The final push to the 2017 Senior Greco-Roman World Championships begins this week (July 24th) for the US at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. World Team Camp, as it is known, is just that — a two-week training cycle centering around the needs of the US Greco-Roman Senior World Team members. But just how important is World Team Camp? Very. For one thing, it is arriving at the homestretch. The Worlds will only be 16 days away by the time camp breaks on August 5th. Secondly, any major (or minor) adjustments the wrestlers need to make or any new technical variances they want to implement will be done so here, though the lion’s share of that end of things has already been accomplished.
“This is our final World Team preparation,” confirms US National Team head coach Matt Lindland. “We had some great training in Hungary, we had a competition in Georgia, now I’ve had our athletes back and whether they live in Colorado, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, they have been training and preparing with their coaches and making the adjustments necessary as they see fit, or as the coaches have seen fit since our tours.”
As Lindland points out, it has been quite the process leading up. The Trials wrapped up at the end of April. A week later, five of the eight World Team members competed at the Pan Am Championships in Brazil. Then it was “base training camp” in Oregon. A few weeks later, the team (minus G’Angelo Hancock, 98 kg) took to the mats at the Tbilisi Grand Prix and immediately after, engaged in a brutal two-week training camp in Hungary (Hancock was around for that). Throw in their own individual practices and whatever other workouts the team members have participated in upon their return to the US in mid-June, and it looks this has all been a whirlwind.
Despite the appearance the US team has come together in a compressed period of time, they have actually been functioning as a unit longer than most nations. Even now, not every country has its own World Team 100% completely locked down. The US’ approach isn’t by accident. Lindland has wanted his squad selected in the spring to give his guys more time to prepare and develop chemistry. Every detail, every step during this training cycle, had been calculated in advance. More time together means more opportunities to get a leg up on the elite level of competition that will be staring everyone in the face in what is now, a little less than a month away.
With that in mind, here are some particulars about the Greco-Roman World Team Camp this week just so you have an idea of how Team USA is getting ready for the big show in Paris come August.
1. Intensity is the name of the game
Technique and drilling will be part of the program because they always are, but this is not going to be the kind of situation where wrestlers are just working up a sweat or doing some rudimentary cardio. Instead, a key component of the camp is hard, live wrestling and intense conditioning in an abbreviated amount of time. The training period for endurance has passed. That began in May in Eagle Creek. Now it is all about firing up the engines at their hottest for test laps while also trying to keep the wrestlers rested enough to adequately recover.
“This last phase of training camp is to sharpen our guys up and give them high-intensity preparation,” Lindland says. “We’re going to get them in, we’re going to make these workouts short and as intense as we can, and get in as much work as we can in the least amount of time to keep our athletes fresh. We want to keep them sharp and able to recover well so the next day they are able to go again.”
2. There will be a focus on the individual
It might be the United States World Team, but that team is comprised of eight wrestlers with varying styles, preferences, and acumens. Some have different needs and training desires than others. As such, Lindland and his staff have injected some flexibility so that wrestlers can reach a higher level of comfort with whom they are listening to and training with.
“We’re doing something a little different this year,” explains Lindland. “The athletes have identified the coaches they want to work with specifically and each coach will have two or three athletes they are focused on, and each athlete will have his training partners.”
3. Don’t confuse this with “National Team Camp”
Yes, a good chunk of the current National Team will be in attendance, but it is (obviously) not their camp. These wrestlers are converging on Colorado Springs for two weeks with the primary objective being to help the World Team members get what they need out of training and support them in whichever ways possible. That doesn’t mean those not going to Paris won’t benefit from being there — of course they will. But camp for the National Team takes place typically early in the year. This combined training jaunt is just for the men who are going to be fighting for medals in France.
“We are really just focused on the guys who are going to the World Championships,” Lindland offers. “This isn’t necessarily a National Team training camp where we are developing the skills of our National Team. This is where we are preparing our Seniors who are on the World Team to compete and fight at the World Championships. And since each athlete will have his training partners, not every athlete at that camp will be doing the same thing as the World Team members.”
4. “Try to score…NOW!”
Going back to the whole “intensity” aspect of the Greco-Roman World Team Camp, the ability to score, and quickly, is another focal point (no pun). The rules for the 2017 World Championships are the same as they have been since the fall — no forced par terre and passivity-riddled bouts. As much as any time in history, fortune favors those who can manufacture reasonable attempts and scoring chances from the feet.
Since the pressure is on at the Worlds and also, defense at a premium given the nature of the event itself, Lindland is interested in fostering a training environment where wrestlers aren’t just duking it out live, but trying to score in different scenarios with little time on the clock. In other words, live go’s won’t be designed to further hone one’s ability to merely pummel. Scoring is where it’s at. Offensive points will be necessary for the US guys and everyone knows it.
If you recall last year’s preparation for the Olympics, the US Seniors had what they called “Rio matches” — a fresh guy every minute of a practice match with no break anywhere to be found, aside from the time it takes to switch up bodies. That is not exactly how things will shake out next week at the OTC. Practice matches will certainly be featured, but with an emphasis on actual productivity.
“There will be instances where we’re doing simulated matches, but also simulated ‘sprints’, 15 seconds and you have to score,” informs Lindland. “Creating those situations where there is a lot of high stress and uncertainty for the athletes and they have to adapt and adjust under any circumstances. They have to find ways to score on their opponents.”
5. It’s actually not the exact last phase of training
While there is no question the Greco-Roman World Team camp represents the last time the US wrestlers will be gearing up for battle before they leave for France on August 11th, there is more preparation ahead in the form of acclimation. Prior to the beginning of the World Championships on August 21st, Team USA will arrive in Montpellier, roughly 465 miles south of Paris and stay there until the 18th. This is due to the time change — France is eight hours ahead compared to Colorado Springs. That means everyone’s internal clock needs to be reset, a modicum of routine, established. This may not sound like a big deal and maybe when you consider all of the grueling work done in the months previous, it isn’t. But in order for the athletes to be at their absolute highest level of readiness, order has to be achieved and showing up in-country over a week in advance plays a role in that happening.
“There are two ways to do it,” says Lindland. “You can either go in like the Russians did on the day before weigh-ins in 2015, or you can go in early and acclimate. I believe the guys perform better if they are acclimated. They can get rid of their jet lag, recover from the flight, and get used to the time change. When they do that, they perform better.”
The 2017 US Greco-Roman World Team Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado takes place from July 24th to August 5th.