One of the main themes that came out of the 2018 Senior Greco-Roman World Team Trials was “freshness.” Of the ten athletes who will be lacing them up for the World Championships in Budapest this coming October, six are first-timers.
Now, that is a somewhat misleading factoid, if only because all six athletes possess previous Worlds experience as age-groupers. Kamal Bey (77 kg, Sunkist) is, of course, a reigning Junior World champ; both Jon Jay Chavez (72 kg, NYAC/FLWC) and Adam Coon (130 kg, Cliff Keen) earned World bronze medals at Cadet and Junior, respectively; Sam Hazewinkel (55 kg, Sunkist) won the University Worlds back in 2008, and not to mention competed as a freestyle Olympian in 2012. Rounding it out, Dalton Roberts (60 kg, NYAC/OTS) and Geordan Speiller (82 kg, Florida Jets) made Junior Teams, with the latter also putting in an appearance at the University Worlds five years ago.
But even still, there is something different about preparing for the main event on the highest level, which is what made “Base Training Camp” in Eagle Creek, Oregon all the more interesting. Two weeks ago, the 2018 Senior World Team converged on the picturesque landscape for daily workouts consisting of strength-and-conditioning exercises geared towards improving not only physical viability, but their technical attacking positions, as well. On the flipside, the camp was also intended to foster a team-building environment with various group activities. With unity and leadership promoted as preeminent core values for the Seniors, and the US program as a whole, interpersonal dynamics are deemed a high priority in National Team head coach Matt Lindland’s eyes; therefore, getting athletes on the same proverbial page in Eagle Creek was just as important as building up their bodies.
As you will read in the upcoming Coach Lindland’s Report (due out this weekend), most of the athletes involved in the Base Training Camp exited Oregon on a high note with various goals both on and off the mat having been accomplished. The feedback being presented here by 2018 World Team co-head coach Spenser Mango and Roberts speaks to that effect. The outlier is Speiller. Known on this platform as “The Bad Guy, the talented Floridian is never shy about speaking his mind, and when sharing his experience from the camp, he intimates that things didn’t work out as well for him as he might have hoped or expected.
Spenser Mango — Army/WCAP assistant coach
5PM: As an athlete, you were part of a lot of World Team camps but this is your first camp as a Senior coach, and it wasn’t traditional insofar as wrestling activities. Was it what you were expecting? Or were there more differences to be discovered after you arrived?
Spenser Mango: There were a lot of differences. I guess when looking back at my time as an athlete, the generations are just completely different as far as the type of athlete who is on the World Team now compared to then. I really tried to take time and share some of the experiences I had with the guys. Hopefully, it helps them on their journey to the Worlds and helps them get prepared. But it was definitely an opportunity for the guys to take some time off the mat, get to know each other as far as being on the World Team, and hopefully they had a chance to bond and form some relationships as they get ready to take on the world.
5PM: In your estimation or experience, why is team-building an important element to a successful World Championships appearance?
Mango: It gives you something to strive for. When you’re out there, you’re not necessarily out there doing it for yourself. You don’t want to let your teammates down, you don’t want to let your country down. When you have someone you truly care about on the Team, you want to do well for them, and you want them to do well. I feel like it helps build a Team and makes the Team more competitive.
5PM: A big thing about the camp is the location. Eagle Creek is beautiful. Did the general climate have anything to do with attitude or morale? Does the environment matter to a World Team member during a two-week camp?
Mango: I think if you went into the camp with the right mindset knowing that you are in the middle of nowhere and that you’re here to get to know your teammates and get some cross-training in while focusing on the big picture, which is October. But if you went into it like, I’m in the middle of nowhere and there’s nothing to do, then you were probably miserable out there. It’s all about perspective, how you look at things. What you put in is what you get out. I hope the guys were able to take some time to build those relationships, reflect on their summers and what’s coming up, and get some training in that is off the mat and a little different than the traditional World Team camp.
5PM: Another thing we’ve been hearing a lot about with the national program and this World Team as a whole is leadership and certain guys stepping up. How did that kind of reveal itself during camp and who were you impressed by?
Mango: Actually, the one I was really impressed by is Dalton. This is his first World Team and he’s one of the youngest guys on the Team but he made sure everyone knew his opinion about certain things. He was very positive, he went all-in for all of the team-building activities. He just put out a great attitude and tremendous effort throughout the whole camp. That’s the thing that Greco needs right now, young leaders.
Another guy, Ellis (Coleman). I think he was used to being one of the younger guys on the Team, so he could kind of stay quiet and do his thing. But I think after Oregon that he has stepped up as a leader. He has realized that he is one of the most experienced guys on this World Team, and in the country, period. He kind of took a leadership role at the camp. He wasn’t originally a team leader but he started acting like one. Ellis became someone you can go to for motivation. If you look over and see what Ellis is doing, that’s the right thing. He’s leading by example.
Kamal did a great job. You could tell he’s young because some of the older guys don’t want to take advice from a younger guy. But Kamal stepped up. He went to all of the team meetings, got all of the information, made sure the guys got it, and I feel like he did all he could to keep guys motivated and on the right path.
Dalton Roberts — 60 kg, NYAC/OTS
5PM: You’ve been on a World Team before, but this is your first as a Senior. How did this camp differ from your previous experiences?
Dalton Roberts: It was different. I have never gone to a camp that was strictly strength-and-conditioning, so that was pretty exciting. I definitely got stronger, I feel, definitely. I also put on a little weight and muscle. Overall, we didn’t do much wrestling. I got to play-wrestle around a little bit with Spenser and Jesse (Thielke). I got stronger and I am hungry to get on the mat and compete, that’s the biggest difference.
5PM: You actually competed against Spenser in late-2015. I know you didn’t go live in Oregon, but what was it like moving around with him now that he’s your coach and you’re the one on the Team?
Roberts: It was crazy at first. The first couple of go’s I forgot how to breathe. I couldn’t breathe (laughs). This was the guy who the year I won Fargo, I put in my bio under “Favorite Wrestler to Watch” Spenser Mango. He was my idol and now I’m wrestling with him and he’s one of the coaches on this Team. He’s very smart as far as wrestling technique goes. He off-balanced me one time and then he did it a second time. He was noticing these little mistakes I was making and he was capitalizing on them real quick. It was awesome.
5PM: Did you enjoy the location? It wasn’t at a training center or an arena in a typical city. Did that matter to you and did you like it?
Roberts: I brought my fishing pole and I caught some trout and we had some trout for dinner one night, so that was exciting. And there were just different activities I had never done before. I never whitewater rafted, I never shot some of the guns we used. That was all exciting. Outside of the camp I’m all for outdoors stuff and running in the woods, going to the hot springs, all of that. That was stuff I was pretty happy about.
5PM: One of the big things about this camp is building team chemistry. Did you like having the chance to get to know some of the guys on the Team you maybe didn’t encounter as much before?
Roberts: Yeah, I did. There were guys I know and some guys I didn’t, but after two weeks you start to figure out who they are through practices, on the mat, off the mat, if we’re running, or if we’re just relaxing at the house. For instance, I know Ellis Coleman. I thought I was a strong runner, but that man can run. He also likes losing a lot of money playing FIFA and he lost a couple of dollars to Pat (Martinez). But he’s not afraid to put it on the line, and I like that. Through these different activities you get to figure out what kind of personalities your teammates have.
5PM: After the next camp in Vegas you will be traveling to Germany for the German Grand Prix and its accompanying camp. Are you seeing the Grand Prix as a really important, say, pre-Worlds test event, or are you more interested in what the camp has to offer?
Roberts: I feel like everything is important, but the tournament might be even more so. I want to win every tournament I enter and the German Grand Prix is not going to be any different than Worlds. And Worlds isn’t going to be any different from that tournament. I am going to treat them the same, because that’s the goal, the goal is to win it. I place the same importance on the German Grand Prix as the Worlds.
5PM: You’re someone who is brought up a lot by coaches as an up-and-coming leader for this program. This camp was partially based around leadership, with guys being separated into groups while still allowing for other voices to be heard. How did that dynamic play out for you as camp went along?
Roberts: I liked it. I’m not the person who will try to speak and try to take the lead. Adam (Coon) was mine and Pat’s lead, so it was the three of us. I try to lead by example. Adam led us pretty well, he did a great job. I had a great time. As far as being a leader myself, if I can put all of my hard work and great attitude to something, hopefully others will follow. I try to lead by example first and talk second.
As far as the three groups, I thought it was a great idea because we were three groups, but under one umbrella. And those three groups were split up by the days that we wrestle (at the World Championships). These are the guys we will be competing with, warming up with, and seeing that day, and I think it was important to bond with those people.
Geordan Speiller — 82 kg, Florida Jets
5PM: You’ve been on a World Team before but this is your first as a Senior. How did this camp differ from your previous experiences?
Geordan Speiller: There wasn’t any wrestling, that would be the main component of the difference. We didn’t wrestle. It was all strength-and-conditioning.
5PM: Did the location, with it not being in a more traditional environment, offer anything of value in regards to your time at the camp?
Speiller: The value was that there were mountains, so when we did any kind of runs outside it definitely gave an increase in the effort that was being made. It was on gravel, so when you were running uphill you couldn’t sprint uphill (because) you would fall down a lot. And people with injuries, like I tore my ACL two years ago, I couldn’t achieve that total exhaustion in my workouts. I kept having to restart because I would trip a little bit. It was quite frustrating because it was just not productive like I wanted it to be.
5PM: If that is one of your takeaways, does that mean the onus is on you to ramp up your training prior to the Vegas camp?
Speiller: Oh, yes, yes. I feel like I lost two weeks of specific training, and that was the most frustrating part about being there, it wasn’t specifically designed for me. And I know we are on a Team, but at the end of the day it is an individual sport, and whatever that individual needs should be a priority.
5PM: One of the cornerstone aspects of this particular camp was the concept of team-building. For your World Teammates you might not have known so well, how did chemistry build? Did you like getting to know new guys who are now on the Team?
Speiller: Some guys I didn’t know and I ended up connecting with, and some guys I was repulsed by.
5PM: After having gone through one camp, how do you construct your personal training plan to accommodate your individual needs as an athlete when you still have a few more camps to attend leading up to the Worlds?
Speiller: Honestly, I’m under contract and everything is mandatory, so I don’t have a say. They’re either going to take away my stipend or kick me off the World Team. So I just try to mentally find peace while I am doing things that I don’t feel will benefit my specific training. The Team activities, I don’t get. I’m there to train. I’m not there to go on boat rides or anything like that. I’m a city boy, I like to stay in the house. I’m not into nature at all, but it’s mandatory for me to go on nature walks and things like that. I think it’s ridiculous to threaten to take away stipends or writing me letters, but it’s totally mandatory and I have been getting these passive threats. It’s like a job. I have to do what I have to do, even if I don’t like it.
5PM: Did you find any of the strength and conditioning training to be of a potential benefit?
Speiller: Not really. I didn’t get to do anything that I wanted to do that was for me. It was written up by someone who doesn’t know me, who has never ever trained with me and doesn’t know what I like to do. I don’t think it was beneficial for me. It took two weeks away from my real training that makes me better. So no, I don’t think it was beneficial for me to be at this camp at all. I think a lot of the dynamics with team bonding were negative drama and just, yeah, it wasn’t a good environment. I’m actually really glad to be out of there.