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 regarding results, training, upcoming events, 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!
Even though we are coming right up against one of the most important times of the year for the Seniors with the US Open now visible on the horizon, it is at the age-group level where a lot of important news has taken over for the moment. That’s because late last month, over 100 American athletes were all in Europe over the course of the same week, setting a record for overseas participation. Coach Lindland himself was in Estonia as part of a massive tour when this was all going down, so naturally, that’s a focus of this conversation. Also discussed are the numerous camps and workshops that are becoming available around the country as well as Tommy Dantzler, son of 2008 Olympian TC, committing to a full-time Greco-Roman career.
5PM: Estonia — what was the most important takeaway for you personally from your time as part of that tour and also, please speak to the record-breaking week that saw over 100 kids participating in Greco training and/or competitions overseas.
Coach Matt Lindland: The exciting news was that we had over 100 athletes one weekend competing or training in Europe at the same time. Very few of them were Seniors, but we had a few who were in Sweden training over there. There was also Bulgaria, Coach (Ivan) Delchev took a group; Coach (Terry) Pack had another group in the Netherlands; and Coach (Gary) Mayabb and I were with a group in Tallinn, and we had 48 guys on our trip.
My goal is really just to get guys overseas. I truly believe that if we have these young athletes experience international wrestling — I mean, yes, I’m a little biased, Greco is the style I want to see them doing — but obviously, a lot of the guys do participate in freestyle and Greco-Roman, they enjoy that and I think that’s fine up to a certain age. But there does come a time when I think in today’s world, we have to start figuring out if we are Greco guys, freestyle guys, or folkstyle guys a little earlier so we can start specializing. I’m getting emails and questions from guys now who are looking for more overseas training opportunities, asking when the next trip to Europe is. Coach (Lucas) Steldt is taking a group to Serbia and Croatia. We have some amazing volunteers who are doing this and I think what this is really going to do is inspire more coaches to start taking more athletes overseas all across the board. It is also getting more athletes competing internationally. Once they start doing that and experience some success, they won’t be able to help but see the bigger picture. There is a whole other world out that besides the NCAA and becoming an All-American. I mean, every year there are 70-something All-Americans, but every four years, there are only going to be six guys who are going to win gold medals at the Olympic Games. Hopefully, some of those guys are going to start becoming Americans.
The key is getting more athletes overseas so they can understand that they are capable of doing that, but they are getting left behind because they are not focusing on the international styles. At that age, and it’s probably somewhere around their freshman and sophomore years in high school, if they are going to continue to split their time, say doing three months of Greco while mixing it with freestyle but spending the rest of the year doing folkstyle, they will get left behind. What these kids who are going overseas are seeing now is that they are and can be competitive with all of these European guys, right? They’re seeing, Wow, we’re competing with Russians, Serbians, Croatians, and Bulgarians — and they were having tons of success. Just look at the medal count and it shows the kind of success these athletes were having. But when they stop doing that and go back to their respective folkstyle programs, they will be getting passed up by their international counterparts. That is going to cost medals for Americans.
Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, that was acceptable. It was harder to go overseas, it was more difficult to travel. Now? These athletes were able to do this entire trip counting the tournament, the training camp, room and board — everything — for under $2000. For under $2000, they were able to get great matches and lots of training with multiple international opponents. It was incredible.
For me, I just got a chance to learn a lot more about the mindset of these young athletes. I just think they hadn’t had the opportunities to become exposed to this and exposure is what’s going to change their mindset about their opportunities to compete internationally. They just don’t believe they can do it. They’re looking at it like, Oh, those guys, Kamal Bey and Cohlton Schultz…wow, it would be great to win a World title like THOSE guys. Well, the first step is getting yourself overseas and seeing where you’re at. Once you see where you’re at, that next step is figuring out where that gap is and closing it. Then they learn that they’re right there with the rest of the world.
5PM: With the workshops and other camps/clinics you and Mayabb are involved in, and even just drawing from your overall coaching experience, what is the most common question developmental athletes and coaches have a habit of asking?
ML: I don’t think it’s a specific question. They want to understand how to do moves. They want to learn technical moves and they are skipping the developmental part of wrestling, which is body position. If you cannot control your own body, if you cannot hold your own body position, how do you expect to manipulate your opponent’s body to set up your attacks and your techniques? You can know all of the techniques in the world that does not matter if you are consistently out of position.
So it’s not a specific question, they are just kind of like, Show me some moves. And we’re spending three to four days just getting their bodies to move in the right direction. Understand that in Greco-Roman, all of the scoring maneuvers are behind you. You lock, load, execute, and the scores happen behind you. In freestyle or folkstyle, the scores are in front of you, so you drive through everything. Well, we know what happens in Greco if you drive through any space whatsoever, it allows your opponent to engage his hips and then they throw you behind themselves.
It is a different philosophy, it is a different mentality entirely. I’ve said it and I have also heard it a million times how wrestling is wrestling. Yes and no (laughs). Wrestling is wrestling in that there are only so many ways to manipulate the body, there are only so many ways your body moves. But it needs to be understood philosophically how all of the scores are behind you in Greco and the rotation involved in arm throws, head throws, and hip throws. We’ve talked about this before, there are seven basic skills in wrestling. But — only five of them are being taught in the folkstyle system. They are neglecting back arch. They might show lift, because that’s how you finish double or single-legs. They might show lift and that is part of the execution of a throw, you have to lift. But they have no idea what a back arch is. And the back-step movement? That is a very difficult movement for some guys to teach.
I went up to the Combat Wrestling Club and these guys do Greco year-round but a lot of them compete in folkstyle, as well. There are some there who do Greco all year long, but for the most part, they participate in folkstyle, too. What I experienced is that during the first part of that camp, Andy (Bisek) and I were challenging these athletes so much that we were having about a 70% failure rate on basic movements. Basic mechanics, basic body positioning, and basic execution of techniques. An arm throw is a rotation, it’s not necessarily a technique. There are multiple ways to do it, we have a video up, a great one, that talks about the three different types of arm spins. You have your arm spin, your basic torquing spin; you’ve got a lifting throw, so you’re lifting your opponent, loading him up, and executing; or you are torquing him and dropping him over your center of gravity. Three different ways to execute the same technique. I teach all three and then when the athlete goes to execute, he can make it his own and combine different elements of all three or just a couple. Whatever they want so long as it fits that athlete’s body type and style.
But they were having such a failure rate that they became so frustrated. What I wanted them to do was to fail. If you fail, you start to fix things. You start to understand, you start to self-coach and self-correct. For our wrestling culture in the United States, everything is about hand here, foot here, head here, hips here. You’re not coaching robots! You are coaching young artistic men on how to fight and they have to come up with their own fighting styles. And I don’t want anyone to be a clone of what I was, or a clone of Andy Bisek or Coach Momir (Petković). I want them to develop their own styles.
So that is probably the hardest part for athletes to understand because they are so used to being spoon-fed to do this and that as if it’s color by numbers. Like a coloring book, for number 1, put red. Number 2, put blue. You might have a beautiful picture at the end, but it’s the same picture everyone else has colored. It isn’t authentic, pure art of your own. There is no originality to it, there’s no creativity.
By the second day, we were cutting that down to 50-30%. By the last day, we were maybe seeing a 10% failure rate, and those were the guys who were just starting in Greco-Roman. We had a few of those guys who were excited, they love it, wanted more of it, and they haven’t really been coached in Greco, but they were maybe coming from states where there isn’t a lot of opportunities to train Greco.
I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s not really a question, they just don’t understand the methodology or the system because they never experienced something like that.
5PM: TC Dantzler’s son Tommy announced he was committing to a full-time Greco career this week. Granted, his father is someone closely associated with the sport, but Tommy is also friends with Kamal and Tracy (G’Angelo Hancock). That seems to be an understated part of the youth movement, peers being influenced by one another.
ML: I think that’s absolutely the key. You want to hang out with your buddies. If my best friends are wrestling Greco, hey, I guess I’m wrestling Greco. I think that’s a big part of it.
Tommy is a great football player and he had high hopes of potentially playing college ball. But he wants to stay home and be around his friends. I mean, he and Kamal are like brothers. They are brothers, they lived under the same roof that first year when Kamal stayed with the Dantzler family. You don’t say he stayed with just TC. No, Kamal stayed with the family and he still eats Sunday dinners over their house. But over the last year, TC’s dad’s health took a little turn, so he moved to Chicago and spent a year out there and looked forward to coming back.
I’ve talked to him (Tommy), I’ve recruited him. I recruit all these athletes, but it (having friends in Greco) is a huge part of it. Why did Benji Peak follow Alston Nutter up to Northern? I think that is the kind of leadership I’m talking about. I can recruit, but if my athletes are saying, Do you want to be a part of this program?, then that means I’m doing something right. They want their friends and their peers to be part of the same experience.
We have some strength behind it right now and we have a little wind in our sails. Tommy is a legit blue chip recruit. He is someone I’ve had the opportunity to coach, he has been in my room. But he is also a typical athlete. He plays football, wrestles, does track and field. He is a great athlete. If you get him to focus on just one sport, his ceiling is just so high and he has barely touched Greco. We get him after he is done with folkstyle and coach him up till he goes to Fargo, and then we see him once in a while when he pops in the room to say hi. But now we’re going to get the opportunity to see him on a regular basis, so we’re excited.
I am also excited that we’re going to hopefully get TC back in the room. He’s been gone for a year and family comes first. We of course understand that. But TC will hopefully start his youth club back up and come into our room to work with our Senior and Junior athletes. But TC isn’t Tommy’s only coach. We have enough quality coaches around who will also help. Sometimes it’s hard to be coached by your dad. Tommy needs to understand that he doesn’t have to compare himself to what his dad did. He doesn’t need to compare himself to what Kamal has done so far. He needs to compare himself to where he is now and then where he is six months from now, and six months after that. He just needs to focus on himself, improving, and having fun experiencing this sport.
5PM: What was the concept behind your decision to do a YouTube show and why is now the time for that?
ML: First of all, I truly believe we need to develop more leaders within our program and the YouTube show is all about leadership and character development. One of the main predictors for success is moral development. I’ve just seen a lot of areas where our guys could be leading one another. I remember when I was on the teams, we held each other accountable. We had tons of leaders within our program. If we had one guy who was making a mistake, whatever that was, you got called out on it.
These days, our athletes are more passive. They’re not willing to call each other out when they’re messing up, and I think that’s really important. One of my athletes actually said to me that he wanted more opportunities to gain leadership development. So I thought about how to do that. I could have a weekly meeting here at the (Olympic) Training Center, but if I do that, I’m neglecting most of our National Team. I could do a camp and we could have meetings throughout the camp, but that’s going to take time away from training. Fortunately, we live in the 21st century now where we have YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook so you can get your message out.
I didn’t look at it (the video) the first day but after that it already had 200 views, so there you go, my National Team is getting to see what we’re talking about. The first episode of the show was just me introducing my friend and co-host, Rich Addante, who is a doctor of neuroscience and an associate professor at UC-San Bernadino. He was also on a mission this past summer called HERA (Human Exploration Research Analog), which was about the teamwork dynamics necessary to send a shuttle to Mars, such as the stress factors and environmental factors they would have to deal with, and how teamwork and leadership play into that. Coming from a neuroscientist’s perspective, they wanted to talk about the cognitive functions necessary to accomplish that, so I couldn’t have had a better guy on my show.
We’re going to do one a week and I am going to try to keep them at a half-hour. My goal is to get into some good discussions, so some of them might go a little longer. The next one I am going to shoot is with another member of his crew on the shuttle. There are opportunities to bring in a lot of great guests. I can bring in Dr. (Jack) Stark, who has written a book on leadership, teamwork, and building dynasties on teamwork. There are just so many directions to go with this.
5PM: Describe the freestyle transition camps that will be coming up following the Final X Series.
Coach Matt Lindland: I think the format of the Final X Series is great for the audience and maybe that is something we’ll consider for the future. But having three separate Trials is very difficult because you have athletes who are all competing at the same time at the same place at the World Championships, so you probably want to select your team on the same day, and have your camps on the same day.
I understand that it is an individual sport and we are going to have individual training plans for every guy. But there are also going to be general plans. So I wasn’t thrilled about having three different dates for our Trials and I already had our Trials schedule set to coincide with the international training camps and pre-World tours. The whole training plan was set prior to when this Final X Series opportunity was proposed to us, so I enthusiastically opted out when I found out it was going to wrap up five weeks prior to our Trials and how they were going to narrow their field down to two guys.
This is a great opportunity for us to encourage some of these guys who are wrestling freestyle and aren’t in the top-2, but are at least somewhere in the top-7, to think about Greco. There are a lot of great guys there. Freestyle has an incredible team, they just won the World Championships for the first time since ’95 and the World Cup for the first time since 2003. And their program just got even better with the ten weight classes. They are a lot stronger. But there will be guys who won’t be going anywhere for a long time. And they are young guys, too. Maybe some of these wrestlers will have to think about their careers and give Greco-Roman a try, so we are going to give them everything we can to encourage and support that. Part of that is holding four different camps in four separate locations over four different weeks. Athletes can theoretically find themselves at all four camps and there is no fee for athletes who are qualified. If an athlete is qualified for the Senior World Team Trials, he is welcome to attend any of those camps, or all four of them if they should choose to do so.