“January Camp 2020” at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is about to reach its conclusion. Yesterday (Thursday) saw the final live wrestling session of the week-long endeavor, as well as its last fully-structured practice (which focused on par terre). When camp does in fact wrap on Saturday, USA athletes who are going to appear in this week’s Matteo Pellicone Memorial in Rome, Italy will have a tease of downtime before boarding their international flights the following morning.
Patrick Smith (77 kg, Minnesota Storm) is one of those athletes.
Smith, who turned 29 a week before Christmas, is coming off perhaps the strongest season of his remarkable career. First, the popular Minnesotan closed out 2018 by earning medals in three straight international events. From then on, it was a blur. Smith competed a lot — and he won a lot. Among his highlights last season was that memorable gold from the Pan American Games along with glittering performances at the Dave Schultz Memorial and the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, respectively. In between, he took second at the US Open to star Kamal Bey (Sunkist), though Smith eventually avenged that loss by coming out on top against Bey two matches to one at Final X: Rutgers.
But he is still waiting to be let loose this season. After the World Championships in September, Smith regrouped and re-formulated his plan for the Olympic Year. He sat out the competitive portion of the fall, and instead, used that time to focus on his training. Now that he is preparing to make his season debut this coming week in Italy, and in the interest of sharing perspectives from camp in Springs, Friday presented a great opportunity to catch up with Smith and recap the past three months.
Patrick Smith — 77 kg, Minnesota Storm
5PM: We learned of your plan for the fall from the Coach (Dan) Chandler Report, but one thing I wanted to ask was about your weight. You are now established at 77 kilos, this is your second year at the weight. Have you made any adjustments to your diet or strength-training plan now that you’re used to it?
Patrick Smith: Not totally. When I got back from Kazakhstan, I did a pretty hard strength cycle for like four to six weeks. My strength coach is Travis Rutt and I work really closely with him as far as everything I do regarding my strength and and just volume loads. So, that was a good window to hit a really good strength cycle, and I did that as soon as I got back and right before I left for Europe for a month in November. We did that and I trained at home, and just kind of used that phase as a good time to keep learning and work on par terre, really. Ever since I got back, I lost a match in par terre (at the Worlds), so I’ve been working in par terre.
I then went over to Europe for a month. I was in Georgia for two weeks with the the rest of the team, and then I went to Sweden for a week, and then I went with the Swedish guys over to camp in St. Petersburg. That was really good. Overall, I felt like I got what I wanted out of it, which was a lot of good looks on top and just spending a lot of time feeling people’s movement patterns, seeing what they’re trying to do, and recognizing that.
That was a really good learning block I think, and I got to come home for three weeks. I took about a week off the mat while the guys were at the Nationals, and then I started up again last week. And now I’m here in Colorado.
5PM: The timing for you seems like it couldn’t have been more perfect given the space and how you filled it with a training block, got that break in and around Christmas, and that took you to the camp this week and now your trip coming up. Did it just fall into place like that? Or did your purposely align this schedule when you were making your training plan after the Worlds?
Smith: It was all planned like like that as soon as I got back. I worked with Mike Houck on my yearly periodization plan, which I have been doing the last, I don’t know, three or four years. I sat down with him and then (Brandon) Paulson and (Dan) Chandler, and just looked at what we had. Obviously, the first big peak of the year is going to be for the (Pan Am) Olympic Qualifier. Everything is really geared towards that. That’s the focus right now. We had a big block of time where it was good for learning and getting some good volume in, and that was what I kind of did at home.
Then I geared up to pick up the level when I went overseas. I’m trying to get a lot of really good looks and kind of pull back for a little bit. Now it’s just seeing if the learning phase worked. The first step is out here in Colorado; next step is shaking the rest off a little bit and competing, getting some good matches in Italy, and then that camp should be really good in Denmark.
We’re going to get a lot of good high intensity training there. It’s going to be a really good block and it takes me through January. Then we’ve only got one month.
5PM: How are you viewing the Rome tournament this week? Just because, it is a ranking tournament, there are points attached to it, and points are at a premium since the Pan Am Qualifier will observe points. Is it a matter of serving two masters where you want to get matches in and you’re testing? But at the same time, does it seem like there are stakes involved for you?
Smith: Maybe a little bit, but I think those stakes are taken care of as a byproduct of me going out and wrestling as hard as I can. I mean, I’m going out there to compete. It’s a tournament, you know? It is good practice for the rest of the year, so I am going out and and doing my routine and getting myself in the right mindset, just like I would at the Qualifier or at Olympic Trials. Or at anything else, just like every time I compete.
I approach it the same way. I’m not really thinking too much about the points in my own head. It’s more about executing right now and making sure that I’m ready to go. And whatever happens, we have a couple months to make adjustments, so that’s good.
5PM: As for camp, it’s about to close. We published the schedule, so I have a grasp of the directives. I know it has been shorter practices with higher intensity and a few par terre practices, as well. How has this camp gone for you personally?
Patrick Smith: I think it has been good. There have been shorter go’s and everything has been very concise, to the point. I think that’s been good. We are getting in and getting out. and not really getting sidetracked. It has been very focused, which I think that’s probably the best way to put it. There is a little more emphasis on partner in certain positions, which I think is also good, and a good number of go’s in par terre, too, which is always important to get those looks. I mean for me, that’s where I’m losing matches so I need to put more time in there. So yeah, it has been good.