Friday night was a tough night for me as a coach. I did not handle our performance well. I was distraught and angry. I hope my anger was not a character flaw, rather I hope it was a byproduct of the performance and the emotions of trying to get better. We lost both duals which I certainly can handle. It was the way we lost and our reactions to it that have been consuming my thoughts. It is my job to fix it. It is my job to make sure it is not repeated.
We wrestled a total of 20 matches. 12 different wrestlers competed. All lost. Of the 20 matches contested we only won 3. We were pinned in 5 of the 20 matches. We gave up bonus points in 8 of the 20 matches. We lost 3 of the 4 overtime matches in our dual against Maryland. We gave up considerable more ridding time than we earned. These are painful statistics in yet not as important as our actual performance. Sometimes you can’t control the win or loss. Sometimes a team is just better. My struggle was with our attitude and effort. Too many times we conceded when things got tough. Too many times we put our head down instead of trying to score points. Too many times when we made a mistake or the match wasn’t going as we had planned, we conceded instead of bullying our way back into the fray. We need to go forward, be aggressive, try to dominate and have fun. Instead we gave ground, conceded, and were discouraged.
After the dual, I struggled with how to respond. I tried to bite my tongue and evaluate before speaking. Often talking while heated feels right and feels good as a coach, nevertheless, I do believe it is often better to wait. My anger did not subside as I pondered. Rather the more I observed the team after the dual, the more I fumed. My desire to see these guys succeed is extreme. My desire to see the program grow is what I am consumed with doing. My hope is for the team to care for each other and the program greater than they do for themselves. I want a team who are all in to the Mason Way; all in to the process. Our program – wrestlers, coaches, support staff, administrators, alumni, boosters – need to be headed in the right direction. I need to help steer the ship in the direction of greatness. Friday night we were off course.
I left the RAC quicker than normal. I went home hoping to rest a few hours before making a 6 hour drive to be at the quarter-finals of a high school tournament in Ohio the following morning. My mind was racing and sleep did not come. Finally I gave up trying. I checked wrestling results and stories online, prepared for the trip and hit the road a little after 2am. Fortunately, when I hit snow covered roads in Pennsylvania and found a non-stop Christmas music station, I began to be more focused on other things. It helped slow my roll. I ended up taking a brief nap at a travel plaza in Pennsylvania as I waited for sun rise and salt trucks so my path to Ohio was safer. I made it on-time to the tournament.
It is no fun going recruiting after a performance like we had just had. It is somewhat embarrassing. Nevertheless, I think it is good to do. It forces me to own up to my short comings. It makes me vulnerable. I was also able to discuss the situation, and get advice from colleagues as to how best to move the team and program forward. I guess I had a therapy session in the stands with some of the numerous coaches evaluating at the tournament. I even asked advice from one of the coaches whose team had just beat us badly on the mat and more importantly beat us badly in the mental part of the game. My anger had turned to how to fix mistakes I had seen. Coaching is not an exact science. There is an art to leading. I am confident I can lead this team. I am hopeful I can help the wrestlers and program grow. When we meet as a staff, I am confident we will put together a good action plan.
Last night the athletic department put on a special event for endowed scholarship donors and the student-athlete recipients. It was an impressive group. I enjoyed hearing the athletes introduce themselves to those present. Wrestling currently has 3 endowed scholarships – Frogale Famly Wrestling Endowed Scholarship (recipient Matt Voss), Patriot Elite Wrestling Club Endowed Scholarship (recipient Ryan Renkey) and Dan and Patty Wotring Endowed Scholarship (recipient Matt Raines). The wrestlers also had the opportunity to spend some time chatting with Mason President Cabrera.
We also received word of another substantial pledged gift to our wrestling room renovation project. I am excited about the progress of the campaign. The renovations will certainly help with our training, recruiting, and overall strength and pride of the Mason program. Let’s keep the momentum going and get the project completed.
This is a tough week for student-athletes. Final exams can be overwhelming. Even those that have properly prepared still need to perform on exams and finish their courses well. We will have no required practices until exams are done. We will still offer training opportunities for those who choose to attend. Guys can make gains even during exams. It can be done. Our next competition will be on December 21 in a dual against the University of Virginia. Although UVA is technically the host school we will wrestle at a neutral site – St Christopher School in Richmond as part of their Rumble on the River event.