The topic was broached with Northern Michigan University/Olympic Training Site head coach Rob Hermann two weeks ago: when it comes to Greco-Roman in the US right now, Marquette has become the place to be. That’s not to take anything away from the actual Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, especially since that is where the National Team program is headquartered. But if you look at what is going on at NMU — and what has already gone on recently — you really can’t compare activity levels.
So far in 2018, NMU has:
- Held two “Big Brother” camps intended for age-groupers.
- Hosted the Navy team for three weeks (or thereabouts) leading up to the US Open.
- Hosted US National Team head coach Matt Lindland for a workshop.
This week, US National Team assistant/1976 Olympic gold medalist Momir Petković is in town and he’s got plenty of company. 2016 Olympian Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC), who sealed up his third US Senior National title last month, arrived in Marquette last night. So did 2017 World Team member Patrick Smith (72 kg) and two-time Trials winner Joe Rau (87 kg) along with a collection of other Minnesota Storm athletes, namely Barrett Stanghill (82 kg) and heavyweights Donny Longendyke and Malcolm Allen. Also in attendance at NMU currently are members of the River Valley Wrestling Club led by former Junior World Team member/Senior competitor LeRoy Gardner, who is also the head coach at the University of the Ozarks.
In addition to the above goings-on, NMU is scheduled to hold its fourth annual Superior International Camp early next month.
Rau Talks Freestyle, Training for Tulsa
If you were to rattle off a few of the aforementioned Rau’s most admirable qualities, his zeal for competition would be chief among them. It’s how he won Fargo when he wasn’t even supposed to be someone to worry about, it’s how he managed to prevail at the DIII Nationals, and it’s how (and why) Rau has remained one of the top Senior Greco-Roman athletes in the country going on half a decade.
The latest on Rau has been pretty easy to keep up with. When the native Chicagoan returned to active competition following knee surgery at the Bill Farrell Memorial in March, he wound up wrestling both styles, earning a bronze in Greco and a somewhat-surprising gold in leg-grabbing. He next competed at the US Open where he trucked his way to the Greco finals opposite steady rival/two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC). With no tours or any other events scheduled for Rau between the Open and the World Team Trials next month, he decided to compete in the freestyle World Team Trials Challenge Tournament this past weekend in Minnesota. All in all, Rau went 2-2 on Saturday, good for fourth place.
For now, it’s back to Greco for the 27-year-old as he shifts all of his focus towards Tulsa. Rau drove from the freestyle Trials tournament straight to NMU for camp this week. We caught up for a few questions last night soon after he and his Storm teammates got settled in near campus.
5PM: Two freestyle tournaments now this year. Has it been at all difficult to transition back-and-forth between styles?
Joe Rau: I guess I had still been practicing mostly just all-Greco. I had been throwing some freestyle in there, but it has been a heavy Greco training regiment, so it hasn’t changed too much on the Greco side. For freestyle, there were some areas I definitely felt I needed to put more time in. You know, just my stance, my reaction time, taking some shots, and stuff like that. But I felt like I could make do with my Greco skills. I still felt like everyone at the tournament I could beat, and in a big way. I didn’t experience too much trouble transitioning and it didn’t take anything away from my Greco. I think my Greco complimented my freestyle, but there are definitely things I have to work more on in freestyle to be the best, and I think I can do it.
Making the transition into freestyle, I just tried to focus on what I had that was unique, what made freestyle guys uncomfortable. I think when I get to those positions that I can beat any of them, but I also think some of them figured out some of the holes in my game and that is the kind of stuff I need to work on if I really want to beat them all consistently. Because, I lost to two guys who I had beaten previously, but that’s just the way it goes.
5PM: Whenever someone is coming into Greco from free or folkstyle, we always say, Oh, having your hips out might work in those styles, but if you lock up hips-out in Greco, you’re going to get thrown. You wrestled guys who had their hips out and you didn’t throw them. Why not?
Rau: (Laughs) I was kind of kicking myself after the tournament for not being more aggressive with throws and stuff like that. But — it’s still not easy just to throw people. When they bend over at the waist, sometimes I feel like I’m just carrying their weight because I’m pulling them up with those underhooks. There are some things I am used to do in Greco where the guy would never react that way. Plus, I’m not the biggest thrower in the world, either. I can throw, but I like to control ties and get to two-point takedowns. I’m not the biggest bodylock guy or the biggest arm-throw guy. But I was beating myself up a little bit for being hesitant because last year doing freestyle, I felt like I was trying to force throws off of really good shots. If you get a David Taylor in on a good shot and he’s running his feet, I shouldn’t try to pull him up and throw him. That’s like a bad move on my part (laughs).
I was talking to (Gary) Mayabb after the tournament. He was like, “We want you in Greco and we want to make it to where you’re not thinking Pull the trigger when you’re in a throwing position and feel like you can throw someone.” But it’s hard to turn that off when you are in freestyle, where there are scenarios you should put your hands down to defend. I’m not one to say there is only one way to accomplish things, but if a guy is in on a shot and he is running his feet, I shouldn’t be trying to pull him up and throw him. That’s what happened with (Pat) Downey the second time I wrestled him. He got in on a shot and instead of getting pushed out for one or taken down for two, I got four’ed.
So I guess getting caught halfway between when to throw and when to not… When I was in my underhooks or two-on-one’s, I was comfortable there. What I really wanted was to get on top and turn the fuck out of everybody, because in either Greco or freestyle, I feel like I can turn everyone left and right. But yeah, even though I am a big Greco guy, I don’t feel like I’m the biggest thrower in the world.
5PM: You’re training at NMU this week. You spent some time there last year, as well, once while you were still recovering from surgery and then again right before the ’17 Trials. Are you seeing this week’s camp similarly, as kind of a re-engagement for the homestretch before Tulsa?
Rau: Yeah, I think we’re going to put in a little block of hard training here and then we’re going to go back to Minnesota to fine-tune, taper off, and peak. For this, we’re going to put in some work, we’re probably going to do some two-a-days. We’ll burn it out here and then go back to Minnesota and taper for the Trials.
NCWA Go Greco Nationals
We’ve been fielding questions following our article on the 2018 NCWA Go Greco Nationals next month, with the most common query having to do with eligibility. In short, an athlete who attends a school that does not have an NCWA program, or any program for that matter, can still enter and compete. In order to do so, said athlete would have to obtain permission from his college so that the school’s name can be used, and also, provide adequate proof of credits/enrollment.
From NCWA Executive Director Jim Guinta:
“The school would have to approve him representing the university so yes (a wrestler without a team may enter). But if he wants to get a program started at his school in the next three weeks, we would scholarship his team membership for this event (no team dues), but he would still need to get the school’s approval for him to be called ….university of _____ wrestling. And to get info on his enrollment and academic standing by the registrar.”
Early registration for the 2018 NCWA Go Greco Nationals is in effect until May 26th at a cost of $35 per athlete.
WRESTLERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Your (somewhat) weekly dose of inspiring words, knuckleheaded antics, or thought-provoking questions from your favorite US Greco-Roman athletes and coaches.
Coach Momir after practice today at NMU.
Great room I love to share with this young and hungry TIGERS 🐯 We will have some fun this week !
— Momir. Petkovic (@mpetkovc) May 21, 2018
What practice looked like today at NMU (we guess).
— River Valley Wrestling Club (@RVWCWrestling) May 21, 2018
Decisions, decisions #U23
— Randon (@randontheguy) May 19, 2018
A “man behind the man” sort of deal.
Over a week ago this was posted. Still worth it.
So who feels like going for a little run?
A month out from the World Team Trials.
When you bounce back, it’s gon’ feel so good! Yo struggle made you strong; and you don’t owe a soul!🙏🏾
— G’angelo Hancock (@OlympicKidd) May 16, 2018