USA Greco

Coach Lindland’s Weekly Report: Momentum Building

Coach Matt Lindland after 2017 Grand Prix Zagreb Open

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 questions pertaining to recent events, training, and other topics surrounding the sport of Greco-Roman. If you have any questions you’d like us to ask going forward, let us know via Facebook, Twitter, or through our Contact page.

Back from two overseas events which saw the US come away with three gold medalists and eight medalists overall, Coach Lindland was more than happy to expound on what he thought of his team’s progress as of late. Several individual performances are talked about, naturally, and also, a look at the Juniors and their history-making day in Austria. We wrap it all up with this weekend’s tournament in Hungary and a question from a reader regarding changes at the Fargo Nationals.

5PM: How was Ellis Coleman doing the last time you checked?

Coach Matt Lindland: I talked to him just within the last hour and a half and he’s getting some more imaging done tomorrow, but it doesn’t look like anything major. He had some imaging, they couldn’t really tell, so he’s going to get some more imaging done tomorrow. The WCAP doctors looked at today’s imaging and what they can tell from their assessment, it doesn’t look like anything more than a muscle strain, which is really good news. We’ll get some more information tomorrow but according to Ellis, no matter what, he is not going to get surgery before the World Team Trials and he’s in a lot less pain than he was. We sent him home from Denmark and he’s gotten back full range of motion.

5PM: What did you like the most about Robby Smith’s performance at Thor Masters and also, why was he held out of Zagreb?

ML: He had some rust in that first match against Oskar (Marvik) for sure, he had some rust on him. But as the tournament progressed, he was wrestling stronger and moving better. He ended up hurting his elbow. It’s something that has happened before, he gets a lot of inflammation and swelling, so it was probably a good idea just to rest him. He hurt it in training after the tournament while we were over in Denmark with the other nations.

There were a lot of countries that came to the tournament, ten of them stuck around for training. We had very long practices, it was rough on the coaches (laughs). 71 and under for two hours and then 75 and over the next two hours, two practices a day. So there wasn’t a lot of sightseeing for the coaches on this leg of the trip.

5PM: Was Denmark as encouraging as it appeared to be? There were 32 wins on Saturday along with the two golds and Patrick Smith with the bronze.

ML: You know, it was very encouraging to me to see how they could compete and make adjustments on the mat and in between matches along with working on their warm-up protocol and cool-down protocol. And also, focusing on making sure they’re eating between matches. Doing all of those things that are really important, like, Oh yeah, whatever, I can eat, I don’t really feel like it, but you know it’s the right thing to do. You know you have to hydrate. Those types of things. Getting our guys back into the rhythm of what you have to do at those tournaments. You don’t go in there lackadaisical. You go in with a plan. This is how I’m going to warm up; this is how I am going to cool down after my match; this is the nutrition I have to put in between rounds. Those are habits and we can quickly lose those if we’re not competing. It’s a lot of reminders.

I saw the guys doing things right and I saw them get even better at the next tournament. Certainly, it was encouraging to have a couple champs and another medal there. We won a lot of matches. One of the big selling points for me taking the team there was two-fold — one was that there were going to be ten nations to train with and the other, is the fact that Thor Masters used the Nordic bracketing system, which guaranteed each guy at least two matches, no matter what. For the smaller brackets, like Robby’s, it was a round-robin, so he had five matches that day. It was a great chance for him.

It was good. I was very pleased.

5PM: It looked like Thor Masters really went all out with the production at the event and it seemed to be a fun place to be. Did you enjoy your time there?

ML: I tell you what, the Denmark guys have a really small town in Nykøbing. It’s a really small town and like, the whole town was behind it and showed up to watch the final. They put on a great production for the event. That’s what you want to see when you go over there. The people are interested in watching the competition and they want to come out and cheer for you. It was a small town, a small arena, but it was completely packed. There were 3,000 people in there in a packed house and they had a good light show, an elevated platform. It was beautiful.

5PM: The Juniors lit it up in Austria. 12 medals, six golds, both are astounding numbers. If that isn’t proof the future is bright, I don’t know what is. 

Coach Matt Lindland: I think you’re on the right track with that. People were like, Well, you did send your best team, you know? Yeah, we did! We sent four World Team members who all have another year of eligibility as Juniors, two of those guys are World medalists. But we also had younger guys like Wyatt Koelling and Nick Boykin. We had some really good, talented athletes going over there. In the past, we had very limited training during what is traditionally a folkstyle season in America. But now we have athletes who are committed to our sport and we’re working towards that 3%. We’re starting to get athletes who are focused on entirely on Greco-Roman. This isn’t something they do on the side. This is the style they choose to put their focus and time into. And when you start having those kinds of athletes go overseas, we’re going to continue to have these kinds of results.

In the past, a lot of our best athletes would be busy this time of year wrestling folkstyle and not training Greco-Roman so by the time we’d get them back, they are really not prepared to compete at this level. Now we have guys who are training full-time Greco-Roman and we’re seeing the fruits of that.

5PM: Croatia was another really solid performance for the US Seniors, claiming second overall with five medalists and one champion, Alex Sancho. Sancho beating Mate Nemes in the semis was a turning point but RaVaughn Perkins enjoyed a very strong day, too.

ML: Yeah, I thought that both of those guys had great tournaments. Etlinger got two gutwrenches on RaVaughn. He hasn’t spent enough time back in the par terre position and that is definitely an area we have to fix. If he shuts down both of those turns he wins 5-4. So we have a couple of things we have to work on, as is the case with all of our athletes. There are adjustments that need to be made along the way but it was very encouraging to see that this tournament has gotten stronger in its third year, it has gotten deeper and there were some really good competitors there, and to come away with that many medals, and for Sancho to make the top of the podium.

He (Sancho) wrestled incredible. He has such a great international style of wrestling that it doesn’t translate as well in the United States because the officiating in the US is slightly different. We allow guys to block, push away, and wrestle with their heads down. The way Alex wrestles, he is very explosive, he is very exciting, and he makes a lot of attempts, but it is definitely predicated upon the way the officials call it. They’re forcing guys to stay in there now. They have actually called it “hooking” — if you have an underhook or an overhook, from the way I read it, a two-on-one could essentially be an overhook, you’re overhooking the arm — but they want the head up, chest-to-chest wrestling, no finger grabbing and it’s going to work out for Alex. He is going to have a lot more success because he has a very explosive style, attacks, and makes a lot of attempts. He may give up some points, but he is so explosive he can get them back.

I love that he is out there wrestling a wide-open style and it has paid off for him. He’s been a bridesmaid a couple times at the Trials, the Senior Open, and I can see him frustrated. Because it is hard to tell a guy, Hey man, look, you’re doing all the right stuff, keep doing it, but then he keeps coming in second place. But it certainly paid off for him in Croatia internationally.

RaVaughn Perkins at Thor Masters

Perkins (blue), shown here at Thor Masters against Mateous Morbitzer (CZE), followed up his 2-2 ledger in Denmark with a bronze medal in Croatia at the Grand Prix Zagreb Open. (Photo: PI-Photo.dk)

5PM: Kamal Bey wrestled Croatian Olympian Bozo Starcevik and though he got tech’ed, it didn’t look like they were in two completely different leagues. He then rebounded with a fall over a really tough guy in Wagner.

ML: (Laughs) That was a beautiful toss, I saw that one. You know, I missed the match with Bozo, I was down cornering Perkins for that match. And he was up at 80 kilos, too. The one thing he did say was, “I need to get back at 75”, which is fine, we were just going over for some competition and it’s fine that he wanted to wrestle 80 kilos here and 84 at the Juniors, but I think right now he is most competitive at 75 kilos, especially with the day-before weigh-in. Things could definitely change when we start having two hour weigh-ins or whatever the changes coming down the pike are, and we’re going to have to adjust.

But Kamal wrestled really good. Yeah, I know he got teched. I didn’t see the match but everybody said it was a close match, even though it was 10-2 (laughs). He must have looked good out there and I’m looking forward to watching it on film when I get back from St. Louis this weekend. I’ll have a little time and I’ll be going over films.

5PM: As we sort of touched on, there were a number of injuries. Sometimes, you can’t explain how these things happen, sometimes they’re just flukes. But it seemed like whatever could happen on this trip did. As the head coach, how do you adjust? What do you say to the athletes when you’re over there and they suffer a setback like that?

ML: Well, the first thing you want to do is figure out how serious it is and I’m not a doctor, I’m not a medical expert, so I have to lean on the advice of our trainers and doctors who are on-site. I listen to that advice and I understand my guys. I look at (Hayden) Tuma and he had a fracture in his jaw and got his wisdom teeth pushed down into his jaw and fractured it. And he wrestled two more matches with it. So I know he’s tough as nails and I know he wants to be out there to compete but at the end of the day, you have to tell these guys I’m sending you home, because they don’t want to go home. They want to keep training, they want to get in another competition. He didn’t win that tournament, he wanted to get a better result but he was out there fighting with a broken jaw.

Coleman had that Lithuanian Venckaitis who kept RaVaughn out (of the Olympics) at the Qualifier. A very talented guy, tricky as hell, and Ellis wrestled so smart, so tactically, I was very impressed by not only his performance the way he competed but also, the tactics he used. He really shut him down. The guy headbutted him, they should have given us a caution and two. Then Ellis sticks an underhook in and the guy just cranked it as hard as he could. It was a flagrant misconduct. They could have thrown him out of the match. But they didn’t caution anybody. There were five seconds left. It wasn’t going to help him win the match, but it certainly sent Ellis home to get his shoulder evaluated.

Ben (Provisor) was really sick, he had a sinus infection that was very difficult to deal with and Robby hurt his elbow in the camp. What about Patrick (Martinez)? He busted his chin open and he didn’t lose any matches. He won two matches and busted his chin open throwing a guy and now he has a concussion, and you don’t want to mess with those. You want to keep our guys healthy and rest them. There are other days to fight. Instead of sending these guys back out there, and they are warriors and want to fight, it’s your job as the coach to protect them.

5PM: It isn’t like having multiple guys ranked at the same time by UWW is so new. I mean, there have been plenty of instances that this has occurred. But last month it was down to one and now this month, there are five guys ranked in the top 20. This seems to mean something right now, that there is something to this. Or am I making too much out of it?

Coach Matt Lindland: Well it’s exciting, for sure. At the end of the day, it’s just names on paper. But it is still exciting and to see guys who are still Juniors showing up in the Senior rankings, I think that is telling how we’re heading in the right direction. I actually think we’re a little under-ranked right now in relation to how good we potentially are. But again, these are just names on paper, so I don’t want to get too excited, but I think it is a good encouragement for our team and our athletes, particularly, to see that they are making progress on the world level. There are a lot of really good guys in the world who we compete against and knowing that we’re moving on the way up and heading in the right direction from one to five, yes, we’re encouraged. For sure. But it’s not just because of the rankings. It’s also because of the work the guys are putting in and the performances they are putting together on the mat. That’s what is exciting.

5PM: The US is only sending a limited number of athletes to the mat in Hungary this weekend compared to the last two events, right?

ML: I’d have to count, to tell you the truth. We’re sending a few guys over just for training and then there are some who are competing, as well. We’ve got (Raymond) Bunker from the Marines, Barrett Stanghill, Kamal will train over there but come back. (Geordan) Speiller, I’m excited to see him back. John Stefanowicz, Kevin Radford got injured in training camp and now he’s coming home. It’s good to see Joe Rau and Dan Miller back in action. And Malcolm Allen, our new heavyweight. The guy is a powerful, explosive dude, isn’t he?

5PM: Yeah, he is, it’ll be fun to see him against foreign competitors, we only got a taste of it at Schultz. I’d like to see him in that environment.

ML: You know who didn’t come away with a medal but is very exciting and promising? Hayden Zillmer. That guy has a ton of potential if he keeps going the way he is going. He is improving so fast. He just has a great motor in him. Zillmer is the guy in camp no one wants to go with because they know he is going to go hard (laughs). He’s a great training partner, he just goes freaking hard. He might need to slow it down just to focus on his technique a little bit, but he’s very close to figuring this out and having a complete grasp on it. Obviously, he was well-trained as a Junior before he went on to spend time in the college system, so I am confident he will get this back pretty quickly because he was coached very well as a Junior. You can tell he has a lot of experience in Greco, it’s just a matter of getting that rust off from the folkstyle system.

5PM: Why were the weigh-ins at 7PM local time for both Thor Masters and Zagreb?

ML: It was hard on our guys because they wanted to eat and get rest. I honestly believe it’s the fact that the European countries are capable of driving over there. You have guys who can leave Budapest in the afternoon and make it for a 7:00pm weigh-in. If they leave at 2:00, they’re going to have no problem getting to a weigh-in. Same thing for the Serbian team, the German team, the Austrian team, they can drive over. This is something that is not foreign to Americans. I lived in Oregon and I would drive eight hours to California, and it’s a lot further than some of these countries are driving to get to an international tournament.

We don’t have that luxury here. We have to travel. We have to get on planes, book hotels. They (European contingents) could come over on that day, get a nice hotel, and leave the next day after the tournament. They have a lot more flexibility to get themselves to a lot of tournaments and get themselves to competitions. We’ve got to really save that money to get our guys the opportunities the international guys are getting because they live in the region. If you look, Croatia, Serbia, Czech Republic, these guys don’t even wrestle freestyle. This is what they do full-time and they are getting international matches on the weekends and driving back on Sunday afternoons.

That is why I think we’re having our weigh-ins at 7:00 at night, so more teams have the opportunity to show up and make the trip without breaking the budget.

5PM: Finally, we have a user question via email, Tony Cook, who says “I was wondering what Coach Lindland’s opinion is regarding the change in format for the Cadet and Junior National Championships held in Fargo every summer. It would seem to really hurt Greco-Roman’s participation in the event in my opinion.”

Coach Matt Lindland: I think what Tony is referring to is that Greco is going second after freestyle. Typically, it has been first and the athletes who wrestle Greco show up and some wrestle freestyle and some don’t. But I think the Coaches Council’s thought is you’re going to have a lot more athletes participate in freestyle. That has just statistically and historically been the case, but I think the thought process is you’re going to have a lot of guys that didn’t end up placing and maybe you’re going to get some transfer athletes who are going to take a try at Greco-Roman at the National level.

Frankly, it’s not really Greco-Roman. It’s more of a “folkstyle-without-grabbing-the-legs” tournament. If you want to see our top young talent, you need to get to Akron, Ohio for the Cadet World Team Trials or Las Vegas for our Junior World Team Trials. This is where our Greco-Roman athletes are at. The  Fargo tournament? It’s great. It gives athletes a chance to compete, they get exposed to it and hopefully someone will fall in love with the sport and want to continue.

We’ve got so many wonderful athletes in this country and if we could just get a few more to focus full-time on Greco, which I think is going to happen if we keep seeing the success our guys have been having. I think they are going to be the trailblazers, the Kamal’s, the Tracy’s, now we have Nick Boykin, who is a resident out here. We’re going to continue to grow the program and I don’t think I am the only one seeing the growth and the results. And I think we’re going to see a lot more athletes take a chance to just focus on the international styles because they don’t have goals to win a college title, they want to win World and Olympic medals. That is what I’m here to do, support the guys who want to do that.

Be sure to follow Coach Matt Lindland on Facebook, Twitter, and his official blog for updates on the US Greco Roman Wrestling program heading into the new competitive cycle. 

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