Sunday afternoon ushered in the start of the first-ever Joint Winter Training Camp at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. For those who follow the US Greco-Roman program closely, the underlying objective of the camp is not a secret: with a sizable gap in the domestic schedule stretching from November to March, and with no January camp at the OTC, this week-long training opportunity has been designed to give the country’s wrestlers something they need badly — intensity. Thanks to the presence of two-time World bronze medalist/NMU assistant coach Andy Bisek and 1976 Olympic gold medalist/US National Team assistant coach Momir Petković, that hasn’t been a problem thus far.
According to NMU/OTS head coach Rob Hermann, Bisek has been tasked with shouldering a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities at the camp, an unsurprising tidbit given the influence the Chaska, Minnesota native wields in the practice room as it is. Seeing how four out of the camp’s five days are in the books, we wanted to make sure we touched base with Bisek to get a sense of what has gone on in the room since Sunday, and just as importantly, how the NMU athletes have been responding.
5PM: How did the first practice on Sunday go?
Andy Bisek: I thought it went good. For a few weeks here we have watched film and a lot of these scoring actions are coming off of not necessarily the first attack, because they will counter you, so you need to have a list of attacks to follow up with depending on what they’re doing. It was a drilling practice, but you have an initial attack that you might start with an arm drag and your opponent is supposed to give you a different look every time, with you having a different answer or a different re-attack. We did that with a few different initial attacks and then we had a few where they were attacking you and you’re counterattacking.
5PM: The timing of the camp is part of this story. It leads up to the holidays and a winter break for most athletes. Does that make this the right time of year to host an intensive atmosphere? In other words, is this unfolding how you planned before camp opened on Sunday?
AB: I think absolutely. It has been a tough camp. In a typical week we have Wednesday off. Everyone’s back here now and we’re going four days of two practices daily each. But I think that’s alright. Last week, the guys here didn’t have morning practice and afternoon practices were optional. It was finals’ week. We had five practices last week and some guys only made it to three or four. Although, some guys made it to every practice. But it was definitely a lighter week last week and we wanted to start strong this week. After this, they’re going to have two-and-a-half weeks off.
5PM: You have a handful of guys outside your room at the camp. I know that Pat Smith is there, RaVaughn is there, and some others. How is it having guests? You may happen to know them well as an athlete, but having an injection of fresh blood in the room, does that make a difference to the Northern kids who are there all the time?
AB: Yeah, it does, it actually does. Everyone wants to go with those guys, those guys are like a hot item (laughs). They’re trying to get a new partner right away, but still, it can be challenging.
5PM: How have the NMU guys been responding to Momir and his brand of teaching?
AB: They are responding well. They’re doing some good things, they are paying attention to him. For me, coming from Colorado the last number of years, I feel like it’s really good. It is similar to what I’ve been trying to push in a number of areas, just in different wording and in different ways that I think is able to hit home (with Momir) a little better for them.
5PM: The camp closes tomorrow. What does closeout day look like, are there more matches and a bunch of stuff?
Andy Bisek: Absolutely, absolutely. We’ve got to have competition. We have to be able to challenge ourselves, push ourselves, and push our teammates. Everyone in the room we have to push.
Tomorrow morning we are going to get into teams and do shorter duals. It won’t be like wrestling a full match, it’s kind of a situational match and there might be eight guys on each team trying to keep score, so we’ll have a little team tournament in the morning and then individual matches in the afternoon.
We did something yesterday afternoon after wrestling practice. We have four ropes in our room and they are all different diameters. Some are stretchier than others. We said, Get in a group of four, that’s who you’re going to compete against. Then you climbed four ropes with your group, and everyone climbed on a different rope because people have preferences and there are disadvantages with each rope. We had semifinals, a consolation round, and a finals (laughs). It’s just kind of a fun way to provide a challenge to the group outside of wrestling.