Five Point Move is proud to host US Greco Roman National Team Head Coach Matt Lindland every week for “Coach Lindland’s Report.” For fans and wrestlers looking for insights regarding the US Greco National Team, we ask Coach Lindland some questions to get his take on training and upcoming competitions. If you have any questions you’d like us to ask going forward let us know via Facebook, Twitter, or through our Contact page.
This time around, we talk to Coach Lindland the week after the 2016 Bill Farrell Memorial/Non-Olympic World Team Trials. Chris Gonzalez (71 kg, Army/WCAP) and Patrick Martinez (80 kg, NYAC) both survived challenging final series to move onto Budapest. In addition, two Juniors won their first Senior gold medals at the event (Kamal Bey, 75 kg and G’Angelo Hancock, 98 kg) and NMU’s Austin Morrow (66 kg) earned an impressive silver. Topics this week include two very important developments — Andy Bisek has accepted the offer to become the head assistant coach at Northern Michigan, ending a run of speculation that had been swirling over the fall and also, the USA Greco Program has a new team leader. Also covered is the US roster for both the Golden Grand Prix this week and the Clubs Cup in Hungary after that. It starts…now.
5PM: You have news about a new coach, so let’s start with that.
Coach Matt Lindland: I’m really excited about Andy Bisek accepting our offer to be the assistant coach at Northern Michigan. We lost Aghasi Manukyan, which was a hard loss for us because he helped us out a lot and did a lot of great things, so we’re sad to see him go. But I’m even more excited that Andy decided to come on. I had an opportunity to work with him for three years. 2013 as a volunteer and then 2014, ’15, and this year. He is an absolute leader in our program here and he will go up there to take that program to a whole new level. The guys who want to wrestle Greco Roman are going to want to wrestle for Andy Bisek. He’s the kind of guy you want to compete for. I’m really excited to have him up there and that we were able to get him to commit.
5PM: It goes without say probably, but at the college age, which is Northern’s wheelhouse, does it make a big difference having a younger coach who is still fresh in terms of competition and by extension, can relate to the guys?
ML: I think that’s exactly the reason why I wanted Andy up there, because he’s a little closer to their generation. He just finished, so he knows exactly what it takes to reach that level. For sure. I think he can definitely be somebody these guys can connect with. It’s always harder to connect with the head coach, he’s the boss. So I think the younger athletes will definitely connect with Andy. I watched him in our program when we bring Juniors and Cadets in and he’s great with those guys. He has a passion for teaching and has a heart for seeing young men develop, not just as athletes but also as individuals. He leads by example. He is a great family man who works incredibly hard. It wasn’t long ago when we were talking about Andy’s role at the liquor store, you know? And he doesn’t have a lot of experience in business or on the outside world, so I think being a coach gives him an opportunity to build a resume, as well, even if he ultimately doesn’t want to stick with coaching. But I think he will because he enjoys it, he enjoys working with athletes and he’s a great leader.
We’ve talked about Andy’s and Robby’s (Smith) leadership skills a lot, and he is definitely a quiet, lead-by-example type of guy. He’s going to need to be a little more vocal up there and I think he’s capable of doing that. Andy is the right guy for every reason you can think of. He is a product of that program, as well. He is a product of the period which everybody would say was the heyday, when Ivan (Ivanov) was up there. He was there when Jim (Gruenwald) was there. Andy is Eastern European-trained. He was up there for four years, then with Momir (Petković) , he knows Momir’s system and he understands my philosophies. So I think we are going to get a very congruent message across the board that, This is what our program stands for, this is how to prepare, these are our expectations, this is the way American athletes wrestle.
And it is definitely different than the Europeans. We want to compete with, train with, and learn from the Europeans, but we don’t necessarily want to emulate them, either. We want to have our own style that is uniquely American. There are some things about European wrestlers, sure, they influence our style of wrestling, they do. But we come from a very different system and we have to transition athletes from the different system. Because let’s be honest — there are not a lot of athletes exclusively training Greco Roman wrestling in our country. We’re getting guys from folkstyle and freestyle and sometimes converting them. Some of our guys have been exposed to Greco Roman, but it’s maybe not at the level we want to be at, so we have to develop these guys. Andy is going to get up there and bring in the right athletes, develop them, put them in positions to be on Junior World teams and hopefully take that next step on the Senior level.
5PM: Were you surprised?
ML: I wasn’t surprised because I offered him the position, but I was hopeful and optimistic. I’m a man of faith and I pray. I have a lot of prayers answered, I’m very blessed. I think the United States Greco program is very blessed to have Andy continue to be a part of it in taking a leadership, coaching role. So yes, the United States Greco program and USA Wrestling are very blessed to have Andy consider this and take this position.
5PM: There is other important news. Following the NYAC Open, you flew to Wisconsin for a meeting. What took place out there?
Coach Matt Lindland: Yeah, I flew to Wisconsin to meet with our new team leader, Damon Zumwalt. He is the founder of CSC Security Systems, which is one of the largest event management companies in the world. I think the largest in the World. He started building a huge sports complex in Mauston, which is in the Dells. They have 16 baseball fields and probably the equivalent in soccer fields. They have a dome, they blew up the dome so they can put like hundreds of mats in for the schoolboy tournaments the past few years. They actually moved the tournament this year, they like to move events around. It’s an incredible location, especially for that age group. The Dells in Wisconsin are also known as “The Waterpark Capital of the World.” They have more water parks in the Dells than anywhere else in the world. It’s like Vegas for children (laughs).
So that’s why Damon decided to build all these sport complexes out there to bring youth sports in. He’s got a huge passion for youth sports. He recognized the work ethic that kids learned on the farm growing up. That’s doesn’t exist in our our culture anymore, there aren’t too many kids working on a farm, and the last place where you can teach work ethic, teamwork, and how to set a goal and achieve it is with youth sports. He’s committed to helping youth sports develop throughout the country and getting kids more access to and he built all these beautiful facilities, not to mention the ranch they have on the property, which was originally a dude ranch back in the 1800’s. People still love to come out, stay in cabins, ride horses, canoe, and other stuff around the Dells. I’m looking forward to spending more time out there in the summer or maybe go snowmobiling in the winter. But it’s great facilities, great people. Wisconsin is known for its Greco Roman wrestling, so it’s a real fit.
5PM: Has he been involved with Greco Roman wrestling before or is this his first time?
ML: This is Damon’s first time being involved in the sport. I was introduced to one of his main employees, Chris Lechnir, who runs the sports complex in the Dells. He was a wrestler, his son wrestles, and he has put on multiple events, so he is very involved with wrestling. They do the state Fargo camps at that facility. I was introduced through Scott Kleuver, the state coach for Wisconsin. He introduced me to Chris, he and Damon flew out to Colorado Springs, we had dinner, I flew out to Wisconsin, and we met a couple of times now and this was our final meeting to confirm and get the team leader position in place. So we’re ecstatic to have Damon on board. He’s an awesome individual who cares about people. He loves to help youth sports and what a great guy. He built his business in college as a college wrestler doing security. The guy has stories for days. He talked about the concerts he did in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. This guy has been doing this for decades.
I think at one point he was Tina Turner’s personal bodyguard. And he went to UCLA back in the day when they had really good basketball teams. He had guys like Bill Walton, you know, working security for him at events. Of course, they were Grateful Dead concerts (laughs), but regardless, he was going to Damon’s events and working security for him.
5PM: So you’re taking off this week for Baku and the Golden Grand Prix. Who is on the roster you’re bringing?
ML: The roster has definitely slimmed down. Ryan Mango was going to go at 59 kilos, but he defaulted out of the NYAC due to injury. Alex Sancho was going to be the representative at 66, but I guess something happened with the Visa. We did not get a Visa for him. I’m hearing there might be more problems with the freestyle team, but we’re not taking Alex Sancho. Pat Smith is going at 71, Patrick Martinez is going at 80 kilos and then Cheney Haight is wrestling at 85. They were already scheduled and we decided if any one of those guys made the team that they would get to choose what weight they were going to go. So Patrick chose to stay at 80 and wrestle that weight and Cheney had to move up to 85. So that was the deal we had in place before the Trials and everyone knew the deal going into it. Cheney is going 85 in Baku and Patrick is going 80 kilos. That’s our team.
So the athletes and myself will head from there to Budapest after the tournament and we will be met there by Coach Momir, Coach JD Robbins, Coach Herb House, Sammy Jones and another rising young guy from Northern, Austin Morrow. Nick Tarpley is living in Croatia and he’ll join us to be on the team at 75 along with Kamal Bey. We need extra guys to bring along to these tournaments so if people get hurt we can put in some extra guys. Cheney will probably be back down at 80, Kevin Radford will be in at 85. We’ll bring G’Angelo Hancock and also Daniel Miller for 98 and either Dan or G’Angelo could potentially move up to heavyweight if we need the spot there. We only have one heavyweight, Eric Fader, who we’re going to bring.
So really, we’re starting over at the beginning of a quad and like I’ve said, it’s a young team. But I can really see some of the guys being on our team in 2020, so we’re taking some of the right guys. Some of the weights we’re not really deep at right now. At heavyweight, some of our better guys are wrestling in the folkstyle system, Adam Coon and Sam Stoll. Actually, Coon is not wrestling, he redshirted, he’s injured. So it’ll be another year before we see Adam back into Greco full-time and Stoll probably won’t be back on the mat till December because he wrestled the whole half of last season with a blown out ACL and didn’t get it operated on until after the NCAA tournament. So he’s still recovering from that and he’s going to be back on the mat in late December.
5PM: I would presume a camp is preceding both the Clubs Cup and the World Championships in Budapest?
ML: Yes, we’re going to be training with some other countries over there. Honestly, I haven’t got all of the details. I get there on the 27th, you know, so I’ve got a couple weeks, but I need to know soon what’s going on, though that stuff is coming. Some of these federations get information out pretty slowly, but it’s something I’ve learned to deal with, getting all the details together. At the end of the day, it always works out. We’ll get to Hungary and have some training partners and get some training in. But right now, details are still coming in. I should probably have them on Monday when I’m in the air and when I land in Baku on Tuesday I will check my email and we’ll go from there. The focus is really on the Grand Prix in Baku and then once we’re on a plane from there, we’ll figure out the training situation for Hungary.
5PM: Three athletes you’re bringing, Morrow, Bey, and Hancock had really solid performances in New York, a silver and two golds.
Coach Matt Lindland: Yeah, the NYAC is not a super tough tournament but there are some good foreigners in there and they got to compete against some of them. And they had to win some matches to stand on top of that podium. So yeah, the guys wrestled really well.
5PM: Wrestlers like those three, who have started to step up as Seniors, going to the Clubs Cup seems like natural next step to supplement their development, National Team member Hancock included in that equation.
ML: I think maybe that the Clubs Cup is a step down from the World Cup. One step, though, not many steps. You know, it’s a great tournament. You’ll have some athletes there competing for clubs who were on some World Cup teams and obviously on the National Teams for many of these countries. These are some of the best athletes competing for their clubs, but there are also potentially some guys who are maybe on a lower level, as well. This is the first time they have done this event for Greco Roman. They have been doing it for a while freestyle and they added it for Greco this year, so we’re excited to get the invitation.
The guys have proven they are ready for the next step. Hancock made our National Team this year and they just placed in an international tournament, so there is no doubt they have earned the right to represent us. These are guys who I get to see everyday, I know what level they are at and I know the commitment they have made to the sport. I’m very privy to that. I also know the work Alex Sancho has put in, too, he’s right there, almost making the team. At a weight above his usual weight. He’s a 66 kilo athlete who was competing with the best guys in our country at 71, so he’s proven himself. Sam Jones has a good tournament in New York and was in the finals last year at the Pan Am Championships. He’s definitely somebody who is coming along and just needs to keep going at the same trajectory.
Then we’ve got Cheney, who is kind of a veteran there. And I think Kevin Radford is a really good prospect at 85 and we need some more depth in there. I would have brought Hayden Zillmer, as well, but unfortunately he is in finals week that week and he is in his last semester of school before he graduates and enters the program full-time. But it’s just a timing thing for some of these athletes. The Army athletes really want to focus on the National tournament this year, so I’m not bringing any of the Army guys. But we’ve got good guys in Minnesota, we’ve got good guys here in Colorado and with the WCAP, and we’ve got good guys in Michigan, so it’s just a matter of putting the best guys from around the country together. We have to represent a club (at the Clubs Cup), this isn’t a “US” team, it’s the Clubs Cup. The New York AC has a lot of their athletes on the team and we’ve got one of their coaches coming with us, Herb House, so we are going to represent the New York Athletic Club at the Clubs Cup.
Actually, also coming with us to coach is Matt Ghaffari. I’m personally looking forward to getting Matt back involved. We were on a lot of teams together and he is a dear friend of mine I haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time with since we both retired from wrestling. But we spent a lot of time together when were competing. Typically, we were roommates on trips together and I’m looking forward to having him along, for sure.
5PM: Do you expect all of the athletes who are competing the next couple of weeks to compete at the Nationals, as well?
ML: I expect everyone to compete at the Nationals. I don’t think anyone should be trying to peak for a National tournament in December. Top seven qualifies you (for the World Team Trials). Go there, wrestle, and work on your skills that we’re still trying to improve. Some of the things I saw in the finals of the non-Olympic weight World Team Trials was that guys wrestled pretty tight. There were a lot of exciting matches going through the tournament and then once the guys got in the finals series, it was low scoring, tight matches. Guys weren’t out there taking risks like I wanted them to and creating opportunities to score. That is something that isn’t going to help win internationally, but it’s something we have to get past by going out and attacking and getting to the body. We have to get takedowns and we have to score from there. That’s the ultimate.
Nobody should be going in there (the Nationals) saying, I’ve got to win this. That is not what they need to do. They just need to be in the top seven to qualify and there are other ways to qualify after that, too, with international competitions and I’ve told you about our Trials procedures for this year, which are accommodating to college athletes. NCAA qualifiers have an opportunity to compete in our Trials; DIII, NAIA, JuCo, All Americans have opportunities. It could make for an interesting Trials because we’ve opened it up so much. There are a lot of opportunities. And if you are a Senior athlete training Greco Roman full-time, there is no way you’re not going to qualify for the World Team Trials. That’s where we are trying to peak and then peak for the World Championships.
I expect everyone who is going on this trip, that was the expectation. When I put together this team, we’re going into this tournament and we’re training for the National tournament. That’s why the schedule works out this way. We want to get them picked in April at our Trials and then we want to take these guys and get them some more international competition. And then by that time in April we’ll be focusing on those athletes. The focus will be on those guys but we’re not going to neglect the other guys, especially those on our National Team. They will be participating in the camps and will have opportunities to compete throughout the summer. But they will not be preparing for a World Championships, they are preparing to make the team next year. It’s a whole different plan for guys who don’t make the World Team and a separate plan for the guys who are on the World Team.