2016 EWL Tournament

We had 3 guys wrestle above their seed; 3 guys wrestle below their seed; 4 guys wrestle to their seed. With our peeking plan and where I thought the guys were at physically and mentally, I had confidence they would do better. It wasn’t that we had a bad tournament; we just needed to do a little better. As of today, we have no NCAA qualifiers. We do have a few guys who will receive some consideration for at-large bids. We will have to wait and see.

In the quarter-final round we went 4-6. Tejon Anthony, Blake Roulo, Greg Flournoy, and Matt Voss all advanced to the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, we went 0-4. We need to do better job getting guys into the finals. Last season we were able to get 2 guys into the finals (as a result, both qualified for the NCAA tournament). This year our closest semifinal bout was Blake Roulo. He lost on a passivity call and thus qualify for the NCAA tournament. It was a tough loss for him and the program.

We did a good job in the consolation rounds. In the consolation quarter-finals, we went 4-1. We were lucky enough to have 3 byes and Patrick Davis pinned his opponent. In the consolation semi-finals, we wrestled real well. We went 7-2. What made the results even better is it was a higher pressure round than in past years. As coaches we voted to wrestle to the top 4 places this year as opposed to placing the top 6. There was more emotion this year for the consolation semi-finals since a win was the only way a wrestler could place. In our conference coaches meeting before the finals, it was noted the change seemed to be a positive move for the conference. It was also apparent the crowd and teams were more into the matches as they needed to win to place. In the 3rd place matches we went 2-5.

Looking as a whole, I think we had an overall better tournament this year than our previous two years in the conference. In 2014, we had 3 guys place in the top 4. In 2015, we had 5 guys place in the top 4. This year we had 7 placers in the top 4. I have lots of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve thoughts running through my mind which makes our overall results disappointing. We had several opportunities to punch tickets to the NCAA tournament. We failed to capitalize on all of them.

At 125, Ibrahim Bunduka was seeded 2nd and placed 4th. In his opening round match IB wrestled aggressive but was unable to convert any of his take down attempts. He lost the bout 3-2. He had lost to the same guy earlier in the year so we knew it would be a tough match. Nevertheless, his effort was good. He received a bye in his first consolation bout and then won 18-14 in the consolation semi-finals. His aggressiveness was great, although he did not finish the match well. He gave up a few takedowns in the 3rd period to lose his bid for a major decision. In his bout for 3rd, he lost by decision to a guy he had beaten earlier in the year. Adjusting his attacks (lowering his hand placement on his shot) and getting out from bottom are areas he must improve.

At 133, Vince Rodriguez was seeded 2nd and finished 4th. Vince lost to the same guy in the opening round and in the 3rd place match. I think Vince as well as I overlooked his opponent from Cleveland State. I was confident Vince was going to win the tournament. We should have been more focused on finding a way to win one match at a time as opposed to qualifying for the NCAA tournament. It was a tough day for me personally, not seeing Vince do what I believe he was capable of doing. I wanted him to finish well at the EWL tournament.

At 141, #4 seed Tejon Anthony won his opening bout to make the semi-finals. He lost his next two matches, so he did not place. He lost to the eventual champion in a closer bout than he had against him earlier in the year. In the consolation semi-finals he lost to the eventual 3rd place wrestler. Tejon had a good freshman year. The experience should help him. He needs to get better on bottom. He knows that now and will have 12 months to solve the problem.

At 149, #5 seed Blake Roulo beat the #4 seed in the opening round. In the semi-finals he lost 2-1 to the eventual outstanding wrestler of the tournament. He came back strong with a major decision win in the consolation semi-finals. In his bout for 3rd, he gave up too many points early in the bout and then threw everything at his opponent he had ever thought of trying in a match but he couldn’t close the gap. Blake will receive consideration for an at-large spot at the NCAA tournament because he was one place away from an automatic bid.

At 157, Greg Flournoy was seeded 3rd and placed 3rd. He opened with a major decision win, but lost to the eventual champion in the semi-finals. Greg then won his next two matches to place 3rd. He was able to wrestle for a true second place bout and thus qualify for the NCAA tournament, but he was unable to win the match. We will now have to wait and see if he receives an at-large bid. He is in a good place to get one because of several factors: he qualified the spot for the conference because he was a gold standard wrestler before the conference tournament; I believe he will still be gold standard when the new rankings and RPI are determined today; He has over 70% wins; he was one place out from qualifying; he has beaten 5 guys already in the NCAA field and he has arguments over some of the other guys up for consideration. On the negative side, some crazy things happened this weekend at other qualifying tournaments. There are some good wrestlers looking from the outside trying to get into the tournament. I know Greg deserves a bid and that he will do well at the NCAA tournament. My hope is the committee agrees. It will be a long couple of days waiting to see if Greg will get his opportunity.

At 165, Patrick Davis was unseeded. He lost a close bout to the #3 seed in the opening bout and in the 3rd place bout. On a positive note he won two consolation bouts to finish 4th. He opened with a first period pin and then in his consolation semi-final bout he was able to beat the #4 seed 3-0. He had lost to the same opponent 2x during the year. Patrick is close to doing real well. He needs to spend the next 12 months building his body into a machine and getting better on bottom.

At 174, Ryan Forrest was unseeded and placed 3rd. Ryan lost a close bout to the #2 seed in the quarter-finals. He then had a bye, followed by a win by pin over the #4 seed. He was able to avenge his opening round loss with a 5-3 win to place 3rd. Ryan had a frustrating year with lots of physical issues. I was pleased he was able to put together a good tournament to finish the season with a more positive feeling. Now Ryan will have time to heal and figure out what is going on physically.

At 184, unseeded Luke Ludke lost his opening bout to the #2 seed. Luke wrestled him much better than he did earlier in the season. Luke received a bye and then lost his consolation semi-final bout to the #4 seed. I was pleased to see the progress Luke made this year. He made a huge jump in weight classes to become the starter for the program. As a result, he was able to compete more. He did a good job of learning this year. He became a much better college wrestler as a result.

At 197, unseeded Cameron Houston lost his opening bout to the #3 seed. He then lost to the eventual 4th placer. 197 was a tough weight class this year in the EWL. It was a difficult season for Cameron. My hope is he is able to learn and writes a great story to his college wrestling career.

At Heavyweight, Matt Voss was seeded 4th and he placed 4th. Matt had a bye in the opening round. He then lost by a decision in the semi-finals. He won his bout in the consolation semi-finals, but then lost his bout for third. I love the pace Matt Voss wrestles. He needs to spend the next 12 months getting better in positions and holding good position. He needs better basic defense and a greater ability to ride his opponents.

This week is our spring break at George Mason University. I told the guys to stay close to campus in case we receive good news on Wednesday. My hope is all of us take this week to do some self-review. We need to make sure we continually work to improve ourselves and our program.


F&M Dual

We won 8 of 10 matches against Franklin & Marshall College. It was nice to see guys have success. For the most part we did well in all areas. I would have liked to see the guys wrestle with more energy. I think too often we were worried about how we felt or the match score. I think we could have pushed the pace more, taken more risk. After each guy left the mat, we had them run sprints in the back room. The purpose was to show them they had more to give, not to punish. I hope they understand better they can give more while they compete. We had 4 matches where we won by 6 points (Ibrahim Bunduka, Greg Flournoy, Ryan Forrest and Matt Meadows). As a coach, it makes you think how close they were to getting a major decision. Could they have found a way to score one more takedown? Sahid Kargbo found a way to score one more takedown to secure a major in his match. Jake Kettler was able to pin his opponent in the 3rd period. I think our team was capable of scoring more points. We scored the last point in 5 matches (Bunduka, Kargbo, Forrest, Meadows, Kettler), but in 5 other matches F&M scored the last point (Rodriguez, Koroma, Flournoy, Mika, Dwyer). We need the ratio to be more in our favor. Rodriguez, Koroma and Flournoy gave up escape points, which we wanted them to give, so they could try and score on their feet. The strategy did not work, because they were unable to score another takedown.

Daniel Mika started his first match of the year. As a true freshman, it is a difficult match to wrestle. I would have liked to see him be more aggressive at finishing an attack. I did not want him to take too many crazy risks, but I would have liked him to try and capitalize more on low risk attacks. In overtime, he made a mistake and gave up the takedown. In his frustration over the loss he laid on his back. The referee decided to call the fall even though his opponent was not holding him on his back. It is important that a wrestler does not stop on their back. Tough lesson to learn, but I assume Daniel Mika will never make this mistake again. I also hope his teammates learned from the mistake he made. It can cost a team a dual meet. Giving up 3 team points is bad, giving up 6 team points is much worse. I wish for Daniel Mika he had a better result, but I do believe he will perform better as a result of this match.

Due to various reasons we had to juggle our expected lineup. I was certainly concerned and frustrated before the match. We also brought 2 extra guys just in case they were needed. In the end, neither guy was needed. Nevertheless, I was pleased both Andrew Thomas and Bill Prochniewski were willing to step up if needed. Together we can accomplish more.

We will not compete again until December 21 at the Grapple at the Garden. Guys need to focus on final exams and then focus on getting ready for our two dual meets at Madison Square Garden against Duke and Drexel. It is important they finish well in school. It is also important for them to control the things they can control. Continue to train during finals, work on weaknesses, control their diet… We can get better these next two weeks.

This will be the third time we have competed at the Grapple at the Garden. It will be the first time we have competed at the event without worrying about hustling home because of studies. We will be able to travel with more of the team and my hope is, after we compete, we will have a few hours to sightsee in NYC. We also plan on making our annual stop at Casa Filippo Italian Restaurant in Caldwell, NJ on the way home. The Lavorato’s have been kind enough to invite us back. I am drooling just thinking about the great dinner we will have.

The George Mason Ticket office still has tickets available for the Grapple at the Garden.

The ticket office contact information is:
George Mason Athletic Ticket Office
Field House
4400 University Drive, MS 3A5
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: 703-993-3270
Fax: 703-993-8578
Email: icatix@gmu.edu

More information is available at http://www.gomason.com at the following page: http://www.gomason.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=606332&SPID=80369&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=25200&ATCLID=209748449

Open Competitions

We had 10 guys choose to wrestle in Open competitions this weekend. I am proud of their commitment. The guys won lots of matches. I heard they wrestled hard, which is very important to this team. They are obligated to give their best effort for the entire match. They can control their attitude and effort. Sometimes, the win or loss is out of their hands.

Records this weekend:
Blake Roulo 4-1 (finished 2nd place at Pembroke Classic)
Luke Ludke 4-2
Ryan Hunsberger 3-2
Seth Robertson 2-2
Bill Prochniewski 1-2
Ibrahim Bunduka 1-2
Jake Kettler 1-2
Ryan Hembury 1-2
Shohei Takagi 1-2
Derek Dwyer 0-2

Belief is so important in this sport. It is a stumbling block for so many. I think we are finally getting guys to believe they can compete against the best in college wrestling. We will be tested. We will have ups and downs. Nevertheless, it is important you walk on the mat believing you are prepared to win. Through our training, competition, and life style, we are getting guys to buy in and believe. I am excited for them to see what a difference it will make when they compete.

I did not go to the Open competitions this weekend. I stayed home to celebrate my son’s 3rd birthday. Because he has a November birthday, it is hard for me to be home on his birthday. I am happy I could be home with him this weekend. As a coach, you are often away from family. There is a strong pull to be away from home. Family is important and should be placed ahead of work, but often it is not. I want the guys on the team to take care of their relationships. I need to do the same. Happy Birthday, Taft John Russell.

First Day of School

Let the fun begin. 2013-14 school year has begun. It has been fun to see the old guys and exciting to see the new guys finally on campus. We have a bunch of incoming guys, so our roster has grown significantly. We will have more competition in the room which I hope will help the guys grow.

I spent the past two weeks helping coach our 2013 USA World Cadet team at the Cadet World Championships. The tournament was held in Serbia. I enjoyed seeing a part of the world I had never seen before. It was an interesting place. Most of all I enjoyed interacting with a great USA team and meeting wrestlers from all over the world.

We were blessed as a coaching staff to have great support from USA Wrestling and other support staff. More importantly, we were blessed to work with high character athletes. They made our job easy and fun. The team performed well at the tournament, which was a bonus for the coaches. It makes you feel like you did something right.

I had some unique experiences. Such as, I sat in a pre-tournament coaches meeting between the head coach from Iran and Belarus. The meeting was conducted mostly by a Russian official and a Serbian FILA representative. They conducted most of the meeting in broken English which was a plus for me. After the meeting, the Iranian coach had me try to explain the rules interpretation to the other Iranian coaches. I remember thinking, “Man, I hope I heard the Russian Official correctly. I don’t want to further hurt relations between Iran and the USA.” Fortunately, I think I told them the correct things.

Another unique experience was during our lay-over in Rome. One of the other coaches and I decided it would be a good idea to take 10 under age Americans who were cutting weight on a quick sightseeing tour. It was a comedy of errors, mostly due to my mistakes, but we were able to take a few pictures outside the Ancient Roman Coliseum.

It was a great trip. I know I have grown as a person and as a coach as a result of the experiences and the people I spent time with during the adventure. I feel blessed.

We will spend the first week of school trying to help get the guys ready for the school year and for training. To be a division 1 athlete is a daunting endeavor. The guys will have to pass physicals, take medical tests, base line tests, compete compliance forms, eligibility forms, amateurism forms, pass the NCAA Eligibility Center, attend compliance meetings, academic meetings, meet with trainer, and get equipment. Once all of that is complete, I think I missed a few steps, and then we can start thinking about our team obligations and training.

The plan is to start team strength and conditioning workouts on September 2. We will also host the Paul Maltagliati Memorial Golf outing on September 9. The golf outing is an important fundraiser for our club program. Paul Maltagliati started the club for us.

Much of our effort this fall will also be put into helping host the NWCA All-Star Classic. This prestigious event will take place on campus on November 2.

CAA Championships

We went to Boston University over the weekend to compete in the CAA Championships. We traveled via air. I was surprised most of the guys on the team have not traveled much by air. It made the trip more enjoyable. We were fortunate our flight was not canceled as we flew into a snow storm. Other teams had tougher travel.

We finished in last place overall, which is never fun. I had hoped we had made enough progress during the year to close the gap on other teams. We did improve, but are still behind. In my two years at Mason we have yet to win a conference dual. I find that disheartening. On the negative side, we were 8-20. We only had 3 placers, no champs.

On the positive side, we were more competitive this year. In 2012, we had 3 guys win matches at the conference tournament. This year, we had 6. In other matches, we were more competitive. We lost some close matches and in others were able to hold our ground better. We scored 6 bonus points (2 pins and 2 majors). If you look squarely at what we were expected to do on paper (seeds and ranking), 8 guys wrestle at or above their pre-tournament ranking. We had 2 guys who probably wrestled below. Thus, on paper, we had a much improved tournament.

For the most part, I was pleased with our effort and attitude. Guys wrestled hard. It is hard to see guys fall short of their goals. The more you have put into something, the more it hurts when you don’t get it. Tears were shed on Saturday night. It was a tough night.

The 3 seniors that wrestled in the tournament are now dealing with the questions of “what now?” I know it is a tough time for a college wrestler. There is no next year. There is no second chance. Rich Lavorato and Jaaziah Bethea both finished 4th place, both guys were unseeded, scored bonus points and placement points for their team. I know both wanted more and planned on wrestling next week at the national tournament. Nevertheless, they contributed to their team. Ty Knepp did not place, but he went down swinging. I think when you compete as hard as you can it is easier to walk away with no regrets.

A few years ago, Jayson Ness taught me a great lesson. He had just lost in the NCAA finals his sophomore year. I was fuming and freighting over his loss. I wanted him to win badly. I was angry that he did not win. When we were walking off the arena floor and into the tunnel, he turned to me and said, “I wrestled as hard as I could. I tried my best. I guess God had a different plan for me.” At that moment, I was ashamed at my attitude. Jayson’s perspective and attitude helped me grow that night as a coach and person. If you truly give your best effort and have a great attitude, you can walk away with no regrets.

Jake Kettler wrestled a good tournament. He won by pin in his quarter-final match. In his semi-final match, he won 9-2. The guy he beat in the semi-finals had beaten him earlier in the year. In the finals, he came up short.

Since there was only one qualifier at his weight class, he did not automatically qualify for the national tournament. Thus, we have spent a few days awaiting the committee’s decision on the at-large entrants at his weight class. I also delayed posting my blog until we knew the decision. I was very happy when we saw his name on the list of competitors.

We crunched the numbers and thought Jake deserved to be in, but until you see it, you don’t know. I am happy Jake is fulfilling a dream. The waiting has been tough, but now we need to focus on getting him physically and mentally ready to compete. It is a great problem to have.

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.

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.