Who better to crack open the start to a new — and unique — competitive season than three-time Olympian and legendary coach Dan Chandler of the Minnesota Storm?
Wrestling coverage has been weird, and life, weirder. The last time we checked in with Coach Chandler, both the Bill Farrell Memorial and 2019 US Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier had yet to unfold — this was all the way back ten months ago. Obviously, a lot has transpired since then, maybe too much to cover in just one report, so we kept it current. The first athlete topic with which Chandler is presented has to do with the momentous rise of one Calvin Germinaro (67 kg), who placed second at the aforementioned December Nationals.
Next up is the “Summer Series” of training camps, more specifically Utah, where two-time World Team member Patrick Smith (77 kg) was able to hop on-board. A quick health status on “The Gunslinger” Alec Ortiz (77 kg) follows, and then Chandler comments on the scheduling of the US Nationals next month in Iowa.
5PM: Once wrestling for your guys started to become accessible over the past couple of months, what was the general plan? Were there staggered practices, were guys meeting on their own?
Coach Dan Chandler: I can say that the guys have been working out together in small groups at various locations. No one took too much time off. Guys will only cross-train for so long, you know? I would say that the main protocol was that they had an unwritten agreement that they were going to be very aware of their surroundings and try to minimize their contact with other people. Some of the guys on the team I think it would be hard for them to do that. We have some younger guys. With these college guys, it’s a struggle to keep them in the dorm or in their houses at night. A lot of them are going to go out.
What’s important and is one of the protocols is the understanding among the guys on the team that no one is going to go to a party with 50 people where they are all unmasked and then come to practice the next day. Because, you could lose the whole thing. That’s a concern. The guys have just tried to work within those confines. They take a temperature check and describe how they feel physically each day, if they have any flu symptoms and so on. They still try to practice distancing as much as possible.
The places we train at are very good about the way they clean the mats. They’re on top of that. All of the weights, too, they have all done hard cross-training. The University of Minnesota, one of the most beautiful wrestling rooms in the world, is closed until further notice. The guys have been training at a couple of different sites that they are able to get into.
5PM: Calvin Germinaro had a very impressive National tournament. We talked some months back about his momentum coming out of that tournament. In your view, how has he dealt with the Olympic Trials’ postponement, and is there a built-in advantage for him regarding that whole situation?
DC: In his case there might be, because if they held the Olympic Trials already his chances wouldn’t have been as good to make the Team as they will be in five or six months.
I have been encouraging him to take some time off because he was having a lot of problems with an injury and he didn’t really get on a good rehab plan. He had a problem with one of his joints. I’m not going to tell you which one because I don’t want everyone to know about it. He’d take a week off and then come back and wrestle, and then it would be bothering him. Then he would miss a couple of practices and come back. I told him, I want you to really cross-train hard. If you’re going to wrestling practice four days a week, I want you to cut that to two days a week and devote the other two days to some really high-intensity cross-training. That way he could give that part of his body active rest and rehab, and not as much volume sparring.
5PM: Pat (Smith) was able to get out to Utah recently. Have you liked this attempt at having camps for the more-established Seniors in the country?
DC: I think it’s great. Those are always good. They can be good, or they can be a waste of time. It’s all about how the athletes use them. I mean, it could be very beneficial if a guy goes there and he has one or two training partners and gets a lot of things he needs. It can be not good if you go there and there is no one from your weight class, or your partner is a new guy who doesn’t present any challenges or any benefits to your training. It all depends on individual circumstances, and how much faith the guys put into it they get out of it.
5PM: Alec Ortiz came back in February from a major knee injury. Is he back to fully operational, fully healed?
Coach Dan Chandler: He’s close, he is close to being fully operational. He is wrestling hard. He’s another guy. For him, he had virtually no chance to make the Olympic Team under the old schedule. Now? He has new life and he is making the most of it.
5PM: Is there going to be a significant Minnesota Storm presence at the US Nationals next month?
DC: I don’t know. We’ll see. I know there are a couple of guys who want to go, and a few other guys who I would recommend not go. Some guys are going to go, some aren’t. It is not going to be like a regular Nationals in any way, shape or form, or a (World) Team Trials. Anyone going there is doing so purely for the sake trying to get some competition. Some guys haven’t had enough competition, they need to go. Other guys need to rest. We’ll see. I think the guys are still hemming and hawwing. Some guys know they want to go, and some are still on the fence. But they’re going to have to make a decision pretty quick here.
5PM: Were you surprised when you heard that there is a Nationals scheduled for October?
Coach Dan Chandler: Yeah, I was. I’m surprised. I am not sure how it’s going to go over. Everyday it’s different. Iowa is having a COVID surge on campus. I know that it (the tournament) is right near the University of Iowa and there will be a lot of Iowa people wrestling in it probably — and attending. I don’t know what the protocol is for the arena but I know Iowa has some pretty loose regulations. They are kind of letting things fall as they may. I think Iowa State was going to play football. I know that Iowa, the athletic department, and the governor are all very pro-getting back to normal ASAP. The jury is out. Maybe it will be like Sturgis with 100,000 people walking away infected, I don’t know (laughs). I hope not.