Rider

Last weekend, was positive for the George Mason Wrestling program. We invited alums back to campus. It was great to see them reconnecting with each other, building new memories, and supporting the current team. Alums are unbelievably important to our program. They helped shaped the past and will help shape our future. Thanks to those who came to support our alumni weekend, including former head coaches Jerry Mullins, Mike Moyer and Brian Shaffer.

We lost our dual to Rider, but did split matches 5-5. We gave up a discouraging 9 bonus points in the 5 matches we lost. We were not competitive in some of the matches. I was frustrated by the number of stall calls against us. Part of the problem was the gap in skill level, but part of the problem was a lack of fight. We need to address the short comings that are within our control.

There were certainly positives as well. Things we can learn from and build upon. I was pleased to see Ibrahim Bunduka find a way to win a match where he was struggling physically and mentally. I loved seeing Lio Quezada overcome a 6-2 deficit heading into the last period of his bout to come away with the win. 3rd period comebacks are fun to watch – they show grit; they show a person who has prepared properly; they inspire others…Tejon Anthony and Sahid Kargbo picked up their 16th and 22nd victories of the season. Both are helping lead their team. In the last bout of the day, Matt Voss won and exciting match over a wrestler who beat him twice last season. It was a statement win for him in his bid to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

We have a rare weekend off from competing. Many times I have scheduled competitions on Super Bowl Sunday. Many times I have been told I ruined the day. When I coached at Minnesota, the Big Ten often mandated we compete on Super Bowl Sunday. It really was not my fault, but because I was in charge of travel more than once I felt the anger from the team. I remember being jeered by the team when we were in the air and the pilot gave Super Bowl updates. I remember guys waiting to the last moment to board a flight as they watched the game near the departure gate. This year, while putting the scheduling jigsaw puzzle together, I actually blocked off Sunday as a date we could not compete.

I think the team appreciates my forethought, but I also know they now see we have more training days than normal. As a coach it feels good to get in training days without trying to balance guys cutting weight and allowing recovery before competing. In the end, I think some of the guys might wish they had a competition instead. Funny thing is some of the team will compete this weekend in Open competitions.

Our next home meet will be on Wednesday, February 8. We will compete against the United States Naval Academy at the RAC. The first whistle will be at 7pm.

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Deans List, Clarion and Edinboro Duals

I am pleased to announce 5 members of the wrestling team made the Dean’s list fall semester (GPA above 3.5). Congratulations to True Freshmen Trevor Mello, Lio Quezada and Philip Stolfi; Redshirt Sophomore Matt Voss; and 5th year senior Ryan Renkey. Their efforts in the classroom will serve them well down the road and are a blessing to our wrestling program. Although it has yet to be announced, I also believe Ryan Renkey will be named a Provost Scholar. This award requires a student-athlete to maintain a GPA above a 3.75 for a minimum of 3 semesters. It is also worth noting Trevor Mello and Lio Quezada were starters for the wrestling team as true freshmen during their first semester in college. Thus, they were cutting weight, traveling and competing shortly after their arrival on campus. It is great to see they possess the skills to balance the demands of being D1 student-athletes. Thank you and congratulations to our Deans List grapplers.

We had 2 conference duals this past weekend. On Friday we traveled to Clarion where we lost 7 matches to 3. I felt our effort was good, but we lost critical situations during the bouts. Clarion won more of the close matches as a result. Sahid Kargbo won by a major decision. Matt Raines and Matt Voss won their matches by decision. I was also pleased to see Tejon Anthony wrestle a close match against his #16th ranked Clarion opponent.

On Sunday, we returned home and faced Edinboro University. They beat us 8 matches to 2. Matt Meadows won 14-0. It was great to see him get his offense going. Tejon Anthony also won. In Tejon’s match he rode his opponent the entire 3rd period to force overtime. It was a dangerous strategy, but it worked. As a result of the effort he put forth, I believe it gave him an advantage in overtime. Ryan Forrest led his opponent for all but the last few seconds of his bout. It was a disappointing finish as he was in a good position to win. Matt Raines did a good job in his bout but lost a critical situation at the end of the second period to lose. In the remaining bouts we lost by major decision or technical fall. It was disappointing to see the gap so wide in bouts where we wrestled ranked wrestlers. We need to close the gap and close it quickly. I was also surprised how many times we gave up near fall points while in the down position this weekend. Giving up back points makes it difficult to stay in matches, let alone win. We must do a better job of staying off our backs.

We host our final EWL dual on Sunday, January 29 2pm at the RAC. This is also an important weekend for us as we are trying to get our alums back on campus. We will have a reception for alums on Saturday, 7pm at Brion’s Grille, we will also have a pre-match get together at 1pm at the RAC and honor the 1995, 1996, and 1997 CAA championship teams at half-time on Sunday. Please help spread the word to alums.

Cleveland State

We had a home dual against Cleveland State University on Sunday, January 15. We won the dual 8 matches to 2. The guys did a good job winning the tough situations. In close matches it takes extreme effort to win the tough situations. Our guys did well. Thanks mostly to our freshmen; we had a good crowd considering school was not in session. Just so people know, it is a big deal for our guys to see people in the stands. Before the dual, they were excited by the crowd. Lio and Matt Raines were proud their friends and family had come to watch in mass. It was certainly noticed by the guys competing. Thanks to those who came to the dual. Thanks for giving our team extra energy to compete.

Ibrahim Bunduka continued his unbeaten streak by scoring points. His energy level and attack rate help get our team going in the right direction. He does a great job preparing and competing. He continues to get better.

Lio Quezada stepped up again for himself, his team and his community. He gave great effort in his bout. He did a good job defensively in the first period. I was pleased to see him stay a bit more basic. He did a great job in the second period by riding his opponent. It requires effort to hold your opponent down. Lio used the extra effort and as a result, it put him in a great place to win the bout. He won a tough situation in the 3rd and was able to get a reversal and gain riding time to win.

Tejon Anthony wrestled a tough opponent. He had a good game plan and stuck to it. Toward the end of the bout he was thrown off the mat and onto the gym floor. It looked and sounded bad. Nevertheless,Tejon hustled back to the center and proceeded to be unfazed by the incident. It was fun to see.

Senior captain Sahid Kargbo wrestled another senior who had recently placed at the Southern Scuffle. I was pleased to see Sahid win positions and score points. In the end, Sahid was able to win by a major decision for his team. I know the crowd appreciated his effort as their reactions were loud and visible.

Matt Raines did a good job of putting pressure on his opponent. He took risks. In the end, I believe it helped him to score the winning takedown. With so many from his community in the stands, it made the third period win even more special.

Ryan Forrest made his season debut. Ryan had originally planned on not using his red shirt year. Thus, he did not compete this fall. After many months of wearing him down, we finally got him to agree to wrestle spring semester. Ryan did not disappoint as he won his bout. Without Ryan in the lineup, we would have been forced to forfeit a weight class. It was good for Ryan and the team to have him back.

Daniel Mika weighed in a weight class lower than he competed. He, as he has often done, sacrificed for his team. Although he did not have the result or performance he wanted, I tip my hat to him for sacrificing for his team. He helped us win the dual and field a full line up. The team aspect of an individual sport is special to see.

Austin Harrison represented the University this weekend at a conference. He got back to campus in time to compete. He wrestled a tough opponent. Although he struggled during the first two periods of the match, I was pleased with his third period. Even though he had been ridden and turned twice, he chose the down position to start the third period. He was able to get away and take his opponent down. It was good for him to learn he could score points on his opponent.

Matt Meadows was able to win his bout by not allowing his opponent to score. Although I wanted him to score more points, I was pleased to see him shut out the opponent for 7 minutes. Wins help with confidence. My hope is he can gain confidence and use it to his favor.

Matt Voss scored lots of points and won his bout by a technical fall. Often time, heavyweight bouts are low scoring. I was pleased to see Matt scoring from several different positions.

We have a quicker turn around this week as we compete at Clarion on Friday night. Then, we return home to face Edinboro on Sunday at 2pm at the RAC. Both meets are conference matches. Clarion and Edinboro have better results thus far against common opponents. Thus, both duals will require us to wrestle at a high level to be competitive. Nevertheless, the team is coming together and getting better. I have confidence we will give our best effort and have a great attitude. If we do those things, we will do something special. There will also be multiple individual match ups against ranked foes.

Davidson, SIUE, VMI

This past weekend, we were able to experience 3 consecutive team dual meet wins. I was pleased the guys were able to come together as a group, wrestle for each other and see some of the fruits to the effort they put forth in their preparation and during their bouts.

On Friday we wrestled at Davidson College for the mythical Atlantic 10 Dual Meet Championship. We brought our traveling trophy with us and Rene, our great bus driver, made sure he warned us if we didn’t get to keep it, he wasn’t going to drive us back home. We won the dual 8 matches to 2. The 2 bouts we lost were disappointing because we lost both in overtime. We need to find ways to win the close overtime bouts. We train too hard not to win in overtime. The dual meet started at 184 and Austin Harrison did a great job leading the team. He scored at the end of the 1st period, where his opponent did not have the opportunity to earn an escape point. In the 2nd period he rode his opponent for the entire round. Before the meet we talked about being extra stingy on top. Austin was stingy. We also talked about winning the 3rd period which Austin did scoring an escape and another takedown. Matt Meadows, Matt Voss, Ibrahim Bunduka, Logan Harvich (his debut at 141) and Sahid Kargbo all scored bonus points for their team. It was a good team win.

After the dual at Davidson, Rene drove us to Lexington, Virginia. The next morning we started the day against a tough Southern Illinois Edwardsville team. I thought it was our best team performance thus far of the year. Our attitude and effort was great. We won the bout 6 matches to 4. Ibrahim Bunduka and Sahid Kargbo both beat returning Southern Conference Champions. Lio Quezada and Tejon Anthony had come from behind wins. Matt Raines scored a fall that had our entire bench jumping for joy. Austin Harrison sealed the victory for the team with a shutout victory. Unfortunately, Pat Davis was hurt in his bout and had to injury default.

In our final dual of the weekend, we faced VMI. The dual turned out to be a nail bitter as we split 5 matches a piece. We jumped out to a huge lead after the first four bouts (Ibrahim Bunduka won by forfeit; Lio Quezada won another come from behind bout with an impressive and ultimately a team winning pin; Tejon Anthony barely missed getting a major decision win; and Sahid Kargbo won by a technical fall). We lost the next 5 bouts and so the dual meet victory fell to the hands of Matt Voss. Fortunately, Matt Voss came thru with a pin for us to win the dual.

We made it safely back to campus and began preparations for our next competition. As an added bonus to the successful trip, a few of the guys were able to bring the trophy with them to show Eric, our teammate via Team Impact, as they visited Eric in the hospital. I hope holding the trophy was enjoyable for Eric.

I look forward to the team building on the successes and learning from the failures from the weekend. We will compete at home in the RAC on Sunday, January 15 at 2pm against Cleveland State University in an Eastern Wrestling League dual. I hope we get a home mat advantage as the team tries to extend their win streak to 4 in a row.

Post Final Exams and Lock Haven Classic

The ups and downs of being a college coach can be extreme. Your job is on public display. Often you get too much credit when things go well or when they go the other direction. I try to impart on the team knowledge I have learned and principles I hope lead them down the correct path to success. I try to give them the answers to how to be successful on the mat, in the classroom and in life.

Before a guy joins our team, I try to be upfront with the rules and expectations. I want to know they have similar goals. I need to know they will make good life decisions, give their best effort, have a great attitude and plan on getting their degree. Guys who don’t promise these things do not join the team.

Once guys are on the team, I get to see who puts actions to their promises. Sadly, I often learn what was promised is not given. I understand I need to continue to teach and all of us make mistakes, so I try to guide the guys as best I can. I hope they improve. I hope they learn. Often it is just the hope their mistakes won’t be as great as to destroy their career, negatively affect the team, negatively affect the program and quite honestly my job.

I was able to take off back to back days on Christmas Eve and Christmas. It is a rarity as a college coach to get days off. I struggle taking days off, because you really can do something every day. Nevertheless, I forced myself to put my cell phone down and concentrate on spending time with my wife and son. Don’t get me wrong, Taft and I wrestled both days, but it was just for fun and laughter.

After the rest, it was time to prepare for the second part of the season. As I started to get more information about final grades, some of the lies I had been told during the school year were now known. I struggle to understand the lie all know will be found out eventually, why it is said. By deferring the truth, often the situation only gets worse. Sadly, we had guys do poorly in the classroom. All of our guys can be successful. None of them were special admits to college. All possess the skills to earn a degree. The institution and athletic department invest heavily in academic support. If the guys want or need help, they can get it. Our failures are the ones caused by making bad decisions.

When I don’t know the truth, it is really hard to assist. We need to do a better job of developing our core. We need to protect our integrity. Saving our honor is a precious gift we can give to others and our self. Too often we fall short. At our initial team meeting I talk to the team about doing what is right. I also give them the following from Tony Dungy’s book Uncommon:

Keys for developing your core
1. Remember that what you do when no one is watching matters
2. The means matter as much as the ends, if not more
3. Hang in there. Character is revealed through adversity
4. Often we grow as much through the little things as we do through the big ones
5. Truth is critical. Being truthful is too.
6. Don’t rationalize your way around honesty
7. Don’t blow your own horn
8. Don’t be falsely modest; you have amazing gifts. Just recognize that others do too
9. You are important, but not indispensable. The same goes for others. See yourself as a significant part of the process
10. Be careful what you do with your resources, gifts, time, and talents. You’ve been entrusted with them
11. Some of the most rewarding times in life are when you have to stand alone, even if you are uncomfortable doing so
12. Life is hard. Courage is essential
13. Never give up. Never

During the recruiting process, at our initial team meeting, at our individual meetings and sprinkled in often during the semester we talk about what is required and what is expected of the guys on the team in regard to academics. We give them the road map to being successful in the class room. I am dismayed at the number of guys who choose not to heed the advice.

Part of being successful is just showing up. Attending class is mandatory. It is stated more than once in our team rules and Mason Way document. We do class checks to help give the guys a reason to make the walk from their bed to their class. We reward, admonish, encourage, and punish guys when it comes to getting to class. We speak about it almost daily, probably too much. Nevertheless, I have heard from several team members they did not attend all of their classes. Being successful in life, in work, in school, requires you to show up. I know by showing up, guys will significantly increase their odds of being successful. I also add, when I talk to the guys and in our keys to success, be on time, pay attention, sit in the front of the class, participate in class discussions, and getting to know the professor helps increase the odds of success. I wish more guys would listen. By showing up most guys can be successful in the class room.

Another key to being a successful student is to do what is required by the professor. The syllabus is a good road map for success. Handing in homework, on time meeting the requirements set forth, is an easy way to get a degree. Completing papers, on time meeting the requirements set forth, is an easy way to get a degree. Studying for, showing up for and finishing exams is an easy way to get a degree. It is disheartening when guys fail to do the bare minimum required by the professor. A little effort goes a long way.

Our lack of effort in the classroom has put our program and team in a dangerous place. I am frightened for the team and individuals on the team due to guys not showing up and doing what is required to be a college athlete. All of them agreed to the commitment required to be on a NCAA D1 team and to get a degree. Sadly, for some, they have given away the privileged place they were in for reasons I am confident they will look back on in disgust.

A large part of our program and my job is based upon our success in the class room. It is a tough pill to swallow as the truth slowly trickles out. My prayer for the team is they will make good life decisions so they can be successful. I hope we can string together one good decision after another, so we can sustain when the difficulties come our way and so we are better suited for success.

Even as some guys fail to meet expectations it is gratifying seeing guys rise to excellence. We have guys buying into what we are trying to teach them on and off the mat. I am convinced, if they follow the principles we are teaching, they can do great things. They have been given the answers to how to be a successful student-athlete. Belief in the System, Trust in the Program, is what is needed.

We had 15 guys compete at the Lock Haven Classic. 3 guys went unattached. I love it when guys choose to compete on their own. It lets me know they want to get better and they are actively trying to improve. It was an extra benefit they chose this tournament because we were able to watch them compete.

Kyle DiNapoli wrestled unattached and competed for the first time this year. He was not able to compete during fall semester as he was fighting illnesses. All who watched him were impressed. He has a high wrestling IQ. His future is bright.

Devin Rolon wrestled unattached. He did not make weight, so he had to bump up to heavy weight. He needs to learn how to properly prepare for weigh ins. Missing weight is unacceptable. Nevertheless, he was able to get his first college win and did so by pin.

Philip Stolfi also wrestled unattached. He finished the day in 2nd place with a 3-1 record at the 184lb weight class. All 3 of his wins were by pin. He had a come from behind pin in the semi-finals that had our team on their feet cheering. His desire to get better is noticeable by the extra things he does. I tell the guys who are red shirting it is a good plan to get at least 20 matches in Open competitions (most do not). Philip has already gotten in 15 matches this season. He is having an impressive red shirt year. I have been most impressed by his discipline. He shows up, works hard, and is consistent. Thus far, from the grades I have seen, he will most likely win our freshman team academic award as well.

We had 12 guys wrestle for the team. Overall we had a good performance. I think we got better by competing. 3 of the 12 guys competing were at 125lbs. I wanted to use the tournament as a wrestle off. I prefer to have outside competitions dictate the starting line up.

Quinton Tucker finished the day 0-2, but I was pleased with his performance from an attitude and effort level. He lost 2 very close matches. We are fortunate to have Quinton on this team as he works hard in life, in the classroom and on the mat.

Trevor Mello finished the day 1-2. He did a good job in the match he won by finding ways to score and ultimately finding a way to win. On the down side, when he lost, he lost by pin. I am confident he will continue to get better as he is willing to put in the work. He impressed the academic counseling staff during the semester by the effort he put in during study hall. He was seen in the building more than most and took advantage of the resources offered even when it was not required. He has a good handle on what needs to be done to be successful.

Ibrahim Bunduka made his debut for the season a great one. He finished the day 3-0. He wrestled with enthusiasm. He loves to compete and it showed. He spent most of his matches trying to find ways to score. When you are thinking about scoring points you are thinking about the right things.

We had two guys compete at 133 – Logan Harvich and Lio Quezada. Both had a tough day. I know both are capable of much more. Their struggles were a combination of technical and mental mistakes.

Logan Harvich finished the day 0-2. It was easy to see from the sideline he was thinking bad thoughts when he competed. He was worried about what the other guy was doing. Fear ruled as opposed to belief. Logan can wrestle a hard pace. He needs to use his pace to his advantage. He knows good technique and how to execute it. During competition he needs to put it to use.

Lio Quezada finished the day 1-2. He works too hard to not see the rewards on the mat. For a true freshman in the starting lineup, it is a daunting task. It can be hard on your confidence and hard physically. Lio is banged up, but needs to know he can do great things. He needs to keep learning high percentage techniques and strategies. He lost positions and points this weekend due to making incorrect decisions. As he wrestles more college matches, he will have the ability to overcome his current mistakes. Belief in himself and the program will help him gain ground on his competition.

Tejon Anthony was our lone entrant at 141. He finished the day in 2nd place with a 3-1 record. I enjoy watching Tejon compete in part due to his demeanor. He does a great job of staying in the moment and competing with a sense of calm and confidence. He was another guy who won a match with a pin. It was fun to see guys helping raise money for the program by pinning their opponents.

Sahid Kargbo won the 149lb weight class in a dominate manner. He decided to work on riding his opponents during the event. Ride he did. He scored a riding time point in all 5 matches he wrestled. In 3 of the 5 matches, he shut out his opponents. He outscored his opponents 46-4 giving up only points via escape. His growth as a wrestler is fun to watch. He keeps adding to his skill set. Sahid is leading his team well. He is providing a positive example of what to do on and off the mat.

Matt Raines finished 1-2 at 157. I know he was disappointed with his results, but his effort was positive to see. He did a good job of pushing the pace in his matches. As a result of the effort he is willing to put in during competition, he will see greater rewards down the road. Basic defense and the ability to finish his shots will make him a more dangerous wrestler.

We did not enter anyone at 165 or 174. I would have preferred a full line up, but for the things I could control, I decided to sit a few guys because I felt it was best for them. Ultimately, I hope it is best for the team.

Andrew Thomas represented the team at 184. He finished the day 0-2. I believe his performance was negatively affected due to letting his weight get to high over break. Andrew spent several hours working out leading up until the final moments before skin check in an attempt to lose the required weight. I was impressed he was able to make the weight, but he should not have made it so hard on his body over the last few days. Losing weight slowly over a long period of time is a better option for success.

Matt Meadows competed for the team at 197. He finished a disappointing 0-2. No doubt he has done a better job of getting his weight down to compete. No doubt he is a much better wrestler than he has been showing during competition. Even though he lost his first bout, I was pleased to see him use better defense and also show skill in riding his opponent. In his second bout, I was frustrated watching him compete because I could see his confidence level was too low and his willingness to expend extra effort seemed lacking. It looked like he did not believe he could win using basic skills and position. It looked like he thought he could only win by doing higher risk, lower percentage technique. By not believing in his abilities and trying to do the flashier techniques, he diminished his chances to succeed. My hope is he can learn from the past, but not dwell on it. He needs to have a better mind set when he competes. I would like to see him wrestle with excitement, aggressiveness and grit. Fully commit to a shot as opposed to trying to trick an opponent. Driving shots and finishes instead of trying to trick an opponent. Basic defense and square his hips instead of trying a dangerous defensive technique…Matt can and should finish his senior season well. If he continues to prepare properly and is willing to give his best effort during competition, he will reap the rewards.

Justin Hite had me pumping my fist when I saw him win his first college match by a pin. It was good to see him have a positive result. It will help him stay motivated and to believe in the process. He has made significant improvement on the mat and in the class room. It is good to see.

Matt Voss made some positive strides. He wrestled a great pace and found ways to score points. He scored about 50 points in the 6 matches he wrestled. He definitely had people stop and watch him compete as a result. He finished the day 5-1 to finish in 3rd place. One of his wins was by a pin. He helped raise our pin total for the day to 8. I was pleased to see him wrestle with confidence.

Overall it was a good day of competition and improvement. The good and the bad of this time of the year is we will now be competing every week for the next 6 weeks. The guys will need to do all they can do to stay focused, excited, and healthy. Some of this will require proper preparation, good mental skills and some luck. January and February can be difficult months for a college wrestler. We need to make sure we embrace the challenge and see it as a positive. If we continue to improve during January and February we will be dangerous come EWL and NCAA tournament time.

Rumble on the River

One of the books I require the team to read is “Uncommon” by Tony Dungy. I think the book offers great advice for young men. It is a time in life when many of our guys are learning to make adult decisions. There are lots of potential pit falls in life. It can be difficult to do the right thing. I am often amazed at this time of the year when guys have to own up to some of the bad decisions made. Often, as humans, we try to hide our mistakes. We often convince ourselves no one will find out or rationalize ourselves into believing what we are doing is acceptable. With final exams just ending, the truths about the efforts made in the classroom are being revealed. My hope, for those who have not done what is required, is they will learn from the mistakes made and not repeat them in the future. I hope they have not made mistakes they won’t be able to overcome. One of the great things with being a coach is seeing guys make the needed changes to be successful in the classroom. This week I have met with guys on the team who have made positive changes. They have learned to show up to class on time, pay attention, and actively participate. They have learned to turn in assignments on time while meeting the requirements of the professor. Some have even seen the benefits of sitting in the front of the classroom, meeting with professors and working in study groups. Some have learned study hall and tutoring can be beneficial when they take advantage of the resources offered. It is a joy to see them succeeding.

For me, final exam time is stressful. I remember the effort it took when I was a student. I know as a head coach, my job performance is based upon the results of my athletes in the classroom. It is a time of the year, I hope the guys have prepared for and perform well when the chips are down. Sadly, some will learn the hard way, but I also celebrate those who have finished the semester well.

During exam week, we had no required practice. Nevertheless, I was pleased by the turn out at optional workouts. The guys worked hard. I believe their effort in their preparation was rewarded last night when we wrestled the University of Virginia at the Rumble at the River event in Richmond, VA. We lost 7 matches to 3, but our attitude and effort was at a much higher level than the last time we stepped on the mat to compete.

After the dual, I asked the guys what was different. We need to capture the effort level and be consistent with it throughout the season. We did some self-review and left the locker room a better team.

Consistency is a key to success. We need to be consistent in our training. We need to consistently make good decisions on and off the mat. We need to be consistent in the effort we put forth in competition.

The day before we wrestled UVA we finally were able to be together as a group. After our tough outing on December 9, I tried to not burden the team with working on mental skills due to final exams. I decided to wait until we were together as a group and the stress of final exams was behind them. I think I made the right decision. It gave me time to consult with others, do some self-review and try to do some learning on my own. Last weekend, I was on the road recruiting. I spent several hours in airports, on planes and sitting in a hotel room by myself. I was able to put the time to good use. I decided to read Coyte Cooper’s new book, “Make Your Mark.” Coyte’s words made me think, challenged me and also affirmed that I am doing many right things while leading this team. Some of the examples he used in the book are things I have shared with my team on many occasions. When we met as a team, I made sure to remind the team of the concepts, expectations, and road map to success contained within our team document the “Mason Way.” I also shared some of the insights offered by Coyte in “Make Your Mark.” My hope was to make sure the guys were on the correct path. Some were not, and I needed to try and steer them. We need to be on the right path headed in the right direction as a team. I had planned on having a 30 minute team meeting before practice. I was embarrassed when I looked at my clock and realized I had spoken for over an hour to the team. I guess I had more things to express to them than I had thought.

Guys are now headed home for a few days to be with family. After a semester of school and half of a college wrestling season, it is a good time for them to take a quick breath and spend time with their loved ones. The fun part of the season will be here soon enough. I can’t wait.

NDSU and UMD

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.