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 questions pertaining to recent events, training, and other topics surrounding the sport of Greco-Roman. 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, we talk to US National Team head coach Matt Lindland after he returned from his hometown of Eagle Creek, Oregon and just prior to his departure to Akron, Ohio, the site of the Cadet World Team Trials and University Nationals. While in the Beaver State, the 2017 World Team embarked on its first training camp leading up to Paris and there were two goals: base conditioning and team-building. Fans at home got to see plenty of examples of the latter during the two weeks out in Eagle Creek, so that is a major point of discussion for this report. In addition, the first-ever NCWA Go Greco Nationals are a topic along with what Coach Lindland is looking forward to most about Akron. Let’s hit it.
5PM: Did the camp go how you envisioned it to?
Matt Lindland: The camp was outstanding. It was great training, three sessions a day including our morning run, which it’s a lot harder to do that when you’re having your regular practices. When you are all together in the same house, you can get them up, make a pot of coffee, get them out for a run, and then squeeze in two more training sessions during the day. On top of that, we stayed in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Eagle Creek, Oregon, my hometown, where I grew up and raised my kids. So for me, it was a great experience and I think the guys got to see not only where I live, but the things I do. I go fishing, I go rafting, I shoot guns on the property, and we don’t have to go to a gun range. We had a nice big berm, we put some targets on it, and we had a 1,000 yard range we wound up setting up. We shot some sniper rifles that first week.
We also did some paddleboarding, which is one of the training modalities that I use because it is a lot of fun and you don’t realize that your core is engaged the whole time. You’re focusing on your balance, your stability, and your core when you paddle. I tell you, that little Ildar (Hafizov), he had never been on a stand-up paddle board before but with his strength and his weight, he cruised. The river was ripping. We paddled about a mile and a half upstream to what is called Willamette Falls, which is the second largest waterfall in America by volume. On some days, it is number one, it beats Niagara on volume. When we got to Oregon, the water was high, it was raining, and I wouldn’t be surprised that day if we had more volume than Niagara. We paddled all the way up to the falls. It took us about an hour and a half and about 15 minutes to get back once we got in the current. We did all kinds of fun activities.
5PM: What do you feel were the major takeaways for the team now that camp is over?
ML: Well, the biggest thing that we saw was the first week, the guys were taxed. We recovered them over the weekend. The second week they were stronger, fitter, and recovered faster. I knew what we did was working as far as our strength and conditioning plan and our plan to get the guys ready for the hard training cycle that is about to commence. We got back this week on the mats and the guys are happy to be back. They were excited to be back on the mat because sometimes it gets stale. But when you spend two weeks in the wilderness just training your physical conditioning, you’re ready to get back on the mat, you’re excited. So I think that was a real positive. The guys were certainly refreshed because during our breaks we had constant activities. We went shooting, we ended up going flying and aviating in some small aircrafts. We fished on the property, there were some bass, blue gills, and then on our two big recovery days we rafted and we went skeet shooting.
The big salmon fishing day was unbelievable because there wasn’t a ton of fish in the water and the ones that were there we were able to hook them. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Northwest salmon run, but we have what are called hatchery fish and native fish. Basically, the only difference is that hatchery fish have their dorsal fin cut off. If they have it, there’s a chance it is a native, but there’s also a chance it just didn’t get clipped at the hatchery. Either way, you have to release it. We caught a lot of native fish but we also caught our limit of keepers, so that was really nice. Coach Momir (Petkovic) seemed to be the sturgeon king of the day. He kept going for those salmon and he landed a couple, but he kept hooking into these big sturgeon. If you’ve never caught a sturgeon before, landing a six or eight-foot sturgeon is a pretty fun deal. Even though you have to throw them back, it’s still pretty fun.
5PM: You also broke things up with some cross-training and MMA-style drills. Did that serve its purpose as a nice change of pace?
ML: Well, I had one boxing workout incorporated into our training instead of one band workout our first week. The guys really enjoyed it and asked if we could switch up one of our circuit trainings for the second week. We did that at my gym, Team Quest. I have all of the equipment there, the heavy bags, focus mitts, all of the guys received new boxing gloves. We brought those gloves back. We had USA Boxing move into the old weightlifting facility and tomorrow morning, the guys are going to get some more bags. It seems to be one of the training modalities the guys seem to enjoy, just learning the technique of how to punch. But it’s so applicable to what we do so far as turning your hips over, using your hips, using your core, your body.
There are only so many ways the body moves in combat and that kind of cross-training is ideal for what we’re trying to do, but it also gives you a break from the same-old same-old. The guys are having a lot of fun with it and it is certainly something that when their careers are over, it wouldn’t hurt them to know how to throw a punch because there are a lot of opportunities in mixed martial arts for wrestlers to continue their careers as athletes and make a decent living.
5PM: In your mind, how does team-building play an integral role in what is largely viewed as an individual sport?
Matt Lindland: I think it’s a critical thing you want to do. We talked about this during January camp about the theme of one team, one boat, paddling together. We’re all going in the same direction. Our paddles are in the water at the same time. We did a lot of drills. We had a discussion and I presented my philosophy. This is something that I knew when I wrestled, but I never competed in a team sport in my life until after I retired from MMA. My only other sport was wrestling, which are both individual sports even though we’re on teams. We’re on National teams, World teams, Olympic teams. Even in mixed martial arts, Team Quest. We had a team that trained together, but none of us hardly fought on the same weekends.
But getting onto the rafting team and understanding the dynamics of that teamwork and how much you rely on your teammates really got me thinking about that aspect of building a team and creating that culture where we are fighting together. We’re paddling that boat in the same direction and we’re fighting as one unit. And we’re fighting for one another. It’s literally us against the rest of the world, so we need to be one team. We need to be selfless, help each other, and work together. So I think all of those activities that we did really helped push those bonds between the athletes, and the coaches and the athletes. They’re teammates and getting to know the guys off the mat is really a critical piece.
5PM: Two Greco-Roman World Team Trials finalists won at the freestyle Last Chance Qualifiers, I am sure you saw that.
ML: I did see that. Apparently, both of them (Joe Rau and Hayden Zillmer) are forgoing a Greco tournament overseas and competing at the freestyle World Team Trials. You know, it’s not what I want them to do, but it’s what they want to do and they’re having fun and enjoying the sport, so let them do what they want to do. If I was an athlete and I was in their situation and I didn’t make the Senior World Team and qualified for the freestyle World Team Trials, I’d probably have done the same thing.
But as a coach, I want to see these guys get more international training in Greco and more international competition in Greco. Both Hayden and Joe are right there in the mix. Joe has been on a couple of World Teams now and Hayden has been in the finals. So yeah, as a coach I support it because it’s what they want to do and I have to support it. It’s what they want to do. And I thought it was really cool that they took spots away from freestyle athletes. It showed that the Greco guys know how to wrestle. Because there is so much talk like, Hey, you guys must not know how to wrestle because you do Greco, or You don’t know a single leg.
I remember one time in the parking lot in Fargo, North Dakota, Ricky Stewart was harassing me all night. His line was “half-man” — You must be a half-man wrestler. I was like, Oh, okay Rick, that’s funny. About halfway through the night, I was about done with these “half-man” comments and he said, “Oh, you wrestle Greco because you don’t know how to shoot a single.” And he sticks his leg like he wants me to grab a single. So I snatched it up and lifted my hands over my head. He’s parallel on the ground, he is about eye level to me when he takes a fall on the parking lot. I was like, “See? I told you I could shoot a single.”
I think it’s a big misconception that Greco guys don’t know how to wrestle. I actually think that Greco guys are probably the most complete wrestlers. So it didn’t surprise me. Both of them are very tough, complete athletes. They know how to wrestle. Both of them were college wrestlers. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Joe and Hayden won that tournament. I was like, Okay great, they did it, they had fun. Now let’s get overseas. But they are going to join us in Hungary for the training portion and they are going to a separate tournament in Serbia, so I think it is a win-win. They are going to get some great training in Europe, a competition, and they are going to try to win at the freestyle tournament. I’m looking forward to watching them compete.
5PM: The first NCWA Nationals are this weekend. What is your general view of this event?
ML: I think it’s great that we have more athletes wrestling Greco-Roman. We have more athletes wrestling Greco-Roman, period. And there’s a chance that one of these guys in the NCWA wants to continue wrestling. I’m sure they have some good athletes in these programs. Obviously, they want to compete, so I’m glad they are doing it in Greco-Roman. Especially in the off-season. I think the problem we have seen in the wrestling culture here in America is that the folkstyle season doesn’t seem to end anymore. They are starting at the end of September now with folkstyle tournaments. I remember state tournaments ended in February and NCAA ended in March. But now we’re seeing folkstyle national tournaments that are happening after the NCAA’s. And I think that athletes need a break from that style of wrestling where they can go and have fun. The international styles of wrestling are liberating. The word is “free”, freestyle, and I think that Greco is the same concept. It’s art. It is freeing to try something different. So I think it’s a good thing.
5PM: The Cadet World Team Trials and the University Nationals are also this weekend and that is where you’ll be. What are you looking forward to most about this current batch of Cadets? Plus, there will also be some Seniors there for you to take another look at.
Matt Lindland: I always enjoy watching our younger athletes, our Juniors and Cadets. I think some people talk about these athletes as if they are way off in the future someday and I’m looking at these athletes like, You’re right there. We just need to get you in a full-time training environment. That’s the biggest challenge for our programs across the board. We just don’t have enough programs. We have little pockets. There are some guys like Lucas Steldt, Brandon Paulson, Zac Dominguez, Mark Halvorson out in California in the northern part of the state, but the rest of the state doesn’t wrestle Greco-Roman.
Seeing these athletes get a chance to compete and seeing the talent that is out there, for one, it frustrates me because I see these great athletes and how much potential they have. I just haven’t been able to create enough programs and opportunities for these athletes currently. This is a non-profit organization that is volunteer-driven. Our coaches out there are the lifeblood. Club coaches are the life’s blood of our programs and we don’t have enough coaches developing the young talent. It’s hard to do my job and prepare Senior athletes when we don’t have enough guys coming through the pipeline. But I know how much talent there is and I really enjoy watching these young athletes wrestle. Hopefully, we can steer more of these athletes towards a full-time Greco-Roman path so they can see the opportunities out there for them. We are creating more opportunities. We have full-time scholarships for Greco-Roman athletes. We have not just one Greco-Roman college now, we have two. And we just talked about the NCWA tournament. So we are creating these programs, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It is one step at a time and keeping one foot moving forward.