Rest and Recovery

Since Christmas, we competed 4 weekends in a row. We finished weekend #4 by wrestling 4 duals. We were the only CAA team to wrestle 4 duals at the CAA duals. The other teams wrestled 2 or 3 duals respectively. I hope the guys use the 4 duals in about 7 hours to understand they can compete multiple times in one day. We wrestled the same 10 guys in each dual. Those 10 guys did something difficult to do. I hope they gain confidence, despite the losses, for having competed.

We did not compete this week. Thus, the guys got a short break from making weight. We also let them individualize their training more than normal. I felt the guys needed a mental break from hearing me and doing what they were told to do. I hope the individualized training, they choose what they did, helped them in a few areas. I hope they got refreshed mentally. I also hope they learn to take ownership in their own development. Sometimes a coaches’ prodding is a good thing, but at other times it needs to fall upon oneself. For example, it is good for the guys to self-review, self-reflect, learn to push oneself, have the knowledge to know what needs to be fixed, and have the ability to fix their own deficiencies.

Ty Knepp had 2 falls at the CAA duals. Thus, our pin total now stands at 22. We actually have more, but those occurred in Open competitions that we are not counting as official pins for the Mason Pin Club. My hope is we will add many more pins to the total. Currently, Jake Kettler leads the team with 7 pins. Despite missing 25% of the season, Ty Knepp sits in 2nd place with 5 pins. I hope the race between these two heats up as we near the end of the season.

For those of you who like social media, I hope you have found our face book page. I am somewhat challenged in this area, but I think you can find it at

We also have a twitter account. We are about 200 followers shy of 1,000. Hopefully, if you are not following us on twitter, you will in the future. Our twitter can be found at

Our athletic department site is Our university site is

I know that is lots to remember. We hope to eventually bring all of this together in one main website. We are fortunate to have some alums currently preparing an all in one website. The website is

We will be on the road this week. We will compete at VMI on Wednesday. Although I have never been to VMI, I have heard the atmosphere is great at VMI. The VMI Cadets should be out in force. Hopefully we will hear lots of booing as opposed to cheering. Then, on Saturday, we will be at Bucknell at Noon and Franklin & Marshall at 7pm.


CAA Duals

Saturday was a tough day for me professionally. We were 0-4 in the CAA duals and were not very competitive in several individual match ups. I felt we took a big step backward. It is a day that makes you question if you are doing things correctly. It makes you evaluate almost everything you are doing. Days like the day we had Saturday are days when you need to look at yourself in a mirror and do some self-review. Take a good hard look at the man in the mirror. Make necessary changes.

I did some self-reflection. Sometimes it is difficult to see your own faults, so it is also good to speak with trusted advisers. I did ask for advice from others. Heck, others offered advice unsolicited.

I still firmly believe we have the right plan in place for the team to be successful. I think we are hitting the right points. We need to stay the course. We need to keep doing what we do. We need to believe in the system.

I spoke to the team after the tournament. I told them not to panic. I said we are doing the right things. I asked them to trust me and trust the system. I need them to believe in themselves. I need them to believe in the system. I need them to believe I can help them reach their goals.

One of my life mottos I learned from a pastor of a church I attended is to “live life by design and not from crisis to crisis.” I even had them place this as my quote as part of the medal of courage display at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. I want the guys to follow our team rules of self-review, fixing mistakes, excellence in everything we do, getting 1% better every day, give their best effort, and have a great attitude… We have a design for this program. We have a plan. We will follow the design. We will not just react from crisis to crisis. We have a plan to deal with crisis before it even rears its ugly head.

I want these guys to grow as men as well as wrestlers. Sometimes life can seem difficult. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. We need to use wrestling as a means to grow as people. I received a great comment to my blog last week that I posted for the team to see. I thought it was right on point. The comment read, “The purpose of wrestling is to refine our character. It’s not about wins and losses. That’s just a way to motivate us to go back and submit ourselves to be refined some more. Think about it. When you won a medal and stood on the podium – did you pin the medal on your jacket, did you even take it out of it’s case? I’ve seen medals draped over wrestlers’ heads while they stand on the podium and as they step down, they take it off immediately. Is that what you worked so hard for? Medals end up in the bottom of a drawer. The discipline, responsibility, integrity, hard work, sacrifice, and courage you learn from wrestling are the medals that you wear on the inside of you the rest of your life. So don’t measure yourselves in wins and losses. Focus on character. It calls you to respond to a higher level and it answers back with rewards that you haven’t even imagined yet.” I love what he said and how he said it.

Brown and Cleveland

For marketing purposes, we named our tri-meet this past Friday the Patriot Duals. We wrestled Brown and Cleveland State. We lost both duals (16-20 to Brown and 15-20 to Cleveland State). We had opportunities to win both duals, but fell short.

It was hard for me to see the guys fall short in both duals. I worry about the guys believing in themselves when they compete. Sometimes, if you lose too much, you lose confidence. It can hurt your ability to win. I have never been big on wins and loses. I believe it is often outside our control. On the other hand, I want guys to give me their best effort. Some times in giving your best effort there is also the element of finding a way to win a match. We need to discover an ability to find a way to win. A couple of guys did a great job of finding a way to win matches. They gutted out wins by riding their opponents in tough situations. I was pleased by their effort and ability to win ugly. They found a way.

As a coach who sees the effort guys put into training and how much they have improved, it is disconcerting to see guys go out and not perform at a high level. This game is very much a mental game. It is strategic. It is a physical chess match. If you doubt your ability, conditioning, power…, you will struggle.

I did not speak to the team after the duals. I wanted a night to ponder. Often time, it is better as a coach, to let your emotions settle before speaking. I have seen it as an athlete and a coach when a coach speaks to soon and says things in an inappropriate manner. As a coach, it is easy to say things that make you feel better but that might not be best for the athletes. Thus, I pondered. My head assistant coach and I talked and exchanged text messages until the wee hours of the morning. We both decided we need to do more with the mental side of training. Guys need to know they are prepared physically and mentally for the challenges of competition.

The day after the Patriot duals, we lifted as a team. I don’t know if there is any science behind it, but I like lifting the day after competition. I think it helps with recovery.

Before the lift, I spoke at length to the team about belief. I spoke to them about positive self-talk and how they can choose how they look at any situation. I want them to embrace the tough situations. I want them to be brave when they compete. I want them to be courageous. Being courageous is controlling their fear.

I talked with them about how to handle pre-match stress. How they need to find the right level of excitement. We talked about things to do to help them relax before competing. I tried to explain to them how our training has prepared them for tough situations. The more they trust their training the easier it will be when they are in the heat of competition. Being in auto-pilot is usually good. When unsure, revert to their training.

I want the guys to focus on positive self-talk. I want the guys to focus on having a great attitude. Bad things in life can make them stronger. If we learn from the losses, we can become better. It is our choice. Instead of the loss hurting our belief, our resolve, we can use it to foster greater belief and more resolve. We have gained knowledge. Maybe all we learned was what not to do, but we have learned. I reminded them about our team rule of not dwelling on mistakes and that they need to learn from their mistakes. 1. Admit it; 2. Fix it; 3. Forget it and don’t repeat it.

I charged the team to work on developing mentally. They will learn to relax, visualize, center, and have the correct attitude. It is a process. It is something we all need to continually work at improving. They deserve to win more and they will find a way to win.

Saturday we host all of the CAA wrestling teams at George Mason. It will be a day filled with dual meets. We host the event at the Field House. We will wrestle 4 dual meets, so we need to be ready for a long day of giving our best effort and have a great attitude. As part of the event, our boosters, parents, and alumni will host an all-day tailgate. I am excited to have everyone together to watch some wrestling and enjoy time together. It should be a great day.

Northern Colorado Dual

We hosted Northern Colorado on Friday night. They had competed earlier in the week at the Southern Scuffle and then traveled to Fairfax. They wrestled Drexel at 530pm. We wrestled them shortly after their dual with Drexel. We won the dual 18-17.

We had a hard week of training leading up to the match. I was concerned about how the hard training would impede our performance. It was noticeable, but expected, the guys were a little flat. I do think getting in the extra training will help us later in the year. It was a risk, but a risk we felt worth taking as a coaching staff.

Even though we won the dual, I was discouraged by some of effort and attitude displayed by some of the guys, especially on bottom. I have always felt bottom wrestling has lots to do with attitude. I think some guys failed to put forth the effort to get off bottom. Guys need to move until they get away. Lack of movement can come back to haunt you at the wrong time. Saving energy on bottom is a dangerous thing to do. We did it and it hurt us.

In a few matches we gave up scores near the end of a period. Instead of hustling, we were content to try and rest until the end of the period. I often talk to the guys about how important the last 20 seconds of a period are for the bottom and top guy. If you ride, it is almost like getting an additional point. If you get away, it is a point the guy usually doesn’t have time to get back. It is huge. You can also win the mental and physical game by hustling on bottom. You send the message you will wrestle hard all 7 minutes. You can wear down your opponent physically and mentally.

A few highlights from the dual were Rich Lavorato winning in overtime. His opponent shot in overtime. Instead of sprawling and squaring his hips like we teach, he turned his hips and hit a whizzer throw. I remember yelling “no, no, no,” but as the guy landed on his back I changed it to “yes, yes, yes.” I was also pleased by the effort by which Seth Robertson rode his opponent. He used extra effort to repeatedly lift his opponent and return him to the mat. Often time, if a guy repeatedly gets to his feet the top guy concedes and releases his opponent. It is too much work. Seth used a different mindset and refused to let his opponent go. His mindset, led to a victory for him and the team.

Corey Smith was the last guy to compete. Right before the match I told him what he needed to do for the team to win. I have done this before to guys and it makes it very difficult on them when they go out to compete. It really shows you how mentally grueling a wrestling match is. When I have done it before, it really messes with a guy mentally. I know it negatively affected Corey’s performance. He sacrificed for his team. He could not give up a major for us to win. He had to be very careful in how he wrestled. Corey stepped up and did his job for the team. It was definitely tough on him mentally.

As a coach, I am unsure if it is fair to put this type of pressure on a wrestler, but I really feel it is important for them to know what is on the line. I am not a sports psychologist, but it is an interesting situation. You can definitely see how powerful the mind is. Telling a guy he cannot go to his back at any cost or that he has to hold his opponent to a regular decision definitely causes a guy to think too much. The mind is an amazing thing.

In the end, we were on the positive side of a learning situation. Lots of the scenarios you talk about in a team competition played out. Every match was important. Getting or giving up bonus points mattered. Every guy contributed to the team win, even if they lost their individual match. Every guy either scored or saved a team point. It truly was a team win.

On Saturday, the team went in two different directions. 9 guys went and competed in some exhibition matches at Washington and Lee University. They had to treat it like an open competition. They did it on their own. I was impressed by the leadership shown by Shohei Takagi in organizing a team of guys to go compete. I think they got better as a result of competing in this unattached event. The remainder of the team and Coach Owen helped the University run an indoor track meet. By working the event, our guys raised money for the wrestling program. I have received numerous compliments on the job the guys did. It is great to hear the team representing themselves in a positive manner.

We will compete at home again this Friday. We will host a tri-meet we named the Patriot duals. Cleveland State University (CSU) and Brown University (BU) will compete at 4pm. We will wrestle BU at 530pm and then we will wrestle CSU at 7pm. I hope you are able to come out and support the team Friday, January 11 at the RAC.

Brute Invitational

We had a short break for Christmas. We competed on December 20. The guys went home on December 21. We returned for practice on December 27. I was excited to see the guys come back to campus with their weight under control and ready to compete. It was a big step forward from where we were at last winter break. I did have a few guys pull themselves out of the post-Christmas competition, which was disappointing, but not uncommon when you have such a big group going to compete. I hope the guys that did not compete made the right decision. Sometimes it is hard to know for sure. Nevertheless, we must continue to move forward.

We trained in the morning and then headed to Lock Haven University on Friday, December 28 for the Brute Invitational the following day. It was about a 4.5 hour drive in the luxury bus. Our movie selections for this leg of the trip were a bit suspect, but I think the guys were entertained. I think some of them were entertained watching me cringe during some of the less social redeeming portions of the movies.

When we arrived at Lock Haven the guys worked out again. I enjoyed being in the Lock Haven facility. There is lots of tradition at this place. Many of America’s greats have trained and competed in the Lock Haven gym.

We had to adjust our morning routine for weigh ins and pre-tournament preparation due to snow. The guys handled the disruption to their schedule with ease. I liked their ability to adapt, improvise and overcome.

I was pleased with the overall effort the team displayed on Saturday, December 29. The tournament was a team event. We had guys score team points at 9 of the 10 weight classes, which is the best we have done since I took over the program. In team scored tournaments, you need as many guys scoring team points as possible. We had 4 guys place in the top 6 which is important because you receive placement points. We had 11 guys win at least one match, for a few of them it was their first wins of the year. I was happy for them. We also scored several bonus points due to pins, tech falls and major decisions. Bonus points often make the difference in team scored events. Mason Pin Club members better be prepared to dig a little deeper in their pockets, because our guys added to their pin total.

We arrived home at about 2am on December 30. I know we watched some movies, but I missed most of them due to dozing and day dreaming. We had practice scheduled for 1pm. The rest of the team returned to town as well. Our practice was a little different. We ate a meal together and studied film. It was good to have the guys back in town.

We spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with two a day practices. I believe we celebrated the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 in a great way. The guys got better.

Friday, January 4 we host the Mason Duals. Drexel and Northern Colorado will wrestle at 530pm. We will wrestle Northern Colorado at 7pm. It will be great to be at home. Originally, we had scheduled a tri-meet. We dropped our dual with Drexel, when we were invited to dual them at Madison Square Garden. Both programs felt being at the Madison Square Garden event was too important to miss. We decided not to dual twice in less than a month, because we already see each other a bunch (they were also at the Brute Invitational). It will be good for both of our programs to see Northern Colorado as well.

Some people have been wondering how we were able to get Northern Colorado to come all the way to Fairfax, VA for a dual. We did have to do some convincing, but I think the fact that our Head Assistant Coach and Northern Colorado’s Head Wrestling Coach being former teammates and roommates might have tipped the scale in our favor. It should be fun for fans to see a team we rarely match up against.