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.