American Dual

Our dual with American was disappointing. I left impressed by the resolve of the other team, not mine. I felt the other team found a way to win the tough positions. We did not. I spoke to the team afterward about finding more fight when competing. I have seen guys in competition who refuse to lose. I want Mason guys to have that attitude. I have seen guys wrestle as if their life depended on it. I want Mason guys to have more resolve.

How do you get it? I think one way is to believe you deserve to win. The easiest way I know to get this belief is to work at a rate that others can’t match. If you train harder, you believe you deserve to win. If you run more, lift more, drill more, wrestle more, and focus more, you believe you should win. Thus, when the match is on the line, you find a little extra to come out on top – whether it is physically or mentally. You refuse to concede, because you have invested more.

Guys need to visualize winning. Goals and dreams need to be higher. If they can see it in their mind, they can make it real on the mat. Too often, my guys doubt they can achieve greatness. The doubts cause them to fall short when things get tough in a match. We need to change that mindset.

When your competition believes they deserve to win, you have to meet them in your thinking. When your competition takes the bout as if their life depends on a good result, you had better be prepared to match their intensity.

For some competitors the pain of losing is so strong they will go to great lengths to avoid the pain. If negative motivation works for you, so be it. For me, I prefer positive motivation. Thus, being prepared to win and feeling the satisfaction of performing well as a result is what motivates me. We need to find more resolve, as a team, when competing.

The guys are off for a few days. I have given them a guideline for the break, but want them to individualize their training. I want them to improve during the time off. We will compete again on December 29, so we do have time to get better.

I changed the schedule this year so we competed more around final exams and closer to Christmas. I do believe it helped guys focus during exams and I suspect it will help them stay focused while they are at home. We will see.

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Grapple at the Garden was a great event. I was happy we were able to part of the event.

We had an easy drive to our hotel just outside of New York City. We stayed in New Jersey. After a brief stop at the hotel, we headed into the city to work out at Renzo Gracie’s gym. According to our directions it was about a 15 minute drive. After sitting in the bus for over 2 hours we finally made it to Manhattan. Traffic was atrocious. The work out facility was great. I think the guys enjoyed the experience. I left the team at the workout center and went to a dinner at the NYAC. The dinner was in their hall of fame room. I was amazed at all of the Olympic Champions from the NYAC in many different sports. George Reese and I went to the dinner together and were able to make it back to New Jersey via train and cab.

We were fortunate to be hosted by a guy who knew the city well and who went above and beyond to take care of our team. Chris Lusk was a great help to our team. We were spoiled.

On match day we left the hotel a little early, just in case. This time we had no traffic issues and arrived early for weigh ins. The first thing I saw exiting the bus was a huge banner outside Madison Square Garden advertising the event. It was great seeing the Mason logo displayed for millions to see. The arena was also set up in a first class manner. The event and facility had the feel of an NCAA tournament. I was happy to see the guys get in this type of environment. It will make it easier for them when they walk on the floor at the NCAA tournament. It was a good test run to wrestle in front of several thousand people on a big stage.

Before the team left the bus I made sure to tell them to bring everything they needed for the day. Our bus was going to leave, so it was important they did not forget anything. The guys did great. The head coach did not. I left the weigh in sheet on the bus. Funny how sometimes we worry about others making a mistake and we should worry about ourselves. Fortunately, Chris Lusk saved the day again so I did not show up to weigh ins without the proper form.

We lost the dual 4 matches to 6. We lost some matches we could have won. We lost some matches by a score we could have kept closer. It is hard to see guys fall short. I know our guys need to believe more. Too many self-doubts are hurting them when they compete. They need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Competition doesn’t always go smoothly. You might not get the warm up you want. You might not feel great. You might get a bad call. You might have doubts about your technique, strength…It doesn’t matter. Guys need to be able to stay within themselves. Too often in competition, our bad habits are exposed. We need to create better habits in our training, so they shine when the bright lights of the competition are upon us.

It was special to see our guys think of others. Without direction from me, the team and assistants decided to pay tribute to the victims of the shooting at Newtown. On Sunday morning, staff wore ribbons and the team wrote names on their headgear. It was a small gesture, but a positive one.

After our dual, we had to leave the arena quickly. We are still in final exam week, so guys needed to get back to campus to prepare. The life of a college athlete is not easy. On the way home, we stopped to eat at Rich Lavorato’s family restaurant Casa Filippo. The food and hospitality were out of this world. I can’t believe how blessed we were on this trip.

Guys will finish exams by Wednesday. The following day we will make the short drive to wrestle at American University. No rest for these guys. Hope to see you Thursday night at 7pm at Bender Arena.

Navy Dual

We hosted Navy late Saturday night at the RAC. They won 9 of 10 matches. On paper, they were supposed to win. My goal was to see our guys go out and give their best effort. I do believe the guys gave great effort, but we can certainly do better.

It was good to see some of our guys start fast in their matches. We have talked at length about setting a high pace when the initial whistle blows and to keep that high pace until the final whistle blows. We scored early in a few bouts, because our guys attacked early.

We spent time in practice last week working on getting to our feet on bottom and trying to stay on our feet to get the escape. I saw guys trying to do exactly that and some had success by doing what they practiced. We also spent lots of time on hand fighting. Navy does a great job of hand fighting and pulling on their opponents head. We knew it would be something we needed to be prepared for on Saturday. Navy did as expected. We were unable to consistently hand fight with them. As my head assistant coach Tommy Owen pointed out, Navy was more persistent.

Sometimes wrestling is a battle of wills. Who wants to win more? Who wants to win a position more? Who will not back down? I do believe our guys wanted to wrestle a hard pace. I do believe our guys wanted to win positions. On the other hand, Navy was more persistent. We would clear their hand from our head. Navy would fight back inside. We would fight it off again. Navy would work to get their position again… Eventually, we conceded the position. We need to be able to hand fight for 7 minutes if that is what is required. We have to stick with it, not concede the position because they want it more.

Navy outscored us toward the end of bouts on to many occasions. As I told our team, they work way to hard not to win the 3rd period. We do lots of two-a-days. We have a team motto – twice a day every day that is the Mason way. Guys have the opportunity to show how hard they train in the 3rd period of matches. They are physically prepared. They need to be mentally prepared. They need to believe in their conditioning. The harder the pace, the harder the match, they need to see it as a good thing. They can function when fatigued, because they have been there many times in their training.

As a coach it is difficult to watch your team lose 9 of 10 matches. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see the improvement in several of the guys. They are getting better. I believe Corey Smith wrestled a better bout against his Navy opponent than he did last month at the Navy Classic. Rich Lavorato lost to his opponent at the Navy Classic. This time Rich beat him by a major decision. Those are good things.

Other guys are learning what will work or not work for them in college. Sometimes guys learn the hard way, but as long as they learn, it can be a good thing. Our freshman who wrestled on Saturday learned the hard way.

Greg Flournoy was taken down off of his snap because he did not move his feet. He was caught flat footed. He also gave up a 5 point move because he panicked. He could have taken a smaller risk or committed fully to the risk he took. He also made a technical mistake on the risk he took – All fixable mistakes. Greg did a good job of shaking off the mistakes and continued to work hard. He did a good job of moving on bottom until he escaped. He did a good job of scoring a take down in the 3rd period.

Matt Meadows gave up a take down early in the bout. He needed to stay in better position early. He was also ridden early in the bout. Matt made some good adjustments and was very close to winning the bout. He needed to give himself more opportunities to score late in the bout. The guy was waiting on his first attack. He needed to be able to score with a second or third shot. As a result of this dual, Matt got better. He has a bright future. I was pleased with his effort and his analysis of what he learned as a result of the bout.

Sahid Kargbo had a two take down lead. He gave up a take down late in the 3rd period. He took a mini-break after the take down. I think he assumed the guy would let him go to try and tie up the match. Sadly, as Sahid took a quick break, his opponent put in a low level turk. Sahid fought the turk, but eventually was turned to lose in the final few seconds. Sahid was devastated by the loss and felt he let the team down. Sahid is a guy who loves the sport and loves the journey. His sadness after the bout further shows how important it is to him. He learned the hard way that you have to stay focused for 7 minutes. You can’t give a guy an opening. Division one wrestling requires focus for the entire bout. You will win or lose matches in college off of a guy taking or capitalizing on a guy taking a less than one second break during a bout. Sahid learned the hard way. The good thing is he will learn from this mistake and be better as a result. Sahid has the right mentality and work ethic to grow because of the loss.

One of our team rules is: Don’t think about mistakes more than a few seconds. We must learn from our mistakes. 1. Admit it. 2. Fix it. 3. Forget it and don’t repeat it. When we learn the hard way from making a mistake, I expect our guys to follow the team rule. It can be a difficult thing to do, but guys like Sahid will give their best effort to follow the rule.

Although I was disappointed we did not have a larger crowd, it was pointed out to me by more than one person that it was the largest crowd we have had since my arrival at GMU. We had 7 high school teams sign up and attend high school day at the meet. At the basketball game, fans were told about the dual and encouraged to attend.

We had a social for alums and donors before the match. As I prepared to speak at the social, I was amazed at some of the things accomplished after my first year at GMU. I spoke about the club program Paul Maltagliati started and how Mike Maltagliati and Tad MacDonnell are now moving Paul’s vision forward. I spoke about the successful golf outing they helped organize. I spoke about the $7,500 donation the GWWBN presented to the school at the dual. We have 3 alums on their board – Dan Wotring, Kurt McHenry and Darran Anthony. I spoke about the Mason Pin club and how it continues to grow and the positive affect it is having on the team. I spoke about the progress the team is making and gave up dates on how guys are doing. I spoke about how the school stepped up and added a 2nd assistant coach position. I spoke about the website Dan and Ray Wotring have started gmuwrestling.com. I spoke about the booster club and how Roger Rinker is moving it forward. There are some great people doing great things for this program. As I looked around the room, I was pleased to see 5 former head coaches still supporting the program. Mark Weader, Mike Moyer, Roger Rinker, Lou Mendez, and Jerry Mullins were all present. I tried to thank them and the alums for their efforts that our current team is reaping the benefits of their labor.

We were able to honor a couple of legends of GMU wrestling at half-time of the dual. In 1992, GMU won the CAA championship. Johnny Curtis was the CAA wrestler of the year. Mike Moyer was voted the coach of the year. They both attended the dual. It was great to be able to honor them.

We start finals this week. We held a couple all team study halls to help the guys prepare. We will hold more. One of the ways you can kill a program is to do bad academically. We want to avoid doing poorly. I also know how a college degree can open doors for the guys on the team. Even if they don’t see it at this juncture of their life, I want to make sure I do my utmost to make sure they leave GMU with a degree.

The school is taking a risk allowing us to compete during final exams. We need to prove them right that we can do well on the mat and in the class room. I am excited to have the guys compete at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, but I am more concerned about them finishing well in school. It is important to them, to the team and to the program that they do well in academics.

Hope to see as many people as possible at the Grapple at the Garden. This is a great showcase for college wrestling.

Nittany Lion Open

10 guys made the decision to wrestle unattached on Sunday at the Nittany Lion Open at Penn State. It is the largest one day college tournament in the USA. I was pleased these guys made the commitment to go. Competition helps the learning curve. I believe you can develop at a greater rate through competition. Preparation often becomes more focused. You learn strengths and weaknesses during competition that are sometimes missed in training. Seeing guys deal with the mental strains of competition and develop psychological skills is imperative. You are exposed to different techniques, abilities, and strains than are seen from your normal training situation.

One of the tough things about this tournament is that you have to make it to the round of 32 in order to get into the wrestle backs. This hurt some of our guys as they were only able to wrestle one bout. I would have liked to see them get more competition, but I do understand the amount of time the extra wrestle backs would have added to the already large tournament. Jake Kettler finished the day 3-3 and placed 8th. Last year we did not have a place winner at the tournament, so it was nice to have one this time around. It was good to have an excuse to stick around and watch the finals. Jake wrestled one of the last bouts of the day.

I have been asked many times why Vince Rodriguez has not been in the line-up. Although most times I believe it is best to keep things in-house, I have been letting people know we are planning on red shirting Vince this season. As a coach, it is difficult to sit your only returning national qualifier, but in this case, I think it is best for Vince and for the team long-term. I love watching Vince wrestle and I will enjoy watching him wrestle in the years to come. Having wrestled as a true freshman, at the national tournament, has helped Vince to understand what he needs to do to attain his goals. Thus, Vince will most likely red shirt this season and Zach Isenhour will be our starter at 133. Zach was our starter last year at this weight as well. Zach will still have a red shirt year we could use in the future. It is a good problem for a coach to have when he is comfortable with two guys being capable to start at the same weight.

Saturday, December 8, we host Navy at the RAC at 8pm. We have done lots to promote this dual and will continue to promote it all week. I am hopeful to have a large vocal crowd at the dual. I was teased recently by someone in the athletic department about going all in for this dual. The person was overwhelmed by all of the promotions we are trying for the match.

1. We are doing a cross-promotion with men’s basketball. If people show their basketball tickets from our game earlier in the evening versus Northern Iowa, they can get half-priced tickets to wrestling.
2. We are having a high school day. If high school teams get me their roster by Wednesday, they can attend the match for free. We already have some teams signed up.
3. We are having a pre-match social for alumni, donors, and boosters. Then, at half-time, we will honor the 1992 CAA championship team. Including honoring the 1992 CAA Coach of the Year Mike Moyer and 1992 CAA Wrestler of the Year Johnny Curtis.
4. We will also be presented a check from the Greater Washington Wrestlers Business Network at half-time. This group ran the 2012 NWCA All-Star Meet at American University. They are going to share some of the profits from the event with us.
5. We were fortunate to have someone produce and donate schedule cards to us which we will give away at the match.
6. We ordered more posters and will give them away to the fans that come early to the match.
7. Scott Casber with Take down radio will broadcast his radio show on campus on Saturday morning. Then, along with Wade Schalles and Kelly Ward, he will broadcast the dual on themat.com in the evening.
8. We are still pushing season ticket sales. As of last count, we have yet to sale as many as we did last season. If you buy the tickets now, you will still get in for a cheaper price than if you bought tickets individually for matches. You still get priority seating; dare I say season tickets would make a great stocking stuffer?
9. The pin pool has grown to nearly $50 per pin. Thanks to those brave souls who have pledged.
10. Don’t really have a number ten, but thought I should write something so it looked like I had one. Who knows, I probably forgot one of the many promotions we are doing for this week.
Hope to see you on Saturday, December 8 at 8pm.