We hosted Navy late Saturday night at the RAC. They won 9 of 10 matches. On paper, they were supposed to win. My goal was to see our guys go out and give their best effort. I do believe the guys gave great effort, but we can certainly do better.
It was good to see some of our guys start fast in their matches. We have talked at length about setting a high pace when the initial whistle blows and to keep that high pace until the final whistle blows. We scored early in a few bouts, because our guys attacked early.
We spent time in practice last week working on getting to our feet on bottom and trying to stay on our feet to get the escape. I saw guys trying to do exactly that and some had success by doing what they practiced. We also spent lots of time on hand fighting. Navy does a great job of hand fighting and pulling on their opponents head. We knew it would be something we needed to be prepared for on Saturday. Navy did as expected. We were unable to consistently hand fight with them. As my head assistant coach Tommy Owen pointed out, Navy was more persistent.
Sometimes wrestling is a battle of wills. Who wants to win more? Who wants to win a position more? Who will not back down? I do believe our guys wanted to wrestle a hard pace. I do believe our guys wanted to win positions. On the other hand, Navy was more persistent. We would clear their hand from our head. Navy would fight back inside. We would fight it off again. Navy would work to get their position again… Eventually, we conceded the position. We need to be able to hand fight for 7 minutes if that is what is required. We have to stick with it, not concede the position because they want it more.
Navy outscored us toward the end of bouts on to many occasions. As I told our team, they work way to hard not to win the 3rd period. We do lots of two-a-days. We have a team motto – twice a day every day that is the Mason way. Guys have the opportunity to show how hard they train in the 3rd period of matches. They are physically prepared. They need to be mentally prepared. They need to believe in their conditioning. The harder the pace, the harder the match, they need to see it as a good thing. They can function when fatigued, because they have been there many times in their training.
As a coach it is difficult to watch your team lose 9 of 10 matches. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see the improvement in several of the guys. They are getting better. I believe Corey Smith wrestled a better bout against his Navy opponent than he did last month at the Navy Classic. Rich Lavorato lost to his opponent at the Navy Classic. This time Rich beat him by a major decision. Those are good things.
Other guys are learning what will work or not work for them in college. Sometimes guys learn the hard way, but as long as they learn, it can be a good thing. Our freshman who wrestled on Saturday learned the hard way.
Greg Flournoy was taken down off of his snap because he did not move his feet. He was caught flat footed. He also gave up a 5 point move because he panicked. He could have taken a smaller risk or committed fully to the risk he took. He also made a technical mistake on the risk he took – All fixable mistakes. Greg did a good job of shaking off the mistakes and continued to work hard. He did a good job of moving on bottom until he escaped. He did a good job of scoring a take down in the 3rd period.
Matt Meadows gave up a take down early in the bout. He needed to stay in better position early. He was also ridden early in the bout. Matt made some good adjustments and was very close to winning the bout. He needed to give himself more opportunities to score late in the bout. The guy was waiting on his first attack. He needed to be able to score with a second or third shot. As a result of this dual, Matt got better. He has a bright future. I was pleased with his effort and his analysis of what he learned as a result of the bout.
Sahid Kargbo had a two take down lead. He gave up a take down late in the 3rd period. He took a mini-break after the take down. I think he assumed the guy would let him go to try and tie up the match. Sadly, as Sahid took a quick break, his opponent put in a low level turk. Sahid fought the turk, but eventually was turned to lose in the final few seconds. Sahid was devastated by the loss and felt he let the team down. Sahid is a guy who loves the sport and loves the journey. His sadness after the bout further shows how important it is to him. He learned the hard way that you have to stay focused for 7 minutes. You can’t give a guy an opening. Division one wrestling requires focus for the entire bout. You will win or lose matches in college off of a guy taking or capitalizing on a guy taking a less than one second break during a bout. Sahid learned the hard way. The good thing is he will learn from this mistake and be better as a result. Sahid has the right mentality and work ethic to grow because of the loss.
One of our team rules is: Don’t think about mistakes more than a few seconds. We must learn from our mistakes. 1. Admit it. 2. Fix it. 3. Forget it and don’t repeat it. When we learn the hard way from making a mistake, I expect our guys to follow the team rule. It can be a difficult thing to do, but guys like Sahid will give their best effort to follow the rule.
Although I was disappointed we did not have a larger crowd, it was pointed out to me by more than one person that it was the largest crowd we have had since my arrival at GMU. We had 7 high school teams sign up and attend high school day at the meet. At the basketball game, fans were told about the dual and encouraged to attend.
We had a social for alums and donors before the match. As I prepared to speak at the social, I was amazed at some of the things accomplished after my first year at GMU. I spoke about the club program Paul Maltagliati started and how Mike Maltagliati and Tad MacDonnell are now moving Paul’s vision forward. I spoke about the successful golf outing they helped organize. I spoke about the $7,500 donation the GWWBN presented to the school at the dual. We have 3 alums on their board – Dan Wotring, Kurt McHenry and Darran Anthony. I spoke about the Mason Pin club and how it continues to grow and the positive affect it is having on the team. I spoke about the progress the team is making and gave up dates on how guys are doing. I spoke about how the school stepped up and added a 2nd assistant coach position. I spoke about the website Dan and Ray Wotring have started gmuwrestling.com. I spoke about the booster club and how Roger Rinker is moving it forward. There are some great people doing great things for this program. As I looked around the room, I was pleased to see 5 former head coaches still supporting the program. Mark Weader, Mike Moyer, Roger Rinker, Lou Mendez, and Jerry Mullins were all present. I tried to thank them and the alums for their efforts that our current team is reaping the benefits of their labor.
We were able to honor a couple of legends of GMU wrestling at half-time of the dual. In 1992, GMU won the CAA championship. Johnny Curtis was the CAA wrestler of the year. Mike Moyer was voted the coach of the year. They both attended the dual. It was great to be able to honor them.
We start finals this week. We held a couple all team study halls to help the guys prepare. We will hold more. One of the ways you can kill a program is to do bad academically. We want to avoid doing poorly. I also know how a college degree can open doors for the guys on the team. Even if they don’t see it at this juncture of their life, I want to make sure I do my utmost to make sure they leave GMU with a degree.
The school is taking a risk allowing us to compete during final exams. We need to prove them right that we can do well on the mat and in the class room. I am excited to have the guys compete at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, but I am more concerned about them finishing well in school. It is important to them, to the team and to the program that they do well in academics.
Hope to see as many people as possible at the Grapple at the Garden. This is a great showcase for college wrestling.