We competed back to back days this weekend. On Saturday, we hosted Navy at the RAC. I was pleased to see the good turn-out of fans for the early season dual. We lost the dual 7 matches to 3. I felt we had some guys step up and compete with great effort; we had a few others that did not let loose. I believed we could have performed better.
We drew for the starting weight class. If the coaches don’t agree on the starting weight class, you do a random draw. We drew 149. I was disappointed we came up short in the first six matches contested. During this stretch we lost to 4 freshman wrestlers from the Naval Academy. As experienced college wrestlers, I was disappointed we lost close decisions at 149, 157 and 197. We lacked the ability to find a way to win. The guys need to be able to use their experience in D1 matches to their advantage. My hope is the guys will use the wisdom gained on Saturday and apply it when we compete at the Navy Classic in two weeks. It would be great to get some better outcomes.
In the final 4 bouts of the evening, our guys stepped up. Jake Kettler put together a great flurry of attacks to win in overtime. Ibrahim Bunduka wrestled a pace that could have produced a win. He tied the match with 18 seconds to go and looked in good position to win the bout in overtime. In my opinion, he made a technical mistake and the guy was able to escape to win the match with about 5 seconds to go in the match. Bunduka wanted to concede the escape with 18 seconds to go. I told him no because I felt he wouldn’t have enough time to score. The strategy backfired. Maybe he had a better feel for the situation. I just felt the odds were best to wrestle for overtime. I was frustrated for him. I wish we could know if he would have won by releasing the guy as he wanted. Vince Rodriguez beat a returning national qualifier who is ranked. I was pleased to see him get a win that helps his RPI. Signature wins are important with the current qualifying system. He scored on a great shot and did an excellent job on bottom. I was pleased with how he wrestled in all four positions (offense, defense, bottom and top). Sahid Kargbo wrestled with confidence and controlled his opponent.
After the dual, we talked about the pace and style the final 4 guys wrestled. I knew if we could get more guys to believe in their training, believe in their ability, we could do so much more. I also challenged them to overcome the adversity I had worked into the schedule and that was given to us by things we could not control. Due to construction in the Field House, we were not allowed in our training facility on Saturday and Sunday. Making weight is much easier in your home training facility and when done on a wrestling mat. I told them to treat the weekend as if we were on the road. I also told them making weight on back to back days is great practice for the NCAA tournament. I want them to do it a few times during the year, so when they do it at the NCAA tournament it is not a new thing. It is hard to do, but in the long run it can make a difference. Friday morning at the NCAA tournament is a one hour weigh in and you are competing in the quarter-final round. You win; you are an All-American guaranteed to place in the top 6. I want the guys prepared to perform at the NCAA tournament.
On Sunday, we traveled to Maryland. We started the dual at 125. Ibrahim Bunduka once again fell short of the victory, but the pace he wrestled set the tone for the rest of the team. He is a great guy to lead off our team because of his effort and attitude. He wrestles a good pace and has a huge desire to win.
Vince Rodriguez fell short in his match. He made some fixable technical errors and, in my opinion, some tactical errors. Vince is very graceful in his attacks. He needs to initiate more. He scored early but did not push the pace. He needs to work on building his lead and in forcing action. I love watching him compete because of his ability to flow. Vince gave up a takedown in the second period and before he could transition his opponent put him in a position where he could not escape. Without watching the film yet, I think he could have done a better job of hustling before he was caught in a big disadvantage position. Getting caught in a leg ride with a bent leg is tough to escape. I also think he made a strategic error in the 3rd period by choosing down. I wanted him to go neutral because the guy had already accumulated 57 seconds of riding time. I felt if he went down, the guy would most likely gain riding time so it would be a wash after he got the escape. I felt if he started in neutral he would have given himself more time to score a takedown. Once again, you don’t know for sure what would have worked. Nevertheless, I liked his effort in working to escape and near the end of the match he was working hard to score. He came within a whisker of scoring, on a few occasions near the end of the bout, which would have sealed the victory. In the end, he did not get the call and lost on a riding time point.
Sahid Kargbo wrestled well. He did a good job of trying to score points. Due to blood time outs, it was a long match. We had several chances to talk during the breaks. I was pleased with his focus. At one point he started taking big risks trying to score big points for the team. Although I appreciated the effort and attitude, I told him to be a little more selfish. Hold good position and let things come to him. I felt he did not need to take such high risks. His opponent was able to slow things down, but Sahid was able to hold good position for the one-sided win.
Ryan Hunsberger benefited from the effort his teammates had shown in the previous 3 matches. I think by the time he stepped on the mat people could see Mason wrestlers wrestle a hard pace. People saw the guys had the gas tank to keep pushing the pace. Ryan did a good job of attacking, but also working to wear down his opponent. The longer the match went, the stronger he got. Near the end of the bout he took a shot and his opponent defended with a scramble position he had tried early in the bout. Ryan was able to counter the counter (good chain wrestling) and hustle to get the takedown. It was fun seeing the energy Ryan gained as he saw and felt his opponent weaken. The mental part of this game is fascinating. Ryan’s win and effort helped put doubt in the minds of the opponents his teammates had yet to face. He helped his teammates by wrestling inspired.
Greg Flournoy lost his second consecutive match. He let his frustration from earlier bouts affect his performance. Greg has invested much more after finishing one spot from qualifying for the NCAA tournament last spring. There is greater pressure on him due to his heightened expectations and heightened desire to win. We will need to help him overcome the added stress. I am confident the added off-season work will benefit him in the end. He just needs to stay the course. There are also some technical adjustments he needs to make. The good thing is Greg is probably our best wrestler when it comes to technical positions. He understands the nuances of wrestling positions well. He has a great ability to feel where he needs to turn, the right amount of pressure to apply and how to use the opponent’s position to his advantage. He will figure it out. For now, I just need him to enjoy the process, enjoy the fight, and have fun trying to figure out ways to score points. Wrestling with joy works. Have fun competing.
Patrick Davis is going to be very good. He has struggled early with dropping to a new weight class. His first two college seasons, he wrestled 174. This year, as a red shirt sophomore, he is down at 165. He needs to adjust physically and mentally to the new weight. He has doubted his ability to wrestle a high pace for 7 minutes. Yesterday was a big step forward for him. He dominated a good opponent from Maryland. He looked to score points. He was thinking about scoring points rather than worrying about how he felt or how the match was progressing. He was able to secure a major decision in the 3rd period. Even though I knew it was a risk, I had him cut his opponent and get one more takedown. I figured it would help him mentally. Fortunately it worked and he was able to get another takedown. After the match, I told him I made him do it because I wanted him to know he could keep scoring points in the third period. He said he knew he could score again and that he wanted to try for another takedown but I told him to ride the guy the final seconds of the match. I love that attitude. I think Patrick grew up yesterday. The team needed a major he went out and got it and then some. In the end, it proved important to the final team score.
Ryan Forrest weighed in a few pounds over the 165lb weight class. He is still hopeful to earn that position on the team. He wrestled 174. Early in the match he got himself in a bad position and gave up a score to his bigger opponent. We have been encouraging him to stay in better position this season. When he does, he gives himself better chances to win. He likes giving up good position and trying to wiggle out of it. Sometimes it makes for exciting results. More often, especially when giving up some weight, it has gotten him in trouble. I am pleased he stayed focus and stayed in good position. His 1 point upset win gave us a chance for the team upset as well.
I feel it an honor to sit in Derek Dwyer’s corner. He has worked so hard in the 4 years I have been his coach. He is consistent. He’s a guy I can always count on showing up and being diligent in his training. Derek is still behind most of his opponents in ability at the Division 1 level. Nevertheless, I know he will give me his best effort. He does it in practice, he does it in the classroom, and he does it in life. Derek gave up a major decision, but he wrestled hard. We need for him to improve more on bottom and once a guy gets to his leg. Nevertheless, his hand fighting and offense have greatly improved. He saved us 2 team points and kept the score as close as he could.
Matt Meadows lost another disappointing match. His opponent started the match at an extremely high pace. I think it overwhelmed Matt and he fell behind 4-0 early in the bout. Matt needs to weather the early storm better. When a guy comes out that aggressive, it is important to hold good position. Get a hold of your opponent and start controlling the pace of the match. Matt also has a nice trick defense when guys shoot. Nevertheless, I would prefer for him to stay basic first. I believe he gave up takedowns on Saturday and Sunday due to giving up too much position after the guy had gotten on his leg. Once Matt started to control the pace of the match, he outscored his opponent 3-2. Matt did not have enough offense to overcome the early deficit. Matt also needs to fix some technical things on his single leg. He is having problems finishing due to his hand placement and movement prior to finishing. He will clean up those mistakes. Matt is doing extra to figure things out. He will make progress.
Jake Kettler started his match with great determination. He scored early and often. It was great to see him step up to the challenge of sealing the victory for his team. We were all over stimulated due to the importance of Jake’s match. I was the most out of control, but I know, my team of smart men, were as well. None of us could do simple addition to figure out what Jake needed to do for the team to win. I wanted Jake to know, so my anxiousness toward the team did not help the situation. I am sure those listening to the exchanges we had on the bench found humor. Rewind a few seasons when we lost on criteria to Appalachian State. I didn’t want to lose that way on Sunday. Alum, Jaaziah Bethea, was part of the team that lost at Appalachian State. He jumped out of the stands trying to help us with the simple math. A funny situation now, but it was stressful during Jake’s match. Once we figured out Jake’s lead was more than enough, we were yelling at him to take less risk. He made one big mistake in the match after releasing his opponent, but otherwise handled the pressure situation as cool as a cucumber.
I was pleased for the guys to see they can compete with good teams. I was pleased all ten guys played a role in the win. Every point mattered. We won the dual because we had 59 match points to Maryland’s 55 match points. Every win and loss was important. We had very good 6th and 7th minutes in our matches. I love when the tough time of a match occurs and guys are still functioning at a high level.
My hope is this win will help the guys believe in their ability. They can do so much more. My hope is this win will help the guys believe in the system. The more the buy in, the more they follow the plan, the more progress they will make. My hope is this win will help us find greater success.
I do know our guys will need to raise their level. Other teams and opponents will know they need to be better prepared when wrestling us. It is a great problem to have. There will be a greater responsibility, but one I hope the guys enjoy carrying.
At 6am the morning after the win we came together as a team to train. It was a great way to celebrate the win – together working hard to get better.