Grapple at the Garden

We had a hard, but productive, training cycle after final exams. I do believe guys improved due to the training. It feels good when you see guys make gains. We also hosted some wrestle-offs at 149 and 184. Both guys who were unable to wrestle-off in October won their bouts. Blake Roulo and Ryan Hembury came out on top at 149 and 184 respectfully.

This past week was filled with tough situations and decisions. It was a high stress week as a head coach. I feel an extreme level of responsibility trying to lead a division 1 wrestling program. As a huge college wrestling fan, I consider our college wrestling programs precious. I want to protect and grow the program under my charge. Tough decisions need to be made in the best manner your training, experience and gut leads you. My prayer is I was able to move the program and team forward this past week.

We traveled with 19 wrestlers to New York City on Saturday. I enjoyed having so many of the team together. I do believe you grow closer traveling together. It was also a special trip for me because my wife and 4 year old son made their first bus trip with the team. I loved the excitement I saw and felt from my son being able to travel with the George Mason Wrestling team. He couldn’t have been any more excited.

We competed on Sunday at the Grapple at the Garden. I left the arena frustrated. I was pleased with the team’s effort and attitude, but felt we fell short on the scoreboard. I believe we are close to having guys step forward in this program and do some big things on the national stage. We are a good team. We just need to find a way to make the step forward in competition. We need to find a way to win. We need to believe we belong in the winner’s circle. I like this team. I have high expectations for them on and off the mat. I believe they will be successful.

In both of our duals we lost 7 matches to 3. We made some costly errors which kept us from having more competitive dual meets. In 7 matches on the day that were decided in overtime or by one point, we were 2-5. No doubt, this is a bad win/loss ratio. We need to win the close matches and overtimes.

Ibrahim Bunduka went 0-2 in duals. I liked the pace he competed with on his feet. I also love the fight he shows. He wants to win. It is important to him. You see it in his training. You see when he competes. He is a freshman and has lots to learn. Nevertheless, I know he will put in the work to get better. He was defeated this weekend, due to not being competitive on bottom. He needs to learn position on bottom so he can get a way.

I was pleased to finally be able to watch Vince Rodriguez compete in Madison Square Garden. He wrestled well and finished 1-1 on the day. He is getting better. A few technical errors cost him a win against an undefeated ranked opponent from Drexel. Vince scored the tying takedown in the 3rd period and rode out his opponent to take the match into overtime. In the overtime, Vince was close to scoring a few times before giving up a takedown. I was frustrated he did not get the win. He wrestled well in the third period and overtime.

Sahid Kargbo had a bad day. Sahid is very good. He needs to force his style on others. I have no doubt he can compete with the best college wrestlers. In his first match, Sahid was close to scoring early and made a technical error to give up 5 points. He was also ridden without causing much concern for his opponent. I do believe he can get away. He needs to be able to escape from good riders. In his second bout, he was leading until the last 11 seconds. He gave up a late take down and could not escape. I was frustrated for him. I was also frustrated in myself for having him choose neutral in the 3rd period. He could have gone on bottom and built his lead, so the late takedown would not have cost him the match.

Ryan Hunsberger wrestled both matches for the team at 149. Ryan went 1-1 on the day. I was pleased with his effort. He won his first match by hustling. Instead of backing down when things got tough, he stepped up. Ryan wrestled both matches on short notice. The plan was to have Blake Roulo wrestle his first dual meets as a George Mason Patriot, but we had to make a last minute change. Ryan stayed ready and answered the call. I was also pleased Konbeh Koroma sacrificed for the team to make weight on short notice. Although Konbeh ultimately did not compete, I was pleased he sacrificed for his team. Our group of guys at 149 is doing a good job pushing each other to get better.

At 157, Greg Flournoy finished the day at 1-1. I love watching Greg compete. He is good in all 4 positions. He lost to the highly ranked Duke wrestler, but showed he can compete. I do believe he made some technical mistakes that hopefully he can change if they see each other again in competition. In his match against Drexel, he wrestled a hard pace and put forth the effort needed to get the major.

We split matches with guys at 165. This weight class is still up in the air as to who will ultimately represent the team at the EWL and NCAA tournament, although Patrick Davis has the upper hand by winning the initial wrestle-off in October. My hope is to have them make the decision clear for the coaching staff at the Southern Scuffle. Both are doing well for our team. Patrick Davis won a match in a manner I love seeing. He fell behind early, but kept competing. He was able to score 2 takedowns in the 3rd period and ride out his opponent to force overtime. In the overtime period, he scored again to secure the win. I love seeing guys scoring points late in matches. Ryan Forrest lost his match 3-2. I know he was frustrated by the loss. He did not capitalize on a few scoring opportunities. He needs to score when he has the opportunity. I do think Ryan’s skill set is improving. He is figuring out how to give himself the best chance to win.

Daniel Mika wrestled both matches for us at 174. He struggled. I think he is getting too anxious on his feet and is too cautious on bottom. Daniel Mika gives guys fits in the room with his ability to hand fight and hold position. He has struggled taking the same skill set into division 1 competition. I need him to stay confident in his ability. He can get better even while facing the tough losses true freshman sometimes endure.

Last March, Ryan Hembury suffered a severe injury. He was finally cleared to compete so he made his season debut. It was a tough situation to start his season at the Grapple at the Garden. Nevertheless, I think he has the right mindset and will use the tough start to the season to get better. My hope is he will now have a better trust in his repaired knee and that he will control the things he can as the season progresses.

Matt Meadows finished the day 1-1. He wrestled a returning All-American in his first match. He gave up some silly scores on his feet and was ridden. He gave up good position too easily. In his second bout, Matt was able to win with an escape in the 9th minute of the match. He rode his opponent and then moved until he scored on bottom. I liked seeing him win by riding and working hard to escape.

Jake Kettler also finished the day 1-1. He lost to the Duke wrestler in the same manner that Matt won his match. Although coaches are always biased, I felt Jake out wrestled his opponent but failed to capitalize. Jake did a good job in his second match scoring points and securing the shutout major decision.

After the competition we were able to spend a few hours in New York City. We also stopped at Casa Filippo for a fantastic dinner before heading home. Despite the bad results, I think these guys understand they can do great things. I also believe they are hungry to improve. When you put desire and ability together, good things can happen. Over the next 10 days I am confident this team will work on getting better. Our next competition will be January 1 and 2 at the Southern Scuffle. This will be our toughest test thus far in the season. I am excited to see if we can gain some ground.

Yes, we will spend New Year’s Eve together on a bus headed for Chattanooga, Tennessee. Then, on New Year’s Day, we get to compete. Life is good.

Lastly, I figure I will make the same plea I have heard several times this December from other organizations about making year-end donations for tax purposes. Personally, I doubt I have ever needed to make a year-end donation for tax purposes, but my hope is if you do you will consider George Mason Wrestling. To make a gift by the end of the calendar year for tax purposes you may choose one of the following methods:

~ US Mail must be post marked by December 31st
George Mason Patriot Club
4400 University Drive MS 5E1
Fairfax, VA 22030

~ Online donations can be made until midnight on December 31st at giving.gmu.edu
Be sure to designate your gift for wrestling. Our biggest need right now is for our “Friends of Wrestling” account.

~ By phone at 703-993-8850, the George Mason University development office will be open weekdays during the holiday period December 23-31 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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F&M Dual

We won 8 of 10 matches against Franklin & Marshall College. It was nice to see guys have success. For the most part we did well in all areas. I would have liked to see the guys wrestle with more energy. I think too often we were worried about how we felt or the match score. I think we could have pushed the pace more, taken more risk. After each guy left the mat, we had them run sprints in the back room. The purpose was to show them they had more to give, not to punish. I hope they understand better they can give more while they compete. We had 4 matches where we won by 6 points (Ibrahim Bunduka, Greg Flournoy, Ryan Forrest and Matt Meadows). As a coach, it makes you think how close they were to getting a major decision. Could they have found a way to score one more takedown? Sahid Kargbo found a way to score one more takedown to secure a major in his match. Jake Kettler was able to pin his opponent in the 3rd period. I think our team was capable of scoring more points. We scored the last point in 5 matches (Bunduka, Kargbo, Forrest, Meadows, Kettler), but in 5 other matches F&M scored the last point (Rodriguez, Koroma, Flournoy, Mika, Dwyer). We need the ratio to be more in our favor. Rodriguez, Koroma and Flournoy gave up escape points, which we wanted them to give, so they could try and score on their feet. The strategy did not work, because they were unable to score another takedown.

Daniel Mika started his first match of the year. As a true freshman, it is a difficult match to wrestle. I would have liked to see him be more aggressive at finishing an attack. I did not want him to take too many crazy risks, but I would have liked him to try and capitalize more on low risk attacks. In overtime, he made a mistake and gave up the takedown. In his frustration over the loss he laid on his back. The referee decided to call the fall even though his opponent was not holding him on his back. It is important that a wrestler does not stop on their back. Tough lesson to learn, but I assume Daniel Mika will never make this mistake again. I also hope his teammates learned from the mistake he made. It can cost a team a dual meet. Giving up 3 team points is bad, giving up 6 team points is much worse. I wish for Daniel Mika he had a better result, but I do believe he will perform better as a result of this match.

Due to various reasons we had to juggle our expected lineup. I was certainly concerned and frustrated before the match. We also brought 2 extra guys just in case they were needed. In the end, neither guy was needed. Nevertheless, I was pleased both Andrew Thomas and Bill Prochniewski were willing to step up if needed. Together we can accomplish more.

We will not compete again until December 21 at the Grapple at the Garden. Guys need to focus on final exams and then focus on getting ready for our two dual meets at Madison Square Garden against Duke and Drexel. It is important they finish well in school. It is also important for them to control the things they can control. Continue to train during finals, work on weaknesses, control their diet… We can get better these next two weeks.

This will be the third time we have competed at the Grapple at the Garden. It will be the first time we have competed at the event without worrying about hustling home because of studies. We will be able to travel with more of the team and my hope is, after we compete, we will have a few hours to sightsee in NYC. We also plan on making our annual stop at Casa Filippo Italian Restaurant in Caldwell, NJ on the way home. The Lavorato’s have been kind enough to invite us back. I am drooling just thinking about the great dinner we will have.

The George Mason Ticket office still has tickets available for the Grapple at the Garden.

The ticket office contact information is:
George Mason Athletic Ticket Office
Field House
4400 University Drive, MS 3A5
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: 703-993-3270
Fax: 703-993-8578
Email: icatix@gmu.edu

More information is available at http://www.gomason.com at the following page: http://www.gomason.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=606332&SPID=80369&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=25200&ATCLID=209748449

Thanksgiving Break

T ’was the week before finals and my hope is all are prepared. The team will have flexible training sessions over the next few weeks. They need to finish well in school. They will train when they can, depending on their studies. We speak frequently about academics. I hope my pleas haven’t fallen on deaf ears. Like most things in life, we will find out soon who has been doing the little things right and who has not. Who has been attending class? Who has been doing the required work? Who has been paying attention? Who has been putting in the work outside the classroom? My hope is the guys finish well.

Since the guys competed at the Navy Classic, we had 2 – 3 day training cycles. I have been pleased with the attitude and effort. I have also enjoyed the response I have seen from the team towards the coaches. The guys are learning and growing. We also let the guys go home for 3 days for Thanksgiving. My hope is the brief time at home helped rejuvenate the team. The guys who did not get to go home did get the chance for a little mental break, which should help them as well.

We hosted a clinic on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to help raise money for the wrestling program. The entire team helped. Although our turnout of participants was small, those that attended received lots of attention. We had about a 1 to 1.5 ratio of staff to participant. I received several good reviews from those in attendance. The participants even had the opportunity to get autographed posters and schedule cards.

After the clinic, we had a public practice. I like having public practices because it naturally raises the level of intensity. When others are watching it is easier to keep your head up on bottom. It is easier to wrestle at a high pace.

We compete this Saturday night December 6 at Franklin and Marshall. I know the guys are anxious to compete after having more than a week off from competition. We did not wrestle as well as we can at the Navy Classic. Guys need to be more aggressive. They need to have a sense of urgency when they compete. As a wrestler, you train numerous hours with little reward. The work is hard and often painful. Guys need to see their time to compete as their time to show off. They need to see it as their opportunity to show others the hard work they have endured. I want them also to be bummed they only get to wrestle for 7 minutes. They train to wrestle many more minutes, but the rules only allow for a 7 minute match. Thus, wrestle aggressively for the limited time allowed. Enjoy the opportunity. Enjoy the fight. Having the right mindset, when competing, makes a substantial difference in the outcome.

After our dual with F&M, we will have individualized training during exams. Guys will come and go as they need. Since we compete on December 21 at the Grapple at the Garden, I know guys will be focused on making right choices. The past two seasons we have gone to the Grapple at the Garden. To a man, the guys have found the trip to be one of their highlights of the year. It is a fun atmosphere for them.

This year we purchased 50 tickets for the event. My hope is we will be able to resale these tickets to George Mason Wrestling fans. It would be great to have our own cheering section in Madison Square Garden. Plus, I need to sale them so I don’t get in too much trouble for spending the money from our budget for the event. If you are interested in sitting in the George Mason section, you can purchase tickets thru the George Mason Athletics Ticket office. You may do so on the phone, in person at the George Mason ticket office, or online.

The ticket office contact information is:
George Mason Athletic Ticket Office
Field House
4400 University Drive, MS 3A5
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: 703-993-3270
Fax: 703-993-8578
Email: icatix@gmu.edu

More information is available at http://www.gomason.com at the following page: http://www.gomason.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=606332&SPID=80369&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=25200&ATCLID=209748449