When USA Wrestling’s Final X Series for freestyle was officially announced earlier this year, many in the Greco-Roman community saw it as purposeful exclusion. To those on the outside looking in, Greco not being showcased represented yet one more piece of compelling evidence that the classical style is not of a terribly high priority in this country, that its omission was inidicative of a behavioral pattern long-understood but rarely accepted. Not that there isn’t some credence to this line of thinking. Anyone willing to dig deep enough can surely uncover plenty of examples to support the belief that Greco-Roman does not enjoy the same level of domestic support the other styles certainly do, and have for decades. But in this instance, the decision that saw Senior Greco-Roman not get on board for the much-hyped Final X Series was actually made by the man tasked with presiding over the program. And for very good reason.
US National Team head coach Matt Lindland had already laid out the Senior schedule for both leading up to and following the Greco World Team Trials when the concept of the Final X Series was originally proposed back in the fall. To Lindland, it was academic. He didn’t want to create a logistical bind that would disrupt his athletes’ preparation to make the Team (or after). Plus, with the freestyle series finishing up comfortably ahead of the Senior Greco Trials, the timing brought with it an attractive opportunity to perhaps lure a collection of reinvigorated participants.
“I wasn’t thrilled about having three different dates for our Trials and I already had our Trials schedule set to coincide with the international training camps and pre-World tours,” Lindland explained a few weeks ago. “The whole training plan was set prior to when this Final X Series opportunity was proposed to us, so I enthusiastically opted out when I found out it was going to wrap up five weeks prior to our Trials and how they were going to narrow their field down to two guys.”
Freestyle’s whittling down of each weight class to two finalists means that there will be a substantial number of skilled wrestlers who still have something left in the tank, and a run at the Greco Trials might just serve as sufficient motivation to keep their seasons alive. That’s the hope, anyway, and also, one part of the primary basis for the new Freestyle to Greco-Roman Transition Camps. Rolling out towards the end of this month, the camps (four in total) are aimed at providing freestylers who are eligible to compete at the Greco Trials with foundational training opportunities. The thought process behind this endeavor is sound: most high-level freestyle competitors have prior Greco experience. And even if they don’t, chances are enough of a blueprint is in place to where wrestlers interested in giving it a shot will be able to assimilate in what is by and large a quick turnaround.
“We have such good athletes in the United States, so many good wrestlers who have developed some of these skills along the way,” Lindland says before bringing up Oklahoma State’s Barrett Hughes and Austin Harris, who both won the Junior Nationals two weeks ago in Las Vegas. “They didn’t have huge, extensive Greco-Roman skills but they’re very tough, aggressive wrestlers who compete well. That’s why I’m confident if someone makes that transition over to Greco-Roman and they start getting that feel, they’re going to decide for themselves if this suits them, instead of being shoved into a (folkstyle) system that says, ‘You have to do this!’, when that is absolutely not true.”
Which meshes well with Lindland’s other objective for the transition camps — possible conversions. By now, most are well-acquainted with the National Team coach’s feelings regarding folkstyle and the way that discipline is force-fed to youngsters throughout their scholastic lives. Lindland is a big believer that many of America’s wrestlers, unbeknownst to them or not, are and have been participating in a style that doesn’t necessarily suit them best or take proper advantage of their competitive strengths. That the folkstyle system and its freestyle cousin obscure the innate Greco abilities some may possess but are otherwise unaware even exist. Is five weeks a long enough period of time for a freestyler to discover that Greco fits better or makes more sense to their long-term competitive aspirations? Maybe, maybe not. One thing is for sure: Lindland wants to try and find out and he is anticipating that the transition camps will help him do so.
“Freestyle is pretty damn deep and we are really, really good at freestyle in this country,” Lindland points out. “They won the Worlds, they won the World Cup. They’ve got a good team, and we (Greco-Roman) are trying to build a good team. I happen to think some of those guys are going to fit our style, enjoy it, and have more fun doing it. That’s why we’re creating these opportunities in Greco-Roman, to create depth that matches freestyle’s depth.”
2018 Freestyle to Greco-Roman Transition Camps
There is no training fee required for qualified athletes.
Athletes can attend all four camps.
University of Missouri
May 30th-June 3rd
Utah Valley, University
University of Akron
Cadet & U23 World Team Trials
Ithaca, New York