2016 NCAA tournament

Greg Flournoy represented George Mason University at the 2016 NCAA Championships. As he has done repeatedly in his career, he represented himself, team, program and institution well. Greg finished with a 1-2 record. In each of his matches, I was pleased with his attitude and effort. He made a couple of mistakes in each of his matches. Because the margin for error is so small at the NCAA level, he was only able to overcome the mistakes in one of his bouts.

He opened up the tournament against a familiar foe, Chad Walsh from Rider. He lost by a major decision, but the match was much closer than the score. He gave up a take down late in the first period and then gave up 6 points when holding onto his opponent’s leg late in the match trying to get a stalemate restart.

In his first wrestle back bout, Greg fell behind 6-0. He gave up a take down while aggressively going after a cradle in the first period. Later in the period he gave up a 4 point near fall. At the start of the second period, his opponent chose bottom. Greg was able to lock up a cradle and get a 4 point near fall. Knowing his opponent was good on top, Greg chose neutral in the third. The strategy paid off as Greg was able to take down his opponent and then ride him out for the 7-6 victory. I was especially pleased with his composure. Greg battled back and showed great heart to secure the win.

In his final bout, Greg was unable to stop his opponents go to move on two occasions. Greg knew it was coming (he was prepared), but was unable to counter his under hook to a single. Greg did a good job of battling back. He scored a take down in the third period to get the score to 4-5. Greg let his opponent go in an attempt to secure the tying take down, but he could not convert it.

I will certainly miss watching Greg compete in a George Mason singlet. He has great wrestling skills and wrestles a hard pace. It is fun listening to other wrestling coaches and fans comment about how they are impressed with the effort they see from the GMU 157lber. Although I should probably give Greg a little time off, I have already bugged him about continuing to compete for the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club in Freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Now that the season is over, it is time for some self-review. I will be reflecting on where we are at and what we need to do to continue moving forward. I did learn from watching the NCAA tournament and with talking to others, we are a long way off from where we need to be. I do believe we are closer, but it is going to take extraordinary effort to close the gap.

At our team strength training practice this morning (yes the guys are already training for next season); I spoke to the guys about the need to work hard at closing the gap. I spoke to them about doing it the old fashioned way by trying to outwork others and by doing the little things right. Attention to detail and being consistent will assist us in closing the gap. Without getting lucky, I can’t think of a better way of increasing our odds of success.

I also told the team a few stories of why I believe a wrestler led team would help us move faster in the right direction as opposed to a coach led team. I do believe I can give them the answers to the test of what it takes to be great in this sport, but it is still up to them to get it done. I think peers pushing peers often leads to greater success than it always coming from a coach. Our team needs to do a better job of raising the bar for each other. They know more about what is going on within the program than I do. Teammates helping teammates make the right choices in life, school and in training has unbelievable value. I saw it as an athlete myself. I had great teammates who helped push each other. I have seen it as a coach. On the NCAA Championship teams I have been part of, one of the things they had in common was the wrestlers led each other to greatness. They were able to help each other grow to greatness. If we can get a larger group of guys loving the journey to be great together, it will pay dividends. The more invested the group is the easier it is for the individuals to grow.

My charge to the team is to love the journey. Be consistent in heading down the correct path. Do it alone if need be, but try to bring others with you. We can win at George Mason. We can have guys wrestling on Saturday at the NCAA tournament. It will require guys to sacrifice day in and day out, but it can be done. I hope they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get the job done. There certainly are no guarantees, but the odds are increased by doing things consistently the right way.

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2016 EWL Tournament

We had 3 guys wrestle above their seed; 3 guys wrestle below their seed; 4 guys wrestle to their seed. With our peeking plan and where I thought the guys were at physically and mentally, I had confidence they would do better. It wasn’t that we had a bad tournament; we just needed to do a little better. As of today, we have no NCAA qualifiers. We do have a few guys who will receive some consideration for at-large bids. We will have to wait and see.

In the quarter-final round we went 4-6. Tejon Anthony, Blake Roulo, Greg Flournoy, and Matt Voss all advanced to the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, we went 0-4. We need to do better job getting guys into the finals. Last season we were able to get 2 guys into the finals (as a result, both qualified for the NCAA tournament). This year our closest semifinal bout was Blake Roulo. He lost on a passivity call and thus qualify for the NCAA tournament. It was a tough loss for him and the program.

We did a good job in the consolation rounds. In the consolation quarter-finals, we went 4-1. We were lucky enough to have 3 byes and Patrick Davis pinned his opponent. In the consolation semi-finals, we wrestled real well. We went 7-2. What made the results even better is it was a higher pressure round than in past years. As coaches we voted to wrestle to the top 4 places this year as opposed to placing the top 6. There was more emotion this year for the consolation semi-finals since a win was the only way a wrestler could place. In our conference coaches meeting before the finals, it was noted the change seemed to be a positive move for the conference. It was also apparent the crowd and teams were more into the matches as they needed to win to place. In the 3rd place matches we went 2-5.

Looking as a whole, I think we had an overall better tournament this year than our previous two years in the conference. In 2014, we had 3 guys place in the top 4. In 2015, we had 5 guys place in the top 4. This year we had 7 placers in the top 4. I have lots of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve thoughts running through my mind which makes our overall results disappointing. We had several opportunities to punch tickets to the NCAA tournament. We failed to capitalize on all of them.

At 125, Ibrahim Bunduka was seeded 2nd and placed 4th. In his opening round match IB wrestled aggressive but was unable to convert any of his take down attempts. He lost the bout 3-2. He had lost to the same guy earlier in the year so we knew it would be a tough match. Nevertheless, his effort was good. He received a bye in his first consolation bout and then won 18-14 in the consolation semi-finals. His aggressiveness was great, although he did not finish the match well. He gave up a few takedowns in the 3rd period to lose his bid for a major decision. In his bout for 3rd, he lost by decision to a guy he had beaten earlier in the year. Adjusting his attacks (lowering his hand placement on his shot) and getting out from bottom are areas he must improve.

At 133, Vince Rodriguez was seeded 2nd and finished 4th. Vince lost to the same guy in the opening round and in the 3rd place match. I think Vince as well as I overlooked his opponent from Cleveland State. I was confident Vince was going to win the tournament. We should have been more focused on finding a way to win one match at a time as opposed to qualifying for the NCAA tournament. It was a tough day for me personally, not seeing Vince do what I believe he was capable of doing. I wanted him to finish well at the EWL tournament.

At 141, #4 seed Tejon Anthony won his opening bout to make the semi-finals. He lost his next two matches, so he did not place. He lost to the eventual champion in a closer bout than he had against him earlier in the year. In the consolation semi-finals he lost to the eventual 3rd place wrestler. Tejon had a good freshman year. The experience should help him. He needs to get better on bottom. He knows that now and will have 12 months to solve the problem.

At 149, #5 seed Blake Roulo beat the #4 seed in the opening round. In the semi-finals he lost 2-1 to the eventual outstanding wrestler of the tournament. He came back strong with a major decision win in the consolation semi-finals. In his bout for 3rd, he gave up too many points early in the bout and then threw everything at his opponent he had ever thought of trying in a match but he couldn’t close the gap. Blake will receive consideration for an at-large spot at the NCAA tournament because he was one place away from an automatic bid.

At 157, Greg Flournoy was seeded 3rd and placed 3rd. He opened with a major decision win, but lost to the eventual champion in the semi-finals. Greg then won his next two matches to place 3rd. He was able to wrestle for a true second place bout and thus qualify for the NCAA tournament, but he was unable to win the match. We will now have to wait and see if he receives an at-large bid. He is in a good place to get one because of several factors: he qualified the spot for the conference because he was a gold standard wrestler before the conference tournament; I believe he will still be gold standard when the new rankings and RPI are determined today; He has over 70% wins; he was one place out from qualifying; he has beaten 5 guys already in the NCAA field and he has arguments over some of the other guys up for consideration. On the negative side, some crazy things happened this weekend at other qualifying tournaments. There are some good wrestlers looking from the outside trying to get into the tournament. I know Greg deserves a bid and that he will do well at the NCAA tournament. My hope is the committee agrees. It will be a long couple of days waiting to see if Greg will get his opportunity.

At 165, Patrick Davis was unseeded. He lost a close bout to the #3 seed in the opening bout and in the 3rd place bout. On a positive note he won two consolation bouts to finish 4th. He opened with a first period pin and then in his consolation semi-final bout he was able to beat the #4 seed 3-0. He had lost to the same opponent 2x during the year. Patrick is close to doing real well. He needs to spend the next 12 months building his body into a machine and getting better on bottom.

At 174, Ryan Forrest was unseeded and placed 3rd. Ryan lost a close bout to the #2 seed in the quarter-finals. He then had a bye, followed by a win by pin over the #4 seed. He was able to avenge his opening round loss with a 5-3 win to place 3rd. Ryan had a frustrating year with lots of physical issues. I was pleased he was able to put together a good tournament to finish the season with a more positive feeling. Now Ryan will have time to heal and figure out what is going on physically.

At 184, unseeded Luke Ludke lost his opening bout to the #2 seed. Luke wrestled him much better than he did earlier in the season. Luke received a bye and then lost his consolation semi-final bout to the #4 seed. I was pleased to see the progress Luke made this year. He made a huge jump in weight classes to become the starter for the program. As a result, he was able to compete more. He did a good job of learning this year. He became a much better college wrestler as a result.

At 197, unseeded Cameron Houston lost his opening bout to the #3 seed. He then lost to the eventual 4th placer. 197 was a tough weight class this year in the EWL. It was a difficult season for Cameron. My hope is he is able to learn and writes a great story to his college wrestling career.

At Heavyweight, Matt Voss was seeded 4th and he placed 4th. Matt had a bye in the opening round. He then lost by a decision in the semi-finals. He won his bout in the consolation semi-finals, but then lost his bout for third. I love the pace Matt Voss wrestles. He needs to spend the next 12 months getting better in positions and holding good position. He needs better basic defense and a greater ability to ride his opponents.

This week is our spring break at George Mason University. I told the guys to stay close to campus in case we receive good news on Wednesday. My hope is all of us take this week to do some self-review. We need to make sure we continually work to improve ourselves and our program.