The 2018 Superior International Camp, held each year at the Olympic Training Site on the campus of Northern Michigan University, reached its conclusion yesterday. The annual week-long training camp wields grand importance to the United States Greco-Roman program. It is one of only two opportunities American age-group athletes receive to work with foreign partners without having to hop on a cross-Atlantic flight. Congruent with its convenience is the level of instruction available. Participants not only get the chance to learn from NMU’s Rob Hermann and Andy Bisek, but also the visiting Swedish coaches. Add on the degree of intensity (two sessions per day plus a mid-week dual meet), and it’s easy to see why the Superior Camp is looked at less like a camp and more like a celebrated special event.
The aforementioned two-time World medalist Bisek, who following retirement has become one of the most respected coaches in the country — and quickly — answered a battery of questions pertaining to this year’s Superior Camp, Wednesday’s dominating dual meet win for the US over Sweden, and what preparation has looked like for NMU’s Seniors who will be competing next week at the World Team Trials in Tulsa.
5PM: This was your second Superior Camp. Were there any differences you noticed for this year’s group?
Andy Bisek: Yes, the thing is we had two Big Brother camps, one in March and one in April. In ’17, we really wanted to get one of those in our schedule but we didn’t host one. With having them (this year), we saw guys who had attended one of the Big Brother camps but then also came to the Superior Camp. So it was good to see some guys who were really committed to Greco, interested in our program, and getting that experience.
5PM: Considering that the brunt of attendees were NMU guys, were there any goals or expectations you and Rob had for them prior to when the camp started?
Bisek: No, not really. Some guys were coming off of making different teams, or falling short of their goals. But whatever the case was, we still wanted them to get experience and find some match-ups that would challenge them, whether that was going up a few weight classes or grabbing guys who were technically better than them. We just wanted our athletes to challenge themselves.
5PM: In 2018, NMU has had a lot going on. There have been the two Big Brother camps; the US Open; Coach (Matt) Lindland visiting; Robby (Smith) Momir (Petković), and the Storm guys coming out; there have been two Trials tournaments affecting your room; and then this camp. That’s a lot of stuff. Do you like this level of activity and what does it say about the NMU program currently as a whole?
Bisek: Yeah, I do like that level of activity. I think it’s good to have the guys excited about things — different coaches and different athletes coming up, and different experiences for them to learn from. It keeps them more engaged. It’s not like we’re just training, training, training with no interaction with the outside Greco world. It’s giving them things to look forward to. It is definitely huge in keeping the team’s morale up and keeping them excited about things. It would be difficult to do that if you’re not — well, we’re not changing the environment — but we are changing who is in our environment.
5PM: Everyone knows the dual meet with Sweden is friendly and to be seen as part of the training camp experience. Even with that, there were some telling matches. What do you personally look for out of the athletes in that kind of competitive environment?
Bisek: It’s a friendly thing, but we want them to be getting to their ties and controlling. And since it’s friendly, they are more free to attack and try things. It is a competition. There is a ref and it is structured just like how a match in a tournament would be. But it’s friendly, so feel free to just really test your skills. If there is something you want to figure out whether it works in a match or not, that’s the place to go. I told the guys, Keep your hands and feet moving. If there is a position you don’t want to be in, let’s use that as an opportunity to change what you’re doing. Don’t just recognize it and not do anything. Clear your ties from that position and get back to where you want to be.
5PM: Considering that a number of participants in the dual were age-group campers and not NMU athletes, what do you think this kind of experience showed them in regards to what foreign competition might be like?
Bisek: I think it is a good little taste what they could experience if they get on one of the growing number of overseas opportunities that the US is creating. It could spark something that is inside of them to really have a desire to get overseas, get somewhere, and get competing.
5PM: For the Seniors in your room, especially those who also competed in Akron, what has preparation for them looked like recently and has it been at all challenging given the timetable with Trials tournaments mere weeks apart?
Andy Bisek: It is somewhat challenging, now with camp. The camp starts at 8:30 and we had our Seniors coming in at 7:30. We ran practice (for the Seniors) in an hour that way they can still prepare with different objectives and goals outside of the camp. Then they’d come in the afternoons and were wrestling in the camp or doing the weightlifting outside of the camp. I just think that with the three-week turnaround, we have to keep them fresh, keep their skills sharp, and still really focusing. Even if they made the U23 Team, the Senior Trials are coming up and that’s what they need to be focusing on.