Franklin & Marshall Dual

I have been thinking about the Proverb that states, “Wisdom is of utmost importance, therefore get wisdom, and with all your effort work to acquire understanding.” I am not sure this was written with wrestling in mind, but it surely fits. A wrestler puts in long hours of training and competes many times a year. The training and competition help teach many lessons. We need to learn from our training and competition to grow as wrestlers, competitors and men.

Saturday was a good day for George Mason Wrestling. We had guys compete at an Open, we won a home dual and were able to honor our alums.

4 guys competed at the Appalachian State Open. Blake Roulo finished 2nd, Ryan Hunsberger finished 3rd and Patrick Davis and Bryce Gentry finished 2-2. From what I heard it was a worthwhile experience for them. I am glad they chose to go.

We also had a dual meet against Franklin & Marshall College. Overall I was pleased with our attitude and effort. In fact, I felt it was our best team effort of the year. Guys were working to score points in their matches. Their energy level was high. It was good to see the team making gains physically and more importantly, mentally. Three of the guys who won scored bonus points for the team – Zach Martinez (major); Shohei Takagi (tech-fall) and Jake Kettler (fall).

We had an alumni reception before the match and honored the 1974 undefeated conference championship team at half-time. It was great having 10 of the team members from 1974 at the meet. I know they inspired the team to wrestle a little bit harder. Because of the legacy set by those who came before, the current team is able to compete at the NCAA D1 level. We owe them more than a thank you.

I have admitted to my staff and team that I made some major scheduling errors this year. I guess it is best to fess up publicly as well. One of the mistakes I made was with scheduling Bucknell. I dropped the ball, and when I realized I had, we were very limited in how we could make the dual meet work. Bucknell could only dual us if they came to GMU on Sunday, February 2. They had already committed to a dual at UVA in the afternoon and they could catch us in the evening on their way back home. This was doable for us, so I scheduled the dual meet with them to start at 7pm on Sunday, February 2. Later I realized our start time coincided with the start time of a small event called the Superbowl. I figured if I didn’t want a mutiny on my hands I had better change the time. The only thing that seemed to work for us was a 9am Sunday start time (My bad, Oops). Next year, Tommy will be in charge of scheduling. Hopefully a few brave souls will venture out Sunday morning to watch the guys compete against Bucknell University.

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VMI Dual

We won our dual against VMI 7 matches to 3. I was happy the guys were able to win a team dual and that we were able to score the last points in 8 of 10 bouts. I was less pleased with the pace we wrestled in our matches. I felt VMI pushed the pace more than we did. Our talent was good enough for us to win, but I would like to have seen more effort from the team.

Bill Prochniewski lost his match by pin. He fell behind 5-0 in the first period, but did a great job of working himself back into the match. He was riding the guy for the tie when the official called a defensive pin in his opponents favor. Bill needs to do a better job of keeping his matches closer in the first period. He tends to give up lots of points early. The longer he can stay in matches the better chance he will have winning as he can use his conditioning and technique to score points in the 3rd period. We also cannot afford to give up bonus points in a dual.

Vince Rodriguez did a great job and scored a major decision. He scored in all 3 positions (feet, bottom and top). I enjoyed watching him compete. He made some great adjustments to counters his opponent tried. He showed good mat awareness.

Sahid Kargbo won his match. He did not do a good job of pushing the pace. We need to make sure he is able to have a more positive attitude when he competes next week. Sahid works too hard and has improved too much to not show it when he gets the opportunity in competition.

Shohei Takagi lost in overtime. Like some of our other guys he did not push the pace. He let his opponent push the pace. As a result, his opponent gained confidence and was able to exploit Shohei’s weaknesses. Shohei was called for stalling two times. The second call sent the match into overtime. Shohei needs to wrestle at a higher pace so he is not called for stalling. He needs to worry about scoring points and not how he feels physically.

Greg Flournoy won his match 2-0. He had trouble opening up his opponent. He needed to make some adjustments in the match so he could get his offense going. After the match, I think he understood how to solve the problem. Hopefully, next time he can make the adjustment during the match. Greg did a great job of riding his opponent for the entire 3rd period. When the match is on the line and you need to hold your opponent down, it takes great resolve to get the job done. Greg stepped up and got the job done.

Ryan Forrest took a 4-1 lead and looked very good in the first period. He was ridden the entire 2nd period. Ryan needs to get to his feet more on bottom. I think it would increase his ability to get away. In the third period Ryan was unable to compete at a level necessary to win the match. He also took some mini breaks and his opponent was able to capitalize. If Ryan can hold better position when he competes and wrestle at a high pace for seven minutes, he will be dangerous. We need to figure out why he cannot do so right now and try to fix the problem as soon as possible.

Zach Martinez won his match. He made a few mistakes on his feet and gave up a couple of takedowns. He needs to improve his basic skills on his feet. I was excited to see his improved skills on bottom which put him in a position to win the match. He was also able to ride well and score the last takedown in the match to extend his lead.

Ryan Hembury was also able to score last in his match. He was able to score a 5 point move to end the match. I was also pleased to see his offense working early in the match. He had good setups, nice execution of the attacks and patient effective finishes. I hope he is starting to believe in his improvement as a college competitor.

Matt Meadows was able to identify his opponent’s weakness and was able to exploit it multiple times. It was good to see him compete with confidence. With a little better mat awareness, I think he could have gotten a bonus point for the team, but at that point in the dual securing the win was more important. His win clinched the dual for the team.

Jake Kettler did a good job of wearing down his opponent. He was able to get to a position and try his attack multiple times. It did not work in the first or second period, but by the third period he was able to get past the set-up and attack and get to the finish. He initially missed the finish, but after another set-up and attack, he was able to secure the winning takedown. I liked his poise in the third period.

We will get another opportunity to compete at home on Saturday, January 25 at Noon against Franklin & Marshall. On paper, it looks like it will be a close dual. My hope is the guys will be able to step up and win the close matches. Get bonus points when they can and avoid giving up bonus points. I want them to wrestle not only for themselves but also for their teammates. There is added strength when you wrestle for others as well as yourself.

Saturday will also be our day to honor Mason alums. We will have a reception beforehand. I want the team to meet the guys who went before them – the men that paved the way for the current team to have the opportunity to compete for George Mason University. We will honor the undefeated conference champion team from 1974 during our half-time of the meet. These guys did something special 40 years ago and deserve recognition. As the current coach, I am also thankful these guys are still assisting the wrestling program. This group of men has been instrumental in helping me by volunteering their time and money to help move the program forward. I applaud what they did in 1974 as athletes and what they are doing today as men.

Virginia Duals

We had a tough weekend at the Virginia Duals. We went 0-3. I was most disappointed with the things we could control (Attitude and Effort). The losses might not have been within our control. We struggled again wrestling with confidence. The guys need to believe in their preparation and ability.

On the positive side we did have 7 of the 10 guys win at least one of their three matches. It was also special to be part of the storied event. The event is so old; I competed in it when I was in college. I hope we have the opportunity to compete in it again.

The founder of the event, John Graham, told me after the event that he was disappointed in my team’s performance. He told me he expected more out of my team. I have known John Graham since I was a little kid. I appreciated his candor and agreed with him that we should have and do need to perform better.

We have three freshmen in our starting lineup. It is tough going thru your first full college season. I have reminded them the season is a marathon and not a sprint. My hope is they do not become overwhelmed by the toughness and length of a division 1 season. We need to do our part as coaches to keep them improving physically and mentally during the year. They can make lots of improvement by March.

We have four sophomores in our starting lineup. These guys have been thru a college season and all of them have high expectations. They are still making some rookie mistakes, but are improving. All of them put extra pressure on themselves while competing. My hope is they can do more competing with less worry. Worrying during a match does them no good. I would rather they shut their thoughts down and let their body do the work. All of them know how to wrestle. They understand positions. Their body knows what to do. If they do need to think I want them thinking about scoring points. I want them thinking about hustling. If they have negative thoughts, I want them frustrated that they only get 7 minutes to compete.

We have two juniors in our starting lineup. These guys have shown improvement in winning the close matches. Their match strategy has improved. They have been in tight situations before and they are able to stay calm and execute a game plan that will succeed. Both guys are knocking at the door for beating guys that have beaten them before. They need to believe they are ready to make another step forward. They need to be brave in their effort and take risks in matches. By doing so, it will pay dividends for them in March.

We have one senior in our starting lineup. It has been fun watching him improve. Sometimes when a deadline is in front of a person, they make greater gains. He has done a better job of handling his preparation for matches. Weight cutting used to hold him back during competition. This year he is doing it right and has seen a great improvement in his energy level when he competes. Little things make a big difference. When the margin for error is small, doing the little things can make the difference in winning or losing a situation in a match. He has put in the work during the off season as well. Putting in the work when others don’t is like putting hay in the barn. He can use that hay when he needs it during competition.

One of the good things about a college wrestling season is we get 16 dates of competition. Thus, the guys get a chance to compete again this weekend. Instead of sitting and stewing for a long time, we are back training for our home dual this Sunday, January 19 at 5pm against Virginia Military Institute. We are hopeful to get a team win, but more importantly we are looking to see individuals improve their performance. We expect them to give their best effort and have a winner’s attitude every time they step on the mat. If we have 10 guys wrestle with confidence and wrestle as hard as they can for 7 minutes on Sunday, good things will happen.

Gardner-Webb Dual

We lost to Gardner-Webb University 6 matches to 4.  I felt going into the dual, if we wrestled well, we could win.  In the end, we came up short.  I was frustrated by the result and some of the things I saw from the sidelines.

I struggled after the dual with the desire to make the disappointment about me.  It should not be about me, but as the head coach, it is hard not to make it about you.  I felt frustrated by the performance and how it reflected upon my leadership.  It’s a struggle to lead and at the same time be grounded enough to know it is not about me.

I spoke to the team after ward about my disappointment in our performance.  I felt we wrestled fearfully in some matches.  The two biggest fears I saw us struggling with were the fear of failure and the fear of fatigue.  If these fears control you, it is difficult to win.

As hard as these guys work, fatigue should be something they embrace.  The more tired they get in a match the better.  We train so guys get tired during practice.  I figure they will not fear fatigue if they face it often enough in training.  I want them to be comfortable being uncomfortable.  For some, the doubts still control them in competition.  It is normal to fear fatigue.  We just need to get better at facing the fear.

Some guys also wrestled fearful of failure.  I want them to wrestle brave.  I want them to embrace the challenge, love the challenge.  It is difficult to do, but at the same time it is freeing to be able to compete to score points as opposed to trying not to lose.  To be successful, they will need to take risks.  They will fail sometimes as a result, but that is alright because they will also succeed.  The quote I think that hits home is “Show me a man who has never failed, and I’ll see a man who has never attempted anything.”  There are great stories of successful people who have failed over and over, but did not give up until they succeeded.  We need to find out what is holding guys back and try and help them overcome the obstacles.