December 29-30 Competitions

22 of our wrestlers competed on December 29.  16 wrestlers competed at the Cradle Gear Invitational at Lock Haven University and 6 guys competed at the Midlands.  Tommy Owen went with the guys to Midlands. Tom Carr and I coached the guys at Lock Haven.

Tommy said he was pleased with our guys’ effort at Midlands.  His major concern was guys making the same mistakes they have been making in matches.  We need to get them to improve in those positions and make sure to eliminate the weaknesses.  Blake Roulo, wrestled unattached, won his first three matches to make it to the semifinal round.  To make the semifinals of the Midlands tournament is no easy task.  On the second day of the tournament, Blake lost his next three matches.  We need to figure out what was different from day one to day two.  Was it physical, mental, a combo platter?  Blake can do great things.  We need to help him improve.  The other five guys who competed at Midlands did not place, but did gain valuable experience.  Overall, the guys at Midlands were 11-13.  I was happy they were able to win several matches and compete in the 51st Midlands Championships.  They represented George Mason University well.

The guys at the Lock Haven tournament finished with a 16-30 overall individual record.  For the most part, I was pleased with the effort of the team.  Some guys disappointed me with their effort, especially in the consolation rounds.  Lack of effort is unacceptable to this team.  I spoke to the team about my disappointment. If they want to wear the Mason singlet, they owe themselves, the team and the program their best effort.  They cannot always control if they win a match, but I do believe attitude and effort are within their control.

I was especially pleased with the performance of 4 of the guys who competed at Lock Haven.  Rich Lavorato did not place, but I felt he was wrestling to win all of his bouts.  He finished 2-2 on the day losing on riding time to the #1 seed and losing a close match in the consolation round.  He struggled getting off bottom this weekend, so we know what needs to be addressed this week in practice.

Ryan Hunsberger finished 4th with a 4-2 record in the tournament.  He did a much better job on bottom, although that is where he lost his final bout.  Ryan also won an overtime match and did a better job of winning the tough positions.  Ryan’s desire to win is helping him to find ways to get the job done.  I am excited to see him making positive strides.

Shohei Takagi made the move down to 149lbs.  He hadn’t wrestled at this weight class for 2 years.  He looked big and strong at the weight class.  Shohei finished 3rd.  He won 4 matches on the day.  He won in overtime, by decision, major decision and by a pin.  It was a good debut for him.  It is great seeing a senior make the sacrifice to find a way in the lineup.  Shohei is a guy who consistently puts the time into his training.  I am hopeful he will finish his college career on a high note.

Greg Flournoy has some of the best, if not the best, wrestling skills on our team.  He understands position and does a good job of holding position.  He is doing better at fighting through the mental part of the game.  There is nothing easy about wrestling.  Greg is learning how to fight through the mental obstacles a wrestler faces against good competition (resolve, fatigue, mistakes, imposing one’s will on another, outside distractions, being uncomfortable, not being 100%…).  I am enjoying watching him become a stronger wrestler physically and mentally.  Greg finished 2nd in the tournament going 3-1 on the day.

The guys were able to add 3 pins to our pin total for the year (Ryan Hembury, Sahid Kargbo, and Shohei Takagi all had a pin on Sunday).  Thus, the Mason Pinner’s Club will owe some more money.  I think most members of the Pinner’s Club are alright with owing a few more bucks.  I know I am.  I enjoy seeing the little extra excitement guys get when they pin their opponent.  The Pinner’s club helps our effort level, enjoyment level, and ultimately, our ability to grow the program.  To those who are members, thanks.  To those who are not members, I hope you will consider joining the Mason Pinner’s club.

We get to compete at home again this Sunday.  We wrestle Gardner-Webb at the RAC on January 5, 2014 at 7pm.  I hope you can join us for our first competition of 2014.  Last season we lost to Gardner-Webb at their home.  We will do our best to defend our home mat on Sunday.


Dual vs. American University

We lost to American 26-10.  I was hopeful the result would be better.  I guess we got what we deserved.  We need to continue to make progress and find a way to win.  After the dual I spoke to the team about trying to have a greater sense of urgency or hustle when they compete.  Often they hold back instead of believing they can get the job done.  I spoke mostly about doing the little things right day in and day out.  I believe this will make the difference.  If you are lacking in experience or talent, you can make up some ground by doing all the little things right.  We struggle in this area.  I spoke to the team about wanting to win every second of every day.  If they have this desire, this attitude, they will make the right decisions to get where they want to go.  It is easy to want to win when the lights are bright and you step on the competition mat.  The key is to have that same desire when you are sitting in your dorm room deciding to study or play video games.  The key is to have that same desire when you are deciding to get out of bed and workout or push the snooze button.  The key is to have the same desire when you are working out.  Do you go through the motions or do you try to give your best effort?  The key is to have the same desire when choosing to eat a meal for pleasure or for the nutrition it will put in your body… We need to want to win every second of every day.

We struggled in a few areas.  We only scored takedowns in 3 bouts.  Guys had trouble finding a way to score.  You need a go to move that you can score on anyone when you have to score.  We did not have that move.

I spoke to one of the guys about how to close the gap on a guy that keeps lots of space and retreats when you get close.  5 ideas I shared were: 1. Grab a wrist and then work up his arm until you can get the tie up you like. 2. Cut the ring so the guy can’t get his butt to the center.  If he wants to back up, back him out-of-bounds.  Don’t let him back up, circle, and then back up again.  3. If he backs up, sometimes don’t follow.  It makes him look real passive and it will force him to make a step forward. 4. Blast shot.  Take a shot, not to score but only to safely close the gap so you can get to a tie up position.  5. Take a shot or half-shot to close the gap.  Then, keep your feet set for your real attempt – a second shot.

I spoke to another wrestler about the exact opposite.  If a guy is coming forward and you are backing up.  I told him to hold his ground. 1. Fight for better position.  It is hard for a guy to back you up if you have inside ties.  It is hard for a guy to back you up if you have an under hook.  Vice Versa – it is easier to push if you have inside ties or under hooks. 2. I said his footwork was to deliberate and steps to big.  He needed to shorten up his steps and to pound his feet with more force so he could hold his ground better.  3. I also told him to use the guys forward motion as a time to snap, drag, shuck, pop, pummel, push, chop, block.  When doing these motions, move his feet so the guy pushes air and not his body.  Treat the opponent as a bull.  Get out of his way and guide him past.  4. Lower his level.  If you are lower than your opponent it is harder for him to move you backwards.  5. Level change and shoot.  When the guy pushes and steps forward, disappear by changing your level.  Make a big level change, and then explode forward with a shot.

Final Exams Ending Soon

We will finally have a home match Thursday, December 19 at 7pm. We will wrestle American University. Most of the guys are done with final exams, so I am sure they are excited to be done with the semester course load. After the dual, the guys will be excused to go home for Christmas. We will return as a team on December 27. My hope is they finished the semester on a high note, we wrestle with great effort and attitude on Thursday and that they enjoy some time away from campus.

We will have guys competing again on December 29. Most will be at the Lock Haven tournament, some will be at the Midlands Tournament and hopefully a few will go on their own to the Wilkes Open on December 28.

Some George Mason Wrestling Highlights:

– Inaugural Season 1972-73
– 1973-74 undefeated season 15-0. Conference Team Champions, 5 individual Conference Champions, John Long finished top 8 at NAIA Nationals, Coach Jerry Mullins voted Coach of the Year
– 1975-1980 Coach Roger Rinker led the team from NAIA to NCAA Division 2 to NCAA Division 1
– 1982 Paul Maltagliati became the first Mason wrestler to compete at the Division 1 National Tournament
– 1990 Scott Kirsch became Mason’s first NCAA All-American
– 1992 undefeated season 13-0-1
– 1992 and 1993 Johnny Curtis was an All-American. He is Mason’s only 2x All-American
– 1995 undefeated season 10-0
– 1995 Matt Finacchio becomes Mason’s 3rd All-American
– 2001 Sean Shea becomes a 4x NCAA Qualifier
– Capital Collegiate Conference Team Champions 1976, 1977, 1978
– NCAA East Regional Team Champions 1989, 1990
– CAA Team Champions in 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001
– CAA Wrestler of the year – Johnny Curtis 1992 and 1993, Donnie Defilippis 2001
– CAA Coach of the Year – Mike Moyer 1992 and 1995, Brian Shaffer 1996 and 2001
– Head Coaches – 1972-73 Richard Isike, 1973-74 Jerry Mullins, 1974-75 Lou Mendez, 1975-80 Roger Rinker, 1980-85 Mike Connor, 1985-95 Mike Moyer, 1995-2005 Brian Shaffer, 2005-2011 Mark Weader, 2011-Current Joe Russell
– 52 individuals have competed in the National tournament. 22 of those individuals competed in the National tournament on more than one occasion

Mason All-Americans

We did not compete this week. My hope is by not having the guys compete this week, they were able to prepare better for final exams. Let’s hope they finish well. Since we were not competing, we were able to get in some good training sessions. Often time, with impending competitions, there really is not much time to train. Wrestlers are worried about making weight, instead of getting better. Coaches are worried guys don’t get hurt, instead of worrying about getting better. Thankfully, we got better this week.

On Saturday, we had some wrestle-offs. I am not a big fan of wrestle-offs. My hope is to have a clear starter determined through competition. Nevertheless, sometimes it is best to have a wrestle-off. Put it in the hands of the wrestlers. We now have a set line-up for our home dual with American University on December 19. We will also use the Lock Haven tournament on December 29 to further determine our starters for the season.

When we hosted the NWCA All-Star Classic, I wrote several articles for the meet program. Sadly, some of them did not make the cut and they were excluded from the program. I did not take it personal, because I know I am not a journalist and there were other issues as to the content of the program. I did like an article I had written about George Mason University’s wrestling All-Americans. The article was good because of the quotes given to me by the former All-Americans, not because of my writing skills. I have copied and pasted the article below with the hope the guys on the team will learn from the wisdom of the former All-Americans and because I think it is an interesting read.

George Mason University All-Americans

Scott Kirsch became George Mason University’s first All-American. He recalls, “I remember walking up to Cole Field House before the All American round feeling great, in the zone. Then Coach Moyer was nice enough to tell me this is the round he lost in 2 years in a row. Well that’s when the nerves hit.” Scott Kirsch beat the #5 seeded wrestler Mike Lingenfelter of Loch Haven University to become Mason’s first All-American. Scott Kirsch was 5-2 at the NCAA tournament and finished in 7th place. Another memory Scott Kirsch shared was, “One other thing was on my recruiting visit and Coach asked what my goal was. I told him I wanted to be an All American. I am not so sure he believed me. In the NCAA’s I remember each round there were less people on the mat and more of my team mates in the stands. This is when I thought of all the extra time I put in to train and all the times I was wondering why I was doing this. When I won my all American match it took so much pressure off of me. It really was my goal and to put the time in and to have it pay-off is something I will never forget.”

Johnny Curtis is Mason’s only 2x All-American. He garnered the honors in 1992 and 1993. In 1992, Johnny won his opening two matches to qualify for the quarter-finals. He lost to Randy Couture of Oklahoma State University in the quarter-finals. In his next bout he cruised to an 11-5 decision over Dave Malecek of the University of Northern Iowa to become an All-American. In 1993, Johnny Curtis lost his opening bout in a 7-7 tie break criteria. He then went on to win three straight bouts including an upset win over #9 seeded Emilio Collins of Michigan State University to become a 2x All-American. He finished 5-2 and placed 7th in the National Tournament. Curtis, always humble, thought he did pretty well at GMU. But said, “I really got better on the U.S. National Team.” From 1996 to 2000 he competed in Freestyle wrestling and was ranked as high as #3.

In 1995, Matt Finacchio became Mason’s third All-American. He opened the tournament with a fall and an upset win over #7 seeded Glen Nieradka of Oregon State University. He lost to Penn State University’s Sanshiro Abe in the quarter-final round. He won his next bout over Wayne Jackson of North Carolina State University to become an All-American. In talking about the match, Finacchio stated, “the All-American round is like no other round in college wrestling. Win and you get to wear the title of All-American for the rest of your life or lose and go home. All the three a day work outs, controlling my weight and pushing my body further than I ever thought possible was for this moment. With my Brother Dan and Coach Mike Moyer in my corner, I was bursting with both family and team pride. I was wrestling for more than just me; I was representing my family and George Mason University. Aside from the birth of my children, nothing was more exhilarating than jumping into Coach Moyer’s and my brother’s arms after a hard fought victory.” Matt Finacchio also stated, “I remember the competition. In wrestling there is no one to blame, but a lot of people to thank. There is no chance of becoming an All-American without being pushed in the wrestling room by people like Willie Stravino, Kurt McHenry and Bryan Hazard.”

Who will be Mason’s next All-American? Only time will tell. The Mason tradition continues.

Journeyman NE Duals and Grapple at the Garden

It was a tough weekend for the George Mason University Patriots.  We wrestled 5 duals in 2 days.  On Saturday we wrestled 3 duals at the NE Journeyman Duals.  Then on Sunday, we wrestled 2 duals at the Grapple at the Garden.  I think the weekend was good in preparing the guys for the National tournament.  You have to be ready to wrestle multiple tough matches on consecutive days.  I hope we will benefit from the experience.  Being in front of big crowds and on the big stage at Madison Square Garden will help the guys visualize wrestling in the National tournament.  The national tournament stage will not appear as grand, since they have already wrestled on a big stage.

Saturday morning we beat a much improved Sacred Heart University team.  We won 8 of the 10 matches in the dual.

In our second round bout we faced the 7th ranked University of Illinois team.  We lost every match in the dual.  We wrestled a talented team and did not do a good job of staying in the matches.  We needed to stay within striking distance in order to give ourselves a shot to win.  Too often we gave up points early in the match which hurt our confidence and only bolstered our opponent’s confidence.  Illinois did a good job of dictating the pace and position of their matches.  We were not very competitive in the dual.

Our last dual of the day we lost to Binghamton University.  I was certainly frustrated by the team loss, because I felt we could have won the dual.  We won 4 of the 10 matches.  I felt we had a chance to win at least one more match and win the dual meet as a result.  The 4 guys that won bouts did a good job.  Rich Lavorato was able to get a takedown in the 3rd period to beat a guy who beat him last season.  Sahid Kargbo was able to get us 2 bonus points which are huge in a dual meet.  Luke Ludke won his bout in overtime.  Shohei Takagi rode his opponent for the entire 3rd period to win his bout 2-0.  It was a frustrating loss for the team.

On Sunday we were able to compete in Madison Square Garden.  The event is run first class and it is an exciting venue.  In our first dual, we lost 8 matches to 2 to Rutgers University.  We struggled with having a sense of urgency when we competed.  We needed to explode more and fight every position with greater resolve.

In our second match we lost to Drexel University.  Once again we were one win away from winning the dual as a team.  I was disappointed we feel short again.  We need to have guys rise to the occasion.  We need to find a way to win the close match or close team dual.  We can do it.  We will do it.

One disappointing thing from the weekend was not seeing what we spend time on in the practice translate on the competition floor.  We spend time teaching technique.  We go over skills to the point of overkill.  Nevertheless, we are not seeing them when we compete.  As coaches we need to figure out how to get the techniques ingrained in our athletes, so they know what to do when it needs to be done.

For example we spend lots of time working on getting off bottom.  Nevertheless, we were ridden quite a bit this weekend.  Worse than being ridden, it was our lack of ability to try things we have been teaching that was frustrating.  Back pressure into our opponents, moving and maintaining good position, turning our opponent’s leg ride into an offense position for us…  There is nothing easy about getting off bottom.  You need to have an attitude that no one can ride you.  You also need to be able to perform multiple skills to get out from under your opponent.

Questions for coaches to answer are what are we doing wrong in teaching the technique and attitude?  I think part of it falls on the athletes to spend more time and effort on developing skills, but certainly some of it falls on us as coaches.  Maybe we should spend less time on Freestyle and Greco-Roman in the spring and summer and do more mat wrestling?  Maybe we should teach a different system for getting off bottom?  Generally we have guys stand or switch their hips.  Maybe we should emphasize sit outs or rolls instead?  It is perplexing problem that we must fix quickly.

I believe if you can defend your opponent’s offense, have a good offense of your own and be able to get away from anyone, you should win most matches.  Right now we are struggling in important areas.

Mark Schwab writes great blogs.  I love reading what he writes.  Yesterday he posted a blog that hits home with me and hopefully with the team.  I usually share what he writes with the team.  I will share his newest blog with the team as well.  Yesterday, Mark Schwab posted the following blog:

 “I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way

Do you have a goal, passion or destination that’s always on your mind? Are you constantly romancing and imagining yourself accomplishing something personal and extraordinary? An effective answer for everything that is involved with your goals and passions is I will, I’ll adjust, and I’ll find a way. Talk about conviction and optimism. Talk about bravery and tilting the scale in your favor. These words, if followed by behavior, will simplify and strengthen your hunt. No standing at the crossroads of indecision. The unyielding response of I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way is confidence, direction, and giving yourself the best opportunity to succeed.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find away is being totally immersed in your journey and the feelings of certainty and dedication. God gives the gift of I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find away. So you can abandon comfort and limits as you moil for your potential-This is where you dig your deepest well, in addition to using yourself up. I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way is your life at its most boundless moments.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way is an influential decision that climbs mountains, runs marathons, writes book, earns degrees, enrolls and completes fitness programs, competes and goes all-out, closes the deal, manages and overcomes adversity, brings family and friends together, battles and beats cancer, accomplish goals in spite of disabilities or obstacles, gains the respect of all, and makes a phenomenon possible.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way does not delay, procrastinate, or doubt.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way is movement, potent, and convincing.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find away has no cage, boundaries, limits or rules.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find away is decisive, specific and persuasive-These are necessary ingredients to overcome, go beyond, and shoot ahead. The power of this mindset has invincible written all over it.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find away is sureness and spirit. Determination felt this strongly is more than we could hope for. Life is overflowing with unrestricted possibilities when you’re boundless and brave in imagination-I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way is just that.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way is persuasive and credible self communication. Understand, words mean little when unattended by behavior but compelling when backed with corresponding behavior.

I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way is an announcement that stops at nothing, does the possible, and provides s what’s necessary to achieve the difficult and impossible.

So, how about it? Achieving what’s important to you will have scores of demands but possible. No more resisting or contemplation. Search yourself, make a decision, and your answers until your passion is achieved is I will, I’ll adjust, I’ll find a way.

Thanks for sharing the wisdom Mark Schwab.