Five Point Move is proud to host US Greco Roman National Team Head Coach Matt Lindland every week for “Coach Lindland’s Report.” For fans and wrestlers looking for insights regarding the US Greco National Team, we ask Coach Lindland some questions to get his take on training and upcoming competitions. If you have any questions you’d like us to ask going forward let us know via Facebook, Twitter, or through our Contact page.
This week, we get a hold of Coach Lindland right before he leaves for Akron, Ohio, which is where the 2016 Cadet and University Greco Nationals will begin on June 3rd. We touch on some of the athletes who have had success at the Senior level and are making the trip. We also hit on why the Cadet portion of the tournament is so important to the coach. And since it was a quiet week in terms of domestic events leading up, the conversation involves some other topics, such as athletes and social media, and if another pro wrestling league can sustain in the US.
5PM: The University level is kind of an “in-between” age group and its Nationals take place in a couple of days in Akron. Are there any names you’re paying closer attention to than others?
ML: Patrick Martinez is going to be there, he’s been a World Team member. Tracy Hancock is on our National team, he’ll be there. Adam Coon isn’t going, I was hoping he would. He’s not going because school and his college season will interfere with the World Championships for the University age group. I’ve got my eye on this kid from Omaha, Ronald Coleman. He came out here for a little bit of training. He’s the kid RaVaughn (Perkins) says kept him out of trouble in high school. You know, I don’t think the kid ever lost a wrestling match in his life but he ended his career after high school and then went and played football in college. Now he wants to get back into wrestling. So I’m curious to see how Ronald Coleman does this weekend.
5PM: He’s with you, he’s Greco?
ML: Oh yeah, he’s Greco. Like I said, he only had very limited training out here for a week. I said, “Well, here’s a tournament you can go to.” He goes, “I’m not ready.” And I said, “You are absolutely not ready but you got to go compete and see where you’re at.” Got to have a starting point.
5PM: What’s his weight?
ML: He’s a heavyweight.
5PM: So what are you looking for this weekend? Obviously there are probably some up-and-coming Cadets you want to see.
ML: Yes, honestly, that’s what I am going out there to watch. We know they are the future of our sport. I think you’re right, University is kind of an in-between age group. We’re going to have some of our better guys there but they are not going to be competing against some of the other better guys. Guys like Patrick and Tracy should do very well. And I would expect them to do well just because I don’t think the level of competition is there, this isn’t the Olympic Trials. This is the University age group. But it’s a great opportunity for our college athletes to get a chance to wrestle Greco, it’s just that I don’t think enough of them take the opportunity to do that. And I think a lot of the college coaches discourage the athletes from wrestling Greco, even at that age group.
5PM: That’s been the continuing narrative, for sure.
Coach Matt Lindland: It is, it’s a continuing narrative that we saw when we had the freestyle and Greco duals out at George Mason. Guys want competition, they just want to make sure they are comfortable. That’s something about the sport of wrestling, you’ve got to learn to be uncomfortable all the time. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations constantly to adapt. I mean, there are so many times in wrestling when things are uncomfortable. I remember my son was doing jiu-jitsu and I was pretty new to the gi stuff and they were using gis in this competition. He tapped out, so afterwards I was like, “Dude, what happened? I didn’t see, what, he catch you in some kind of lapel choke?” He goes, “Dad, I was slightly uncomfortable, so I just decided to tap.” I said, “Okay, that’s not how it works, son.” (Laughs)
But I mean, that is what we’re dealing with. It is slightly uncomfortable to wrestle Greco. It’s different. I’m not used to it. It’s not something I’m really comfortable with. So what? Get out there and give it a try.
5PM: Aside from placing or winning the tournament, what are you looking for out of the Cadets? Do you look for specific wrestling styles, are you looking out for potential you see in certain athletes?
ML: I think the biggest thing for me is to get to know these young athletes who are competing in Greco Roman wrestling and encourage and support them to continue down that path, whatever that means. Whether they are going to go full-time Greco and become one of our “three-percenters”, or if they are going to just dabble in it and maybe at some point they’ll make a transition. I’m always optimistic that’s going to happen but I don’t see it too frequently. I guess I am going to be encouraged that some guys are still wrestling Greco. I don’t want to be totally discouraged that we only have small numbers right now. Because I think we’ve got momentum on our side with stuff like the Superior Camp growing, starting at 70 and going up to 115 and now it’s full. We saw a good turnout at the Juniors this year. And yeah, we only saw five teams compete at the University Duals, but at least there were five and not zero.
I believe we’re heading in the right direction so we have to keep this momentum going. A lot of what I am doing is meeting these athletes, getting to know them, and continuing to encourage them to follow that path. If I see some guys who have natural talents and athleticism, I’ll contact them to get them out to some of our training camps. We had those two weeks out here with our Juniors, I’ve got another opportunity at the end of July for our Junior and Cadet World Team camp. They could use some training partners so maybe that’s an opportunity to get an athlete out to the Olympic Training Center who has never been here and has a high ceiling in the sport of Greco Roman wrestling. Maybe he gets out here to the Olympic Training Center and realizes this is the real deal. This is bigger than high school wrestling, this is bigger than winning a state title. This is bigger than getting a scholarship to a Division I school. You’re competing for the United States of America against the best athletes in the world, not against the best athletes in the country in an age group.
5PM: As the overseer of the program, do you want your athletes to be involved in social media? Do you want them to not be? You look at pro sports teams, they don’t like the football players or whomever to be too crazy on Twitter and stuff like that. Do you have any kind of governance in that regard?
Coach Matt Lindland: Do I have a policy? That’s a great question. I do not have a policy. Twitter wasn’t a thing, Facebook wasn’t a thing when I was an athlete or even into my MMA career. It really wasn’t a thing. It kind of started exploding, especially in MMA with the Twitters and all that stuff. The guy that worked for me, when I told him I was going to train him to take over the gym, he was managing. I was paying him to to manage the business. But he always had me there in case anything went wrong or he needed somebody else. I told him, “I’m going to completely train you to run this business without me here because I want to get back into coaching.” And I didn’t necessarily know it was going to be at the National Team level. I started off by volunteering at Clackamas Community College and then for the World Championships and was the World Team coach in 2013. That was when I first got to meet a lot of these athletes, Jesse (Thielke), he was on the team. Just a lot of these guys, this is when I first started to meet them. But I realized I spent four months in Colorado that year or on the road as the volunteer Olympic coach. And I was kind of getting into it so I was like, I got to find a role in coaching somewhere or somehow. And Scott told me, “You’ve got to get on Facebook and Twitter and…” I was like, “Did you not hear what I want to do? I want to coach, what does that have to do with it?” So he goes, “The athletes in this generation, that’s where they’re at. If you want to reach them, contact them, communicate with them, and recruit them, how are you going to get a hold of these guys?”
He was absolutely right, so I started developing a presence with the Coach Matt Lindland blog, I started with that. Then when I would do a blog I would tweet it out and put it on Facebook. And then I realized, Hey, I don’t really want my own Facebook, and I got a Coach Matt Lindland Facebook and a regular Facebook now. So I have way too much social media for me, to tell you the truth. But it does serve its purpose. It allows me to communicate with a broader audience, the wrestling community as a whole, and specifically my athletes and younger athletes I want to attract to the program.
I think, to get back to your question, it could really be a positive thing. We’ve definitely had some issues with it. They’re young men. They’re fricking guys who are just young, stupid men like I was when I was their age (laughs). I think I would have made a lot of mistakes on social media. One of my athletes posted something very objectionable on social media. We landed in Europe from Chicago and my phone was blowing up, “Have this gentleman take this stuff off, it’s inappropriate.” It was a tongue-in-cheek comment about domestic abuse, which isn’t a funny matter. It isn’t something you joke about. Some football player threw his girlfriend through a glass table. Apparently, this was a girlfriend of the athlete I’m referring to, she broke up with him and started dating this NFL player, and he threw her through a plate-glass table. And this guy said, “I could help you with your technique” or something like that. I obviously don’t think he was serious at all. It was just one of those things. I said to him, “Hey, I don’t want to talk about it, don’t ask even me, just take it down.” And he said, “Okay, I’ll take it down right now.” And then I came back later and said, “I get it, dude. If I was your age I would have made as stupid or a stupider comment on that, but here’s what your social media platform is: It’s to promote you, your brand, and make you a bigger commodity, somebody people want to follow, they want to know when you’re going to compete again so they can watch you wrestle.” So I think it can be a really positive thing if it’s used in the right way. I think it can also be very dangerous with the Snapchats and all that stuff. There’s a lot of danger involved.
5PM: But do you think they use it enough, particularly in a marketing sense? Your Olympians aren’t hyper-active on social media, aside from maybe Jesse, who’s somewhat active…
ML: But he’s mostly active on just one platform, isn’t he? Isn’t he mostly on Facebook?
5PM: He uses both, but I see him on Twitter also.
ML: Okay, he’s on Twitter, too. I do like the Twitter. Before they announced who the freestyle coach was, people were already linking it on Twitter at 7:30 this morning. I think they were going to announce it at 9:00. I was already like, “Hey, I’m hearing your name, is it true?” What I got back was, “Yeah, but…” It was an hour before it was going to be released. That’s the piece I like about it, you can get all these inside scoops kind of about what’s going on in your sport. I think you have good community involvement. You know, I don’t have a lot of NFL people or NBA people on my Twitter, but I have a lot of wrestling people. And specifically, Greco Roman wrestling people. They want to hear what we’re saying about Greco Roman wrestling and the program and they’re engaged, as well. They want to discuss it, they want to talk about it. So I think it’s a really great platform for getting people involved and getting more eyes on our sport. I think that’s a really interesting question. Is it good? Is it bad? I think it’s just how you use it.
5PM: That kind of leads into the second one a little bit, although it’s not about social media itself. But a conversation started earlier this week on Twitter, it might have been Kyle Dake and some others, about starting up another professional wrestling league. We’ve had a few in recent years. FLO had theirs, there was Global Wrestling League, Agon…
ML: Real Pro Wrestling…
5PM: That’s exactly what I wanted to ask you about, because you were in the inaugural 2002 RPW event, “Red versus Black” or whatever it was. I didn’t even see that first one, I just read the Eddie Coleman reports back then.
ML: I wrestled Quincy Clark.
5PM: Right. So in your view, why can a pro wrestling league work in the US and why can’t it work?
ML: That’s an interesting question. It can work. I mean, look at Germany and Sweden, they have Bundesliga. But yeah, it works, it’s been working. I mean, it was going on since before I was around. I tried to get in but back then, they would only take one foreign athlete on each of their teams. I don’t know what the structure is anymore now. It was all Germans and one foreign athlete per team was the rule back then. I know Dlagnev wrestled in the Bundesliga. Some guys just wrestle Greco, some guys just wrestle freestyle. That’s kind of the highest level, they are very specific to their style. I do know in a lot of the leagues they switch you. One week you’ll wrestle freestyle, one week you’ll wrestle Greco. They will also rotate the weight. They may have a catch-weight now, this was back when the weights were the same. So everything changes. But they had it when you had to wrestle either Greco or freestyle.
I think every league they have tried to do in the United States they have tried to make the rules better. It’s like, what do you mean better? These are the rules of our sport, let’s use these rules. It doesn’t make sense. Like how folkstyle is going to prepare our guys for Olympic competition. No, that isn’t the sport, it’s a different sport. So I think that’s one of the biggest things. You know, I did see a couple of comments about that and how they were going to do the scoring and change the points. I didn’t really follow it because I didn’t find it that intriguing, to tell you the truth. Because I’ve seen these things come and go. You have to be well-funded and you have to figure out how you’re going to get an ROI out of this. If you can’t sustain it and it’s just because you got some sponsor or some donor who wants to throw in some money, eventually he or she is going to get tired of losing money. At the end of the day, there has got to be some way to find a return on the investment.
So I don’t know. I think we have a lot more platforms now with FLO. It doesn’t even have to be FLO, it could be another platform, the same thing, everybody can live-stream things now. You could put it behind a pay-wall, you could be a subscription. If there was a good enough league that I’d want to watch, I would pay a subscription for it. But I am not going to pay a subscription for wrestling when the points aren’t the same as they are in the international styles. Like Real Pro Wrestling, you had to push a guy off the mat and then they fell down in the pit. It was interesting, I guess, but it wasn’t our sport.
It’s too gimmicky, in my opinion. You can’t take our sport and make it gimmicky because we’ve already seen this. I mean, have you not followed the history of our sport? Pro wrestling was real at one time, wasn’t it? It was, right? They were shoots. And then they quit doing shoots because it wasn’t exciting enough at times. You wrestle the same guy two or three times and you start to figure each other out. The scores started getting lower and so they started doing works. And that’s what gimmicks lead to. They lead to works.
But you know, I love submission style wrestling. I think it’s a very interesting sport. I enjoy Greco Roman, I enjoy freestyle, but I think if you’re going to have a league, you have to pick a format. You can’t make up your own set of rules because it’s too gimmicky and I think it is going to lead to works.
5PM: I am not positive who brought this up, it might have been @wrestlingnomad from Takedown, but what about if it were regional training centers going up against each other in dual meets?
Coach Matt Lindland: That would be incredible. But we’d only see freestyle because they won’t do Greco at most regional training centers and if they do, it’s one or two guys who train Greco. But I think that would be really cool, then you could do your own version of a Bundesliga. But didn’t you see them talking about changing the rules, the scoring, wasn’t that the whole discussion?
5PM: That was part of it, yeah.
ML: Okay, that was the piece I saw. Like I said, that part of it just turns me off, I’m not interested. But if it was something legit like Nittany Lion versus the Ohio Regional Training Center, now I’m interested. I’m more interested in that than Ohio State versus Penn State in a folkstyle match. I’m much more interested in that because now we’ve got our top guys.
5PM: You’re coming back from Akron and then you have another week before jumping on a long flight to Baku, Azerbaijan. While back in Springs this week, have you been continuing with the base conditioning for the Olympic athletes?
ML: Yep, we’re continuing with the base for the rest of this week. We’ll get on a plane next Saturday, we land the 12th, we’ll recover on the 13th, and then start our training camp in Baku on the 14th and stay there through the 21st. Then we go to Goygol until the 4th (of July).
5PM: When it comes to how you measure and assess the progress of your athletes’ conditioning levels, what are your methods? Do you use any kind of heart rate monitors or things like that?
ML: Yeah, we’re doing some heart monitor training. Different periods, different times. We did a lot of that in California, but the focus was to stay at 130-150 bpm (beats per minute) and work in that zone for an hour and twenty, hour and a half. Just to stay in that zone, not too high, not too low, just focusing on that one part of the conditioning phase right now. We’ll use them again when we get back in July for our Olympic training camps when we do what we call our “Rio matches”, which we’ve been using for two years leading up to this summer in our preparation camps.
But as far as assessments, yes, we’ll get some stuff scheduled with our physiologist and do some lactate threshold and VO2 max stuff, as well, to see where our guys are at.
5PM: Azerbaijan is going to be a wrestling-based few weeks, is that not right?
Coach Matt Lindland: It’s wrestling-based, threshold stuff. We’ll be working in a completely different zone in our threshold. I’d say we’ll probably be working more in the 150-200 bpm range, somewhere around there. We’re talking high intensity live stuff. Like a lot of “shark bait” or “bull in the ring”, or whatever people call that. I just call it “groups”, one man stays in kind of stuff. Maybe you’re only going a six minute match, but every minute it’s a fresh guy. Live par terre goes, regular matches, you know, within our training. You cannot sustain that kind of intensity for three weeks straight, so it’ll be up and down. We’ll hit some peaks and then we will bring our training back down.
We’ve done two camps with the Azerbaijan team now. We’re familiar with what they do, we’re really comfortable with it. They have some really great athletes and hopefully there will be some other countries who will be there, as well.