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.