Last Home Dual of the Season

We lost our dual to American University 7 matches to 3. For the most part, the guys were able to compete well, so there are positives going into the conference. I was pleased to see Ryan Forrest back on the mat with a win. I also was happy Vince Rodriguez and Blake Roulo were able to win their matches on the day they were honored as seniors. Although Greg Flournoy and Luke Ludke lost their matches on their senior day, I was pleased with their effort. Both competed well.

The 5 seniors will be missed. I have been able to coach some of them since their freshman year. It is an honor to be called their coach. All will graduate this May and I expect them to do great things. Greg Flournoy, Konbeh Koroma, Luke Ludke, Vince Rodriguez, and Blake Roulo are going to be great alums for George Mason University. Let’s make sure to help them finish this wrestling season and school year on a positive note.

We will not compete this weekend. Our focus will be on making small adjustments and improvement before the EWL tournament. This is the fun part of the season. I am excited for the 10 guys who will get to compete for a chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Conference allocations will be announced on Thursday. I am hopeful the league gets extra bids for the NCAA tournament.

For those interested in attending the EWL tournament, Lock Haven University is doing a presale for tickets. Buy now and save some money. http://www.golhu.com/news/2016/2/18/WREST_0218164720.aspx?path=wrestling

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LHU and VMI

Last night, we wrestled two duals. First, we wrestled our make-up dual against Lock Haven. We started out great with Ibrahim Bunduka scoring 16 points and securing a major decision. Vince Rodriguez followed with an impressive 5-2 victory over a ranked opponent. The win will surely help Vince’s bid to qualify for the NCAA tournament. I was bummed when Tejon Anthony lost the next bout.Tejon had a bad night. We all have them. I just wished for him it would not come on a crucial night for him and his team. I have confidence Tejon will get back on the right track and be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch. Blake Roulo wrestled very well in the first and second period against a returning All-American. With the score tied in the third, Blake chose down. He was unable to escape and lost by a riding time point. It was a frustrating loss for him and for his team. Blake has shown he can compete with the best, now he needs to find a way to close the deal. Greg Flournoy did a good job in his match. He stayed consistent and won the tough positions. Patrick Davis lost a close bout to a wrestler he split matches with earlier in the season. We needed to win two of the close matches at 141, 149 and 165. Instead we went 0-3. Ryan Forrest was back on the mat at 174 after missing more than two weeks. He was placed in a tough spot, but did well considering how much training and competition he has missed this season. Ryan moves well and knows how to compete. If we can keep him healthy and get him prepared, he can win some matches for himself and his team in March. We lost by tech fall at 184 and 197. I believe both could have done a better job defensively. Matt Voss found a way to score points. He was able to finish the dual by securing a major decision win.

After the dual, I challenged the team to do a better job finishing matches. I encouraged them to try to win the last minute of their match. Too many times this year we have walked away from the mat with lots of would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve statements. We need to earn better answers.Training the way we do as a team, they should have confidence in their ability to function well under duress during the tough times of competition. We need to do a better job of showing the fruits of our labor in competition. I challenged the guys to show their toughness by wrestling a conference dual and then 10 minutes later wrestling the dual against VMI. We wrestled the same 10 guys in both duals.

Once again we were in a tight dual. In the end we split victories 5-5 against VMI. We were able to win due to a major decision win by Luke Ludke. He was able to score in all positions and finished the match by making sure he scored the bonus point that ultimately sealed the deal for his team. I was happy for him and for his team. Ibrahim Bunduka lost a close match but I did like to see him score an escape and a takedown in the third period. His hard work is paying dividends. He needs to continue trusting in what he’s doing. I was pleased to see Vince Rodriguez ride his opponent for the entire third period. He has made great progress with his riding. Being able to ride, changes the complexion of matches and how your opponent wrestles. Now that Vince can ride, he is a more dangerous wrestler. Tejon Anthony lost another frustrating match. I could see he was struggling getting his body to do what he knew it needed to do. Blake Roulo got back on the winning track. He was able to score six points in the first period. I had hoped he would do a better job of building his lead, but nonetheless, he was able to shut down his opponent. Greg Flournoy was able to beat a tough freshman wrestler from VMI. Once again, he did not allow his opponent to score a takedown. He was able to stay in the fight. I liked seeing Greg’s toughness as he was unfazed by the chaos of the match. Patrick Davis lost, but was able to fend off his opponents attempt at scoring a major. Patrick’s third period takedown proved crucial in the dual meet score. Ryan Forrest lost by decision, but his energy level in the last minute of his match was encouraging. He was aggressive and trying to score. Cameron Houston lost in overtime. I was pleased to see him score three points in the last minute of the match to go to overtime. I had hoped he could get in the win column. In the end, the dual came down to the heavy weights. Matt Voss was able to win due to earning a crucial riding time point. It was great seeing the freshman step up again for his team.

Our team this year has been in several duals that turned on bonus points or one situation going for or against us in order to win. Five dual meets this year have finished with both teams winning five matches. Our margin for error in duals is small. My hope is we have learned and will see the importance of each individual in a team event. Thus far, we haven’t had all ten guys wrestling great in a dual meet. We will have one last opportunity on Sunday. Even more important will be getting all ten guys clicking at the conference tournament.

On Sunday, our club will host a youth wrestling tournament in the morning at the RAC. I think it will be a great way to show case our club and college program. I am excited to get the young wrestlers on our campus wrestling in our gym in front of our current team. At 2pm Sunday we will wrestle our final dual meet of the year. We will also honor our senior class at the dual. Help us honor our graduating seniors Greg Flournoy, Konbeh Koroma, Luke Ludke, Vince Rodriguez, and Blake Roulo.

F&M, Bucknell, and Maryland

I knew stringing together lots of competitions at the end of the year could prove to be difficult. When the schedule is made all you have is speculation. My hope was we could stay healthy and engaged. It has proved difficult and our focus and health has been challenged. We went 0-3 on the weekend as a team. I had planned on us doing better. Nevertheless, there is no time to pout or stew. We compete two more times on Thursday and finish our regular season on Sunday at home. On the plus side, we are getting better as a whole and we plan on having most of our eligible wrestlers healthy and ready for the end of the year.

In our first dual of the weekend we lost to Franklin and Marshall College. Although we split matches, F&M did a better job of scoring bonus points. They won by fall at 125 and 149 which gave them more than enough bonus points to win the dual. As we have learned before, every match is important. Each wrestler must try to win, but also try to win by the largest margin possible and if you should be on the losing end of a match you must do your utmost to close the gap as much as possible in the bout. I did not handle the loss well and had to say a few apologies later as a result. It was not a good feeling falling short as a leader of this program.

There were bright spots in the dual. I was pleased to see some guys step up when called upon to fill in for starters. It is important to be prepared so you are ready when called upon. Ryan Renkey is a great example of this. Early in the year we had him wrestle up a weight class, because we needed the depth at 141. He did his job well. Late in the year, we allowed him to move down to 133. He has performed well. The night before our dual it became clear Ryan would need to wrestle for Vince Rodriguez due to illness. Because of his work ethic and discipline he was ready and he picked up the win. Daniel Mika stepped in again for Ryan Forrest and won his bout scoring takedowns in the 1st and 3rd period. Daniel was able to avenge a loss from the previous season. Even though he did not wrestle well, I was pleased with Konbeh Koroma’s dedication to his team. A few weeks ago it was decided Konbeh would no longer be starting for the team. As a 5th year senior, who works very hard, it was a tough situation not only for him but for others. I told Konbeh to no longer worry about making weight and to assist the team as a training partner and mentor. I told him he would not wrestle unless it was an emergency. Well, late Friday evening, I received a phone call I was not expecting saying Blake Roulo probably wouldn’t be able to wrestle on Saturday. I called Konbeh in a panic and said, “is there any way you can make weight in the morning?” His response was he would try his best. He literally ran for most of the night. My guess is he can now say he has run more than a marathon on a treadmill. Konbeh made weight for his team so we would be able to field a full line up. I tip my hat to him for making the weight and trying to help his team. When we lost Matt Meadows to a season ending injury, Cameron Houston was thrust into the lineup. He has served as the starter for the season at 197. I love his attitude. He is a great example to his teammates because he stepped up when called upon and he continues to work diligently to improve. There was lots of pressure on him during the dual as we needed him to win for the team to win. He did not win, but he did give his team great effort.

Freshman Tejon Anthony continues to impress. He lost a one point match to a 5th year senior who is a returning All-American. Greg Flournoy wrestled a near perfect match winning 16-0. I also enjoyed seeing Matt Voss work himself out of a jam to win in overtime in the last bout of the dual. Although Patrick Davis struggled to score bonus points for his team, he was able to get an individual win for the team. There were bright spots despite the disappointing team loss.

In our second dual of the day, we lost 7 matches to 2 and received one forfeit win. We did wrestle with more fight against Bucknell than we did in our dual against them last year. Nevertheless, they were still much better than us. Greg Flournoy had a workman like win. I enjoy watching him compete. His wrestling IQ is high and he is willing to work hard to win. Ryan Renkey also won his bout 19-18. It was an exciting match. Ryan’s hard work in the wrestling room paid off again as he was able to battle back from a deficit to win.

On Sunday we traveled to Maryland. We took part in their Beauty and the Beast promotion where the wrestling and gymnastics teams competed side by side. I was happy we were able to be part of the event. Having the guys compete in a big arena with more than 2,000 fans in attendance will help them be better prepared for the NCAA Tournament. Maryland beat us 8 matches to 2. We did not get the wins I was hoping to get but our performance was positive from an effort stand point. We were able to push the pace in matches and I left feeling good about our ability to wrestle hard. Greg Flournoy lost on a last second takedown to his opponent which was frustrating. Greg did wrestle his opponent better than he did the last time they met. We also lost 2 overtime bouts. Daniel Mika and Matt Voss both were close to winning their bouts only to feel the sting of losing in the sudden victory portion of overtime. We need to find a way to win those close matches. Our two wins came in the first and last matches contested. Blake Roulo was able to pick up 6 team points by winning his bout by disqualification. Early in the bout, Blake’s opponent hurt his ankle and as a result Blake was able to control every position. In the final bout of the dual, Tejon Anthony was able to beat a fellow Maryland high school wrestler. It was a good win for Tejon. It was a good gauge for him to see how much he has improved in the past year and a half.

The good thing about our schedule is we have no time to dwell on this past weekend’s losses. We have to quickly get back up, brush ourselves off, learn as much as we can and get ready to put ourselves back in the ring in a few days. On Thursday at 530pm we host Lock Haven University at the RAC. This will be our last conference dual of the year. We are currently 2-3 in our conference duals. 10 minutes after we finish the conference dual, we will wrestle the Virginia Military Institute. This dual is part of our athletic department game of the week promotion. We hope to get lots of students in the stands when we wrestle VMI.

On Sunday, our club will host a youth wrestling tournament in the morning followed by our final dual meet of the year. For more information about the youth tournament go to: http://www.patriotpummel.com. At 2pm, we will host American University. This dual will also be our chance to honor our senior class.

First Week of February

February can be a tough month for college wrestlers. The season is almost over; the matches seem to have a greater impact on what will happen in March, the body and mind can be worn down. We have made this February even tougher for our team as we are competing at least twice per week. My hope is the extra training we did this fall has helped build up their minds and bodies. I also hope they look forward to the multiple competitions. They have the opportunity to show off all of the hard work they have put in during their preparation phase. They have the opportunity to compete as opposed to practice. They have the opportunity to help their bid to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. It is a tough month, but one where they can make some big gains as people and wrestlers.

This past week we competed on Sunday at Rider University. On Wednesday we were on the road again competing at the United States Naval Academy. We lost 6 matches to 4. I felt going to the Naval Academy was a good day for our program. The value system of the Academy is similar to the value system of our program. Lots of the principles taught in our MasonWay are the same as taught at the USNA. Part of the MasonWay document is things I have directly taken from the Head Coach of the Naval Academy. I also liked the way the Naval Academy wrestlers carried themselves on the mat. We need to emulate their style more in our wrestling. They showed great hustle and belief in their system. It was a good learning experience for our team. By using hustle and belief, I felt a few matches went the way of our competition. We can and need to improve in this area. All 4 of the matches we won were by bonus points. Tejon Anthony, Greg Flournoy, and Ibrahim Bunduka all won by major decisions. IB’s win was impressive. He had lost by a technical fall to the same opponent in November. In a little over 2 months, there was a 24 point difference between their first bout and the second. It was an impressive turn around. I was also impressed with Matt Voss getting a victory by fall. When he caught his opponent on his back, I did not think he was in a position to finish. I was wrong. Matt was focused and determined to secure the pin.

On Saturday we hosted Bloomsburg University. The last time we wrestled them at the RAC, they shut us out. We did much better this time. We won 7 of the 8 matches contested. We also received 2 forfeits. Bloomsburg is having a down year, but I am confident they will be back in the mix very soon. Sometimes to build program, you need to be patient to get the right foundation. I believe their coach is looking at long term growth over short term success. He did not like forfeiting, but also believed it best to build for the future. We appreciate Bloomsburg coming to our campus to compete with us.

Earlier in the week, Bloomsburg had planned on forfeiting to us at 141. I had Tejon Anthony train differently as a result. Shortly before weigh ins we were informed Bloomsburg had decided not to forfeit the match but instead would contest the bout with one of their wrestlers moving up in weight class. As soon as I learned of the change, I let Tejon know. Tejon was certainly tested mentally and physically as a result of the last minute change. He handled the adversity well. He was focused and scored lots of points individually and for his team. It was good to see him rise to the occasion yet again.

We did receive forfeits at 125 and 149. As soon as weigh ins were over and we knew they would not compete, Ibrahim Bunduka and Blake Roulo both did a hard training session. Both said they wished they had wrestled instead. As a coach I was pleased to see them push themselves so hard and to see them wanting to compete.

Greg Flournoy and Vince Rodriguez both won tough matches. I was very pleased to see them raise their level in the 3rd period. It seemed that both knew what they needed to do to win the 3rd period and the match. Both being 5th year seniors and 4 year starters, I could see their experience shine in the tough part of the bout. They had been in similar situations in the past and knew how to handle the mental and physical implications.

Cameron Houston lost his bout at 197. As a true freshman, who we had planned on red shirting, Cameron has been thrown to the fire. He has struggled. My hope is he continues to learn. Sometimes we learn what not to do. It is a hard way to learn, but it can lead to success in the long run. If Cameron continues to learn and believes in himself, he has a huge upside. He can grow by leaps and bounds from competing as a true freshman.

Patrick Davis pinned his opponent in the first period. He was aggressive on top and was able to complete a cross-face cradle for the pin. I liked his aggressiveness. Matt Voss scored 2 takedowns to secure the win in his bout. He is doing a good job and continues to learn and improve. Luke Ludke showed great hustle toward the end of his bout. He had some good scrambles and showed extra effort in the 3rd period. I believe this helped him score the defensive takedown in overtime. His attitude and effort were positives for him. Daniel Mika won his first match of the year as he filled in for Ryan Forrest. He was able to secure an offensive takedown and get back points. I was happy he was able to find a way to win.

While we were competing at home, three of our wrestlers competed at the Messiah Open. Ryan Renkey, competing at 133 for the first time this season, finished the day in 5th place with a 3-2 record. Sahid Kargbo finished the day with a 4-0 record and the championship at 149lbs. Both of these guys will be seniors next year. Our future looks bright due in part to these soon to be seniors.

We will compete at home again this coming Saturday. We host Franklin and Marshall College at 1pm and then we host Bucknell University at 3pm. Our team will be tested. We will see several nationally ranked competitors. February is a tough month, but with the right attitude and effort it can be a great month.

On Valentine’s Day, we will be on the road at the University of Maryland. We will compete at their Beauty and the Beast event. Our 2pm dual will take place alongside the University of Maryland Women Gymnastics competition against Rutgers University. It should be a fun environment for our guys to compete in and it should help our preparation for the NCAA tournament.

End of January

End of January has been busy. We were hit with a historic snow storm in Northern Virginia. As a result we had to postpone our home dual meet with Lock Haven University. We will make up the dual on February 18, 2016 at 530pm. We will wrestle our dual against VMI 10 minutes after our dual against Lock Haven ends. It should be a good challenge for the team.

Sahid Kargbo was able to compete at the Dave Schultz Memorial Tournament on Thursday, January 28. He finished 2-2 on the day. Although he was disappointed in his results, he represented himself and the program well. In one of his bouts he wrestled a fellow GMU Alum – Jake Bohn. Sahid will have one more opportunity to qualify for the final Olympic Trials. He will compete in the last chance qualifier on April 1 in Cedar Falls, IA. I have no doubt Sahid can compete with anyone in the country. He will continue to prepare for the next challenge.

On Friday evening the team traveled to Connecticut for a dual against Sacred Heart University. For a bunch of guys cutting weight, they did a good job of entertaining each other on the bus. It was fun listening to the banter. I only hope the bus driver did not get a headache. We arrived at our hotel well after midnight.

We wrestled Sacred Heart University on Saturday night. We won 6 matches to 4. I was pleased to see Blake Roulo and Patrick Davis get pins. It was a good spark for our team and great for our Mason Pinner’s Club. I also enjoyed watching Vince Rodriguez work hard to get a technical fall. After the dual, we drove to New Jersey. It was another late night.

We were able to weigh in early in the day on Sunday, because Rider University had a noon dual at the University of Pennsylvania. Luckily, we found a good Sunday Brunch for the guys to bulk up after making weight. The waiter laughed at the lack of conversation going on at the tables. He said all he could hear was the clanking of silver ware on the plates. He was also amazed at the amount of times he had to refill emptied glasses of water. I believe the meal was well received by the team.

We lost to Rider University 9 matches to 1. They have a good team with several talented individuals. We had opportunities to win more matches but fell short. The dual meet started at 157. Due to NCAA date limits, Greg Flournoy did not compete. Since Greg went to Midlands, which is a 2 day tournament, I had to hold him out of one date. We chose the Rider dual, because he has already wrestled the Rider starter twice and the match would not have much bearing on conference seeding. Konbeh Koroma wrestled up a weight class to fill in for Greg. 7 of the 9 losses were by decision; 2 were overtime losses (Ryan Forrest and Matt Voss); Blake Roulo lost 4-3 to a returning All-American and Vince Rodriguez scored the winning takedown in his bout only to have the referee change his mind after a 1 count near fall call as well. He decided to waive off the takedown. I asked for a video review and was confident Vince would get the 2 points back on the board. He did not.

Ibrahim Bunduka was able to find a way to win. He wrestled a great pace and stayed in good position. Late in the 3rd period he was able to score a takedown to seal the win. IB was a great example for his teammates on how to stay focused and relentless during a 7 minute match.

Despite the lopsided loss, I was pleased with the effort of our team. The guys pushed the pace in their bouts. It was a pleasure to watch the team compete with greater tenacity. In regard to effort, it was one of our best performances of the season. We can certainly build on the performance. If the guys continue to raise their effort level and find ways to win the tough situations, we will be able to finish the season well.

On the way home, some guys played the Mafia game while others watched an episode of Band of Brothers on DVD. My guess is I was about the only one watching the Band of Brothers episode as it repeated itself three times before I asked the bus driver to turn it off. I believe the bus driver was ready for it to end as well as he could not see but could hear the episode. He said “it sure seemed like they were having trouble taking Carentan.” Maybe the guys not playing the game were sleeping?

We have a busy week ahead. On Wednesday night we will wrestle at the United States Naval Academy. It should be a fun atmosphere.Then on Saturday, we host Bloomsburg in a EWL conference dual. We hope to have lots of fans in the stands. Prior to the Dual, the Patriot Club is hosting a social at 1PM in the RAC. If you are interested in coming please RSVP to LeeAnn Bushar. She may be reached on the telephone at 703.993.4147 or via email at lbushar@gmu.edu. She needs a head count of those planning to attend by Wednesday.The dual meet is scheduled to begin at 2pm on Saturday.Seems to me, it would be a good dual meet to attend.You will get free food, drink and conversation before the dual, followed by a free opportunity to watch Division 1 wrestling. Pretty hard to beat the price. Details below:

Join the Patriot Club at the RAC for a
pre-match reception and afternoon of wrestling!

Saturday, February 6, 2016
Recreation & Athletic Complex (RAC)
George Mason University, Fairfax Campus

1:00 p.m.—Patriot Club Pre-Match Reception
Multi-purpose room, located on the second level of the RAC

2:00 p.m. — Mason vs. Bloomsburg

Join the Patriot Club for food and refreshments
before the match. Head Coach Joe Russell will
preview the match and discuss the season.

RSVP to LeeAnn Bushar at 703-993-4147 or lbushar@gmu.edu
by Wednesday, February 3, 2016.