Virginia is a very talented team. They have good skills. They were aggressive. We have a ways to go to catch Virginia.

In our second dual we wrestled Gardner-Webb. They beat us as well. I was frustrated watching our guys compete in this dual because they out hustled us. They wanted it more than we did. We can control our attitude and effort when we compete. We were deficient in both areas.

After the two duals we drove to Boone, NC. I had no clue how pretty it was in Boone. That night in the hotel we had a long team meeting. As a general rule, I prefer to let things settle a little before I talk too much to the team. Nevertheless, I felt we needed to make some corrections before the dual the next day at Appalachian State.

We talked about some technical things like trying to always improve positions while wrestling, try to win positions, and try not to concede positions. We made mistakes in our first 2 duals holding on for stalemates and conceding positions too easily. We need to improve technically. Guys must spend more time outside of practice drilling, studying video, sparring.

We talked about making sure we did all the little things right. It seems trivial at times, but it does make a difference. The margin for error can be minimal, so the little things need to be done correctly. I told the guys I give them latitude on most things to make their own decisions, but if I feel it is important enough to tell them to do something; I expect them to do it. They need to trust the system. They need to believe in the program. We need to be able to trust each other.

We talked about controlling the things we can control. We need to give our best effort at all times. We need to have a good attitude.

We talked about things we can do to prepare better for competition. We talked about putting themselves in more uncomfortable positions in training, so when faced with it in competition, they are ready for it. Learn to take risks in practice. Learn to wrestle while fatigued in practice. Learn to wrestle in different positions in practice.

We emphasized the importance of how we carry ourselves on and off the mat. We talked about having the proper body language while competing. We talked about having the proper body language while watching our teammates compete. The team must support one another and carry themselves as winners.

I know the team has made big improvements. I wanted them to show it on the mat. We set a plan to show improvement the next day. I told them the schedule was designed to test their toughness early in the season. Back to back days of travel, making weight and competing would test their physical and mental toughness. It would help them prepare for the NCAA tournament.

The guys responded like champions on Sunday. They stepped up their game. They showed better effort, wrestled for each other, they showed more grit. It was fun watching the guys pull for one another. The bench was much more engaged. They had an us against the world mentality.

We often talk about how important bonus points are in a dual. We learned in this dual how a single match point can decide a dual. The team score ended in a tie. We left the arena thinking we had won the dual via criteria because we had scored more match points than the other team. It made for a fun 7 hour bus ride home. The next day we learned that not every match point matters. The criteria interpretation says match points in bouts that end with a pin or tech fall do not matter. It doesn’t make logical sense to me, but it is the rule interpretation. Nevertheless, winning or losing the dual was minor compared to the lessons the team learned this weekend. These lessons that can serve them well in life. I also believe we grew as a team. 0-3 for the weekend, but a better team and hopefully better men as a result. I will take that about anytime I can.

I was also pleased that 3 guys who are redshirting chose to attend an open competition on Sunday. We are not allowed to assist with guys going to open competitions. It is all on them. Red shirts can gain ground. These 3 guys have made a positive step forward.

Some individual highlights for me were watching 3 true freshman compete. I loved their effort. 2 of them finished the weekend 2-1.

I enjoyed watching Sahid Kargbo and Matt Meadows fight off their backs and fight back from 5 point deficits. Sahid’s come back was a little short, but nonetheless inspiring. Matt came all of the way back for the 10-9 win. They showed they have big hearts.

I had not planned on wrestling Jaaziah Bethea in the first week of competition. He has been recovering from an injury. He said he wanted to wrestle. I said we would get him a match or two, but I didn’t think he was ready. He ended up wrestling two tough opponents on Saturday and lost. I think it is partially my fault for putting doubts in his head. I decided I would not wrestle him on Sunday. Right before weigh ins, I had to make a change and needed him to wrestle. He got down to weight and competed without hesitation. He won a hard fought match for his team. He proved he was ready and that he would wrestle for his teammates.

I enjoyed watching Zach Isenhour wrestle a close match with a guy who beat him badly the year before. He is closing the gap.

Starting the pin pool this year, may be a bad thing, because we had 3 sophomores pick up pins this weekend. Ryan Hembury, Greg Flournoy and Jake Kettler all had pins. Jake’s pin was in the last match of our dual versus Appalachian State. His pin tied the team score. It was a fun way to end the dual. Rarely does it go that way, so we witnessed something special.

This week we need to continue to move forward. We will compete in our first tournament on Saturday at the Naval Academy. Then, on Sunday, we host our first home dual. I hope to see you at the RAC on Sunday at 2pm.

calm before the storm

Our season officially begins this weekend. We will be on the road Saturday at Gardner-Webb where we will also wrestle against Virginia. The following day we will face Appalachian State in Boone, NC. It will be our first test as a team. I believe we will show improvement from where we were at as a program last fall. The guys did a better job over the summer and thus were more prepared for the fall preseason and early in season training.

I do know we still have a long way to go, but we are making progress. I am trying to get guys to see a bigger picture. I am trying to get them to see how one person’s actions, positive and/or negative, affect others. College wrestling, this program, our current team, all are affected by the decisions each individual makes. If one guy, volunteers to help others it reflects positively on our program. By reaching out to another the image of our sport can be improved. Conversely, if one guy is not going to class or making bad life decisions, it hurts more than him. It can create bad stereotypes on college wrestling. Heck, it can even get a program dropped.

This past month has been quite busy. The early signing period for recruits is approaching quickly. It can be a stressful time for all involved, but nevertheless it is important to work hard and make good choices.

I also worked a few youth wrestling clinics and spoke at the Missouri Wrestling Coaches clinic. I hope I did well at these events and made it worth the time others spent attending the events. I know it helped me. I learned as I prepared and learned from others at the events.

Two long grueling days were spent in Chicago with 75 other D1 coaches and administrators. It was pretty special to have so many coaches in the room together. Coaches were very engaged. It was a frustrating process of discussing, voting, discussing, voting… My hope is that we keep fighting to move the sport forward. We need to keep working to better college wrestling. I think we will.

The guys on the team worked hard last month. Our team motto of “twice a day every day is the Mason way,” is starting to be embraced. Being great in this sport is not easy. There is no easy road to success. Being great in this sport can be a lonely arduous process. Much of the work is done on your own when no one is looking. Early morning runs, extra time working on technique, watching film, doing a little more strength training before the day ends. 1% improvement each day pays great dividends.

We held team wrestle offs this weekend. I wanted the guys to make weight once before it really mattered. I know it will help them next week. I do believe some guys weight was too high and thus negatively affected their performance. They need to do a better job of doing the little things right in regard to nutrition. The concepts are easy to understand, the discipline to do it is more difficult. Sadly, I know this all too well in my personal life.

I was pleased with the wrestle-offs. We were able to see things we need to work on as a team. It was good to see the guys in a competitive environment. I was excited to see a good turnout of people to watch the matches. Personally, I am not a big fan of wrestle offs. I think it is an easy way to pick starters, but I don’t think it is the best way. I would rather use how they perform against outside competition. I would rather use how they prepare.

After the wrestle offs, I told the team nothing has been determined by these matches. It helps us gauge where we are at, but we still have other tests to see who will ultimately represent the team at the CAA and NCAA tournaments. We will use the early dual meets and tournaments to further flush out who will be the 10 starters. We will also use their performance in the classroom, in the practice room and in their personal lives to determine who will represent George Mason University in March.

Our entire team helped with the NWCA All-Star meet on November 3. Most of the guys helped at a kid’s clinic held in conjunction with the event. The team made a positive impact. Jake Kettler had the honor of wrestling in the event. He wrestled a bad match. His opponent wrestled a great match. It was a tough night for him. The good thing is it is early in the year and he can certainly fix the mental and technical mistakes. He can improve. Several of the guys attended the event which should benefit them down the road. As a wrestling fan, it was fun seeing a first class event in a sold out arena.

On Tuesday, Election Day, we will be at the Paul Maltagliati Memorial Golf tournament. This event will raise money for our wrestling club. I am excited to be at the event. Paul started something special in the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club.

We have started a Pin Club at George Mason this year. The Pin Club should be fun for all involved. Basically we will collect pledges from people who will donate for every pin we get this year in official competitions. My hope is it will also serve as an added incentive for guys to pin their opponents. I know we have enjoyed talking about it at practice. It should be fun for the guys on the team. Tommy and I have both made pledges to the Pin Club. Hopefully others will join us.

Our first home dual meet will be on November 18. We are hopeful to sale lots of season tickets. By having a good number of season ticket holders, we make a good statement to our administration. It helps our program. Another benefit is that season ticket sales go directly to supporting student-athlete scholarships.

The school helped us produce schedule posters this year. The team took a photo at the George Mason Statue in Washington DC. The poster will help us promote the program. If you want a poster, please stop by the wrestling office soon. They are going fast.