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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