We have split practices due to the size of our training facility. Although it makes thing a little tougher, it works. As coaches we meet on Monday mornings to do after action analysis of the prior week and plan for the coming week. I think this time together helps us do a better job of leading the team. Nevertheless, we need to be able to read the athletes and change plans as needed. Last week, we made our practice plans and had full intention on implementing them. At our first practice we followed the plan and I believe the group benefited from what we had them do. The second group came in and I started practice as I had done with the first group. I had them spend 15 minutes working on things they felt they needed after analyzing their performance at the Grapple at the Garden. Coaches went around helping as well as the wrestlers helping each other. After a few minutes I stood back to watch what was going on in the room. It was inspiring. Knowledge was flowing. The focus was as if they were wearing blinders and only saw the goal in front of them. The desire to learn and improve was palpable. After they had gone longer than I planned I said to Mark Weader, “I think I am going to scratch our training plan and just let them keep doing what they are doing.” He responded in a manner where I knew he agreed something special was happening in the room. I spent over an hour helping where I thought I could and mostly watching and feeling inspired by what I was witnessing. Finally someone made eye contact with me and I could see he was curious how much time he had left in the 15 minutes of free time to work. I stopped the group and told them, with a cracking voice full of emotion, we had made a huge leap forward as a program on November 29, 2016. As the head coach of a program, it was special to see. There was elite knowledge being shared in our wrestling room. There were athletes eager to learn and pass on knowledge to others. It was truly a championship driven wrestling room. It was a special day, a break thru day. Our preparation was near perfect.
We spent the weekend on the road at Bloomsburg and Lock Haven. I was pleased with the effort the guys put forth in their competition. They hustled and tried to score points.
Going into our dual with Bloomsburg, on paper it appeared to be a close dual. In our pre-match talk, I wanted to make sure the guys knew every team point would matter. I also wanted them to be thankful for the opportunity they had to compete. I asked them to compete for not only themselves but for their teammates who did not have the opportunity. Their teammates go through the same training, but can only show their hard work by showing how they have prepared the starters. The dual meet ended with 5 matches won for each team. We won the dual on bonus points. Matt Voss started the dual and won with a 3rd period pin. Our next two wrestlers lost, Quinton Tucker and Lio Quezada. I was pleased both fought to save team points. Lio wrestled on one leg due to an injury but still tried to fight for his team. Tejon Anthony and Sahid Kargbo were able to win their matches and get us back in the lead. Matt Raines lost by a decision and after 6 matches the team score was tied. We knew going into the match, Garrett Tingen was going to be in a crucial bout for the team. Garrett not only won, he pinned his opponent. His win was a big lift for our team. Patrick Davis and Daniel Mika both lost by decision. They were frustrated by their performance and hopefully learned some valuable lessons due to the competition. Once again, going into the last bout of the dual, the team score was tied. Matt Meadows had the weight of the dual on his shoulders. He was able to step up for the team and won by a pin. It was an exciting way to end the dual. 3 pins in the dual was the difference in the team score.
We had little time to rest, as we competed the following day at Lock Haven. I like to schedule a few back to back competitions so it mimics the NCAA tournament. I want the guys being comfortable with the uncomfortable situation of making weight and competing on back to back days. I felt the guys responded well. They wrestled a good pace against Lock Haven. It was good to see the effort they were willing to put out in the competition circle. Trevor Mello led off in the dual. Despite losing his match, he sent the right message to our opponents. He hustled for 7 minutes. Due to Lio’s injury, we had Quinton Tucker wrestle up a weight class against Lock Haven. He lost a close bout 7-6. He scored all 6 of his points in the third period. Tejon Anthony fell behind by quite a bit in the 1st period, but stayed even with his opponent the remainder of the bout. Although he lost, I think he learned and got better as a result. Sahid Kargbo worked hard to earn a major decision for his team. I believe he scored 3 takedowns in the third period alone. Matt Raines worked hard to ride his opponent in the 3rd period. As a result of his effort, he earned the victory. Garrett Tingen lost his match but certainly made many attempts to score points. Patrick Davis found a higher gear and made progress in his mental battles during competition. I could see it in his face, when he was competing and afterward, he had made a break through with his mindset. We lost the three remaining bouts, but I was pleased with the effort all three chose to compete with against Lock Haven. Daniel Mika and Matt Voss gave up too many points trying to score points for their team. I was pleased they were willing to take risks and push the pace. Next time out, I hope they are able to hold better position while trying to attack. Matt Meadows is still working to get his weight under control and getting used to being back in competition. The back to back weigh ins took their toll on him. Nevertheless, his effort and attitude were great this past week. As he continues to control the things within his control he will reap the rewards.
We will compete at home this Friday night December 9 in dual meets against North Dakota State and Maryland. I am glad we do not have to travel as this is a stressful week for the wrestlers. They have lots of assignments, papers and tests this week. The following week will be final exams. I am hopeful they attack their school work as they have been attacking their opponents.
I hope we have a large crowd at the RAC on Friday. North Dakota State will wrestle Maryland at 4pm. We will wrestle North Dakota State 10 minutes after their dual ends with Maryland (hopefully we will start our dual around 530pm). We will dual Maryland 10 minutes after our dual with NDSU ends (hopefully we will start our dual around 7pm).
Typically we have good fan support when we wrestle Maryland as our two schools are close to each other geographically. This year we have also added a new element to the rivalry by wrestling for a belt. The four local D1 schools (American, Maryland, Navy and us) will wrestle each other for a belt called the Battle of the Beltway. I am excited for the new tradition. The dual meet should also feature a great bout for college wrestling fans as two undefeated wrestlers Sahid Kargbo and Alfred Banister will most likely square off against each other. Banister is currently ranked between 8th and 13th in national wrestling polls. Both wrestlers are 9-0 on the season.
I am also excited to welcome NDSU to campus. The head coach of NDSU is Roger Kish. I was one of his college coaches, so it will be fun to see him again. I was also able to serve Roger’s coach at the Junior Pan American Championships in Venezuela while he was in college. He made me look good winning both the Freestyle and Greco-Roman titles. Another guy I coached in college serves as an assistant coach at NDSU – Matt Nagel. One of my most cherished memories as a college coach is when Matt Nagel became an All-American. I don’t know if he meant to do it or if I just got in his way as I was going to congratulate him, but he leaped in my arms and let me carry him off the competition circle. It is a very special memory for me and also something that still gives me motivation as a coach. Virginia fans will also know one of the other assistant coaches at NDSU. Jarrod Garnett was an All-American for Virginia Tech. Currently, NDSU has 3 ranked wrestlers in their starting line-up. Friday should be a great day for college wrestling and George Mason wrestling.