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.