Five Point Move is proud to host USA Greco-Roman National Team head coach Matt Lindland each week for Coach Lindland’s Report. Here is where you will find detailed perspectives from Coach Lindland pertaining to recent results, upcoming events, training plans, and other Greco-related news that isn’t available anywhere else. ALSO — if you would like to donate directly to the US Greco-Roman program, just click here. Your support is appreciated!
The times couldn’t be stranger for US National Team head coach Matt Lindland. Depending on the day, it may seem as though nothing is going on, or more than enough is unfolding on a moment-to-moment basis to occupy his thoughts. For starters, the Senior World Championships, scheduled for December in Serbia, is not yet a done deal. Despite by all appearances being written in stone two months ago by United World Wrestling, the tournament’s status is still questionable. A UWW executive meeting early next week will determine whether or not the event actually happens, and its uncertainty remains a talking point.
Of course, there are also the plans Lindland wishes to enact regarding the US Team as the new season begins to approach. Restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic have delayed various training and competitive opportunities. Lindland speaks to how he sidesteps these frustrations and what his perspective is with regard to the litany of governmental policies affecting the decision-making process. Then there is the US National tournament, which arrives on the calendar a week from this Friday. Registration as of now is low in numbers, and Lindland shares how he weighs participation given the current climate.
Finally, an important, personal piece of news pertaining to Lindland’s health closes out the conversation with the goal, both in this piece and moving forward, to provide and promote awareness.
5PM: Are you surprised that we’re this far along and the Senior Worlds is not only not outright canceled yet, there’s at least still a shot, at least of today, of it still being held?
Coach Matt Lindland: Yeah, I am a little surprised because I think when this pandemic first hit we were all okay with two weeks to slow the curve, and then the narrative definitely changed. I’m not sure why we are still doing this because the hospitals were never overwhelmed. It was never about people not dying from COVID, it was about slowing the curve so we didn’t overwhelm the hospitals and the infrastructure — from what I understand. The story certainly changed and it became all about protecting everyone when not everyone is vulnerable. We are getting a lot more information and a lot of our assumptions are being confirmed now going by what we’re hearing.
Still, I’m not an epidemiologist or a scientist of any kind, so I don’t want to speak out of turn. But it doesn’t sound like when we were first told to slow down the curve. Now there are all kinds of new mandates and restrictions. Every jurisdiction has their own opinions on how to handle this. Then we see some countries like Sweden, who never shut down, never locked down, never did any sort of mandates, and they are having about the same kind of results as the rest of the world. They didn’t destroy their economy and blow everything up while this was going on.
So yeah, I’m a little surprised as we’re still going through this. Yes, the World Championships would be nice. I’m an optimistic guy. I am always optimistic about a lot of things, but I am feeling like there is not going to be a World Championships this year just due to the travel restrictions for so many different countries, and the way everyone is dealing with this differently.
5PM: In your estimation, what would you see as the biggest positives to having a Worlds this year? And what would you see as the biggest negatives, at least from your vantage point?
ML: I would like to see our athletes get the opportunity to compete. That’s the biggest advantage. I don’t know if it should even be a World Championships. Maybe it should be a grand prix or another type of event. To try and organize an event like this currently is a lot harder than holding some grand prixs or other really good events. It’s nice to see that we have events popping up on the schedule. They have rescheduled some events. We just saw that they will have a 2020 Pytlasinski, a Zagreb Open, the Russian Cup is going to happen. I did get the invitation for Zagreb. It is really positive to see some events opening up.
Talking to people in Europe, the Europeans handled this a lot differently than the Americans are handling it, and I really think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are in the middle of an election cycle. We’re about, what, 34 days from the election? I could be off by a day or two. I think that has a lot to do with how we are handling it, because right now, everything is so political in our country. There is a lot of unrest going on all over the place, there is a lot of division. It is hard to watch. It is very disheartening to see our country in such chaos and turmoil. There needs to be a lot more joy in this world right now.
5PM: Is it frustrating having plans in your head for the season, plan outlines you’ve perhaps discussed with staff members and whomever, and not being able to mobilize them yet, and not knowing when you will even be able to?
ML: I think everyone gets frustrated at times. And again, like I said, I’m a pretty positive and optimistic individual, but even I get frustrated sometimes. You have to snap yourself out of that. If you’re watching the news and social media, you can really get caught up in that. Or, you can find some good news by opening up your Bible and reading that instead. I know where to find the good news, and I know where to tune in to find the bad news.
We worked with Dr. Paul Stolz from Peak Performance. He has come out and been a part of our training camps out here (in Colorado Springs). One thing we preach here with the Greco-Roman program after Dr. Paul came out is the “CORE” principle. What facets of a given situation are you in control of? Focus on those facets. What facets can you influence? Focus on those. We have no control over the mandates the government is enacting on us, and frankly, what mandates the (US Olympic and Paralympic) Training Center is putting on us. Those we just have to deal with. The “O” is for taking ownership. When and how can we step up to gain immediate traction? What can I do? Can I dig into film? Do I have a training partner? A lot of guys have training partners and training situations. Can I really just focus on this one lift that I wanted to dial in last season? Now, I have an extra year to really work on this lift. Or, whatever tactic or technique you want to focus on. It is about taking ownership.
Then it is “R” for “reach”. What can we do to minimize the potential downside and maximize the upside? Look for those opportunities to get something out of this. Whether you are reading more and maybe getting into Scripture, pick up a book and learn something. There are so many valuable tools out there from which to learn. Grab a podcast if you don’t want to read but figure out what you can gain from this.
We are really being tested with the “E”, which is “endurance”. How can we get past this as quickly as possible? How can we get through this? That goes back to “C” for control, as in, What can we control in these situations?
Yes — you can let it frustrate you. Or you can work on your CORE and focus on those things over which you have some sense of control. And we’re seeing it, we’re seeing the repercussions with the mental health issues people are struggling with right now. I just saw an article that said military suicides have risen 20%. Maybe we are cutting the COVID deaths down, but I hate seeing our healthy young soldiers feel like taking their own lives — or anyone feeling that way, for that matter. I think there are a lot of repercussions for America’s mental health as well as physical health.
I also don’t know what the long-term effect is for staying inside and not exposing yourself to germs and building that immunity. I have always been proud of my gut overseas (laughs). It is always, I’ll eat it. That has been the joke, Give it to Coach, he’ll try it, he’ll eat it. I’ll be the tester of the food, because first off, I don’t have to compete, and I like to try dishes from foreign places. I am willing to dig into the horse meat and eat the lamb livers in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan. Whatever it takes. I just don’t know what the long-term repercussions of all this are, and I think we are going to look back at this point in history and say, Yeah, I don’t know if we handled that situation right. But hopefully, we learn from it and do better. Because, throughout history there has always been pandemics and pestilence and we’ve had to deal with it.
But this is unique, certainly. It’s a long answer to tell you if I find this frustrating. I refuse to let this frustrate me. How’s that?
5PM: That’s fine, but then how about this: are you disappointed that registrations for the National tournament are coming in very low thus far? Did you expect it to be low?
Coach Matt Lindland: I mean, I definitely want to watch guys compete. We’ll talk later about why I’m not going to be at that event, aside from the fact that I don’t coach athletes at domestic events. Plus, I can watch it better on streaming than I can in-person trying to catch one mat at a time at the venue.
I don’t know, I think it is very individual right now. It’s very hard. The military, which makes up a huge portion of our Team, they haven’t even had the opportunity to get on the mats and start training yet. They are being cautious, for whatever reasons. I don’t know those reasons, but I’m sure some of those athletes are a little disappointed that they don’t have the opportunity to compete.
But as far as registration, it is on the individual right now because if you’re not ready to compete, then I don’t think you should. If someone were to ask me if I feel this is an event they should go to, I would want to know what they have been doing to prepare and how often they have been training. This is typically a great time of year to just relax and have some fun. Maybe there is pressure because we’re still in an Olympic Year. The Olympics just got postponed one year longer, and maybe there is some pressure.
I hope that isn’t the reason why there are low registration numbers because the athletes should be looking forward to an opportunity to compete — whether or not there is prize money, rankings, or qualifying spots on the line. We all got into this sport because we like to compete and we love to wrestle. In that sense, I would like to see more guys registered because I would like to see the event go off. I think it’s good for the sport. It shows we’re getting back out there, which is a positive, optimistic thing. I am looking forward to the event, even if the numbers are low.
5PM: Whether the Nationals wind up with a best-of-three structure for the finals, or an actual Trials tournament gets scheduled for November, are those decisions that will be made in the immediate aftermath of the UWW Bureau Members meeting on October 5?
ML: Yeah, I think October 5th we are going to have some answers. Then, we’re going to have to make some quick decisions if there is a World Championships and if the October Nationals becomes a Trials process. I just think it’s so hard with our military athletes. First of all, they haven’t had an opportunity to get on the mat to train properly. So, it would be unwise for them to jump in and compete right now. For that reason, if there were a World Championships scheduled for this year we have to consider every program that is involved within our National program and make some considerations for those guys, as well. We really do have to look at that.
Let’s see what happens on the 5th. I have no expectations whatsoever. I have zero expectations. I’m just waiting to hear what comes down. I’m hearing a lot of different things. I am hearing things from Europe that are a lot more optimistic than what I’m hearing from people in the United States. And like I said earlier, Europeans are handling this a lot differently than Americans, though I do suspect a lot of that has to do with our political cycle.
5PM: Obviously, there is not going to be a U23 Worlds this year, and we don’t know at the moment if there will be Junior Worlds. But I would think that a bright side is the recent announcement of a U23 Nationals and Junior tournament being put on the books. I would bet that is a relief.
ML: Oh, it’s a great relief. Like I said, it’s great that we are seeing competitions start back up in the United States and I think it is critical that we continue our developmental pipeline. Coach Gary Mayabb has been doing an outstanding job with our GRIT (Greco-Roman Innovation Team) program, and that is all about building our pipeline. So, we need competitions for these younger athletes. We need to get them involved and give them opportunities to compete. And, we need to increase these opportunities.
This isn’t a time to not have events. We should be having events — in my opinion. This is just my opinion. I believe these are young, healthy athletes who should have the freedom and opportunities to train and compete. I don’t know if you’re aware, but years ago I had started a political action committee called FITSAC. It’s kind of a funny name, actually, but it stood for Fairness in Training and Sport, and it was to provide athletes with the opportunities to compete regardless of the political climate. At this time, we were fighting the state of Oregon over the sport that we now know as MMA, which at the time was referred to as NHB (no holds barred). NHB was illegal and defined as a fight with no rules. I had rules in our organization and I wanted the opportunity to allow athletes to compete and train in mixed-martial arts. So, we formed a committee back in 2000 and I was on that committee. I still think it’s important that we have freedom in training in sport, and that politics stay as far away from sport as possible. So, that is my opinion.
5PM: You wanted to close out by enlightening the audience with regards to some health news.
Coach Matt Lindland: Yes, we had a call last week with our athletes. I had been pushing that call back for a week as we were hoping for a decision about the World Championships, but then that decision got pushed to the 5th. I was just excited to connect with our athletes again and get them on a call. It is one of my favorite calls, to be on with the athletes every week or every two weeks. We started out once a month and then it was like, Okay, things are happening, so we went to every two weeks. But then there was no new news, so we kept pushing those back.
But I had decided to have a call last Wednesday with our athletes. I wanted to share with them, and I’m not looking for sympathy, and let them know what I am dealing with at this moment. I mean, we’re all dealing with battles, but I found out right before Christmas last year that I did have prostate cancer. I had been going to get checkups. I wasn’t unhealthy, I was just doing routine blood work. They were telling me that my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) numbers were high but that I was too young and healthy to have cancer. But as we know, one in seven men develop prostate cancer. I don’t know if they even know how you get prostate cancer, but I do know that it is common. The mortality rate is super-low, something like less than ten percent. It’s not necessarily life-threatening unless you don’t deal with it. I’m at a point where it felt like I should deal with this. And I am dealing with this. I have educated myself quite a bit.
Previously, I was in a position where it was responsible to just monitor it. But then during the COVID break, I was monitoring my numbers and they continued to increase. They went from 6 to 7.5, and then to 9.9. I was told months back that so long as the numbers didn’t reach double digits then there was no reason to talk just yet. Then my last one went to 11.5. I started seeing a trend and felt like it was time to pray about this and plan.
I got back to Colorado, talked with some doctors, and had a procedure. I am going to get some imaging done this week, and then hopefully this Friday or next Monday I can start the 45-day treatment plan which will take nine weeks to get through. After that, I will hopefully be cancer-free. This all first happened before Christmas. I am blessed that I have this time and this opportunity, and that the organization I work for is telling me, Go take care of this now, focus on this. Really, by the time I get in and out of the doctor’s office it will probably be less than an hour a day for nine weeks. Slightly inconvenient — but worth doing, I would imagine, because I don’t want to have cancer.
Stay tuned this week for more from Coach Matt Lindland as he provides additional perspectives regarding his diagnosis. In the meantime, here is a resource that may help.