2015 Grapple at the Garden

The Grapple at the Garden was a scary day for the program and my tenure as the head coach. I don’t think anyone expects us to beat a top 10 ranked team, but they do expect us to give our best effort. Today we lacked confidence. Today we put our head down and conceded the fight. It is unacceptable to have the attitude and effort we had today from some of our leaders. As the head coach of this program for 4 years, I should have eliminated what happened today. I was surprised to learn, I have not. The MasonWay in no way reflects what we saw on display in Madison Square Garden.

Wrestling is a tough sport. You step on the mat alone and your skills are on display – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Similarly, coaching is a public way to make a living. Your successes and failures are broadcast for the world to see. I learned today I am not getting the job done. Not a good day for job security and for building a program.

There are standards in place for a reason. Guys have an obligation to themselves, their teammates, and their wrestling program. It is important we hold each other accountable. Our success depends on guys having the correct attitude and giving their best effort.

It is important the guys are ready to go before they compete. We need to do a better job of making sure they are physically and mentally prepared. Whether a different warm up is required or better self-talk we need to find the optimal level for each individual. Some guys need to get their heart rate up more before they compete, others need to stay more relaxed. We need to help the wrestler find what works best for them.

We lost all 10 matches to Rutgers and gave up 17 team bonus points. We went 5-5 against Pitt-Johnstown but lost because of team bonus points. Pitt-Johnstown had 6. We earned 4.

We have purposely had a light competition schedule during fall semester. I had hoped the added training would benefit us. In the short term, I think not. In the long run, we will see. I believe in the system. I believe in the plan. I beg the guys to buy in 100%. I implore them to buy in with their decisions day in day out. The MasonWay done right will produce champions. Doing only part of the MasonWay leads to tough days like today.

We don’t compete next week. I think it will help the team finish well in their fall semester classes. At least that is part of the plan with back loading our season to spring semester. I also believe it will give us time to eliminate mistakes made. Lifestyle is important as is our preparation. If we do things right, we will start our conference season out with a bang on December 13. On that date, we will compete at home in the RAC for the first time this season. We wrestle Clarion at noon and Grand Canyon at 3pm.


2015 Navy Classic

Some initial thoughts after the Navy Classic…We have a good team with guys that can compete with the best college wrestling has to offer. One of my team goals is to give everyone the opportunity to compete. Yesterday we had 18 guys compete at the Navy Classic. I was pleased so many had the opportunity to wear a George Mason singlet. I was reminded of how little things make a difference in college wrestling. The margin for error is small. I was pleased to see some guys do the little things right in order to win. I was disappointed to see some guys learn the hard way. Wrestling is such a great teacher for life.

Vince Rodriguez has prepared well since his season ended last March. His mindset is great. He is excited to compete and believes he can compete. His opening bout was against the #20 ranked wrestler in the country. Vince won by scoring two takedowns while allowing only escape points from his opponent. Vince won his next two matches to make the finals. He lost in the finals 6-3 to the #14 ranked wrestler. Even in the loss, I was pleased to see Vince’s fight. He made some technical errors on his feet and did not move enough on bottom. Nevertheless, he finished the bout by scoring a reversal which showed his willingness to compete for 7 minutes. Next week, Vince will have another opportunity to wrestle a ranked wrestler when we dual Rutgers University.

Greg Flournoy is a guy who believes in his preparation and who is willing to give his best effort when he competes. When you put those two things together, you are dangerous. Greg won his first two bouts before falling to the #2 ranked wrestler in the semi-finals. I was pleased watching how he learned adapted and improved even during the heat of competition. This is a difficult skill for most. As I have said before, Greg has a high wrestling IQ. He has great ability. I am pleased his ability and belief are coming together. A wrestler’s fortitude is often on display in the wrestle back rounds. Greg showed his mettle with wins in the consolation semifinal and third place matches. He was aggressive and wrestled a hard pace to secure victories. For third place he beat the #13 ranked wrestler. It is a safe bet that Greg opened the eyes of others at the event.

Freshman Tejon Anthony place third in his weight class as well. I, for one, was impressed by his composure and ability to win the tough situations. He finished the day with five wins. He scored two bonus points for his team as well as won an overtime bout by riding his opponent and won a match due to having a point for riding his opponent for more than 1 minute. He eclipsed the one minute riding time threshold by a few seconds. Every second matters as was evidenced by this win. I am excited to see Tejon grow as a wrestler. He has a bright future.

Freshman Matt Voss finished fourth place at Heavy Weight. He finished the day with a 3-2 record. I enjoy watching Matt compete. He wrestles a great pace. In his first round bout, he got in a tough scramble in overtime. He worked hard to keep from giving up a score. Immediately after the crazy scramble, he attacked his opponent. I do not believe his opponent was ready for the attack, because most guys would have taken a few breaths to recover. Matt did not and it paid off. He also won his consolation semifinal bout by a pin which is crucial in team scored events.

Although no one else placed, I was pleased seven other guys won matches (Ibrahim Bunduka, Bill Prochniewski, Cameron O’Connor, Ryan Renkey, Konbeh Koroma, Ryan Forrest, and Gary Milltenberger). Ibrahim finished with two wins, while Ryan Forrest had three. I believe we had 4 guys win matches by pinning their opponents (Voss, O’Connor, Koroma, and Flournoy).

After the meet, I challenged the guys to do some self-review. They are in a race. If they learn more than their opponents due to the competition, than they have gained ground. All of us had to learn the hard way, because all suffered a loss. Nevertheless, in the long run, the loss can serve as a better teacher. 0-2 today is not the end of the season. It can be used to make more gains than if no loss was suffered.

My brother often talks about the two questions a wrestler needs to ask before they compete. If you can answer the questions correctly, you have already won. Have you given 100% in your preparation? Are you willing to give 100% until the final whistle blows? I believe if you can answer those two questions with a yes answer, you will be tough to beat on the scoreboard. You will have won the more important battle within. Some fell short of answering the two questions correctly on Saturday. They need to do their utmost to be able to answer those questions correctly the next time they step on the mat.

Little things in a match make a difference in a win or a loss. Riding a guy instead of letting him go, wins matches. Scoring at the end of a period makes a difference. Wrestling as hard as you can between every whistle, gives you a chance to win. Thinking positive thoughts during a match can turn the tide in your favor. Letting your body flow to do what you have trained it to do leads to positive results. Embracing the fight instead of fearing it gives you power to win. Staying in bounds as opposed to stepping out often is the better decision.

The week ahead will be interesting. I am curious to see how guys react to the results of the Navy Classic. We will train very hard on Monday and Tuesday, before giving the guys a couple of days to recover and enjoy some time of Thanksgiving. We will be back together as a team on Friday. We will then travel to New York to compete in two duals at the Grapple at the Garden. This will be an exciting event for us. We will face a highly ranked team in Rutgers. Our guys have the opportunity as a team to do good things as well as individually. Winning a key individual bout could ultimately send a wrestler back to New York in March for the NCAA tournament. We also get the opportunity to wrestle division 2 Pitt-Johnstown which will give us a chance to see opponents we probably won’t face again this year. Pitt-Johnstown is a great program with great tradition; it will be honor to compete against them in Madison Square Garden.

Please note we could really use your support in New York. Having Mason fans in the stands makes a difference. If you would like to buy tickets in the GMU section, you can contact the GMU ticket office at:
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


If you can’t make a decision until after Thanksgiving, contact me directly for leftover tickets in the GMU fan section of Madison Square Garden.

East Stroudsburg Open

We had three guys compete unattached in the East Stroudsburg Open on Sunday. All of them won matches. Ryan Renkey finished 1-2, Gary Miltenberger finished 2-2 (including two wins by pin) and Bill Prochniewski finished 4th in his weight class with a 3-2 record. My hope is all three of them got better as a result of the competition.

The rest of the team was able to put in a six day training cycle. The guys wrestled long goes, short goes and spent lots of time working on technique. I am sure the sessions wore on them mentally. Nevertheless, hopefully the training cycle made them better prepared and excited to compete.

We will open our season on Saturday at the Navy Classic. Last year, the tournament was a tough test for our guys. I believe the guys are prepared for the challenge ahead of them.

This weekend was great for college wrestling. Some highlights were: the East Stroudsburg Open celebrated its 49th year; several teams competed in a packed arena for the Northeast Duals; Virginia Tech set a home attendance record for their dual versus Penn State; and college wrestling has a new attendance record as Oklahoma State and Iowa wrestled in front of more than 42,000 fans. College wrestling put out a message of growth and strength this weekend. I am proud George Mason University offers college wrestling. George Mason University wrestling is stronger today because of the successes of our counterparts. The bar has been raised. We need to raise our level as well.

4 Tournaments

We had several guys choose to wrestle unattached this past weekend at 4 different tournaments. It is common for college wrestlers to attend open tournaments. As long as they do so on their own it is allowed per NCAA rules. I was pleased so many guys chose to take advantage of the opportunities to test their skills in competition.

On Friday, I was able to watch Sahid Kargbo compete at the NYAC International Tournament. This tournament is a qualifier for the Olympic trials. Sahid competed in the Greco-Roman competition. He finished 2-2 and learned that he is truly in the mix to make the Olympic team. He lost by decision to the USA representative at the last Olympic Games and to the #2 ranked USA wrestler in his weight class. His last loss was determined by a few calls by the official that I did not agree with and I did not respond in a manner I would have liked. I need to be thankful for the willingness of the official to help provide an opportunity for the athletes to compete.

On Saturday, we had two freshmen compete unattached at the Virginia Beach Nationals. Logan Harvich and Nevin O’Brien both won the tournament. Both won by fall in the finals. Nevin won 4 matches all by fall. It was a great start for them as college wrestlers.

On Saturday, we had a car full of guys compete at the Pembroke Classic Tournament. Once again, we had a true freshman win the tournament. Matt Raines was able to score the winning takedown in his finals bout with a few ticks left on the clock. Matt won 5 matches on the day. Ibrahim Bunduka lost his opening bout and stormed back to win 6 straight bouts (including a win over the guy he had lost to in his first match) to place 3rd. Luke Ludke finished the day with a 4-2 record and 5th place finish overall. Finally, Austin Harrison and Brenden May both won matches, but did not place.

On Sunday, we had other guys enter the Hokie Open and wrestle unattached. In the Freshman/Sophomore division, Matt Voss placed 5th (3-1 record including 2 pins) and Cameron Houston placed 4th. Konbeh Koroma won the 149lb open division. He was 5-0 on the day with all of his wins coming over other NCAA D1 competitors (Columbia, ODU, Stanford and 2 guys from West Virginia). There was lots of chatter about Konbeh’s performance. He impressed lots of people.

I followed all of the Open tournaments via web sites, texts and phone calls. It was tough not being able to cheer the guys as they competed, but it was great to be able to follow the matches in real time. Back in the day, I would hope to get results the following day or via Amateur Wrestling News about a month after the fact. I enjoyed technology advances this past weekend.

We are less than 2 weeks away from our official opener at the Navy Classic. This weekend a few guys have chosen to compete in an Open, while most guys will stay home to prepare for the season opener. It is an exciting time of the year.