In what is the final edition of Northern News until after the summer, there are a few important storylines to cover with Northern Michigan-Olympic Training Site head coach Rob Hermann. First up is Dalton Roberts‘s (60 kg) win at the Senior World Team Trials two weeks ago in Tulsa. Because he won the US Open back in April, Roberts had earned a bye to the Trials finals where he faced off with 2008 Olympian and returning World Team member Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP), eventually emerging victorious two matches to one. For Roberts, the series triumph represents his first at a Senior Trials event as he now prepares for the World Championships in Budapest this coming autumn.
From there, the discussion shifts to Randon Miranda, who decided to move up to 60 kilograms for the Senior Trials. One of Northern’s most overall talented competitors, Miranda was pegged as a 55-kilogram competitor entering this season. But following his win at the U23 Trials, the Californian opted to focus on the heavier weight class. We get Coach Hermann’s take on that and if the move up is a benefit. In addition, NMU’s ability to attract athletes from folkstyle collegiate programs is brought up, as are the recent performances of Alston Nutter (63 kg) and Roy Nash (97 kg), as well as what the general training plan will be for all of Northern’s World Teamers when school resumes in August.
5PM: Every time we convene, we wind up talking about Dalton Roberts and now he’s a Senior World Team member. He always seems to bounce back. The fact that he took out an extremely experienced returning World Team member might not have been shocking, but it was still awfully impressive how he did it. What did you see as the difference for Roberts between matches 1 and 2 against Ildar Hafizov?
Coach Rob Hermann: Well, he had the same game plan all three matches, he just brought the pressure, and for Ildar, I think it really surprised him how much Dalton pushes. Dalton doesn’t look like a guy who is dominant (going) by his stature, but he’s got a lot of heart and his lungs are bigger than an elephant’s. He just brings the fight every match, he has a great competitive attitude, and I just think that alone caught Ildar off-guard and he wasn’t ready for it, but I don’t know. I don’t think Dalton was threatened in any match. Ildar maybe scored one activity point in all three matches, all of the other points were given by the referee. Dalton stayed in control in all three matches, and I think he should have won that first match. The caution-and-two, they called it “negative wrestling” when he was winning with :30 to go, which I thought was premature. But you’ve got to take those calls and that is what makes you a World and Olympic Champion, when you overcome them. Then you have to learn from that to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
5PM: I don’t know if Roberts was a question mark or not for you going into that final, but after that first match my sense was that he was definitely going to win matches 2 and 3. Did you feel the same way after watching Match 1?
RH: Yeah, I did, and it doesn’t make a difference what I felt, Dalton felt it. He came off the mat and said, “He will not win again.” Having that type of an attitude and really having that confidence is an asset. I felt really happy to see him come of the mat knowing he was like, Okay, he won that match. But I’m going to come back to win the next two.
5PM: Randon Miranda committing to 60 kilos instead of chasing down 55, what was your opinion of that move and do you think it was the right decision for the Senior Trials?
RH: I had mixed feelings, but after it’s all said and I done I think it is the right move. I think his thought process, which I think should also be a lot of other wrestlers’ thought process since there are other wrestlers in the same situation, is that 55 kilos is not an Olympic weight and I’ve got to start building up to the next weight. And one year out is not enough. I don’t think you’ll see Randon at 55 kilos again. I think his mindset is to make the Olympic Team and to win a medal. In order to do that he has to get bigger. He can’t be cutting down to 55 all the time. Randon and Dalton have been going head-to-head in all of the tournaments they meet up at and so he feels like, Dalton did it, there’s no reason why I can’t be there, too.
5PM: As most expected, your guys pretty much owned the U23 Trials. Two of your champs, Dalton Duffield and Carter Nielsen, joined NMU after coming over from collegiate folkstyle programs. Aside from their success, including Duffield’s performance in Tulsa, that has to feel like quite the feather in the cap for the program. It has happened before, other excellent athletes have come to NMU in the past after starting out at a traditional college. But it is a different era now, so it must feel pretty empowering for Northern to have these kinds of athletes crossing over.
RH: Yes, any time you can get good folkstyle wrestlers who like Greco and feel that they can do it in either style is a feather in our cap, and it helps our room. The first question I look at in a room situation when I do recruiting is What is that individual going to bring to the room? Is he going to make other wrestlers better? And if that’s the case, then we want those guys in our room. Obviously, our room is going to make that person better, but is he going to make everyone else around him better? I feel like with Dalton Duffield and Carter Nieslen, they have that Division I mentality where they can just bring it everyday, and we want everyone in that same situation. Obviously when we recruit high school kids, we’re hoping they’re on that level. But it’s hit or miss sometimes and they have to prove themselves still.
5PM: What is the story with Roy Nash? He floated under the radar joining your program and then he made the finals in Akron. He also looked very strong at the Senior Trials despite his relative rawnes. He profiles like a big-time competitor if he keeps progressing. Are you surprised with how far and how fast he has come on lately?
Coach Rob Hermann: I am, in a sense, because Roy had been off the mat for two, two-and-a-half years. He was on a mission trip in Japan. He’s my interpreter for Masahiro (Inoue). When he came to us, Roy said he hadn’t done much in two years. I know he made the Junior World Team (2013) and I knew Roy before he came to the program. I’m glad we were his first choice. But I told him, It’s going to take time. It’s not going to happen overnight. You’re coming in the second semester, you have to give it some time. Don’t be too discouraged early on.
He went to the New York AC (Bill Farrell Memorial) and wrestled up a weight because his weight wasn’t coming off as it should. And then after the New York AC, he stuck with the program. He was working six days a week, he always asked a lot of questions, he was always intrigued and getting better, and it started clicking. Really, it started clicking, it started clicking at U23’s. He wrestled Blake Smith, did a good job with him. Blake wrestled with Roy early on before he left so I asked him, I said, “Blake, what did you feel from him? I want to know his greatest asset.” He said, “Coach, he is one strong guy.”
Then Roy beat the guy who was second at Nationals (Micah Burak), I think it was a tiebreaker match. Winning matches like that does a lot for your confidence, knowing you can compete at this level. He’ll be lifting throughout the offseason doing the little things he needs to do. He will return with a better base come August 20th and then he can build off of that.
So, what you saw at the end of this year was good. I think what you’ll see at the end of next year is that Roy will be contending. He took Tracy (G’Angelo Hancock) into the second period when Tracy was eight-pointing everyone in the first period. He’s showing improvements every time he wrestles. I’m surprised it has happened this quickly and I’m grateful that it has because now he’s going into Year 2. And you have to remember — we’ve only had him for one semester, for three or four months. Just imagine what he would have done if he was here in the beginning of the season, and again, he was off for two straight years, too. I do love his progress and where he’s at, and I think he is a great addition to our room. Roy will make other guys better, and the guys in our room will make him better.
5PM: Alston Nutter didn’t just make the Junior World Team, he mowed everyone down on his way there. With Nutter’s experience thus far, especially his experience overseas which is substantial, are you very confident in his chances at the Junior Worlds?
RH: I am, because our room is made up of Seniors now, not just Juniors, not just developmental wrestlers. One reason why he’s so good is because he wrestles Dalton, he wrestles Sammy (Jones), he wrestles Anthony Linares, and he was wrestling Alex Sancho. He is wrestling guys on the Senior level who will make him develop that much quicker, and it showed at the Nationals and at the final World Team Trials. Just getting into those situations that a wrestler needs to get into, and Alston got into those situations a lot earlier by forgoing his junior and senior years of high school to come to Northern.
5PM: Benji Peak didn’t really deserve his season to end the way it did. He had a fantastic first full year at Northern with medals everywhere he went. He made great adjustments between the Nationals and the Trials to win at 60 kilos. What do you as a coach tell Peak following what was a tumultuous couple of days at the end of last week?
RH: I’d tell him that he had a great year. To keep his head up. He’s young, there are a lot of good things ahead of him. You have to enjoy wrestling and you can’t enjoy it with the cut that he had. It was probably one of those things where he couldn’t wait for the year to end, but not for the way it did, by all means. But just to keep his head up. You’re young, don’t let this get you down. It is going to sting for a little bit, but you have to get back in the saddle and get right back into it. The next time he gets back into it, he’ll be 67 kilos, or maybe even 77 kilos, where he is enjoying wrestling and getting stronger and better technically.
I hate to see it, I hate to see him end the year like that. It’s like going to the Super Bowl and not being able to play. I know it’s going to hurt for a long time, but like I said, he’s going to have to put it behind him, take it as a learning experience, and do the right thing next time. Although — I thought he did the right thing this time, it’s just that for a guy like him, he can’t be making weight that many times. We’ve had a lot of weight-cutters in our country and you have to pick your fights, you have to pick your dates if you’re going to be that much of a weight-cutter. It was just unfortunate that he had to make it again three weeks after winning the World Team Trials and some bodies aren’t made for that, you know?
5PM: Given how NMU is represented on the Junior, U23, and Senior World Teams, what is the general plan that will be in place considering that by the time all of those World Championships take place, school will be back in session?
Coach Rob Hermann: Right now, Dalton is going to, well it’s not like a pre-camp, but they will be doing whitewater rafting and some other stuff in Oregon next week. So obviously, his schedule is already set. The U23’s are not until November, so our guys will stick to our plan that we have for them. Andy (Bisek) is going to get a weightlifting and running plan out to them. They’ll be alright, they will be right back in August and back into a training atmosphere. Gary Mayabb mentioned that the U23 camp will be up at Northern because we’ve got seven out of the ten weight classes.
We’re going to have 55-plus in our room. Good things are happening. Ivan Ivanov is going to be coming in early-September for a whole week to give back to our program and to work with the guys on the mat. Momir (Petković) has been up twice this year. Matt Lindland was up two or three times, and it really helps when our National coaches come up when they can. We’re trying to give guys as many resources as possible to get to that next level. Andy and I don’t have all of the answers but we’re trying to give them the resources they need so they can get to that next level. We expect full steam ahead next year. Hopefully, we’ll have more Junior guys on the Team and keep the ball rolling. I think we’re in the right state of mind and the right situation to get better.