The almost weekly “Coach Lindland’s Report” is an important piece of literature every time it drops. For one thing, it is usually following an event, giving US Greco Roman National Team head coach Matt Lindland the chance to provide his full, in-depth perspective on how the athletes fared the week prior. Secondly, there have been positively tons of interesting, educational first-person insights that only a coach and former athlete with his pedigree would be able to share. And finally, sometimes the conversation goes off-topic every now and again and when that happens, the result is usually as entertaining as it is poignant.
For the loyal followers of the reports and also our newer readers who might be unfamiliar, we went through each edition of the “Coach Lindland’s Report” since the beginning and picked out what we felt were the ten best representations of what you can expect to find every week.
Top 10 Coach Matt Lindland Weekly Report Questions & Answers of 2016
From “The Summer is Over” (Following the Cadet World Championships)
10. 5PM: That was part of my thing this week, is that these kids were as game as could be. Maybe there wasn’t the same level of refinement or nuance technically as the international opponents, but you could see that they all fought like junkyard dogs. No one got dominated, they were just missing something.
Coach Matt Lindland: Yeah, I think that’s definitely a strength of the Americans, the guys go hard and they fight hard. But sometimes, we’re getting guys who are maybe not the best Greco Roman wrestler making the team, but because they are tough, athletic, physically-tough kids and they are going out and wearing better guys out domestically, thus making the team. We may have guys who we left at home who are better Greco Roman wrestlers, but you’re absolutely right: The guys we sent were physically capable, tough kids who are talented and they are going to scrap. But they don’t have the refinement, they don’t have the subtleties of the sport, the strategies and tactics. There are definitely different strategies and tactics.
Even when I’m training with these guys, they will hit an attack and get near the edge and stop wrestling instead of driving a guy through and just taking the one (point). Because they are focused on getting to the body and scoring a takedown or throwing a guy for four or five points. But they aren’t taking those easy one-point moves, they aren’t pummeling for passivity with an intent of, You know what? I might not get a takedown but I’m going to get the passivity. My butt is going to stay in the center, I’m not going to back up, I’m going to control the tie-ups to a good underhook and control the position. Even when we do get in some of those positions, you can still see the hips go back, the head goes down, and that is all it takes when you get in some of those positions with the best guys from each country. You just have to make one subtle mistake, your hips go back an inch and you’re giving that guy enough space to get his hips through there and throw you. But that comes from us just sprawling all the time. We’re wrestling folkstyle, we’re wrestling freestyle, and we’re hitting sprawls. It’s not really something you do in Greco. When a guy attacks the body, you meet that pressure. You go into his pressure.
So yeah, it’s fundamentals and basics. We’re not ingrained in the fundamentals and basics at an early enough stage. We have the Seven Basic Skills, but I think we focus on the first five a lot and we neglect the back-step and back-arch. And there is more than one way to penetrate through your opponent. You can step to him and cover some ground, but you’re also moving him away. And whatever distance you may move him away, you have to cover that distance. But if you step your leg in the middle and pull your opponent on you, that’s still a penetrating move. You might even be getting in deeper. I remember when we were trying to get Kyle Dake to wrestle a little Greco Roman, he just had this profound epiphany where he said, “Coach, so what you’re saying is that you want my hips IN when I attack?” Yes, that’s it, Kyle, it’s that simple. “Oh, I’m so used to shooting and then bringing my hips in.” And I think that it is really profound in the sense that is what our athletes are used to doing, it’s what they are comfortable with — attacking and then bringing their hips in. But that space is what is giving their opponents the opportunity to score. You have to attack with your hips in. You can’t shoot and then try to bring your hips in. That works in freestyle, that works in folkstyle because the guys are bent over. But it’s a much more difficult proposition in the Greco Roman style.
From “Martial Perspectives” (In early October during a space in the schedule when there weren’t any events to recap)
9. 5PM: With your experience as a successful MMA fighter and now as the head coach of the US Greco Roman program, how do you see the relationship at this point between MMA and wrestling? Do you think one hurts or helps the other, or both?
Coach Matt Lindland: I think it’s a great question. I think you would get people from both perspectives, that we lose wrestlers because of MMA. I would disagree. If a guy’s heart and passion is wrestling, he’s going to try to accomplish his goals in wrestling before he makes a transition. We saw Daniel Cormier start pretty late, we saw Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, myself, and even Joe Warren start late. The guys who are doing MMA are kind of post-wrestling. Maybe they reached their goals or decided their goals are out of reach and moved onto MMA. I think the promotion of the sport is great although, the participation numbers seem to be going down in wrestling. The numbers are actually going up with women, so we actually haven’t lost the memberships because women’s wrestling is growing. But men’s memberships across all levels, from kids through high school to the Senior level are down. In this country, it isn’t growing at the rate women’s wrestling is growing, that’s for sure.
But I don’t think that is because of MMA by any means. I just think there are a lot of opportunities and plus, wrestling is really hard (laughs). Not everyone wants to do hard things. They get into it, they try it, and then realize this is really, really difficult to do, especially to do it well. So I think that is what hurts our numbers. If we can focus on a model with our youth development and stop getting six and eight-year old kids a hundred-plus matches a year, and just get them in to show them the fun part of the sport, I think our numbers could grow. But there are too many overzealous individuals who want to push athletes too hard too fast. Too many matches, too many long hours of training. I’ve had a lot of parents and people reach out to me on wrestling clubs and the feedback I get is that these guys are crazy. Stuff like, These coaches are nuts. They’re training five days a week with two and a half to three hour practices and my kid is eight. (Laughs) I hear, He’s got school and other activities in his life, we have a family. And I don’t think everyone is as passionate about it as some of the overzealous coaches. There is a way and it’s not more, it’s less.
When I first started wrestling, I really wasn’t competitive until I got into high school. I was in seventh and eighth grade and there was a four-week wrestling class in my junior high. In seventh and eighth grade you got to go out and try wrestling, scrap against a couple of kids, and see what the sport was about. But once that was done it was, Okay, go out and do your thing, you’re in seventh grade, you’re a child, go play. I don’t think we do that enough, but not just in our sport. You also see that in gymnastics, soccer, and football. You see that in every sport. Everyone thinks their son or daughter is going to be a professional athlete and they are going to start their training when they are six years old.
From “Selecting Coaches” (Regarding the perennial “singlet debate” — Follow ups included)
8. 5PM: This is a discussion that seems to pop up every year now, which is the idea of moving away from singlets in favor of say, rash guards and board shorts. It would be interesting to get your perspective on this debate. People seem to have passionate opinions on this, so where do you stand?
Coach Matt Lindland: Okay, so you just want me to throw myself in there? You should have just said, “Who do you want, Trump or Hillary?” (Laughs) The wrestling community is so passionate for one side or the other and actually, if you go back and look at some of my tweets, one of the times I think the argument was the singlet is “too revealing.” So I retweeted a bunch of pictures of much more revealing Olympic uniforms. Whether it was track and field, volleyball, beach volleyball, swimming, there are a lot of them, so let’s take that argument out of the equation. Then the other argument is, “We’re going to attract more athletes this way.” Frankly, wrestling is losing numbers. Why is it losing numbers? Probably because it is a very tough sport for men and our society is being feminized so rapidly that people don’t want to see men being men anymore, so they are not going to push a sport like wrestling, which requires a lot of courage and discipline. Just a lot of character. I mean, we’re moving into a literal new era and feminism isn’t what it once was. It was about equal rights and at least I can agree, Tim, that women should have equal rights. I don’t know, what’s your opinion?
5PM: Indeed, of course they should.
ML: Okay, then here’s the second question — are men and women different?
ML: Okay, so where did feminism go from treating women with every respect and dignity, and giving them the same amount of rights that men have, to a man-hating culture? That is why we are losing wrestlers. And it has nothing to do, in my opinion, with the uniform that our sport requires. Now, that’s just my opinion on the subject. Do you have a follow-up?
5PM: Sure, in an athletic, competitive sense, do you believe changing the uniform brings the potential for completely altering the way Greco in particular is wrestled?
Coach Matt Lindland: You’re right about it altering the way the sport would be wrestled. I mean, we’re all fans of the sport, we all want to see numbers and if changing the uniform is quantifiably effective and you could show me that absolutely we would have more wrestlers, then okay. But if it’s theory, then well, I’m not changing my opinion on a theory. Plus, problematically, when you step in-between a man’s waist to pick him up off the mat and you step on his board shorts, it makes it a hell of a lot harder to lift him (laughs). So this is a big problem. Anytime athletes try to wear board shorts in a Greco Roman practice, it is always a problem. And then you start gutwrenching, the athlete moves forward and then his pants are falling off. Just put on a damn singlet, okay?
From “Post 1st OG Qualifier” (Asking about what Coach Lindland had noticed about the youth coming up through the system since he took over the Nat’l head coaching job)
7. 5PM: Since you’ve taken over the program, have you seen an improvement at the Junior and Cadet levels at all?
Coach Matt Lindland: Oh absolutely, absolutely. I’ve got guys like Cohlton Schultz, who’s a Cadet and retired from folkstyle after winning his state title as a freshman. We have Kamal Bey, who moved out here his senior year of high school. I’ve got Nick Boykin, who was a double-champ at Fargo last year and is making the move out here this summer. Jordan Martinez is going to forego his senior of high school wrestling just to train at the Olympic Training Center. He’s a World Team member, Fargo champ-kind of athlete.
We’re getting these guys, but it’s slowly. We’re going to have to see guys like Tracy Hancock, who did it, made a World team, made our National team. Yes, it works! I mean, you put a young athlete like Tracy Hancock, who has been in our program for years. He didn’t do his senior year of high school wrestling, he wrestled at the Olympic Training Center and made a World team as a first-year Junior. You don’t see too many first-year Juniors doing that, it’s normally 19 and 20-year old guys doing that. He made the World team, this year he made our Senior national team, and this weekend I’m pretty confident he’ll make another World team. This year, he’s going to be ready to go medal.
It’s going to take critical mass. We don’t get the coverage on Flo that the folkstyle does, the freestyle does. And so, we need to get the exposure, we need these athletes making the team, winning medals and getting exposure. Then we’ll get some critical mass and we are going to be changing the strength. Because I’m not convinced the folkstyle system is going to develop our Greco athletes. It hasn’t happened in the past and I don’t see it changing. For me to keep trying to do the same thing, that would be insanity. We have to change the way we’re approaching this sport if we’re going to get our best athletes. We have to go after the same athletes the colleges want. But I’m going to be a little more focused on specific guys who just wrestle Greco and are already very good at it and have been coached well. I mean, we have some really good coaches out there. Think about the guys up in Minnesota, they’re training with Brandon Paulson, Jim Zelars, those types of athletes. But there is that social pressure, that family pressure. They want their kid to wrestle at Penn State or wherever the hell the cool place to wrestle folkstyle is right now.
From “Before Istanbul” (The three US Greco Roman athletes, Jesse Thielke, RaVaughn Perkins, and Joe Rau hadn’t been able to qualify at the 1st OG Qualifier in Mongolia. This conversation took place right before the 2nd and last qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey).
6. 5PM: When it was you in 2000, your last qualifier was the Pan Ams. Maybe people should understand the differences and difficulty in how qualification was set up back then. The Pan Ams were held during the same time frame as this one (2nd OG World Qualifier in Turkey later this week), correct?
Coach Matt Lindland: Yeah, it was about the same time-frame. We had a really strange qualifying process in 2000. They had all the World qualifiers first. I got sent to the first World qualifier but I still wasn’t healed up. I completely tore my arm apart at the World Championships in 1999, beat a World Champion with one arm and then lost to the guy who won the Worlds that year, Avluca, lost to him in the first round. And that was pools. It was a very strange pool system, so you had the ‘98 World Champion in my weight, Baiseitov from Kazakhstan, and then Avluca from Turkey who ended up winning it that year, and I was in that pool. And only one guy got out of that pool. So I ended up losing to Avluca in the first match and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t finish that lift. I got up in the stands and asked my wife to massage my arm because it was a pool and I was guaranteed another match like I said, against Baiseitov from Kazakhstan. And she was like, “I’m not touching that arm.” I looked down at it and it was the size of a softball, the muscle had torn apart and rolled up in the middle of my arm. I convinced the doctor to tape it up and I went out there and competed. But without getting a pin in that match there was no way I was getting out of that pool because Avluca beat Baiseitov, as well.
So I went to that first World qualifier jut not prepared, not healthy. For the second one, Colorado Springs sent another athlete who didn’t perform very well there. So I ended up going to two more. I took a silver medal in Uzbekistan and I took a gold medal at the qualifier in Egypt. For whatever reason, the way the pools worked they didn’t qualify us. So the last chance was our Pan Ams. I went there and wrestled Filiberto Azcuy from Cuba. I’d say we went back and forth, but he beat me more than I ever beat him. But I got the last two wins over him and chased him down to 69 kilos. Then I ended up wrestling Nestor Almanza, the World Champion for Cuba who was their backup. He was riding the pine (laughs). I remember we had four guys who qualified and we had three here, so it was a very similar situation that we’re going into with this group. Last chance, you know. Multiple weights to qualify. Brandon Paulson qualified, Heath Sims, and then me and Dennis Hall. Dennis competed against a multi-time World medalist, as well, and he got it done. I was the last match and I looked over at Coach (Rob) Hermann and he said, “Damn, I’m so nervous.” (Laughs) But I felt pretty good and ended up beating him (Almanza), qualifying the weight. Every one of us qualified our weights in 2000.
You know, I’m confident these athletes are in that same situation. They can perform under this kind pressure. I believe that. I watched RaVaughn a week ago in Mongolia and he’s back to where we lost him after some troubles he had. Jesse, I know how committed he is and how serious he is about this, getting the job done. I just hope he’s fired up and ready to go. If Joe gets to his positions, he can score on all these guys. That was something we talked about before I left. And I told all the athletes this story of me qualifying the weight and Joe said, “Thanks Coach, I needed that.”
But you know, it is what it is. I think everybody is a little nervous, a little stressed out. It’s the same how I was in 2000. At the same time, I was like, Good, let me go get this job done. So I feel good. And I know that’s where my athletes are. Because we all might be nervous as a coaching staff and organization, but I know where their heads are. They’re saying, “Let me go out there and get this done.” Because I’ve talked to them all. And I know that’s the mentality they have. And I know they want to do this and qualify their weights, I do. And that’ll help them perform.
Maybe those matches in 2000 when I got sent to the qualifier in Uzbekistan that I didn’t want to go to because I knew the point system was screwy and I wasn’t going to get it done and I wound up taking a silver medal in that tournament. Then I was like, No way am I going to Egypt. That they were going to screw up this process so bad it wouldn’t matter if I win, which I did. (Laughs). I beat a World Champion there, as well, and didn’t qualify the weight. But going into that final qualifier knowing that only one athlete was going to qualify out of our entire continent…I was like, I feel good Let’s go get this done. And that’s where I feel my guys are right now. It’s my time, I gotta go get this done. I could have done it the easy way in Texas. I could’ve gotten through in Mongolia. But you know what, the pressure’s on and I need to perform. I really believe that’s where these guys are at. There’s a lot of pressure on them, but it’s time to perform and they’re going to get it done.
From “Post 2nd OG Qualifier” (Jesse Thielke was the lone US Greco athlete to qualify. However, this question looked back at RaVaughn Perkins’ performances over the spring)
5. 5PM: Getting back to RaVaughn and Joe, RaVaughn had a really impressive tournament in Mongolia and he seemed like he was picking up right where he left off and then he ran into Tsarev, who’s a pretty tough guy. But either way, you’ve got to feel really good about Perkins going forward, right?
Coach Matt Lindland: Yeah, I’m really excited about Perkins. I know for a fact him being here in Colorado, being involved in this sport completely changed his life and created new opportunities for him he wouldn’t have in Omaha. So this is where he needs to be, this is what he needs to be doing at this time in his life. We took him with us in 2014 when we did our training camp in Shymkent, Kazakhstan and he worked out with Ruslan.I didn’t see any problems with it (Perkins’s performance). The guy (Tsarev) just had a great match. He was on fire that day. He had some good matches that day and RaVaughn wrestled well. He just didn’t beat him.That was the match that kept him from getting the weight qualified, so that was unfortunate.
But RaVaughn is doing phenomenal things. He got really quiet after he lost and didn’t talk much for the next day or so, but we saw his comments on his Facebook. He’s not done, he’s motivated, he’s encouraged, and he’ll be back. He’s been out here helping me with the Junior camp this week, been in the room mentoring these Juniors and Cadets. I mean him Jesse, Rau, Cheney Haight, Corey Hope, all these Senior athletes that are around here are giving back to these younger athletes. That’s what this sport is all about, this sport is about creating quality men. I’ve got a really great group of men that I have the opportunity to coach. I’m just blessed to have all these guys on my team and to see them giving back to all these athletes just encourages me because these young guys are so good, they just want to be recognized, as well. Our Senior athletes are in there helping them and working with them, so they’re very grateful.
And I think that’s what it’s going to take to encourage these young guys to take that step and take that leap of faith that, Hey, I want to be a Greco wrestler and I know what it takes to compete at the World level. Right now, I’ve got four of my World Team members on the Junior team here, I’ve got a few of the guys who are potentially going to be on our Cadet team also and I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks when we’re down in Akron. We should have some good age-group teams this summer. They’re really talented guys who are working hard and getting better and they’re all in here sharpening their skills against one another.
I have a great opportunity because I had a camp scheduled during this period of time that we weren’t going to be here for. Because our guys were overseas qualifying the weights. The USOC was gracious enough to allow me to convert that from a Senior camp to a developmental camp even though it’s an Olympic year and during Olympic years they’re really focusing their resources just entirely on the Seniors and getting the team ready. But it’s really hard for me to ignore my Juniors and my Cadets. I mean, that’s our pipeline. So just because it’s an Olympic year you can’t leave your developmental athletes out in the waves. You’ve got to bring them in, you’ve got to coach them up, you’ve got to get them training together, you’ve got to get them training with the Seniors. I’ve seen that work with our guys and I don’t know if that’s happened much in the past. It didn’t when I was a Senior athlete, I can tell you that. I never trained with Juniors or Cadets. But maybe there weren’t enough Cadets or Juniors who were even good enough to train in our room. No, I’m not talking about every Cadet or every Junior, I’m talking about guys that are making our World Team who are good enough. Shoot, they are on our National Team, they are Seniors. Guys like Tracy Hancock, those are the kind of guys I’m talking about. Guys who are winning the World Team Trials at the Junior level but they’re also making our National Team at the Senior level. That’s our pipeline. It’s not someday or in the future, it’s now for these guys. And they’re capable and going to be right on the heels of all the guys who are Seniors right now.
From “Before Istanbul” (With the qualifiers in full-swing and the spring/summer Greco season in play for the age-groups, youth development had been a constant theme)
4. 5PM: You mentioned last week how a good portion of these college athletes are actually more suited to wrestle Greco in the first place. People need to recognize and be comfortable with this, the fact that some wrestlers are not very successful at folkstyle yet come alive when wrestling Greco.
Coach Matt Lindland: Everybody has that story, “Oh, I used to smoke that guy in folkstyle, but then Greco would come around…” They were relaxed, they were having fun. I think back to when I was in a club, we couldn’t wait for folkstyle season to end so we could go have fun, as we put it. And now that I’m looking back on it, I’m like, why didn’t I just have fun my whole career? (Laughs) Why did I try to do the high school wrestling and the college wrestling when really what I enjoyed were the international styles?
I was seeded number one in the NCAA tournament my senior year. I went undefeated that entire season and lost the first match at the tournament. And then a month later I won the University National title with all of the same athletes at my weight, except there were more. It was just the guys who were on the podium at the NCAA’s, plus. And I had never beaten Pat Smith. I never wrestled him outside of Stillwater, either. But I had never beaten him in college. Well, I took him out in the semifinals at the University Nationals and then wound up tech-falling Willie in the finals. That event actually qualified me for the opportunity to go to the Pan American Senior Championships that year and I ended up getting a gold medal there, too. And this is the guy who didn’t place at the NCAA tournament. So I’m speaking from experience and I’m trying to advise the athletes that if they are serious about winning Olympic medals they need to be directed to the right path – instead of seeing them waste their time doing something they don’t enjoy, something that is just pressure and is not fun. Because wrestling is a hard sport, it is very difficult, I don’t care what style. It’s all difficult. And if you’re not enjoying it, not having fun, and not just loving the process, you need to find something else to do.
I’ve seen these kids, they’ll place at Fargo, Cadet, Junior National championships, World Team Trials, and they didn’t even place at their high school state tournaments. Because what they were doing was not fun for them.
From “Akron” (This was an off-topic question asking about why “professional” wrestling leagues have trouble gaining traction in the US)
3. 5PM: In your view, why can a pro wrestling league work in the US and why can’t it work?
Coach Matt Lindland: That’s an interesting question. It can work. I mean, look at Germany and Sweden, they have Bundesliga. But yeah, it works, it’s been working. I mean, it was going on since before I was around. I tried to get in but back then, they would only take one foreign athlete on each of their teams. I don’t know what the structure is anymore now. It was all Germans and one foreign athlete per team was the rule back then. I know Dlagnev wrestled in the Bundesliga. Some guys just wrestle Greco, some guys just wrestle freestyle. That’s kind of the highest level, they are very specific to their style. I do know in a lot of the leagues they switch you. One week you’ll wrestle freestyle, one week you’ll wrestle Greco. They will also rotate the weight. They may have a catch-weight now, this was back when the weights were the same. So everything changes. But they had it when you had to wrestle either Greco or freestyle.
I think every league they have tried to do in the United States they have tried to make the rules better. It’s like, what do you mean better? These are the rules of our sport, let’s use these rules. It doesn’t make sense. Like how folkstyle is going to prepare our guys for Olympic competition. No, that isn’t the sport, it’s a different sport. So I think that’s one of the biggest things. You know, I did see a couple of comments about that and how they were going to do the scoring and change the points. I didn’t really follow it because I didn’t find it that intriguing, to tell you the truth. Because I’ve seen these things come and go. You have to be well-funded and you have to figure out how you’re going to get an ROI out of this. If you can’t sustain it and it’s just because you got some sponsor or some donor who wants to throw in some money, eventually he or she is going to get tired of losing money. At the end of the day, there has got to be some way to find a return on the investment.
So I don’t know. I think we have a lot more platforms now with FLO. It doesn’t even have to be FLO, it could be another platform, the same thing, everybody can live-stream things now. You could put it behind a pay-wall, you could be a subscription. If there was a good enough league that I’d want to watch, I would pay a subscription for it. But I am not going to pay a subscription for wrestling when the points aren’t the same as they are in the international styles. Like Real Pro Wrestling, you had to push a guy off the mat and then they fell down in the pit. It was interesting, I guess, but it wasn’t our sport.
It’s too gimmicky, in my opinion. You can’t take our sport and make it gimmicky because we’ve already seen this. I mean, have you not followed the history of our sport? Pro wrestling was real at one time, wasn’t it? It was, right? They were shoots. And then they quit doing shoots because it wasn’t exciting enough at times. You wrestle the same guy two or three times and you start to figure each other out. The scores started getting lower and so they started doing works. And that’s what gimmicks lead to. They lead to works.
But you know, I love submission style wrestling. I think it’s a very interesting sport. I enjoy Greco Roman, I enjoy freestyle, but I think if you’re going to have a league, you have to pick a format. You can’t make up your own set of rules because it’s too gimmicky and I think it is going to lead to works.
Another from “Akron” (Social media can be a great tool for athletes to reach out to the fanbase. Of course, there are potential pitfalls involved, too, so we wanted to ask about that)
2. 5PM: As the overseer of the program, do you want your athletes to be involved in social media? Do you want them to not be? You look at pro sports teams, they don’t like the football players or whomever to be too crazy on Twitter and stuff like that. Do you have any kind of governance in that regard?
Coach Matt Lindland: Do I have a policy? That’s a great question. I do not have a policy. Twitter wasn’t a thing, Facebook wasn’t a thing when I was an athlete or even into my MMA career. It really wasn’t a thing. It kind of started exploding, especially in MMA with the Twitters and all that stuff. The guy that worked for me, when I told him I was going to train him to take over the gym, he was managing. I was paying him to to manage the business. But he always had me there in case anything went wrong or he needed somebody else. I told him, “I’m going to completely train you to run this business without me here because I want to get back into coaching.” And I didn’t necessarily know it was going to be at the National Team level. I started off by volunteering at Clackamas Community College and then for the World Championships and was the World Team coach in 2013. That was when I first got to meet a lot of these athletes, Jesse (Thielke), he was on the team. Just a lot of these guys, this is when I first started to meet them. But I realized I spent four months in Colorado that year or on the road as the volunteer Olympic coach. And I was kind of getting into it so I was like, I got to find a role in coaching somewhere or somehow. And Scott told me, “You’ve got to get on Facebook and Twitter and…” I was like, “Did you not hear what I want to do? I want to coach, what does that have to do with it?” So he goes, “The athletes in this generation, that’s where they’re at. If you want to reach them, contact them, communicate with them, and recruit them, how are you going to get a hold of these guys?”
He was absolutely right, so I started developing a presence with the Coach Matt Lindland blog, I started with that. Then when I would do a blog I would tweet it out and put it on Facebook. And then I realized, Hey, I don’t really want my own Facebook, and I got a Coach Matt Lindland Facebook and a regular Facebook now. So I have way too much social media for me, to tell you the truth. But it does serve its purpose. It allows me to communicate with a broader audience, the wrestling community as a whole, and specifically my athletes and younger athletes I want to attract to the program.
I think, to get back to your question, it could really be a positive thing. We’ve definitely had some issues with it. They’re young men. They’re fricking guys who are just young, stupid men like I was when I was their age (laughs). I think I would have made a lot of mistakes on social media. One of my athletes posted something very objectionable on social media. We landed in Europe from Chicago and my phone was blowing up, “Have this gentleman take this stuff off, it’s inappropriate.” It was a tongue-in-cheek comment about domestic abuse, which isn’t a funny matter. It isn’t something you joke about. Some football player threw his girlfriend through a glass table. Apparently, this was a girlfriend of the athlete I’m referring to, she broke up with him and started dating this NFL player, and he threw her through a plate-glass table. And this guy said, “I could help you with your technique?” or something like that. I obviously don’t think he was serious at all. It was just one of those things. I said to him, “Hey, I don’t want to talk about it, don’t ask even me, just take it down.” And he said, “Okay, I’ll take it down right now.” And then I came back later and said, “I get it, dude. If I was your age I would have made as stupid or a stupider comment on that, but here’s what your social media platform is: It’s to promote you, your brand, and make you a bigger commodity, somebody people want to follow, they want to know when you’re going to compete again so they can watch you wrestle.” So I think it can be a really positive thing if it’s used in the right way. I think it can also be very dangerous with the Snapchats and all that stuff. There’s a lot of danger involved.
From “Olympic Camp” (The “Captain” of the US Greco Roman wrestling team, specifically for wrestlers centralized at the OTC, play a very important role. The US has been fortunate to have two in recent years, Andy Bisek and Robby Smith. Heading up to the Rio Olympics, we felt it was appropriate to ask about what the captaincy means for those men. Follow-ups included)
1. 5PM: What have Bisek and Robby meant as captains and leaders of the team?
Coach Matt Lindland: In every sense of the word, these guys are absolute leaders. You couldn’t, as a head coach, ask for two better men to lead this program. I mean, we talk a lot about the young guys coming up, but I don’t want to ever neglect that as coaches, we could not do what we do if it wasn’t for these two athletes leading the program from within.
5PM: You have coached a lot, different teams in different situations. What qualities do you look for out of your captains, especially in the context of the current Greco team?
ML: I think the first quality is humility. Especially with Andy, you saw that when he was working at a liquor store and winning World medals. In between practices, going to the liquor store. Here is a guy who has two kids and a beautiful family and still is able to do what he does. I mean, most of these guys are like, If I don’t get my nap… Imagine going home to an infant and a toddler and not getting a nap, yet you’re still the first guy at practice and the last guy to leave. But when he does leave, he rushes out of the room to go see his family. He does that.
I think Robby’s qualities, he’s a lot more boisterous than Andy. Andy leads a little more by example, the way he works through everything. Robby’s the guy who brings everyone together. He’s a guy we put young athletes with to mentor them. His roommate for the last two years has been a 17 and a 18 year old young man who he’s brought under wing and taught him, This is how you act as a young athlete. He has not only had to show him that, but explain that to him. It’s not a process of “tell a kid one time and he’s going to get it.” You’ve got to keep preaching that stuff to him.
So yeah, they are both everyday leaders. They can say one thing to one of the other athletes and completely tear them up or build them up, and I’ve never seen them tear down anybody. It doesn’t matter if it’s the guy who doesn’t belong in that room because of his abilities and his skill-set. Or if it’s the next guy who is going to be a World medalist and World champion. They constantly build others up and you need that in your room. I think the only guy I would say is like that and he’s not on our Olympic Team this year but he’s been on a lot of teams, is Spenser Mango. He had those same kind of qualities.