Mayland Dual

The regular season is over. Now the fun part of the season is upon us. I am excited to watch the guys compete at the EWL Championships on March 8. We will need to wrestle well to get guys qualified for the NCAA tournament. I am also excited to watch the non-starters compete on Sunday, March 2 at the National Collegiate Open.

We lost our final dual of the season to Maryland. I was pleased with our attitude and effort, but disappointed in some of the outcomes. Since we can’t always control the wins or losses, it was good seeing guys control the things they could. We had our largest crowd of the year. I know this helped our team’s energy level. Thanks to all who attended the dual.

We did not compete over the weekend and the starters will not compete next week. We will use this time to improve. We can still get stronger, better technically and in better condition. We will also use this time to rest mentally and physically. The college wrestling season is a grind. Until someone has gone thru a season, it is hard to understand the toll it takes on you physically and mentally. Fortunately, our guys have a pretty good handle on things, so we are prepared to finish well. I am excited.

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Virginia Dual

Virginia has a good team. They beat us 9 matches to 1. Sahid Kargbo was our lone winner. We had a few other guys who were in their matches but couldn’t find a way to win. We need to find a way to win. Even an ugly win can help you down the road. Guys need to have a go to move they can score on anyone in the country. Even though we lost, I felt the guys had more fight, more resolve. The fact they are willing to work hard for 7 minutes will pay dividends down the road. Mental toughness is hard to teach, but I think it can be taught. I am pleased to see guys making progress in this very important area of wrestling and life. We had guys sustain injuries which was disappointing. Nevertheless, I was pleased they continued to wrestle with the pain. No one considered taking an injury timeout. I love the toughness they showed.

Thursday we will face another tough team in Maryland at 7pm at the RAC. We will need to make some gains in training this week and have even more resolve for Thursday. There will be a youth dual with a team from Virginia vs. a team from Maryland starting at 430pm as a prelude to the college bout. The athletic department is making our dual the game of the week. Thus, students will get free stuff for attending the dual. The dual also takes place the night before the state high school wrestling tournament. I anticipate several of the participants to be at the dual (the state tournament takes place less than a mile from our campus). It should be a fun atmosphere for our team.

We will honor our seniors during half-time; well we will honor most of our seniors. Rich Lavorato was honored last year. We did not think he was going to return for his 5th year, so we treated him like a senior. Long after the season, we were fortunate to trick him into coming back to Mason to wrestle. Rich is currently attending graduate school studying Sports Management.

Matt Stull is also graduating this spring, but does have eligibility remaining. We are trying to talk him into attending graduate school at Mason so he can use his remaining eligibility for wrestling. Thus, we are going to roll the dice and hope he returns next season. Matt is getting his degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology. We will not honor him at senior night, because we hope he isn’t done.

Matt Huffstickler has decided to graduate this summer.  Thus, we will honor him at the dual.  Matt will get his degree in criminology and plans on being a police officer.  Matt has done well in the classroom and is a talented wrestler.  My hope is he will do some coaching in the future.  He would do well.

Seth Robertson did not redshirt and has exhausted his eligibility. Seth has excelled at Mason on and off the mat. He has represented Mason twice at the conference tournament. Seth is majoring in electrical engineering and has had some incredible internships. One highlight for me was when Seth helped the team win a dual last season vs. Northern Colorado. He lifted his opponent multiple times to insure the win. It was fun to watch.

Chris Rodriguez is in graduate school and is a 5th year wrestler on the team. He is working on a master degree in special education. If anyone is looking for a teacher and wrestling coach, Chris is looking for a good fit. Chris walked on to the team when I first arrived at Mason. He has been a good teammate and his given more to the team than he has taken. He has started in some of the dual meets for the team. One highlight was when he won a hard fought match for us in a dual against Anderson University.

Shohei Takagi is another 5th year wrestler. He decided to redshirt last year and added another major to his degree. He will graduate this spring with a Finance and Business Management degree with a minor in Japanese. Shohei has worked hard to make his senior year a success. He competed and trained hard during the off-season. He even spent a few weeks at the Olympic Training Center this summer. I am excited to watch him finish his college career on a high note.

I am excited to recognize Matt, Seth, Chris and Shohei on Thursday.  Being a division one student-athlete is no easy task.

Bloomsburg Dual

We had an interesting weekend (some good and some bad). A bunch of guys competed in the Messiah Open. Coach Owen and Coach Carr went to watch them. I followed the tournament via the internet. Our guys won several matches. It is great having them choose to go on their own. I like it when it is important to them to grow and learn. Blake Roulo won the Messiah Open. Six other guys placed.

Since we only had one dual on Sunday versus Bloomsburg, I chose to travel with 10 wrestlers this weekend. My reasoning seemed justifiable, but it did come back to get us in the end. My hope was we would not need a last minute replacement and if we did that we were close enough to get them to the arena in time. I figured it saved us money, kept extra guys from having to make weight, gave us more room at the hotel, and allowed guys to compete in the Open instead of traveling with the 10 starters. We were careful to check guys to make sure weight and health was good.

Late Saturday evening we did get a hint that we might need a replacement. We actually tried to get two guys to join the team in Bloomsburg, but they didn’t feel they would be prepared. Thus, we had to see if things improved by the morning. They did not, so we had to forfeit a weight class at the dual.

For those who know me, they know I hate forfeits and will try my hardest to avoid them. When I was in college, I convinced my coach to let me wrestle up three weight classes if we had a chance of winning the dual. Fortunately for me, we did not, so he did not let me step on the mat in the end. As a coach, I have had guys wrestle outside their weight class to avoid a forfeit, give an opponent a match, give our team a chance to save some team points and most often so it adds validity to our sport.

I know sometimes there is nothing you can do. On the other hand, if it is avoidable, I think you should avoid it. I failed to avoid it on Sunday. I was disappointed. I should have spent the extra money, had some guys sacrifice for the team, and explain more clearly my expectations to the team. I gambled and lost.

In the end I could only apologize to the opposing coach, apologize to the opposing wrestler, apologize to my team and hope we learn from the mistake made. We need to communicate better with each other and be prepared to compete with short notice.

I could be wrong, but I do not think using a forfeit as a strategy is good for the sport. If you can put someone on the mat, you should. I do not think you hold a guy out so the other team won’t gain momentum. I think you should have the courtesy of giving your athlete the opportunity, give your opponent the opportunity, give the fans a match to watch, and for the integrity of the sport. I think it would look strange to the casual fan if a football team only played 3 quarters, if a baseball team played 8 instead of 9 innings, if a bowler bowled 9 frames, instead of 10. Avoid the forfeit if you can.

There is risk in wrestling. There is the potential you could get hurt. There is the potential a guy could get pinned and momentum swings toward your opponent. I have even heard coaches want to sit guys because they think they won’t be competitive or would embarrass the team by their lack of skills. My answer still is avoiding the forfeit if you can.

I have told guys to be careful, instead of wrestling full bore, if I have put them in a risky situation. I have told guys they need to wrestle for the team and avoid being pinned as opposed to trying to win. I have seen guys try and compete and do it embarrassingly. Heck, I was one of those guys who had no business being in a division 1 match. I stumbled to get in my stance, my leg shook uncontrollably as I was trying to avoid being pinned, and usually I was pinned. I am sure some laughed at my lack of ability. I am sure the opposing team gained some momentum as the ref slapped the mat as I was pinned. Nevertheless, I am thankful someone gave me the opportunity to try. I am thankful there was a match, rather than a forfeit.

I felt bad a senior did not get a match in his home gym on senior night. I am sure he would have rather cut weight and compet one last time in front of his home crowd. Win or lose it would have been a stronger memory. Avoid the forfeit if you can.

We have been lucky in my time at Mason to only forfeit one time. I am sure we will have to forfeit again, but we will try hard to avoid it.

Overall I was disappointed in our performance on Sunday. Sahid Kargbo was the only guy to win. I was happy to see him win. He was able to beat a guy who had beaten him before. We had some other guys compete hard but came up short on the win column. My hope is they learned more than their opponent and will be able to turn the table at the conference tournament. We had a few others that did not show the kind of resolve I expect out of them. Wrestling is a tough sport. Sometimes the pain will be overwhelming. We need to be able to endure the pain instead of conceding to it.

After the dual, we stopped to eat as a team and so the guys could spend some time with their friends and family that came to watch them compete. As we sat in the restaurant, I struggled with the disappointment of the loss and watched with angst about the snow I saw falling to the ground. When we left the restaurant, we had to stop at our hotel because someone forgot their bag in the lobby when we departed in the morning (that someone was me). Our bus driver had a problem with his GPS and it sent us through the countryside on some crazy back roads. The roads were snow covered and we were on some steep inclines. We finally hit a hill we could not conquer. We were stuck. We could not go forward only backward. As luck would have it (the bus driver said it was an angel), a snow plow came our direction a few minutes later. I had to get out of the bus to talk to him, because we could not get the bus to stop rolling downhill when the driver tried to take off the brakes and put it in park. The snow plow had us back down the mountain road. Once he could get passed us he plowed a path and dropped sand so we were able to get back to a main road. We barely made it through the mountain road, but we did. Once we got on a main road, we were all much more relaxed. We made it home safely.

Jake Kettler will be honored this week as a Provost Scholar at a reception and at the home Men’s Basketball game. I am happy to see his hard work lead to this honor. It is great for him and also for our program to have him receive the honor.

We will wrestle a tri-meet on Sunday, February 16th. We will wrestle UVA at 2pm. They are having a great year. We will have the opportunity to get some upsets and help our chances of getting NCAA bids. After we wrestle UVA, we will wrestle Coker College. I was excited when asked to wrestle Coker College. It is a brand new program. It is exciting to see a program added to the college ranks. I am excited we can help them build their program. Their coach wanted to show they competed against D1 schools. We also agreed to return a date to them so they could have a showcase match on their campus. I hope to see a large group of fans on Sunday at our tri-meet.

Clarion and Bucknell Duals

We lost both dual meets this weekend, but we are making progress. Sometimes it is hard to measure progress, but I know the guys are improving. I know they are getting better.

We wrestled at Clarion Saturday afternoon. Vince Rodriguez scored a takedown with a few seconds left in the match to beat his opponent; Sahid Kargbo beat his guy in overtime; and Ryan Forrest used a 4 point move in the third period to put us in the driver’s seat going into our last 4 matches. We were close to winning the next two matches, but lost the same way we had won the earlier matches. Zach Martinez was winning, made a rookie mistake, and lost with a few ticks of the clock to go in his match. Ryan Hembury lost in overtime. Matt Meadows won his bout, but Jake Kettler came up short in the final bout of the day. The 5 hour bus drive back to Fairfax was quiet. I spent lots of time pondering woulda, coulda, shoulda scenarios. I guess it was not meant to be.

We arrived on campus at about 930pm. Guys checked their weight. A few worked out. The rest of us went home for the short turn around. We met as a team at 645am Sunday morning to set up for our 9am dual against Bucknell and for guys to lose some weight (bad scheduling on my part).

We lost to Bucknell at the Virginia duals in January by a score of 27-9. This time we lost 26-10. We made a little progress. We did wrestle 3 different guys in our line-up. Bucknell had one new guy in their line-up. Greg Flournoy beat a guy who had beaten him in the dual in January. Greg wrestled a great match. I felt we wrestled Bucknell better at 7 of the 10 contested matches. At the weight classes we lost some ground, I think we can get it back.

We will only compete once next weekend. Sunday we will be at Bloomsburg. Last year, Bloomsburg shut us out. My hope is we will continue to improve and to show that improvement when we compete.