There is a lot to cover with Northern Michigan Greco-Roman head coach Rob Hermann in the latest edition of Northern News, particularly in regard to recent events. U23 World Team member Dalton Roberts (60 kg) picked up a hard-earned bronze at the Granma Cup two weeks ago, one of United World Wrestling’s “Ranking Series” events. Not to be outdone, fast-rising Randon Miranda (55 kg) made his fifth consecutive international final in Denmark over the weekend in what was one of the 20-year-old’s most impressive performances of his career thus far.
But before we get to that there are NMU’s “Big Brother” camps, a new endeavor that is designed to introduce age-group competitors to elite-level training, and also, the environment and coaching available at the Olympic Training Site in Marquette. The first camp set for March sold out quickly. To meet the demand, Hermann and NMU assistant coach Andy Bisek are holding another one in April.
Finally, the impending trip to Austria takes center-stage. This annual stop for the US sees a large contingent of NMU wrestlers hopping on board, but there is a motivated group of high schoolers who will be in attendance, as well. Hermann talks about the Austrian Open to a degree, but he is much more focused on that event’s accompanying training camp and the opportunities it presents for improvement.
5PM: The camps — Big Brother 1 sold out, now there is a Big Brother 2 to offer wrestlers another shot at attending.
Coach Rob Hermann: Yeah, there is. We were overwhelmed by the response. For the first one, we had to turn a few people away. We didn’t want to turn anyone away so we said, Let’s just do a second one.
5PM: What was the vision and concept behind the Big Brother camps? Is this a way to introduce younger wrestlers to the sport and also kind of give them a taste of mentorship?
RH: To me, the Big Brother Camp is a way to put kids through exactly what we’re doing up there, maybe structuring it a little bit differently to where we give them a little more extra instruction, but mixing them in with our Senior and high-caliber Junior athletes who are either U23 or Junior World Team members. While they are up there, it will tell them where they’re at and where they need to get to. Plan B, my concept of hosting it is having guys visit our room in the sense that maybe it could become their future home down the road.
5PM: What will the curriculum entail?
RH: Basically, the times they are weightlifting on Tuesday and Thursday, we want them to see what we’re doing in our room on those days. And outside of our room in the weight room. We’ll get them on a mat again because they’re not up there to weight train, they are up there to learn Greco technique and drills, things they can take back to their own rooms. Our schedule will be pretty much the same as the Superior Camp — they’ll go at 6:30 in the morning and then at 3:30 in the afternoon. They will be going five days like that. We have Wednesday afternoon off to recover, but they won’t have that. They will be on the mat.
5PM: How did the calendar influence when the camps would be scheduled?
RH: The March camp, we got those dates because it’s right after we get back and we were hoping to hit some spring breaks for the high school athletes. The second camp, we went with that week because we wanted to stay away from Easter weekend, and it is also before the Junior Nationals in Vegas. You still have time to get back to your house and plan for it, it’s not like it is back-to-back. There is a two-week window there and that’s the reason we went with that date.
Sometimes, you just have to come up with the dates when you have beds. I don’t know if you know this, but the Navy is coming up with eight people to train with us on April 1st and they are going to be training for about three weeks to get ready for the US Open.
5PM: That is going to be a busy weekend for you then because the NYAC tournament is March 30th.
RH: Oh yeah. I want to say we get back on that Saturday (March 31st) and then the Navy team will come a day or two later.
Our room stays busy. Our beds are taken. Michael Hooker from the Army is coming up and we had to find a bed for him. He’s going to come up and train with us. All of our beds are taken. All of our single rooms, we had to put somebody in them. If we had more beds we could utilize them, but we don’t. We have like 22 beds where we could host something. Now obviously, for the Superior Camp in June we’ll have more beds. But during the school year, this is all we have.
5PM: I imagine the way the competitive schedule rolled out this year has positives and negatives to it, at least pertaining to where certain athletes are in this country in terms of their development, and not just in the Northern room. There have been big gaps. You bring large delegations to Sweden and Austria during the year but not everyone has the chance to take trips to train overseas. When it comes to the guys from the US who don’t have a ton of competitive opportunities and aren’t able to get over to Europe, how do you keep them in the right mindframe when tournaments are few and far between?
Coach Rob Hermann: I just got off the phone with Tommy Brackett, who we’re recruiting and he’s trying to get in our room. My biggest sell to all of my recruits is that we all train, but we all compete. We compete. We have a tournament every month it seems like, or every five weeks, to stay sharp. We’re trying to get our guys to that next level and you’re not going to do it just by training. You have to get into a lot of situations competitively and the only way to do that is to get outside of our room and travel.
But I understand what you’re saying about how not everyone is in our room. So, what do we do with everyone else? You know these Sweden and Austria tours that I take? I remember it used to just be our guys out of Northern pretty much and now we’re filling them up. I’m turning wrestlers away because there are only so many beds that the host countries can put us in. I mean, he even told me, Hey coach, we only have 28 beds. You can’t bring more than 28. And I’m like, Yeah, I know.
When we went to Sweden, the host family took us in and we put like ten people in the wrestling center on blown-up mattresses. So, our tours are being used, which is a good thing because it helps recruiting and it helps our guys develop. But what I think we need are more tours, more Superior Camps, and more opportunities for wrestlers to really enjoy Greco so they can train and compete like they should to get to the next level.
5PM: There are a couple of recent NMU performances to talk about and we’ll start with Dalton Roberts’ bronze at the Granma Cup. He had to rebound from a first-day loss and in order to win bronze, he wrestled very aggressively but yet was able to play matador to a raging bull. That German was trying to go crazy on him and Roberts deftly cut angles but still remain offensive. What did you yourself like most about his matches in Cuba?
RH: Let me tell you about Dalton: Dalton thinks Greco 24/7. He’s doing the same thing in our room at Northern. He is always trying to develop something no one else has. Looking at him, he doesn’t look like he has ever lifted a weight (laughs). It isn’t like he is busting out of his clothes, but he is one strong positional wrestler. I mean, I wrestle with him and one thing I’m trying to work with him on is not pushing so much. Maybe pull a little bit, don’t push all the time, because he gets in trouble with that sometimes. We’re trying to tell him to push, pull, angle, and he just thinks Greco all of the time.
He and Austin Morrow, I’ve got a lot of guys like them who are in our room staying after practice and doing the little things. After Andy’s weightlifting, six or seven of them are doing runs around the (Superior) Dome — extra things that weren’t on the schedule to do. When you have wrestlers who do that the cream is going to rise to the top. Dalton is one of those guys where I feel that there is a medal at the Worlds or the Olympics down the road because he’s putting the time and energy in. He’s just doing the right things to get to the next level.
His matches in Cuba, I was so proud of him, because like you said, he rebounded. He brings the fight and I know Matt (Lindland) loves him because if we put his heart in half of our guys who wrestle Greco, we’ll be where we want to be in this sport.
5PM: For Randon Miranda, this past weekend represented his fifth international event in a row where he appeared in a final. Thor Masters was a step up in competition, especially given his opponents on Day 2. The final didn’t pan out for him, he had Israel (Ilya Tsaruyk), who was an experienced, older, more physically mature opponent. But still, it has to say something that he is always in the thick of things, right?
RH: It sure does. Randon is another guy in our room who is special. He is always developing. He loves Greco. The guys who love Greco, the guys who eat, sleep, and live it — and he’s one of them — they’re just so comfortable in that environment. Randon, I love. I’m trying to get him to attack a little bit more and not be so defensive on certain things, but he’s doing it right. Look, he wins the Klippan, wins the Malar Cup, he takes second at the Thor Masters tournament, which is a tough tournament. He is doing the right things and he is going to be someone to contend with at 55 kilos in the US Open. He still has to wrestle for it, he’s going to have some wrestlers there he’ll have to think about. But I think he believes he can be the guy for the USA. And at this stage in the game if you don’t believe it, then you’re going to get hurt. But he does believe it, which is a good thing.
5PM: You sent guys to Thor Masters in 2016 and this year offered some different faces with Anthonie Linares, Travis Rice, Aaron Kliamovich and Jesse Porter. Porter beat a really tough opponent from the Czech Republic (Oldrich Varga), and he didn’t just beat him, he ate his lunch. Porter might not have picked up a medal but he seemed motivated and on his game, and that had to be nice to see since he was clicking the same way he did at the U23 Worlds.
RH: Yes, and he’s another one of those guys you always see on the mat when practice is over. He is always the last one to leave the room. He is doing the things he feels he needs to get in before he eats his dinner and calls it a night. And again, Jesse is so young, I don’t even think he’s 21 yet. He is putting in the work and he believes he can contend at the 77 kilogram weight class. And I tell these guys, when you’ve got the Thor tournament, the New York AC, and you’ve got the Schultz…that’s all part of training.
You want to do well, but you’re doing a lot of things. You’re weightlifting, you’re sprinting, you’re going to school, you’ve got to study, and it’s a lot. But the big picture is the US Open Nationals and the World Team Trials. Those are the big ones. The other events are like training tools, training tournaments. Those are how you find out where you’re at and what you need to do to make the World Team down the road.
5PM: Now it’s onto Austria, where the training camp is the big deal. But about the tournament, over the last few years it has been more and more and more, and then last year 12 medals with six champions. You’ve got another good group leaving this week and several of them are ticketed for the Junior Trials. What is the message you send to them before you leave for a trip like this?
RH: Basically, I say the same thing about Sweden. To me, it’s not about the tournament, it’s about the training camp. You get more matches during that training camp, you wrestle more bodies, different styles. You could be 0-2 at the tournament and still get something out of it, but it’s the training camp. When you’re in there everyday with different bodies and you’re working on things and doing different things to get better…I would not go to Sweden or Austria if they didn’t have a training camp to along with it. It is priceless for the Juniors to put that time in after the tournament.
Now yes, I want to do well. But I don’t go to these tournaments to win them because you just don’t know. You don’t know how the cards are going to fall. You have to take one match at a time and after a while, maybe you blink your eyes and you’ve got six guys in the finals. Or maybe you’ve got three guys in the finals. Or, maybe you don’t have any guys in the finals. You’ve just got to take one match at a time and see where it falls, because you know as well as I do these tournaments overseas are not easy at any age group. Things have to fall your way, you have to get some calls, you have to keep the injuries down, and you have to cut your weight right. That is what we’re going with right now. Hopefully, we’re going to cut our weight right and our mindsets are good.
But our guys in the room are ready to go and they’ve been out of competition for a little while so they have cabin fever. They want to get out there and see what they can do and compete. So I expect good things. The other guys, I’m hearing that they are training for this and I hope they are because it will show when they get there. But again, to me, the tournament is great but the training camp is even better because you get to work with guys who might have a better lift than you, a better gutwrench, are better from the feet, have better position, and you can just feed off of that. You can learn from them, take something away from the camp and the trip, and hopefully it helps us win medals down the road.
5PM: As the coach, when you’re at these camps and just going through the day, are there specific things you look for from your guys? Also, do you lay out certain training goals following a tournament leading into a camp, kind of outlining items for them to work on that you saw in competition?
Coach Rob Hermann: This is me from Day 1 as a coach: I always go over our mistakes as early as possible. In the tournament, there is usually a trend, be it front headlock defense or you don’t have your underhook jacked up high enough — something — or maybe even match strategy where you’re winning the match, you get into a bodylock situation and you end up losing because you get thrown. Anything that is going to help the guys get better, the first practice we have at the training camp is when I go over the mistakes. It’s the first thing I do. And then as the week progresses at the camp I’ll do the same thing everyday. It’s usually in the morning because we always seem to be rushing out of there to get dinner because they have us on a time schedule. But the morning is a little more relaxed because we’re not rushed to get out. But everyday I look at things individually and then I’ll go over them as team and say, Hey, this is what I’m seeing. Or I’ll go over to each individual and say, This is what you need to do differently.
While we’re over there, I like the foreigners to run the practices because my wrestlers get me year-round. But the foreigners want me to run the practices because their guys have them year-round. So we kind of do it together because they want to see what I can show and I want to see what they can show.
But yes, I am constantly evaluating our athletes and critiquing them, and I think we need to do that because we need to get our guys better. If you see something wrong you don’t want to turn a blind eye, you want to make sure they get it right. I’m a real perfectionist. I’m a hands-on-type coach. I don’t just talk, I show. I love what I do and if I can’t show it, I get someone else to show it. But we’re going to get the job done and come back better than before we boarded the flight from Chicago.
For information about the ‘Big Brother 2’ camp that begins April 8th at Northern Michigan University please email NMU head coach Rob Hermann.