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 of your own you’d like us to ask going forward, let us know via Facebook, Twitter, or through our Contact page.
With Kamal Bey (74 kg, Sunkist) becoming the first Greco-Roman World Champion for the US, at any age level, in seemingly years and years, that is obviously the lead topic for this week’s discussion. Lindland talks about Bey’s growth as both an athlete and person, and also breaks down the attributes that have allowed Bey to be successful. Of course, Junior World silver medalist Cevion Severado (50 kg, Xtreme RTC) is a big part of the conversation, as well. But what it all comes down to in Lindland’s eyes is the fact that these performances are evidence why the push for more youthful involvement in Greco works. To illustrate this further, Lindland offers details about the plan already in place, what it’s going to take to keep the momentum building, and what each step in the process represents.
5PM: My first question is more from a personal side, and that pertains to the growth Kamal has experienced since he’s been in Colorado Springs. He was talented and well-coached obviously before he came out to the OTC, but what has it been about his time there that has propelled him into being able to achieve what he did this past weekend?
Coach Matt Lindland: We brought Kamal in because he was an incredible prospect for our program. He was an incredibly talented, tough, and athletic young man. But putting himself in position this past year, he won a Senior medal. He’s won numerous Junior medals at international tournaments and then he put himself in position to win a Junior World title for the first time since Garrett Lowney, which is so exciting.
He’s definitely had his up’s and down’s this year. He lost to Mason (Manville) at the Senior World Team Trials and I think he was definitely the favorite heading into that tournament from the fans’ perspective. Both are very talented young guys and we’re seeing the whole youth movement that we’ve been talking about for the last few years. People are noticing it now, it’s not just me talking about it on the weekly reports or you reporting on the results we get from Junior tournaments. And sometimes I think those Junior results are overlooked by the fans because it’s overshadowed by what is going on in America only. I think a lot of the international tournaments happen in the winter while a lot of our wrestling fans, our general population of wrestling fans, are focused on high school and college results, and not paying attention to what’s going on internationally. It gets kind of lost, but it isn’t lost on us.
We’ve seen Kamal up, we’ve seen him down, but we’ve always known he has that ability and just to see him put everything together this weekend, the physical with the mental, the discipline and the structure that it takes…there are so many things that go into a World Championship-winning performance. You’ve got to go over to Europe; you’ve got to get rested; you have to get recovered; you have to get acclimated to the time zone; you have to cut your weight; you have to rehydrate; you have to fuel up; you have to get a good warm-up, and you have to cool down after each match. I mean, the list of things you have to do and the structure and discipline that it takes, and then to see a 20-year-old guy put that all together in a very short period of time is an incredible journey and I’m really just honored to have a small part in that.
I really have to look at our staff, our volunteer coaches, and everybody who has poured into Kamal and Tracy (G’Angelo Hancock) and all of our Juniors — whether they’re here in Colorado, Northern Michigan, or some other training site. That’s growing across the board and I think this was the spark the Greco-Roman program needed to light this fire. We’ve been chipping away, but people start to notice when you have a World Champion on your team and that’s a really cool thing for us.
5PM: That’s interesting to note because even though it wasn’t a “team title”, when there is one World Champion, he belongs to everybody. And the timing of him winning given the current climate for Greco right now seems just as important.
ML: I think it’s super-important and for sure, you saw the three letters on the singlet. He’s representing the USA, he’s representing the entire country and the Greco-Roman program. When he won his match, he grabbed the flag and he carried that around. When he stands on the podium, they play the US national anthem. So yeah, it is America’s, he won that for the team. Like I said, there are so many things that go into it which are selfless. You have to pour so much time, energy, commitment, dedication, and structure into becoming a World Champion. He did that representing the United States and we’re honored to have him part of our program and I expect big things to come out of him.
5PM: Performance-wise, I think developmental coaches, youth wrestlers, whomever, can learn from Kamal that good things can happen when you continuously try to score. That’s him, he never stops trying to score. The way he won, especially in the finals, is a terrific advertisement for the program, too.
ML: First of all, when you hear Kamal speak, he doesn’t talk about beating his opponent up or dominating them. He talks about wanting to put on a show. That’s what he wants to do. He wants to entertain the crowd, he wants to display his skills, and he did that by scoring 58 points in one tournament. He gave up 23 points, as well (laughs). That’s quite a few points and we want to shave some of those numbers off, for sure. But 58 points, I don’t know, that might be some kind of record. I can’t imagine there are a lot of athletes out there who have done that. He’s wrestling the philosophy we’re talking about — go in, attack, take chances, score points — all of those things are what we’re saying on a daily basis to him. Get in position, bring your body close to where you can score, go first, don’t wait or hesitate. That takes confidence and it takes a ton of courage. You have to put the time and effort into getting your skills to that level to where you are capable of scoring every time you make an attempt, or two thirds of the time, based on the scoring numbers that I’m reading. But if you can score more points than your opponent by the end of the match you’re going to win, and we saw that in the finals. It was 13-11, he was ahead, and what do most guys do? They back away, they run, and they change their mindset entirely. It goes from, I’m going to win this to I can’t lose. And that changes things. Kamal never went to that mindset once in this tournament. He stuck with the philosophy the coaches preach in our program — attack, take risks, be courageous — and those are great lessons to learn and they paid huge dividends in winning a World title.
5PM: With Kamal in the finals was Cevion Severado, who going in the whole thing was “He’s not even supposed to be here.” And then one by one, he took out three really good guys and did so as fearlessly as you probably can as a first-timer at World Championships. Talk about Severado’s stunning run to silver and how rewarding it is to see a kid like that come out and really impress on a stage that big.
Coach Matt Lindland: You’re right, he got there because he was an alternate. We lost Elijah Varona due to an injury and he (Severado) was a bit of a last-minute replacement because we were hoping Varona was going to heal up. It was his spot, he earned that spot. But he did give us the courtesy ahead of time to let us know that he wasn’t going to be able to go, and you know, what a great thing to do for Team USA. Varona helped the United States get that medal because when he found out he really wasn’t healthy and wasn’t ready to compete, he let us know with enough time left to help get Severado out to camp. But this wasn’t Severado’s first time here. He’s got a great coach in Cornell Robinson, who was our Cadet Pan Ams coach this year and he’s putting a ton of time into his athletes and bringing them to Colorado every chance he gets. And they live close. They drive over, so it’s not the first time I’ve seen him. He’s not a newbie to Greco-Roman. He understands the philosophies, he understands the techniques. But he’s someone who is out there grabbing legs part-time and doing Greco-Roman. He has such a bright future in our sport, if we can just find a way to keep him in our program and involved with Greco-Roman, the future is unlimited for this athlete, he’s just got so much talent.
But yeah, to see him step up and perform, what guys who aren’t on the team get that opportunity and take advantage of it? We’ve seen it time and time again, guys getting that opportunity but not believing that they are capable to compete at that level. Cevion took this opportunity and he performed to the best of his ability. He won matches and scored quite a few points, and he’s an exciting wrestler. I’m excited for him. I’m also excited for his coaches, their program, and the United States Greco-Roman program as a whole.
5PM: I guess you could point to the coaching, as you mentioned, because Severado never looked daunted or intimidated by the magnitude of the event. He tried to score fairly immediately, there didn’t seem to be a “deer in the headlights” thing going on for him. I would guess that is something that starts in the room, right?
ML: Well, he’s got a teammate of his who is on the Cadet World Team, as well. They put athletes in the right position, they put them in competitions, and he’s been in international tournaments — not as many as I’d like to get him to. But he’s been to the Pan Am Championships representing the United States, he’s been to training camps with international Greco-Roman wrestlers, and he has been to a lot of our camps here in Colorado. But yeah, I think that is what it takes so if there are young developmental coaches looking for what it takes and they don’t know, we say it on a weekly basis, you have to get them in the right training environments. What are those training environments? Well, one of them is in Colorado Springs, we’ve got Cornell, the (Minnesota) Storm… These are all great programs, but you’re not going to get the same kind of training in the United States. You have to go overseas to get that international experience.
We started doing that this year and you reported on it, our Croatia camps. We’re already getting other coaches looking to help us build those opportunities and we’re very, very lucky we’re getting that involvement to build at the grassroots level. We have people seeing the vision, they’re seeing what we’re trying do with the program and they are helping us move in that direction. And that’s a big part of what my job is. It’s not only to lead this program, but it’s also to create that vision, a compelling vision of the future where the best Greco-Roman athletes in the country stick with Greco-Roman. That kind of a vision, where the other part of the vision is seeing 16, 17, and 18-year old athletes committed full-time to a Greco-Roman program and not only training full-time, but traveling overseas and competing internationally. This is what it’s going to take. It takes a lot of dedication, but it also takes a lot of volunteers who are going to help do that. Because I can’t take every Cadet or Junior tour overseas. We have a very limited staff. Rob Hermann and Andy Bisek will take two tours overseas for Juniors. They will do another Senior tour. We’re really going to rely on our guys like Lucas Steldt, Zac Dominguez, Nate Engel, and Joe Betterman. We’ve got the people. They’re seeing my vision and they are enlisted in it, they are empowered to put those trips together.
You know, I didn’t ask Lucas to do that. He came to me asking, This is what I want to do, how can I do it, how can we put this together as a team? Momir (Petković) helped him get over there because that’s where he’s from, Serbia. So when they are part of the vision, they are a lot more involved, right? They are supporting the vision they helped create. I mean, they don’t support this cause just because they like me. They support this cause because they helped create this vision, and that is what I think is really, really important. We just want more and more of these coaches involved.
Cornell is one of those guys, he just went to the Pan Ams with the athletes and one his students just got a silver medal at the World Championships. He’s a supporter of the vision. He’s involved with it and he’s going to enlist other people to believe in it. All of these guys are going to help shape the dream and be a part of that process. And we’re going to have fun. We’re going to enjoy this process as we’re doing it and my job is to help create those opportunities, but also to just listen, because these guys have had that vision and now they’re coming up to me saying, Coach, what about this, what about that? And I’m saying, Okay, yes, we’ve got to figure out how we can do it.
Now I have my full staff. I’ve got Mohamed (Abdelfatah), I’ve got Gary (Mayabb) involved now full-time. The first three years, it was just me and Momir. But now, that momentum is rolling. I’m not having to push a rock up a hill anymore, I’ve got people helping me. We’re still pushing a rock up a hill — don’t get me wrong. We’re still pushing and we’re not on the other side of the hill yet. But the vision I see is now includes people helping to push that rock up the hill.
5PM: When you talk about the network of coaches and structuring the program the way it needs to be for the current generation due to how Greco is developed internationally, I’d imagine that Mayabb coming in to help you navigate all of this is vital. Even after the Worlds yesterday, he’s over on Trackwrestling talking about how Greco has to double its efforts in this country. Working in concert with him and all of the interested coaches you have, is that what is going to help extrapolate growth as opposed to just growing? For instance, instead of taking half-steps each time out, it’s full steps? Is that an accurate way to say it?
Coach Matt Lindland: That’s a great picture for me, to look at that. I use the analogy of pushing a rock up a hill and feeling like I was kind of doing it with only Momir helping me. So you’ve got a couple of old dudes shoving this rock, but now we’re getting these young coaches who are behind us and Gary is going to help organize this and build this system. The guy brings what I lack, which is real structure and organization. He just has excellent organizational skills and he understands that this is my vision and he supports it. Once I said this is what we’re doing, he said, “I’m in!” Whether he agreed with it or not, now he does. It didn’t matter to him what the vision was but rather, If this is what you see, Coach, I’m supporting it. And I think he sees the same thing now. I think a lot of people just this weekend are. If you look at my social media, a lot of people were saying things like, I didn’t think what you were doing was right, or I didn’t believe in this, or Now I’m starting to see it your way. I think that is a big part because we’ve been able to enlist a few coaches and a few wrestlers. So when Gary says “redouble the efforts”, I think that is going to happen organically at this point because of what Kamal and Cevion did at the World Championships and what Tracy and (Taylor) LaMont did last year.
I mean, those guys aren’t going away. They didn’t win medals this year, but it doesn’t mean they were not capable of winning medals or they weren’t good enough. Both had very tough opponents. Each one of those matches I can make an argument we would have won on a call. Tracy got leg fouled. I was watching on TV. I didn’t have the cube in my hand, I didn’t have the same angle the coaches sitting in the corner had. From what I was seeing, they did have a review, but they didn’t make the right call even though it was clear as day. We saw LaMont’s singlet get grabbed in the last ten seconds and we didn’t get that call, either. So I mean, very close, razor-thin, and it’s the World Championships, but we had athletes who were capable and had already done it. If you win a medal at the Juniors, you’re capable of winning one at the Senior level, and Tracy has that opportunity here in less that a few weeks on the mats in Paris. We’re less than 14 days away from Tracy being able to compete in Paris and he’s going to have that opportunity. LaMont is going to have another opportunity at the U23’s this year. He might just wrestle folkstyle this year because I think he’s going to do that for one more year, but I feel like we’re going to get him back to Greco really quick because he knows how capable he is, how close he is, and what he can do. He has all of the attributes it’s going to take.
After you create the vision for the program and you enlist others, you have to embody the program. You have to have an embodiment. There has to be a congruency between what you say and what you do. What we’re saying is what we’re doing. We’re putting young athletes on the mat. We moved three Senior athletes out of the training center. When Gary says “double the efforts”, well, I just doubled the number of resident athletes in our program while moving three Senior athletes off (campus). These aren’t guys I moved off because they aren’t good or they’re not capable. RaVaughn Perkins made an Olympic Team, Patrick Martinez was on two World teams. They are still part of our program, they are still resident athletes. They’re just adults who now live in apartments, town homes, or a house. But that is what it is going to take, guys like that who are totally selfless to the program and say, How can I help? Can I move off the complex so we can bring in younger talent that is going to raise the program?
It’s going to take a lot of selfless things and I’ve been saying this. Look what Kamal did, look what these Senior resident athletes did for the program, helping bring in guys like Luis Hernandez, Mike Rodgers, Nick Boykin, and there are some other names to come. I don’t know if I can announce them yet, but they’re there. There are guys who I have offered opportunities to come out and train, but maybe the timing isn’t right now, but they still want that door open. It’s open, the door is open, but do I have a bed open? Those are two different things (laughs). It is okay for guys to come out here and be a part of this program. But you have to not only want to be a be a part of this program, you also have to love the sport. If you don’t love Greco-Roman wrestling, we don’t really want you here because you have to love it in order to work as hard as it’s going to take and show the selfless commitment that goes into this.
You don’t believe in the message until the believe in the messenger and I think that is why we’re getting enlistment in our program. I think the reason people are buying in now is because they trust me as a coach. When I first got here, it was like, Yeah, yeah, you’re talking, but show me. For the last three years, I have been showing that my words and my actions mean something. They’re the same thing. And you don’t believe in the message until you believe in the messenger, and I’ve always said about coaches that your students don’t care about what you know until they know that you care. I teach a coaching class at my gym, we opened in 2000, so we’ve been around 17 years and after the first five years we needed to build some depth with our coaches and that was one of the messages I always liked to share. Because you have all of these coaches who want to show this move or that move and it’s like, They don’t care. They don’t care what you have until they know you care about them. So I hope my actions show my athletes and the coaches who are supporting what I’m doing that I care.
And then once you get those guys, you have to empower them to make their own decisions. I can’t go and tell Gary and Ike (Anderson) to take the team and then micromanage them. I trust these guys. I know them. I know they have my back, so you have to give them the autonomy. Yeah, you also give them feedback, tools, and training, but at the end of the day, you have to empower your people. You have to let them run it how they’re going to run it. Yes, we’re going to make adjustments and we’re going to evaluate. That’s the next thing. I’m hearing Gary’s words in those interviews, too, and he’s evaluating our program. Right now, he’s thinking Double, double our efforts. Now we can because we have a staff in place. We’ve got eager volunteers. But evaluating everything, your coaches, your athletes, your program, is really one of the hardest things to do because you have to reflect and ask yourself, What can I do better? How can I improve? You’re also evaluating your key people, their contributions, and their skills, even their ethics. Are we being excellent and ethical in what we’re doing? We are evaluating following a World Championships, but we’re doing this on a monthly basis, on a daily basis. We’re evaluating where we’re at so we can get better.
Finally, we have to encourage these guys, like we’ve done with Kamal. Encourage just means to pour courage into them, really. They have to come with some courage, I can’t inject that into them. I see it happen. Kamal went whitewater rafting with me. He’s scared to death of whitewater rafting. I almost didn’t invite him. I gave him the whole, We’re going, do you want to come? He says to me, “I have to.” I was so proud of him. I was so happy to hear him say, “I have to, Coach.” Yeah, you do. He said, “It scares the shit out of me, I have to go.” That’s the attitude we have to have for everything. If it scares you, you have to do it. As a coach, you just have to continue to lift these guys up, you get excited, and the vision gets bigger. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Greco-Roman and I think that is what the message this week is really about.
5PM: I also think what helps, and this isn’t a slight to coaches or athletes in the other styles, is that the Greco community bands together a little more tightly and with more fervor. The way this is running now, you have mobilized a bunch of volunteers who have been waiting for a chance to get more involved in changing the narrative.
ML: Yeah, you know, there are a bunch of people out there who love our sport. They love Greco-Roman, it’s their favorite style. They’re wrestling fans, but when it comes down to it, they are Greco aficionados, and they are looking for somebody to be their champion who says, You know what? We can do this. We’re not the red-headed step-child. And I do think there is a little bit of that. We get looked down on so it’s like, We want to show that we’re good, too, we’re damn good. We just need to continue doubling our efforts and getting the athletes. We don’t need every athlete. We just want the ones who are capable, passionate about it, and want to be part of the movement and help us get the rock to the top of the hill. Momentum is going to carry it down to the other side and we’re going to just keep rolling.
Yeah, it’s a tight group. The Greco-Roman community is a little different. That’s okay. It’s unique, There’s nothing like it.
5PM: Cohlton Schultz may not have won on Sunday, but he wrestled very tough is still a shining example of what happens when you put a gifted athlete in the an elite training environment.
Coach Matt Lindland: You’re absolutely right, it’s what happens you take a super-talented athlete who loves what he does. He doesn’t know if he loves the sport of Greco-Roman wrestling. I’m going to try and help him with that (laughs). But he loves the sport of wrestling, and so do I, there’s no question. Whether it’s Greco-Roman, freestyle, submission, I’m a fan of the sport. But yeah, I definitely have a preference and most of the athletes who compete in our style do have a preference.
We’re lucky that Cohlton lives 45 minutes away from the training center. It’s a heck of a commute, it’s a commitment to be a part of the program. When he is in high school, he is committed to that program, too, and I respect that a lot because that’s the type of individual he is. He does what he says he is going to do. If he tells his teammates he’s going to be a part of that team, then that’s what he is going to be doing. But when they are not training or on break during the summer, Cohlton is a huge part of our program. He is in our room. He has been training with Seniors since he was a first-year Cadet. But that is what happens when you take young talented athletes and put them in an environment above their level — they will rise to that level. That is capable, that is possible. Yeah, there are a lot of obstacles in the way, but I have seen families move and change jobs to get athletes here. We’re seeing athletes make a move to Colorado now. Whether or not they are going to have a spot at the Olympic Training Center as a resident is one thing, but I guarantee you if someone said they were dedicated to Greco-Roman wrestling and were going to move to Colorado, I would make sure they had access to our room every day along with our coaches and training partners, and they would be part of our team.
So that is a possibility, for someone to do what Cohlton has done. Heck, he had a great match. First off, he’s walking around at 104 kilos and he’s wrestling 120. He is a year younger than the next youngest athlete. He is undersized. And now he is getting ready for a Cadet tournament I’m very confident he’s going to have a big performance at. Cohlton has won a lot of medals internationally in the last two years as a Cadet and Junior, and he’s still just a Cadet. He has a huge future ahead of him and he’s been at the World Championships already as a Junior and he’s got three more years. We’re going to see multiple World Championships out of him, and it’s probably going to start this year at the Cadets. So, I am very excited. Not only did he stay with Tracy in Sweden to help him prepare, he’s training over there, as well. He’s going to France with us, he is going to be Robby’s and Tracy’s workout partner in the back and we’re going to make sure he gets training sessions in during the breaks, as well. We’re going to make sure he’s ready to go for the Cadet World Championships while letting him see what the Senior World Championships look like because he’s going to be in the back warming our guys up and helping them prepare. There’s a certain comfort to that, too. He will be able to say, I’ve been there, I saw what it was like when I was 16 years old. Not many athletes have that opportunity and can say they’ve done that, so I think he is in a really good position with his career for the future.