Old Dominion University

Guys wrestled with greater effort at Old Dominion. I was pleased to see them improve mentally from the previous week. There was a greater belief they could compete for 7 minutes. We lost the dual 25-6, but did gain some confidence. I was pleased to see Greg Flournoy wrestle with great focus for 7 minutes. He can do great things. I was also pleased to see Jake Kettler score 5 points at the end of the match to win. If there is time on the clock, there is time to score. Jake showed the team it can be done by wrestling all 7 minutes.

We struggled most with our offense on our feet and getting out from on bottom. We have spent many hours working on our ability to escape or reverse our opponents. We will continue to do so, until we have solved the problem. This week we will concentrate on two key areas: Attitude and Plan.

When we are on bottom we need to have a sense of urgency. We need to believe no one can ride us. Our opportunity on bottom has to be seen as an opportunity to score points. We need to believe in our ability to score from bottom. We need to be willing to put forth the effort to score. The more I move, the more I am wearing down my opponent and the movement also helps create opportunities for me to score points.

We need to have a plan even before the whistle is blown. Our body must be set in a manner that gives us the greatest advantage. On the whistle, we need to explode. We must force our opponent to react more to us than we do to our opponent. When we move we need our upper body moving and one leg. Our pressure needs to be back into our opponent. Thus keeping the weight off our hands and allowing us to clear our hips from our opponent. Using back pressure and movement we need to keep moving until we score. It may take us several attempts to score.

Our last dual of the year will be Thursday night at Maryland. Since Maryland is so close to GMU, I hope we will have a good turnout of people to support the team. After the dual, the fun part of the season begins. We will begin preparing for the CAA and NCAA tournaments.

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Bloomsburg

Not sure what to say about our dual with Bloomsburg. We lost 39-0. For the most part, we did not put up the fight necessary to compete with a good college team. I was disappointed in our effort. It is unacceptable to have guys not give their best effort. They owe it to themselves, their team mates and to the program. Simply put, I expect excellence from the team in everything they do. It does not mean we will always win. It doesn’t mean we will ever win. What it does mean is I expect them to work hard to improve. It means I expect them to give me their best effort.

We have spoken to the team on numerous occasions on what is expected, how they should carry themselves, we have implored them to make changes. We have worked on technique, conditioning, strength, and the mental part of the game. It is incumbent upon them to improve, make changes, and grow. I don’t want my words to fall on deaf ears.

I know change is difficult. We all struggle to make the necessary changes. We don’t have much time left in the season. We better change soon.

I was disappointed that we did not send the seniors off on a better note. We were able to honor 4 of them and their parents on Sunday. Our Athletics Director presented the parents with flowers and gave the seniors a gift. There is nothing easy about college wrestling. These seniors will leave George Mason with their degree and a Division 1 wrestling experience. Their time at George Mason will serve them well in life.

Without reservation, I could recommend our 4 seniors to future employers. Jaaziah Bethea will get his degree this spring in Communications. He would like to be a sports broadcaster. Ty Knepp will get his degree in Health and Physical Education. He wants to be a teacher and a coach. Rich Lavorato will get his degree in Sports Management. He plans on working on a Master’s Degree. Drew Squires will get his degree this spring in Biology. He also plans on attending graduate school.

We will have another public test on Thursday at Old Dominion. I hope we attack this test with more zeal. I hope we are better prepared.

VMI, Bucknell and F & M

We had an interesting week. We competed 3 times this week, all on the road. The three schools we went to were places I had never been. I enjoyed seeing the different campuses and their facilities. We did not have many training days this week due to the competitions, making weight and travel. Fortunately we are home this week and only compete one time. Thus, we should be able to get in some good training days.

We wrestled at VMI on Wednesday. When we arrived, we saw students dressed in their uniforms. We saw older students admonishing freshman while the freshman performed calisthenics. One of the guy’s initial responses was, “I am glad I chose to attend Mason.” I thoroughly enjoyed VMI.

We competed in a small gym they call the thunder dome. The students from VMI came out in force and were very vocal. It was a great atmosphere. I think some of the guys struggled in the environment, while others enjoyed it. I can’t wait to go back to VMI. The VMI students made the competition electric.

We feel behind 9-0, but were able to come back for the team win. We did not wrestle great at some weight classes, but I was pleased to see some of the guys gut out some wins. Thuc put together a great video from our trip to VMI. You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvq7T4rEJ_I

On Saturday morning, we wrestled at Bucknell. It was tough to watch the team compete. We did not wrestle with emotion. We did not have a sense of urgency. It almost looked like some of the guys were going through the motions. It was like an uninspired practice. We lost the dual 21-12. Fortunately, Sahid Kargbo, Greg Flournoy and Jaaziah Bethea finished the dual for us with individual wins.

I knew going into the dual we needed to get more emotion. I spoke to the guys before the dual about getting themselves ready to go. I knew coming off the win on Wednesday, in front of a vocal crowd, it would be hard to get back up for the dual in front of a smaller more reserved crowd at Bucknell. I think my fears were well founded. It is hard to get emotional every time you go out to compete. Nevertheless, you have to find a way to get yourself in the right mindset to compete. You cannot win consistently at the Division 1 level without wrestling with strong resolve.

Typically, I am not a guy who likes to speak to the team in a negative manner. On the other hand, after the dual I felt some things needed to be discussed. I believe elite athletes know when a coach is telling them the truth and when a coach is not. I could not tell them they performed in an acceptable manner in the dual with Bucknell. I was embarrassed by the lack of effort and discouraged attitudes some of the guys had displayed during their matches. Thankfully, the athletes were embarrassed as well.

I was pleased to see the guys wrestle with more resolve on Saturday night at Franklin and Marshall. Again, we did not have a great performance, but we were able to win some close matches. Guys were able to score when they needed to score. Guys were able to defend when they needed to defend. We won the dual meet 8 matches to 2.

We added 4 pins to our pin total this week. We got at fall in every dual. It was great seeing the guys work for bonus points. Ryan Hembury, Greg Flournoy and Jake Kettler were able to score falls this week. Kettler got 2.

Our last home dual will be on Sunday at 2pm in the RAC. We will wrestle one of the better teams in the country. Bloomsburg is ranked as high as 14th in the national polls. We will honor our seniors at the dual. Please come support the team and congratulate the seniors at their last home dual.

Rest and Recovery

Since Christmas, we competed 4 weekends in a row. We finished weekend #4 by wrestling 4 duals. We were the only CAA team to wrestle 4 duals at the CAA duals. The other teams wrestled 2 or 3 duals respectively. I hope the guys use the 4 duals in about 7 hours to understand they can compete multiple times in one day. We wrestled the same 10 guys in each dual. Those 10 guys did something difficult to do. I hope they gain confidence, despite the losses, for having competed.

We did not compete this week. Thus, the guys got a short break from making weight. We also let them individualize their training more than normal. I felt the guys needed a mental break from hearing me and doing what they were told to do. I hope the individualized training, they choose what they did, helped them in a few areas. I hope they got refreshed mentally. I also hope they learn to take ownership in their own development. Sometimes a coaches’ prodding is a good thing, but at other times it needs to fall upon oneself. For example, it is good for the guys to self-review, self-reflect, learn to push oneself, have the knowledge to know what needs to be fixed, and have the ability to fix their own deficiencies.

Ty Knepp had 2 falls at the CAA duals. Thus, our pin total now stands at 22. We actually have more, but those occurred in Open competitions that we are not counting as official pins for the Mason Pin Club. My hope is we will add many more pins to the total. Currently, Jake Kettler leads the team with 7 pins. Despite missing 25% of the season, Ty Knepp sits in 2nd place with 5 pins. I hope the race between these two heats up as we near the end of the season.

For those of you who like social media, I hope you have found our face book page. I am somewhat challenged in this area, but I think you can find it at https://www.facebook.com/pages/George-Mason-Wrestling/294043250620551.

We also have a twitter account. We are about 200 followers shy of 1,000. Hopefully, if you are not following us on twitter, you will in the future. Our twitter can be found at https://twitter.com/GMUWrestling.

Our athletic department site is http://www.gomason.com. Our university site is http://www.gmu.edu.

I know that is lots to remember. We hope to eventually bring all of this together in one main website. We are fortunate to have some alums currently preparing an all in one website. The website is http://www.gmuwrestling.com

We will be on the road this week. We will compete at VMI on Wednesday. Although I have never been to VMI, I have heard the atmosphere is great at VMI. The VMI Cadets should be out in force. Hopefully we will hear lots of booing as opposed to cheering. Then, on Saturday, we will be at Bucknell at Noon and Franklin & Marshall at 7pm.

Navy Dual

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.

Late November Training

We did not schedule a Thanksgiving competition again this year. I hope the guys took advantage of the time off to spend time with family and friends. I also hope they were able to do lots of studying as final exams are just around the corner. The guys had a rare 3 day break from school and team practices. I know most trained while at home, but at least they did not have to listen to my voice for a few days.

We ran a clinic on Saturday. Our numbers were lower than last year, which was disappointing. Nevertheless, I think the wrestlers that showed up had a beneficial experience. They did receive lots of attention.

After the clinic, we held a public practice. I remember last year being disappointed in the energy level of the practice after the clinic. This year, the guys did much better. They wrestled at a harder pace. It was good to see the improvement.

The guys have been helping promote the program. The clinic is a fundraiser for the team, but it is also a good outreach. I know several guys attended high school practices over the break. We also had every guy on the team request businesses to hang up our team poster. I was proud to hear all the places they were able to get our team poster displayed. We purchased more posters as demand had been high. Hopefully, the investment will pay dividends.

Originally, I had scheduled us to compete as a team at the Penn State Open on December 2nd. I took it off the schedule when we were asked to attend the Grapple at the Garden. Nevertheless, I believe several guys will still compete at the Open, but they will go unattached. I am excited so many guys want to make the investment to get an extra competition.

The guys not going to the Open will have two weeks of training before our next home dual on December 8. I like that they will be able to have a concentrated period of training without the concerns of competing, traveling and making weight. If we do it right, we should be able to gain some ground.

We are having a few late night workouts to prepare for our 8pm dual on December 8 vs. Navy. I think it helps the guys mentally and physically to have some late night training sessions. If there are doubts they can compete when the sun goes down, the training will help squash the doubts. They will have been there before in their training.

Navy Classic and First Home Dual

We competed back to back days again this weekend. I like the idea of competing in consecutive days because it simulates what the guys will face at the NCAA tournament. They will have to make weight and compete on consecutive days in March, so we had better be prepared. On the down side, it is very early in the season to have the guys make weight in consecutive days. I am sure it took a toll on them physically and mentally. My hope is the extra pain now will make them stronger physically and mentally later on in the season.

I thought, for the most part, the guys competed well at the Navy Classic. Like most competitions there was some good and some bad. The trick will be to have the entire team wrestling well on a more consistent basis and when it really counts. We did have 3 guys place on Saturday. Sahid Kargbo, Matt Meadows and Jake Kettler all placed 5th. We also had other guys win some matches.

On Sunday we came home and wrestled Washington and Lee University. The coaches at Washington and Lee are in their second year of running the program. From the look of how their guys competed, they are making positive gains. I was pleased we were able to win our first home meet of the year. We also had 3 guys pin their opponents, which was good to do for our home crowd.

We will continue to train hard and then take a few days off for Thanksgiving. My hope is the guys will enjoy time off for Thanksgiving, but also continue to grow as wrestlers, students, and people. Personally, I think it is a great time to get ahead in their studies. I hope they heed my advice and spend some extra time on course work. I also hope they take some time to heal nagging injuries and get refreshed mentally.

We will host a wrestling clinic on November 24 and hold a public practice. The clinic and public practice are good to promote the program and also put the guys in a more stressful environment. My hope is it will help them prepare for competitions. A couple of guys will miss the clinic, because they plan on competing unattached at the Mat Town Open. I am excited they have chosen to compete on their own.

I think the Pin Pool is working to help motivate guys to pin their opponents. I think we are ahead of last year’s total at this point in the season. We are already in double digits for pins.