This week at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas is a high intensity training camp featuring members of the three remaining US Greco-Roman World Teams. The camp, which began on Monday and wraps up on Friday, offers different elements for each age group. The Seniors, as everyone knows by now, are using their time in Vegas to stamp down their go-to offensive attacks, while the Juniors are tasked with a little more focus on technique and team-building skills, and the same can be said for the U23 World Team athletes in attendance, as well.
With two days of camp now in the books, we sought updates and insights from Senior World Team coaches Spenser Mango and Zac Dominguez, and Junior World Team coaches Nate Engel and Herb House. Each coach’s perspective can be found below.
Junior World Team Coaches Engel & House
5PM: Following the first two training days, how have the Juniors been coming together as a group, and are things unfolding to your expectations?
Engel: I think it’s been going great. I think Coach (Matt) Lindland and Coach (Gary) Mayabb put together a great plan in letting the rest of the coaches run practices, which has been effective as far as getting everyone involved. The wrestling itself has been great. Guys from the Senior and Junior World Teams have been working together, and that has been important, because now the younger athletes are able to check out what the more seasoned veterans are doing. So it has been really good and I think our Team has grown in the four practices we’ve had already.
5PM: Have the athletes who are newer to Greco been assimilating well into the drills?
Engel: They’re doing a great job and I think they trained really well coming into this camp. We’re just trying to fix the little things because those little things turn into big things at the World Championships. If we can fix the little things now, we can put guys on the podium and come away with a team trophy. That is obviously the goal, and I think everyday they should be dreaming of winning a World Championship.
5PM: Knowing that there has been a block of time between the Junior Trials and this camp, are you liking what you’re seeing from where the athletes left off in June?
House: Yes, the new guys are picking up everything pretty fast, they are quick learners. The ones who are newer and maybe need some help are getting assistance from Nate and I, and from the more experienced guys on the Team, as well. When this camp is over, Nate and I talked about it, and we are going to plan on perhaps traveling to where several of these athletes are located so we can work with them at their clubs or colleges towards the end of this month and/or into early September.
5PM: The training plan for the Juniors is a little bit different from what the Seniors are doing. Are there a lot of adjustments being made thus far, and even if that’s the case, has the general attitude and pace been satisfactory?
House: Oh, yeah, there are adjustments being made, but like I said, these guys are doing a great job and they’re fast learners. So far, they are showing a lot of energy and the pace has been high overall. There are a lot of coaches here and everyone is chipping in to help these guys understand what it is we’re trying to get through to them. They’re doing a great job.
Senior World Team Coaches Mango & Dominguez
5PM: The Base Training Camp in Oregon offered very little, if any actual wrestling throughout the two weeks. Now the Seniors are back in another camp and they are getting a whole lot of mat time. Have you noticed a difference in their urgency and motivation levels?
Mango: Yeah, I think a lot of the guys were definitely hungry for the mat. While we were in Oregon, a lot of them were saying, I want to get on the mat, I just want to get on the mat. But that was perfect — that’s what we wanted, we wanted them to come out of that camp hungry to get on the mat and get out there to try some new positioning and stuff we learned from Joel. I think the guys have been great so far. I have definitely noticed an improvement in their positioning and they’re getting after it. That’s exactly what we need.
5PM: When it comes to drilling offensive attacks, are the Seniors workshopping new stuff or are they sticking with go-to techniques?
Mango: The first thing we did was have the guys come up with their individual match plan, what they wanted to get to. Maybe it was their two favorite ties and to kind of just go from there and branching out, finding different ways to finish two-point takedowns from their best ties. That’s what we’ve really been focused on, getting these guys to perfect what they’re good at — what they like doing, what the plan is on the mat. If they like to go out there and get a two-on-one? Okay, show us how you get to a two-on-one and then show me all of the different ways you can finish. It has pretty much been these guys setting their own plan and becoming great at it.
5PM: You weren’t at Eagle Creek camp, making this your first time meeting up with the Senior Team. How has it been going so far in terms of becoming familiar with the situation and the dynamics surrounding the different personalities involved?
Dominguez: They have actually been really welcoming. The wrestlers, and obviously Gary, Matt, and Spenser have all been handling everything accordingly. Coming out of Eagle Creek, that camp went really well from what I can understand and everyone’s attitude has been good. We all seem to fit together like a nice glove, right? We all know what we’re doing, we all have experience with each other before, and it is helpful in that way. I ran practice this morning, Spenser ran practice tonight, and it clicked really, really well. Matt put together the plan, we executed it, and it has been really, really easy. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. We’ll know Friday, I suppose. But the energy has been high and the practice level has been high. These Seniors have young kids at the camp with them, so they have an inherent responsibility to keep that energy high because they want to look good, show good, and feel good. This is the way you’re supposed to act and it has been really great.
5PM: Everyone is familiar with what the Vegas camp is supposed to be about. Has it been a high pace on the mat so far? Or are there are stops and starts with a lot of adjustments being made?
Dominguez: This is more of an energetic pace. These are high-yield practices. With everything we’re doing we want the most out of them. I know it sounds crazy, but every time we do a warm-up I think we have to jog first. But as soon as we start practice, we’re on the mat. Our warm-up tactics are very structured. It is all about positioning and how you are going to go to your primary offense, your secondary offense. We warm up on the mat; there is no running, tumbling, or stretching per se. It’s right into wrestling — hands-on, turning out reps, and getting the most out of practice between 90 and 120 minutes. It’s on the move, always on the move.
There are a lot of working parts and coaches get assigned their tasks. During my practice, Mango was the second voice; during his practice I was his second voice. We are always reiterating what we’re saying, how to do it, and getting the max reps out of each practice is what we’re after. We’re not killing it on the mat in terms of a lot hard go’s. We are pretty tactical in that regard. We want max output, so we’ve actually brought down the amount of time we’re wrestling so we have more high-yield drilling. Like today, I think we did 180 minutes with 30 minutes total of it being live. But we got a ton of drilling in, stayed on pace, and it was fast, just always getting more repetitions in.
The game plan is to see what we’re best at. Spenser sees everybody, I see everybody, and Gary and Matt see everybody. We are seeing everybody and becoming acquainting with what they do so that when we are in the corner coaching, we’re seeing the same things and speaking the same language so the boys know what we know. We’re all on the same page.