The 2016 Rio Olympics for Greco Roman wrestling start, at the time of this writing, in 81 days. That is about two months and three weeks for the United States athletes to prepare. That is 1,728 hours for these wrestlers to refine techniques, study potential opposition, pick up some new tricks, and also, get in the absolute best shape in each of their lives. It’s a lot of time and no time at all, depending on which side of the aisle you’re on. Fans likely can hardly wait. The anticipation towards the Summer Games began for most at the close of the Olympic Trials and the recent qualifying runs. The athletes themselves may be caught in between; they are undoubtedly looking forward to competing on the world’s biggest stage but still want enough space to make sure they are ready.
Over the last week, the US Greco Olympians (Jesse Thielke, 59 kg; Andy Bisek, 75 kg; Ben Provisor, 85 kg; Robby Smith, 130 kg) have been engaged in the first step of their “official” pre-Olympic training at the Community Youth Center in Concord, California. It is here where these wrestlers along with help from their Senior workout partners and coaches began laying the foundation for more concentrated training later on. They have also been working in concert with the Juniors in attendance during the afternoons and assisting them with strategies and techniques in a unique “two-way street” method of instruction. The Senior athletes improve on their skills in the morning and then later on, teach the Junior Greco wrestlers what it is they had been honing in on with Coach Lindland hours earlier.
According to Lindland, a big part of the Concord Greco Camp that is going on currently revolves around the athletes’ “base conditioning“, the building blocks for them to further expand their abilities to fight and thrive during matches. “We’ll spend a lot of time with Bulgarian bags, dummies, and bands”, Coach Lindland explained. “It’ll be one mat workout, one base conditioning workout.” That means what is happening in Concord could be described as the launching point. This is where the finished products you’ll be watching on the mat in Rio are first being assembled in unison.
After Concord, the team will be heading to Eastern Europe for an extended stay in Azerbaijan. It is there where the US Greco wrestlers will be part of a multi-national training camp that takes place over the course of three weeks. The Americans are beginning this phase of their overall Olympic prep on June 11th in Baku and aren’t wrapping things up over there until July 3rd. While overseas, the athletes will get to see different looks, different training scenarios, and push the trajectory of their competitive effectiveness increasingly towards Brazil, which pops off a little over a month later.
Upon their return to the states, the wrestlers will then take a brief recovery period before hitting the pedal yet again. Another crop of training sessions along with focused individual curriculums will take over, all in effort to ensure that everything is being accounted for. The level of detail involved with a Greco Roman Olympic wrestler’s training regiment is not for the faint of heart. Nothing can be left out, no “x-factors” uncovered. By the time August hits, a lot of the grueling work will have already been accomplished. Swollen joints, bruises, wrestling room frustrations, and any past seeds of doubt which may have been planted at one time or another are not part of the travel plans when the team heads to Rio.
On the surface, it all may appear simple. Wrestle. Drill. Cardio. Strength training. Wrestle some more. Only, that isn’t how it works at the Olympic level, certainly not nowadays. There is a sort of science to all of this that is equally supported by gut instincts and what the coaching staff knows each wrestler needs. There are personalities involved, dreams to curate, and medals to win. In the US, we have a tendency to break things down into seasons. It helps us compartmentalize competition. That is indeed the case here, too. But its requirements are different, the stakes higher than the sun. It ebbs and flows in a manner which confounds those outside of the fishbowl. Only, it’s the most important season of all, the most prioritized yet in each of these wrestlers’ careers.
It’s peaking season for the Olympics. And there is nothing else like it.