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Monday Roundup: House Talks Utah Camp; Reactions to Ben/RaVaughn; RUS

house, utah valley, russia
Photo: Russian Federation

With so much of the buzz heading into the weekend revolving around last night’s Wrestling Underground I card which saw two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (BVRTC) prevail over multi-time Trials champ RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC), one story got missed: the conclusion of the latest “Summer Series” Greco camp that was just held at the Utah Valley Regional Training Center.

Nearly two dozen wrestlers converged on Orem, UT a week ago, including a healthy number of recent World and National Team members. The coaching staff was also of elite quality and featured 2006 World Champion Joe Warren (60 kg, NYAC), ’05 World bronze Justin Ruiz, and MWC founder Zac Dominguez. But everyone by now knows who the man responsible for the “Summer Series” is — NYAC club coach/US National Team staffer Herb House, who was on hand once again to organize the proceedings.

Utah represented the third Senior Greco camp of the summer. It has been a process. Upon the end of the first training camp back in early-July (hosted by Ivan Ivanov at the Suples HQ in Boise), the narrative was that nearly all of the wrestlers were out of shape. The theme hadn’t changed much later in the month after the gathering in Nebraska wrapped. Improvement had been noticed, and the curriculum at MWC was geared towards managing a reasonable increase in volume. The coaches were encouraged, so too were the athletes, and all involved looked forward to the next opportunity on the docket, which eventually went to the Utah Valley RTC.

Sure enough, House liked what he saw early on last week and his confidence only grew. In fact, he and US National Team head coach Matt Lindland decided prior to Utah that if physical conditioning among the group in the room was up to par, they would re-introduce “grind matches”.

Formerly a staple of the US Team dating back multiple eras, grind matches can be formatted in any number of ways. No matter what, they entail two wrestlers going “live” for extended time intervals. 60 minutes, 90 minutes, two hours…it all depends on the relative shape of the participants along with what the upcoming goals happen to offer. In Utah, the time limit was set at 30 minutes simply because asking for much more than that right now from US Seniors is a bit of stretch.

There were other items to get to with House pertaining to Utah and he provided a detailed breakdown in this Q&A found below.

utah valley rtc summer series camp

Group photo of the participants from last week’s “Summer Series” Greco camp held at the Utah Valley Regional Training Center. (Photo: Zac Dominguez)

5PM: Overall synopsis: how’d it go in Utah?

Herb House: I think the whole camp was good. We had Zac, Joe Warren, and Justin Ruiz all come out. Zac did a wonderful job, Joe did a great job showing a lot of things, and then Justin worked on par terre. Great stuff, just great stuff. Really good moves. One of the great things is that we brought back the “grind match”. We did a 30-minute grind match. Basically, what we did was go 60-90% for the first 15 minutes, and then the second half we went 90, or close to 100%. What I did was every 15 minutes I made them switch partners.

5PM: Obviously, the grind match is a part of USA Greco lore. What was the decision-making process as far as re-introducing the grind match concept?

House: I had talked to Coach Lindland about bringing back the grind matches and he agreed to it. Back in our day, we used to do the two-hour grind matches, so that was a little different. We wanted to bring it back slower, so we said, Let’s do 30 minutes instead. And you know, it was more of a pummeling, fast-paced situation. If your opponent seemed like he was getting a move, don’t give it to him right away. Make him fight for it.

It was great. I didn’t see anyone quit. I think the next step is that we will bump it up to 60 minutes the next time we do it. The thought of it is mental. A lot of wrestlers feel like their mind is telling them that their bodies are about to give up. And then they break. But after you do these grind matches, you know you’re in shape. You know you can keep going. That’s what the grind match does. It helps you get prepared mentally for competition.

5PM: Tracing this all the way back to Suples, were guys in discernibly better condition than the first two camps?

House: Oh, a lot better. RaVaughn Perkins, losing weight. Ben Provisor, you saw the pictures of him. He lost a lot of weight and looks more fit. Tracy (G’Angelo Hancock) lost more weight. The guys are more fit. I didn’t see anyone throw up this camp, so that’s a good thing. I think slowly and slowly, it’s working. We just have to keep going and follow all of our safety protocols that we do have. Coach (Craig) LaMont has a great facility. They catered to us and made us feel welcomed. He gave us all of the things we needed to make this happen. It’s a beautiful campus up there that he created for his RTC.

5PM: There weren’t too many of them this time, but as far as the athletes who haven’t trained as much, how did they fare at this one in Utah?

House: There were a couple of them who got tired. I mean, you’re going to get tired if you haven’t been wrestling or on the mat for a while. You’re going to get tired and your body is not going to take a lot of it. But the Minnesota Storm guys, they have their private group back home and they are always on the mat. Like Pat Smith. That guy just shows no signs of fatigue.

5PM: What was the general mood around the guys pertaining to the idea of competing at the US Nationals in October?

House: I talked to a couple of guys about it. Some guys feel that there is no reason for them to compete, so, some of those guys aren’t going to compete. There are other guys who are in there and developing. They are getting better, but maybe they’re not in the top-3 or top-2. They might be in the top-4 or top-5, and they feel like this will help them jump levels. Probably if it is not a Senior (World) qualifier a lot of guys will not show up. And that’s fine, right? I think the big concept of it is that we can get matches for some athletes. It is an opportunity to get them matches, and we’ll get them some matches. If there are Senior guys who want to focus on the Olympic Trials because they are a #1 or #2 guy, then do it. Talking to a guy like Joe Rau, he’s thinking about wrestling. Not everyone will miss the tournament; but I think if the Army and the Marine Corps are there it will be a lot more interesting and some athletes might change their minds.

5PM: What people are naturally going to want to know is if there are plans for another one of these camps. 

House: I’m talking to a couple of people. I have been talking to Eric (Guerrero). We have been talking a little bit about perhaps having a camp there in Oklahoma, probably somewhere around September 20-25. That’s the one location. I am not sure about the other ones, we haven’t decided. But that’s the location the last time I talked to an RTC coach, which was Eric. He said that he’d love to have us in Oklahoma.

WUG Reactions

Provisor and Perkins were certainly determined to put on a show in their Greco match Sunday night that aired as part of the Wrestling Underground I event on UFC Fight Pass. It was a responsibility both took seriously as soon as their names were chosen for involvement. Given their respective statuses in the sport, and as premier candidates to make the 2020 Olympic Team, the pair wanted to avail all of their offensive skills in an effort to demonstrate what Greco-Roman could and should look like when throwing caution (no pun) to the wind. The result was a bombastic first period that delivered three outstanding throws and a combined 19 offensive points scored.

A more strategic, close-to-the-vest approach defined the second period. Even though neither athlete was able to execute in the final three minutes, they still entertained — and educated — the audience. The second period was crammed with high-level positional exchanges and enough intensity to send everyone home happy, and hopefully, with a more robust understanding of what Greco at its best actually is: a mix of impressive throws, cerebral tactics, and fleeting pockets of violence the other styles just don’t seem to offer.

After Provisor’s thrilling 10-9 decision over Perkins, fans and those from in and around the wrestling community chimed in with their approval.

Russia Turning Up the Heat

Russia first got back on the mat in an official capacity last month when they held a National Team-type camp in Moscow. But — the global Greco powerhouse intended to unveil another major training camp in August (Adler) only to eventually reconsider. They weren’t planning on staying idle for long, not with a Senior World Championships just a few months off into the distance. As such, things are back on track for the Russians, who will be meeting up next month in the rocky terrain of Kabardino-Balkaria in order to refocus their athletes for the (potential) Serbia 2020 event — before bringing everyone together for two more training camps later in the fall.

“The World Championship is scheduled for December, and the basic three-stage preparation for it begins in the fall, and on September 8, in the mountains of Kabardino-Balkaria in Ozone, we begin preparations for the final part of 2020,” Russian head coach and former multi-time World gold Gogi Kouguashvili told WrestRus (transcript converted to English via machine translation). “The second training camp is planned in Adler, and the final training camp before the World Cup is planned in the Moscow region. All the guys are safe and sound. The training camp in July, after a long pause, was great at Horizon. The guys enjoyed training, missed the training camp and the competition.”

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