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 week, it’s Christmas break and Coach Lindland is in Oregon spending the holiday with his family. Even still, there was a lot to get to, including (of course) the previous weekend’s US Nationals, where several wrestlers put on surprising performances that caught everyone’s attention. We also talk about who is expected to attend January camp, who might be heading to Croatia for Zagreb, and more.
5PM: Last time, you talked about what you saw internationally with the rule change in place. Did you notice any difference with the wrestling and the effect of the rules at the Nationals?
Coach Matt Lindland: You know, I did feel like there were some pretty exciting matches, there really were. There were also some close matches. I don’t know what you saw, but it seems like the younger athletes who have been competing with these rules, same as I saw internationally, are the guys who are forcing the action a lot more. We’re seeing some of the more veteran athletes just who are just switching over to these new rules having a little harder time adjusting and understanding the point of having to score off your feet.
5PM: Were there any performances that you found particularly surprising or encouraging?
ML: I think the biggest surprise for me was Hayden Tuma at 59 kilos. That’s a pretty deep weight class, to tell you the truth. (Jesse) Thielke wasn’t there, Spenser Mango just retired, and Ildar (Hafizov) is a very tough and talented athlete, but won’t be back in that weight class. Ryan Mango is a talented guy now Tuma. I know how he was trained because I know his coach very well and guys who were trained under Ivan (Ivanov) are very skilled Greco Roman wrestlers. And Hayden always had those skills and he’s an incredible athlete, but we haven’t seen this before, not up to this point. I hope this wasn’t just an isolated incident because I’ve known all along this is what he’s capable of doing, so my expectations are a lot higher for him now.
5PM: Did you happen to catch some of Tommy Brackett’s matches?
ML: I did, I thought that was really encouraging to see, a high school junior make it to semifinals of that tournament. Especially in that first match, he had CJ Myers, who had been in the finals of World Team Trials and the US Open before, so he is a very experienced athlete. Tommy went out and beat him in his first match and then he came back and beat Trey Hardy. He lost to Cheney (Haight), who is just a savvy vet and still going at it as hard as these young guys. I was surprised and very encouraged to see that.
Taylor LaMont finished fourth, just one out of a medal. Then we saw (G’Angelo) Hancock and (Kamal) Bey also have good matches for our younger athletes. I was also encouraged by (Barrett) Stanghill, I think he did a great job. So there are a lot of guys. I think it’s just the new generation and what tends to happen at the end of a quad, you start to see these new guys emerge and start to establish themselves in their weight classes.
5PM: Kevin Radford had a tough time, predictably, in Budapest. Maybe he discovered something, maybe he had some kind of confidence working, but he wound up having an impressive day Sunday. Is there anything there you noticed?
ML: Well, yeah, speaking of surprises (laughs). I actually don’t know how that one didn’t come to me, that was our biggest surprise of the tournament. You know, Kevin came off a really tough weekend in Budapest. He lost five matches in two days. And then I think he won five matches to win the Nationals, which was very surprising, but that’s what it takes. There are so many guys who aren’t willing to take their lumps. And I don’t think this will be the only time Kevin will have success, but I don’t think a couple of weeks ago was the only time he will experience defeats and failures, either. But the problem I see with a lot of folkstyle guys trying to make that transition is that they are not willing to start over at the bottom. They come over to Greco and when they don’t have success right away, they bounce. They get out. Their egos are just crushed and can’t take those kinds of losses. So they go back and toil in freestyle at number five or number six, you know, or maybe they get as high as three and make the National Team.
But there is an opportunity for really good collegiate folkstyle wrestlers to make a transition over to Greco, but you see that same problem time and time again. And as good as it was to see someone like Kevin, who in his first international tournament didn’t win a match, he didn’t even have a good match internationally, a week later he made some really quick adjustments, learned some lessons, was able to re-focus and obviously, his attitude was strong. His spirits are high and he came out and had a really great performance. That was not just surprising, but also exciting to see.
5PM: The January camp is coming next and we talked about the indoctrination of a new theme, of a new culture coming. As for the athletes who are attending, is the camp open-ended? Who all is going, is this just National Team members?
ML: Well, I think National Team and some of the younger guys who are still maybe just outside of our National Team. But based on the results of last weekend, if that were our Trials, they would be on our National Team. That is the caliber of athletes we’re looking at, guys who are on our current National Team and guys who are placing top three at the Nationals last weekend. Also, guys who were on our non-Olympic World Team. We’re looking to get the best guys in the country together and train for two weeks. We don’t always have that opportunity, really, because everyone trains with their own separate clubs. We are a lot more centralized than the freestyle program, but there are still a lot of guys who are training in New York, Minnesota, and Michigan that we don’t get to train with as often. This is a really good opportunity to get to train together and also, get to know each other better and build this team.
5PM: Do you know yet who you are bringing to Croatia?
ML: Not exactly, I have to put the whole list together. I do, I have the list in my head but I have to write it down while I’m out here in Portland this week. Because like I said, we’re taking two trips. We’re going to take a Senior team to Denmark; we are taking a group of Juniors to Austria for a really tough international tournament; and some of those Juniors will also meet us in Zagreb and all of those Seniors in Denmark will meet us in Zagreb, as well. I just have to put that whole list together on paper, iron it out, and see who is still available. Maybe Pat Smith, who is going to be in Europe during that time, will come and join us. There is a little more coordination to do before I release that final list.
5PM: Here’s an off-topic one. Having been a high-level competitor in two sports, were the wins more satisfying in one or the other? And conversely, did the losses sting more in one than the other?
ML: I think that is a good question and you forgot that I competed at a high-level in three sports, you forgot team sport of whitewater. But that’s a whole other topic of team sports, so let’s just stick to the individual sports. Yeah, I think for me, until I learned how to be okay losing, it was hard to have a lot of success. I learned this lesson first in wrestling. I see this same mentality with a guy like Patrick Martinez. He works so hard, he is such a tough competitor and he wants to win so desperately that he’s thinking about the wrong stuff on the mat. He’s thinking about the results instead of what he needs to do in that match to win, and what he needs to do in every moment of that match. He has a gameplan, but he’s thinking about the results instead of the execution and the performance, and what he wants to accomplish out there.
I struggled with that, too, as an athlete. Because you love the sport so much and you want to win and you want to do well. But as soon as you realize that doesn’t help you and instead,start focusing on what you need to do, the wins start to take care of themselves. And I think wrestling was my first sport that I fell in love with and those earlier losses like that were harder because I didn’t process it right. You want to win every time you compete, but you have to have a healthy sense of what winning is and you have to go out there and compete just for the enjoyment and the fun of the sport. And remember why you started the sport. Once I learned that lesson, it didn’t really matter.
5PM: You just left Vegas. Where exactly are you now for Christmas break, if you want to call it that? When are you coming back and when is everything getting back into full-swing over in Springs?
Coach Matt Lindland: Well, I do call it “Christmas break” because I worship God and Jesus, so I am one of the people who do call this Christmas. It’s sad to see that isn’t shared by more people, but that’s alright. I got on a plane from Vegas and flew straight to Portland, Oregon. And once I landed I jumped straight in a car and got the heck out of that city and now I’m in Eagle Creek where I have a beautiful home right on the water. I can walk out my door and fish every morning. Get my line out before the sun goes down one more time. I am going to try and hook into some winter steelhead while I’m here. I’m definitely going to jump in a boat while I’m here and possibly do a kayak trip. I get the opportunity to work with the coaches at my gym and help them build their curriculums for the year, just critique what they are doing on the mat and as far as them building their programs. Of course, I’ll also jump into a jiu jitsu class. Everybody wants to grab the old man and try to beat him (laughs).
I’ve gotten some decent workouts since I’ve arrived in Portland. I am certainly going to make it up to Clackamas Community College and work out with them, possibly run a workout, and recruit a couple of the guys out there. There are a few wrestlers I really want to get into the Greco program. I feel like they’ve competed two years of folkstyle and that is two years too many (laughs), and we need to get them transitioned into a Greco environment and help them finish their education.
5PM: So you’re essentially taking on a dual role when you go back to the school. You’re going to be a special guest coach and also, a recruiter.
Coach Matt Lindland: That is exactly what I am going to do. I’ve coached at Clackamas ever since I moved back to Oregon at one level or another. When I started going everyday and traveling with the team, I started thinking I might want a gig that pays (laughs), and that is when I applied for this position. I really respect what Coach Rhoden is doing with the program. He has a real passion for not just seeing his guys compete well and win for Clackamas, he really has a desire to help them finish their education. Every athlete who goes through his program, their number one goal is to make sure that they have their two-year degree so they can go into a four-year college and continue competing but also, continue their education. So I respect Clackamas a lot and want to work with them and go up there and help my alma mater, for sure.