Lock Haven, Rider and UNC

We had three duals this past weekend. On Friday night we wrestled at Lock Haven University and then on Sunday we were at home against Rider University and the University of North Carolina. We lost all three of the duals. It was a tough weekend.

On Friday night, Ibrahim Bunduka (IB) was wrestling well, but was injured during his match. It looked bad and I was fearful it would be a season ending injury. After an exam from our Athletic Trainer and two doctors, we are hopeful IB will be back before the end of the year. He is an important part of our team. I like having IB lead off our team.

At this point, we do not have anyone to replace IB, so we had to forfeit the weight class on Sunday. I hate forfeiting. I do not think it looks good for our program or for wrestling. I agree with premise of Wade Schalles’ recent writing about forfeits on his website http://www.wadeschalles.com. My hope is IB will be back soon, so we don’t have to forfeit the weight class for too many more duals.

Some highlights from the weekend were individual wins by Jake Kettler, Ryan Hembury, Ryan Forrest and Greg Flournoy. Jake Kettler finished the weekend 3-0. Jake is currently ranked #25 in the coaches’poll. Greg Flournoy also went 3-0. One of his wins was against the #14 ranked wrestler in the coaches’ poll this weekend. Greg has now beaten 3 wrestlers ranked in the coaches’ poll. We also had one of our redshirt wrestlers win an Open tournament on Saturday as Cameron O’Connor won his bracket at the Ferrum College Open.

We have several guys who are competing well with ranked wrestlers. My hope is they will find a way to break thru and defeat a ranked wrestler. I believe, once they find a way to win, it will open up the flood gates. I know they can do it. My belief has not wavered. I have been perplexed it has yet to happen for some of them. I know the other coaches believe they can win, because we see them working to become better competitors. I know our competition knows they can win, because they have told me so and I also see their apprehension during the competition. I know my 4 year old son believes they can win because he pretends to be some of my wrestlers when he plays wrestling at home. They always win.

Some of the wrestlers will have another opportunity to show off the hard work they have been putting in on Saturday night at 7pm at the RAC as we host Edinboro University. I am excited for fans to watch us compete against Edinboro. Last season Edinboro finished 5th at the NCAA tournament. They return all of their key point getters from the 2014 NCAA Tournament. We will certainly be tested and fans will have the opportunity to watch some of the best college wrestlers in the country compete in our home gym.

Before our dual meet, the Patriot Club is hosting a reception. If you are interested in attending the free reception please RSVP to LeeAnn Bushar at 703-993-4147 or lbushar@gmu.edu by Wednesday, January 28. We plan on honoring alumni at the reception. I am hopeful some of the guys from the 1995 undefeated CAA Championship team can make it so we can honor them on the 20 year anniversary of their accomplishment. It has also been 20 years since Matt Finacchio became Mason’s last All-American. My hope, and I am sure Matt’s hope, is that we can add new names to the list of All-Americans from George Mason University this March.

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Bucknell, Sacred Heart, Clarion

The George Mason Wrestling team is much improved this year. We have a great group of guys working hard to improve and represent the University in a positive light. Although we all make mistakes, we are all on board at trying to make less of them and to learn from the mistakes we make. One of our team rules is “Don’t think about mistakes more than a few seconds. We must learn from our mistakes. 1. Admit it. 2. Fix it. 3. Forget it and don’t repeat it.”

In our competition Saturday against Bucknell University and Sacred Heart University, we made lots of mistakes. It was a tough day for everyone on the team. Bucknell did a great job of believing they would win the tough situations against us. We did not do much to prove them wrong. In 9 of the 10 matches, Bucknell scored last. We lost 3 overtime matches and a few more in the closing seconds of the bouts. Frankly, I was embarrassed. I was surprised Bucknell was able to impose their will on us when the critical situations occurred – Kudos to them and shame on us. I know how hard we train and the character of guys on the team. We have much more fight in us than we showed. We wrestled Sacred Heart 10 minutes after we lost to Bucknell. The guys were able to rebound with a team victory, but we were still struggling mentally from the first match of the day.

Some of the highlights from the Bucknell and Sacred Heart duals were: Ryan Forrest pinning his Bucknell opponent, Jake Kettler pinning his opponent from Sacred Heart; Vince Rodriguez winning by a technical fall against Sacred Heart; Sahid Kargbo, Greg Flournoy, Ryan Hembury and Matt Meadows all won by decisions against Sacred Heart.

The beauty of the bad day on Saturday is we did not have time to dwell on it. We had to compete the following day at Clarion University. We talked on Saturday night about the opportunity the guys had to move forward and they could take advantage of the opportunity to compete the next day. They could show their true toughness by making weight and competing in back to back days. They could use Saturday as an advantage as opposed to a disadvantage.

The guys rose to the occasion. They wrestled with greater determination. It was exciting to see things from practice being implemented in competition. Guys were trying to score points. Guys were attacking in all positions (feet, top, and bottom) in every period of their matches.

Ibrahim Bunduka rode his opponent for the entire 2nd period. Then in the 3rd period he was able to add an escape and take down to secure the win. Vince Rodriguez won by forfeit. Sahid Kargbo and Greg Flournoy won by major decisions. Both secured the major decisions with scores in the 3rd period. I loved watching them work hard to secure the team a bonus point.

Konbeh Koroma won his bout in a more dramatic way. He was close to scoring several times during the bout but was behind 3-1 in the 3rd period. Near the end of the bout, it appeared as though he scored again, but the referee signaled no take down. I decided to ask for a video review of the no take down call. I haven’t done it to many times so I was awkward in asking for the review. I asked the official if it was something that could be reviewed. He said it was. I said I was unsure how to do it. He put me at ease when he said he had yet to do it himself. He told me to waive the red flag to make it official. I waived the flag and heard laughter and jeers from the crowd. Thankfully after looking at the video the official reversed his call and awarded Konbeh the take down. In overtime, Konbeh scored another take down to win in sudden victory. I was happy Konbeh’s effort was rewarded with getting his hand raised.

At halftime of the dual we were ahead 20-0. Patrick Davis one upped his teammates by getting a pin shortly after the intermission. He used a technique the team had practiced a few hours before the start of the dual.

We lost our next 3 matches, but I was pleased to see the guys fighting throughout their matches. I liked the fact they were trying to score points and find a way to win. If we give our best effort and have a great attitude in our preparation and competition, we can walk off the mat with honor. The performance is more important than the result.

Jake Kettler finished off the dual with a victory and with several attempts to secure bonus points for his team. I was pleased with the team’s effort. I was pleased to see them rally and respond well when they faced adversity.

January and February can be tough months in college wrestling – lots of high pressure matches, lots of weigh ins, lots of travel. We will need to be persistent and determined. We need to be consistent in our lifestyle, training and competitions as we finish up our dual meet season. We have many opportunities in the horizon.

This coming week we travel to Lock Haven University for a conference dual on Friday night. Then, on Sunday, we are at home where we will face another conference opponent, Rider University, at 1pm followed by a non-conference dual against the University of North Carolina at approximately 430pm. Hope to see you at the RAC.

Reminder to all alumni, we are having an alumni reunion on Saturday, January 31 before our dual against Edinboro University. Please RSVP to the Patriot Club at 703-993-4147 or lbushar@gmu.edu.

Cleveland State University

We won our 5th dual of the year on Saturday by winning 6 of the 10 matches against Cleveland State. In the 4 matches we lost, we did not give up any bonus points. Patrick Davis scored the only bonus point of the dual by winning by a major decision. Getting and not giving up bonus points are important in team competitions.

Vince Rodriguez did a great job getting the fans out of their seats and firing up his teammates by scoring a takedown and near fall with a few seconds left in his bout to win. Vince had lost to the Cleveland State wrestler on two previous occasions. I was pleased he found a way to win.

Sahid Kargbo and Konbeh Koroma followed Vince’s lead and won their respective matches. Both were able to put their opponents on their back as well. I was pleased we scored back points in 5 bouts. Guys took risks to score back points. Now we need to learn to finish with a fall instead of settling for the near fall.

Patrick Davis nearly pinned his opponent with a cradle and racked up 18 points. Ryan Forrest moved up a weight class and secured a 7-4 decision. I was pleased with his fight in the match. He did a good job of working for 7 minutes.

We have emphasized the importance of riding to our team. Matt Meadows won his bout 2-1 by picking up a riding time point in the 3rd period. Some of our wins weren’t pretty, but I was pleased guys found a way to win.

For highlights of the match go to: http://www.gomason.com/mediaPortal/player.dbml?id=3655309

At half-time, we honored our 3 scholarship endowment donors – The Frogale Family, Dan and Patty Wotring and the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club. We are fortunate to have them on our side.

On Sunday morning, we met bright and early as a team to do some volunteer work at the Central Union Mission in DC. We worked at their Men’s shelter. I think they appreciated having over 30 volunteers to do some of their grunt work. My hope is it was a positive experience for our team as well.

We are participating in the Best of Brand competition this week. We posted a video on our twitter account. If you tweet, please retweet it. The team with the most retweets will win. @gmuwrestling #BestofBrandThrowdown. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsynvhWu2wY.

We will be on the road this upcoming weekend as we face Bucknell, Sacred Heart and Clarion.

Southern Scuffle

I was excited for the guys to compete at the Southern Scuffle. It is a tough two day tournament with over 30 NCAA Division 1 teams. Many weight classes are loaded with ranked wrestlers. It is a fun atmosphere for them to compete – big arena with thousands of spectators.

Being a post-Christmas tournament, making weight is usually a difficult task. We brought 15 wrestlers who all made weight. We spent New Year’s Eve on a bus and guys worked hard cutting weight for the New Year’s Day competition.

Overall, we did not perform well at the competition. I am unsure why, but I am sure the travel, weight cut, stress of high level competition, played a factor for some. We had 11 guys go 0-2. It was frustrating to watch the losses pile up. We lost 10 matches by 2 points or less. My big concern is that the guy’s will accept losing as what they deserve. I don’t want it to be acceptable to them. I don’t want it to be contagious. They are better than they showed. They work way too hard to not give their best effort in competition. Many of them can be competitive at this tournament. It was a frustrating day. I implore them to learn from the competition. I want them to grow as a result of competing at the Southern Scuffle.

We did have 4 guys win matches. Zach Isenhour finished 1-2. Konbeh Koroma went 2-2. Greg Flournoy finished 3-2. Jake Kettler finished 5-3. Jake had 2 pins, including a pin over a ranked opponent. Jake finished in 8th place.

We departed the arena around 9:30pm on January 2nd. Fortunately, we were on a nice bus, so we were able to relax on the 9+ hour ride home. We played a few games of Mafia and watched some movies. I am unsure how many movies, because I slept for quite a while.

On January 10 at 1pm we host Cleveland State University in our first conference dual of the season. The guys are training hard to prepare for the dual. I hope to see you at the RAC on Saturday.

We are going to honor Gene Frogale, the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club and Dan and Patty Wotring during half-time of the dual. Because of them, we have 3 named scholarships for wrestling student-athletes at George Mason University.