USA Greco

Coach Lindland’s Weekly Report: Entering the Zone

lindland, world team camp 2019
Photo: Tony Rotundo

Five Point Move is proud to host USA Greco-Roman National Team head coach Matt Lindland each week for Coach Lindland’s Report. Here is where you will find detailed perspectives from Coach Lindland pertaining to recent results, upcoming events, training plans, and other Greco-related news that isn’t available anywhere else. ALSO — if you would like to donate directly to the US Greco-Roman program, just click here. Your support is appreciated!

With the onset of Senior World Team Camp in Colorado Springs this past week — and in the still-raucous aftermath of three medals won at the Junior World Championships — there is plenty to get to in this edition of Coach Lindland’s Report. Those aforementioned Juniors kick it off, as Lindland recalls the thrilling bronze matches from Estonia featuring Alston Nutter (63 kg, Sunkist/OTS) and Peyton Omania (67 kg, MSU/CYC), as well as one more remarkable World-level performance courtesy of Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist), who earned silver. The conversation then moves to the Seniors and 2019 World Team Camp. In Lindland’s eyes, the most demanding prep phase for the World Championships couldn’t be going much better and he shares a cavalcade of insights as to why he is so pleased with what has transpired at the Olympic (and Paralympic) Training Center thus far.

5PM: So you look at the the Junior Worlds and they are three kids who have been around for a while, with Cohlton obviously leading the pack, and had prior World experience. Nutter goes to a full-time program (Northern Michigan), and Omania and Cohlton are enrolled at folkstyle colleges but they have come up through the Greco system…

Coach Matt Lindland: You know, you say these are kids and I really thought, Kids can’t do that. I mean, they’re young men and they showed it by the way they competed. They were so brave and they took so much risk. They showed me, it was like, These are men, they’re not boys anymore. Especially the two guys who fought back for medals on the backside of the bracket. They had been to the World Championships and lost, and they knew what that feels like. They didn’t want to come home feeling like that again, and it showed in their effort and in their body language.

It was incredible. When Nutter got back up, he was just like, Whatever, I’m just going at this dude (laughs). That was something I noticed out of all these guys, the confident approaches in their matches, but also, they were a little fearless. You can say what you want about the Seniors and how they may have a little tighter positioning and how opportunities aren’t going to open up as much, but just the fact they are willing to take risks. You can develop the skills how to open a better guy up and get him to extend himself and create opportunities — or, you can create those opportunities yourself because you are constantly attacking and he has to defend and recover his position time and time again, which gives you new angles to attack.

These guys showed our Seniors what kind match you have to wrestle and what kind of attitude with which you have to compete. That’s why I don’t like to think of them as Juniors, because they can go out there and compete with Seniors. Which is something we see a lot of. The top Juniors are competing with Seniorslike (Kerem) Kamal at 60 kilos and the Cuban (Gabriel Rosillo) at 97. They can compete with the best Seniors in the world and there is no doubt these Juniors (Nutter, Omania, and Schultz) can, as well.

I know we get into that colloquialism of calling them “kids, and I often call grown men “kids”, but these guys performed and approached this like men. They were prepared, they were ready to fight, and they took risks. It was just so much to watch. Just incredible.

5PM: This has been consecutive big age-group performances by now. 2016, two medals at Junior. In 2017, Cohlton won at Cadet and Kamal (Bey) at Junior. Last year, two Junior medals. This year, there were three. In fact, there were other good wins by the US at the Junior Worlds last week without advancement in the tournament. 

ML: Yeah, I mean, there was one guy who I was a little disappointed in the way he fought but for the rest of the guys it’s just experience. They fought well. Look at (Cameron) Caffey. Can he control an underhook or what? That dude is a beast (laughs). He is a super athlete. Every one of these guys was so much fun to watch, and for the most part, they all went out there and fought hard.

What’s happening is that our program is gaining momentum now, and the guys who aren’t willing to get on that train are going to get left at the station — because now it’s moving. And it’s going to take more. It is going to take more risks and more effort. That’s just the nature of it. You’ve shown me what you’re capable of doing. I believed you, now hopefully, you believe in yourself. But you’re going to have to do more to keep pressing on.

5PM: How did the performances from the Junior Worlds carry into the beginning of Senior World Team Camp.

ML: Well that’s what I love about this week at Senior camp. These guys are training so hard with intensity and purpose. It is a dynamically different Team from a year ago. 60% of our Team is comprised of military guys, so we’ve got leaders. We also have leaders like Adam Coon on the Team and some strong, strong veterans like Pat Smith and Joe Rau. They are been-there-done-that kind of guys who know what it takes.

I feel like it’s the same kind of purpose we saw from Peyton not being denied that win, because he had been to that tournament and knows what it’s like to lose. Same thing with Nutter. And that’s what I’m seeing from our veteran Seniors who have been on Teams before, I am going to train so at least I know I’m doing the right things. I am putting everything into training and my effort, and I’m following the plan. 

That’s what makes this Team different than ones in the past. They believe in the plan and they were a part of the process. Everyone had some input into the plan, and really only one guy in our program has a slightly different plan, which is Tracy. He took off for Europe right when our camp was starting and that was something we considered as part of our overall plan, for him to fly out there with our cooperation group. There are a lot of benefits to having that opportunity to train with all of those high-level athletes. But there are a lot of opportunities when you know that, Hey, my guys are going to be comfortable. Four of our guys can sleep in their own beds every night because they live here in town.

Those are nice things when you’re going into the World Championships and I think that’s what this year’s Team is about. We have talked about those areas and communication is certainly one of those areas we are improving on. Another is that sense of urgency. These guys are like, Okay, it’s the year to qualify and things are changing. We have talked about this in the past, years ago. Where is that sense of urgency? Well, now you see that Tokyo is just around the corner and it’s Oh my gosh, we need to qualify these weights. But everyone is onboard with that goal and that mission, even our training partners. I’m just grateful and blessed that they’re out there pushing our #1’s so they can be at their best for the Worlds and it has been a lot of fun.

5PM: This is your second World Team camp going into a qualifying Worlds. Are there differences? Are there different points of emphasis this year as opposed to others?

Coach Matt Lindland: I think that everyone has some individual needs they need to work on. I don’t really want to go into it before the World Championships regarding what three areas we have focused on improving this entire year.

5PM: Not with this platform receiving a swell in international traffic over the summer.

ML: (Laughs) We have been progressively adding three areas that we have wanted to work on, and we have been building on these areas, and then we’re going to see if they are going to pay off.

I have been working with certain individuals on how to plan and develop one area of focus, like say, a top turn or a lift. So we’re going to develop this plan and it is a yearly process. We’re going to meet at January camp; then we’ll go to Europe and work on this; when I see you back (at the OTC for camp) in April, we’re going to work on this. Fortunately, this is one of our guys who made the Team and now we are really developing what was an area of weakness into one of his strengths. That’s a lot of fun, to see that kind of progress happen. And it was planned out, for sure. These areas of focus were planned out and we know what our guys’ strengths are going into this tournament.

5PM: Everyone knows going into this camp that it’s the big one, the most intense camp each year. When you talk about making adjustments, big or small, how does that directive fit in for this particular group given the high intensity live mixed in with the wrestling skills training?

ML: We are working on several areas we need to improve on as a Team, for sure, but there are enough personal coaches here with enough time to one-on-one break down the technical work. We’re putting the guys through times when they can work on a specific area. We have individual coaches with each of our #1 athletes along with the right training partners who are providing the right feels and the right looks. I think it’s just a matter of incorporating the live wrestling and the drills together. It all works together, like a puzzle some would say.

But the intensity of the camp has been incredible because the guys want to be here. They want to prepare and they want to train, and I think a lot of it has to do with that communication. It’s like, Hey, this is what we wanted. We want to finish this final camp here and then go in and acclimate in Kazakhstan.

You know, some of these guys have been on that trip to Kazakhstan, when we went on that trip to Shymkent (in 2014) and they know how they’re going to feel. For some, their stomachs bothered them and had a lot of issues. So just having the communication improving in our program overall is really helping everything. We talk about the plan with our coaches, we work together with all of the personal coaches going into the camp to make sure we’re all on the same page. Certainly, we give individuals time to work on their own specific areas. That is their time and they are taking full advantage of it. And sometimes, their individual coach wants someone else to have a look at an adjustment. That is really when we are cooperating and working collaboratively as a staff and as a program. That to me is what’s making this camp so much more fun and exciting. There is a lot more trust and respect being built. So, go figure (laughs). We identified those areas last year and we really started drilling in on them this year. Now we are starting to see some of these fruits, and hopefully, that will equate to medals and qualification in Kazakhstan.

5PM: When you say working collaboratively and someone else “having another look”, are you referring to a situation where there is another set of eyes on a technique or position?

ML: That’s exactly what I’m saying, another set of eyes. Man, what a blessing it is to have Dremiel Byers in the room working with Adam Coon, and Dremiel and I having these collaborative talks about technical work and what we see to help Adam make those adjustments.

It’s tough when you come into camp. Everyone is giving you (the athletes) information, and you have to back off, too. But these athletes are here and they are focused on what’s ahead of them. Any major adjustments are going to be hard to make, but just those little tweaks and micro adjustments, those little pressures… We all know that Greco-Roman is micro-surgery compared to freestyle, which is blacksmithing. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. They are watchmaking kind of adjustments, not swinging an anvil kind of adjustments. So, different philosophy.

5PM: The non-World Team guys, how are they assimilating in what we’ll call their level of servitude?

ML: Outstanding. These guys are incredible servant leaders and it has not gone unnoticed. I’ve made a point of praising these guys and recognizing their efforts. We’re really pleased. And again, we have a lot of military guys here. All of (Army) WCAP, not just their National Team guys, everyone is invited to our camp.

That’s kind of the deal. This is not a mandatory thing. If you want to be here and you understand your role — that you’re here first and foremost to serve the needs of the program and that probably means helping one of our World Team members who are trying to qualify their weight class this year —  then that is why you’re here. Because you get it. That’s why we have 50 guys in the room, why guys drove or flew cross-country. So they could get here and contribute to the Greco-Roman program. That doesn’t get unnoticed at all and we are grateful to have all of these great training partners out here.

5PM: There has been a lot going on this summer between the Cadet Worlds, the Pan Am Games, the Junior Worlds, there were Seniors in Poland and Tbilisi, and now here is the major Senior World Team camp and then it’s onto the Worlds. Does it seem like, for you, that some of these summers go quicker than others?

Coach Matt Lindland: That’s a great question. This summer went by really quick, and I feel like next summer is going to be here tomorrow for Tokyo. It feels like as soon as we get home from Kazakhstan, first I go to U23’s, and then right after that it feels like a sprint to Tokyo.

Yeah, things are going fast. It must be because you’re having a great time and then time flies by. You are kind of in the zone. Sometimes, it speeds up; and sometimes, it slows down when you are in the zone. But right now it feels like it is going fast, though that might be because we are just starting to get into the zone. Not just me personally, but our program and our athletes. There feels like a lot of positive momentum going on. The train is moving and we’re excited about that. We have some really good changes in our resident program right now with Chandler Rogers, Nolan Baker, and Alex Mossing coming in as Senior full-time athletes. We also have a new EAP (Elite Accelerator Program) athlete in Robert Perez III, who was on our Cadet (World) Team this year. We are looking at adding another EAP athlete, as well.

So it’s our whole program. It’s not just our Seniors, it’s not just our Juniors. The results at Cadet certainly didn’t show how good of a Team that was, so it was unfortunate. The world is really, really tough and we just have to travel more and compete against them with our young guys. That’s the only way to beat them. We train with them, compete against them, we figure them out, and then as Americans, we come back and use a smart plan to make some adjustments. And then we get back out there with that fighting spirit and take some risks.

Follow Coach Matt Lindland on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the USA Greco-Roman Wrestling program.

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