You get the impression that he’d stay a whole lot longer if he could.
Delon Kanari (60 kg) just wrapped up his first-ever trip to Russia, the de-facto modern mecca for Greco-Roman wrestling. The Northern Michigan frosh had been overseas before this jaunt to Eastern Europe, so it wasn’t as if foreign training represented a brand new concept to him. But — it is easy to tell from his words below that this adventure, however brief, left a lasting impact on how he views the sport.
Kanari first arrived in Russia a week ago and participated in this past Saturday’s SA Lavrikov Memorial in St. Petersburg. He only saw action in one match, a first-round defeat. Disappointing, undoubtedly, but like the overwhelming majority of the US delegation, Kanari was much more interested in what the proceeding camp had to offer.
With that in mind, we asked Kanari (as well as his NMU teammate Raffaele Masi) to log his thoughts on the experience and to share what he felt were the most important details surrounding his time at the camp. Given that there are a growing number of opportunities for American athletes to train abroad, Kanari’s perspective shines a light on what can be gleaned, and where the major differences reside.
Delon Kanari — 60 kg, NMU/OTS
“The first day of camp was a shock. Upon entering the facility, I come to realize that it happens to be the gym where Putin trained when he won a World Championship in judo. We are among the 1,800 people who come to this gym daily to train martial arts and wrestling.
“We start the practice with a typical warm up: roll our arms out, rolls, flips, partner activity, etc. After finding a partner, we both decide to start with technique/sparring on our feet. The practice is intense. It appears to be mostly on your own between technique and live wrestling. I was fortunate enough to pair myself with the Lavrikov Cup champion at 60 kg (we still don’t have names from this event — Ed.) to practice with. His technique is simple, yet effective. The Russian moves quickly and pummels with a purpose. There were a lot of throw attempts on his part — some successful, others not as much. After about 20 minutes of technique we switch to live wrestling, or ‘fight’ as the foreigners like to say. My partner pummels without hesitation, and always stays in good position. If he is caught in a position he doesn’t like, he manages to use it to his advantage.
“It was a lot of back and forth between us two, but he is obviously the more experienced and skilled wrestler. He was hard to finish on. I was able to get the Russian in a tripod position, and he would be able to fight his way back to a neutral position. In the bodylock position, he dominated. I would like to think that I am pretty good in that position, but he was able to get to his throws more than I could. He felt strong in that position. It amazed me how open he was with sharing his technique with me, and answering any question I had through one of his teammates who knew English.
“After 40 minutes or so of ‘fighting’ on our feet, we went straight into live par terre for 30 minutes. I can see why the Russians have so much success at the World level, their par terre game is ridiculous. I could see that Team USA was struggling with it. I noticed that I was only able to score off of a crash gut after I attempted to lift on the opposite side. Chain-wrestling on top is a must in order to turn a Russian wrestler. I had trouble pinning them down to the mat before lifting because they don’t stop moving on bottom. I felt like I was able to hang with these wrestlers, but if I’m being honest, it got pretty frustrating. I was only able to turn them a handful of times. Surprisingly, I only gave up a four-point throw once. Each wrestler is skilled in par terre as equally as they are in the neutral position, if not more.
“The practice ended with 10 minutes of technique on our own. I grabbed a couple of Russians and picked their brain a bit. Again, they were very generous with their technique. You can sense a vibe in the room; everyone wants to get better, so why not help each other do so?
“The entirety of the second day of camp was live wrestling. This included two four-minute periods and two three-minute periods mixed with par terre, finishing with a five-minute period and two 30-second par terre go’s.
“I felt myself improving from the previous day of camp, and scoring points on the Russians. I noticed there were moves I couldn’t get away with that I typically could wrestling back in the states. My top game improved tremendously from the extra work I got in after the previous practice. I had struggled with pinning the Russians to the mat when I wanted to lift, but this time around I felt like I was able to do so while getting to my lift.
“When I was on bottom I rarely got turned, unlike the day before. But I noticed that I was required to be more scrappy, and I tried to turn every one of the Russians’ attempts into my score. Usually, an American’s mindset on bottom is to not get turned until time expires for the opponent on top. The Russians seem to have a greater scoring mentality — even on bottom. It was necessary for me to adapt to that mindset if I didn’t want to get turned.
“On the final day of camp we played ‘rugball’, which is basically a mixture of basketball, football, and wrestling. It was a great way to finish the camp with a fun activity. We closed out with a couple of sauna sessions and called it a day.”