American and Sacred Heart

In planning the schedule last year, I was pleased when I was able to lock down 4 dual meets in 12 days to end our regular season. I felt having this team make weight and compete 4 times in such a short time span would be a great test for them mentally and physically to end the regular season. As a coach, I fear giving the guys more than they can handle late in the season. I fear late season injuries. In hindsight, I was pleased how things worked out. The team handled the added stress well. They are better as a result of the late season duals. I was pleased to see the plan work out as I had hoped.

On Friday night, we went to American University where we lost the dual 7 matches to 3. I was frustrated by the lack of offense by our team. We were only able to score 3 takedowns on the night. I felt we left too many points on the board. I was frustrated, for the team, as I know they are capable of more than they showed. Sahid Kargbo, Ryan Forrest and Matt Voss were all victorious. Matt Voss avenged a loss from the previous season and showed his improvement. Tejon Anthony lost an 11 minute multiple overtime match as he was unable to finish his attacks. I was disappointed with the result but pleased with his effort. Matt Raines lost a close bout in regulation, but I was pleased to see his effort level. I know if he wrestles at the pace he did on Friday, he will find success down the road.

On Sunday afternoon, we hosted Sacred Heart University. We were able to send our seniors out with a team win. I was pleased we were able to honor 6 seniors – Patrick Davis, Ryan Forrest, Sahid Kargbo, Matt Meadows, Ryan Renkey, and Andrew Thomas. It is rewarding to see guys make it through 4 or 5 seasons of D1 wrestling and graduate from the institution. It is a difficult path to navigate and I tip my hat to these seniors.

We won the dual 6 matches to 4. Ibrahim Bunduka won by a forfeit. Lio Quezada fell behind early and fought hard to come back. Although he fell short, I was pleased to see his resilience. Tejon Anthony scored a quick takedown and made a mistake which resulted in him losing his bout by a fall. I know he learned as a result, but I wish he could have learned the defense without it being so costly. It was painful to see his disappointment. Sahid Kargbo won by a major decision. It was great to see him let lose, have fun and score points. Matt Raines did a good job of hustling and was rewarded with an important win for his team. Daniel Mika scored 2 offensive takedowns and was able to get off bottom in the second period. Unfortunately, he was unable to close out the match with a win. He needed to keep scoring points and moving on bottom. I was disappointed for him. Ryan Forrest scored lots of points in route to a major decision. He made an adjustment to his single leg shot which proved beneficial. Austin Harrison stepped aside so Andrew Thomas could wrestle in front of the home crowd one more time. I appreciated Austin’s willingness to let Andrew compete. Although Andrew lost, I hope he enjoyed the opportunity to compete one last time at the RAC. Matt Meadows finished his home career with a win. I was pleased so many of his family were able to watch his last home competition. Once again a dual meet came down to Matt Voss. Once again he stepped up in a big way. He pinned his opponent in the first period to seal the deal for his team.

On March 4, the team will compete at the EWL tournament with the plan of securing a spot at the NCAA Tournament. The anticipation is exciting and fun. We will spend the next few weeks preparing mentally and physically for the post season. I am excited for these guys to have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams which have turned into goals. Let’s do our utmost to reach the goals we set at the start of the season.

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USNA and F&M Duals

On Wednesday night, we had a home competition against the United States Naval Academy. We ended up starting the dual meet over an hour late as our scheduled official did not make it and a replacement had to be found. It was a unique situation and is one I would rather not repeat. I want to say thank you to all those who attended and stuck it out while we waited. I also want to say thank you to the USNA for assisting us with putting on an impromptu clinic for the youth wrestlers who were in attendance. I heard from more than one person that the kids loved the clinic and it made the event even better.

We ended up losing the dual 6 matches to 4. Lio Quezada won his bout by a major decision. Ibrahim Bunduka, Sahid Kargbo and Matt Voss all won by decision. Tejon Anthony and Matt Raines lost very close decisions. We gave up bonus points in the other bouts we lost.

Tejon Anthony lost a controversial match to the #13th wrestler in the nation. Tejon was leading 3-2 with 23 seconds left in the bout. At that time, the official signaled a takedown for the Navy wrestler. I immediately challenged the call. The official saw my challenge but let the action continue until there were 3 seconds left in the bout. Initially the official ruled there was no takedown at the 23 second mark. He then said there was a takedown at the 6 second mark and the wrestlers went out of bounds at the 3 second mark. It was a tough call for all involved and I was certainly disappointed. Tejon is getting better and it is being noticed as he was recognized in the coaches’ ranking and RPI later in the week.

Matt Raines lost 3-2. With less than 10 seconds to go Matt was able to secure a single leg with his opponent’s leg in the air. He was not able to finish the shot before time expired. It was a tough way to lose and it did result in a teachable moment for the team. We worked on quick finishes to single legs in practice the following day.

On Saturday, we traveled to Franklin & Marshall College. Our new Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Banville traveled with the team. It was a first for me to have a FAR travel with us. I appreciate her taking the time and interest to attend the dual.

We won the dual 7 matches to 3. It was a good team performance. I believe we finished matches by scoring the last offensive points in 9 of the 10 matches. This was good to see. I liked the effort. We also had 3 guys win by pin (sorry to those in the pin club as it was an expensive night for you). It has been awhile since we had that many pins in a dual meet. It was Austin Harrison’s first pin of his college career. Sahid Kargbo pinned his first opponent of his senior season. Matt Voss pinned his opponent in the first period. Ibrahim Bunduka won by a major decision. Tejon Anthony, Matt Raines, and Ryan Forrest all won by decision. I was also pleased by the effort of the guys who lost. They competed with toughness in the later stages of their bouts.

Thanks to Daniel Mika’s uncle we found a new go to place to eat in Lancaster. It is always fun listening to the chatter of the team after weigh ins and competition. Even though Ray Yamrus beat me badly in driving the other team van back to campus, our drive home went well due in part to full stomachs and a team victory.

This will be a busy, yet exciting, week for us as we complete our regular season. On Friday we will compete at American University at 7pm. On Sunday, our club will host a youth tournament at the RAC – the Patriot Pummel (www.patriotpummel.com) followed by our final home dual of the year against Sacred Heart University.

Our dual with Sacred Heart is scheduled to start at 2pm. We will honor our seniors at half-time. Please come support the team and our seniors – Patrick Davis, Ryan Forrest, Sahid Kargbo, Matt Meadows, Ryan Renkey, and Andrew Thomas.

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.

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.

EWL Duals – Bloomsburg and Lock Haven + Upcoming Home Duals

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.

Grapple 2016

We spent Thanksgiving weekend living in style. For the first time, we were able to travel on the new Mason Bus. We took pride in representing our University riding in the Mason bus up and down I95. I was able to show the coaches a fine place to eat in downtown Newark and Dan Wotring introduced us to a great burger place in Manhattan. These two places will be my go to joints in the future.

13 Mason wrestlers were given the opportunity to compete in the worlds most famous arena. Long after their days on the mat are done, my hope is they will have a good story to tell their grandchildren. I hope it was a meaningful experience for them representing George Mason University at Madison Square Garden.

In 5 years of attending the Grapple at the Garden, we are now 0-9 as a team. I am disheartened. Trying to find a formula to win has proved difficult. We have let too many situations slip through our fingers. We lost 7 matches to 3 against Buffalo and 6 matches to 4 against Hofstra.

Individually, Tejon Anthony and Sahid Kargbo went 2-0 on the day. I was pleased with Tejon’s poise and effort. Tejon scored the only bonus point of either team in our dual with Hofstra. Sahid beat a returning national qualifier with an overtime takedown. It is a win that will help his growth as a wrestler and will also help pave a path to the NCAA tournament. I think he was able to see some of his weaknesses today, so now it’s time to fix them. Daniel Mika wrestled up a weight class and won an important match for the team against Hofstra. Mika finished the day 1-0.

The Matts (Voss and Raines) finished the day 1-1. Both did not make the necessary adjustments during the bouts they lost. Adjusting to an opponent’s strengths is important to getting their hands raised. In the bouts they won, both were able to put points on the board. It was good to see them find ways to score.

Trevor Mello was 0-1. He started well in his bout scoring the first takedown and riding his opponent. Later in the bout he got out of position and was pinned. The 9 point swing in expected team score put us in a hole early in our bout with Buffalo. Quinton Tucker wrestled for us at 125 in the next dual. He lost by decision. I was pleased with his effort in the 3rd period, but he was in too big a hole to come out with the win. Austin Harrison was 0-1 on the day. He was pinned by his opponent from Buffalo. His lack of belief hurt his performance. Positive self talk and thought are crucial to success. If Austin starts to trust his preparation more during competition, he will see better results. Austin puts in the necessary work. Andrew Thomas wrestled up a weight class for the team in our dual with Buffalo. He lost by technical fall, but gave good effort for his team. Matt Meadows wrestled for us in the 2nd dual at 197. It was his first bout in over a year and a half. I was happy for him to have another opportunity to compete. He lost in overtime. He certainly had the ability to win the match and dual for his team, but fell short. His energy level was too low due to not sticking to his weight loss plan. Tough lesson to learn for him and the team. Nevertheless, Matt can still write a great story to his college career if he is willing to make the needed changes.

Lio Quezada, Garrett Tingen and Patrick Davis all went 0-2 on the day. Lio lost by fall, which is something he needs to change. It has happened too many times during his first month of college competition. He competed better in his 2nd match. He lost by a decision but finished on top in the 3rd. Lio’s future is bright due in part to his desire to get better and by living a good lifestyle. Garrett lost his bouts by decision. In both matches, he made costly mistakes at costly times. Garrett’s free spirit when he wrestles is going to make him fun to watch. As Garrett gets more practice and matches under his belt at the college level, he will be a force. Patrick Davis had a disappointing day. He is much better than the results showed. In his second bout, he was dominant for the vast majority of the bout. For some reason he seemed to panic and get frustrated at the end of the match. He earned the right to the lead and needed to close the door instead of stressing about being in late tough situations. It was a costly loss for the team in our dual against Hofstra.

Our performance needs to get better in order to be more competitive at D1 wrestling. Our attitude needs to be one of confidence, belief, and resolve. We need to enjoy the tough situations in training and competition. Love the process, journey and fight. The tough situations need to bring gratification rather than fear. Our effort must be the best we can give. Sometimes we hold back. Fear of failure, fatigue, and doubt can be tough to beat, but we certainly can crush them. We need to go forward, make the decision to stand our ground no matter what obstacle is in our path. Say no to the things that destroy our dreams. Say yes to the things that increase our opportunities to success.

I was strengthened by watching and listening to our team before, during and after the competition. They were pulling for each other and are coming together as a unit. The more they become like a family, the more they can help each other reach their goals. Our adventure in the Big Apple was painful at times, but it certainly can help produce positive outcomes down the road.

Our path does not grow easier. We need to have a sense of urgency. We open our EWL dual meet season Saturday at Bloomsburg and Sunday at Lock Haven. Our performance must improve. I have confidence this group of guys will raise the level of their performance.