Coach Lindland’s Weekly Report became even less “weekly” in 2017 due to the number of overseas excursions that were part of the schedule. When United States Greco-Roman National Team head coach Matt Lindland is away on a trip, doing the report is still possible, just a lot more difficult primarily because time zone differences tend to get in the way. That being said, there were still 21 Lindland Reports this year, providing plenty of material for the list before you.
Since this is a collection of highlights, it likely isn’t too hard to guess what is included here. You’ve got Lindland’s reactions to every notable event as well as his perspective on a variety of other wrestling-related subjects. But instead of indexing Lindland’s answers based solely on the questions he was asked in individual reports, the dialogue presented below is categorized according to topic. Think of this as reference material you can go back to time and time again.
- The World titles won by Kamal Bey and Cohlton Schultz.
- The importance of overseas competition.
- Performances from the World Team Trials.
- The fire that broke out at the Senior Pan Ams.
- Perspectives on the Senior and U23 Worlds.
- Leadership and character development.
- Finding an existential purpose that benefits life on and off the mat.
TOP 10 COACH MATT LINDLAND WEEKLY REPORT HIGHLIGHTS OF 2017
10. The overall wrestling ability of Greco-Roman athletes, sparked by Joe Rau and Hayden Zillmer both winning the freestyle Last Chance Qualifier earlier in the year.
From Akron 2017
Coach Matt Lindland: 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.”
9. How Lindland approached training/competing overseas during his career and why he feels it is a priority for US wrestlers.
Lindland: As an athlete, I was always looking to go where guys who could beat me were going. Or where guys who medaled at the World and Olympic Games, I was going to find those guys. I was chasing them down. But I think that is a different answer at different times in my career. At the end of my career, I was trying to find the best guys and beat them. Earlier in my career, I was just trying to get as many matches and experience as I could and especially, those training camps, because you don’t have those opportunities here in the US. You won’t get the feel of what European training partners are like day in and day out. So earlier in my career, I think I felt like yeah, These camps are essential to get to. The tournaments are good and I want to beat some good guys and I’m going to run into (Mnatsakan) Iskandaryan or (Józef )Tracz, or somebody good. And then like I said, at the end of my career it was like, I’m chasing those guys down. Iskandaryan retired, you know, but some of the other guys were still around. I was chasing (Bakhtiyar) Baisetov, and (Filiberto) Azcuy. I wanted to get the guys who had been to the top, I wanted to beat them. So different times in my career, different goals.
From Summer’s Beginning
Lindland: I think it is a critical step in the right direction for the development of Greco-Roman wrestling in the United States. These young athletes get a chance to go over to Europe for two weeks and experience what the rest of the world is doing. Their eyes are going to be opened up and they’ll realize, Wow, there is a big world out there. We’re in this little fishbowl in the United States where we think the NCAA tournament is the biggest tournament in the world, and it’s just not. It’s not even a style anyone else in the world competes in. Wow, we’re the best in our own style. It’s kind of cute.
You know, maybe we lose a couple of these guys to the folkstyle system but frankly, maybe they aren’t the ones we want anyway. We want the guys who are passionate about it, who love to be able to challenge themselves at the international level, love the art of Greco-Roman wrestling and want to excel at it. And it’s not an art that is appreciated by as many in this country, but the ones who do, those are the ones we’re going to focus on. The guys who are making the effort to get overseas, making efforts to compete and attend training camps internationally. Those are the athletes who are going to get invited to the (Olympic) Training Center.
I am so blessed to have so many great volunteer coaches in our country. Guys like Shawn Sheldon and Lucas Steldt who are donating their time and taking these athletes over there. Then guys like Andy Cook and Zac Dominguez — there are just a plethora of coaches who have sent guys on this trip and maybe next year they will be the coaches who will be taking these athletes overseas instead of Lucas. Maybe it will be Andy or Zac. I’ve got a lot of great coaches who are willing to invest their time into these athletes and invest their time helping our Greco-Roman program get to where we need to be, and this is certainly a step in the right direction. For me, when people were calling and saying, I’m seeing this stuff now, we want to go over! I’m like, Well hey, that trip is full. If you want to do that, do it. Don’t wait until the guys are already in Europe to start inquiring about it. There is no time like now to start figuring it out. We can put a link on this article to the UWW events calendar. Are you a Cadet? Well then, that’s where you should be wrestling. Are you a Junior? This is where you should be wrestling.
8. How he responded when a fire interrupted Day 1 of the Senior Pan Am Championships in Brazil
From Team on Fire
Lindland: I was standing with (Ben) Provisor and he’s on deck. We’re right behind the stands in the hallway, behind the bleachers. So I said, “Okay, I’m going to pee real quick”, because we have six minutes. I went over to the bathroom and the next thing I see is smoke billowing out of the women’s bathroom right next to where I’ve got to pee and Ben goes, “Hey, that looks like a fire.” (Laughs) I’m like, “Yeah, I am seeing the same thing you are.”
About that time, they grab a fire extinguisher and shoot it at where the flames are coming out. Immediately, a flame of like 30 feet high and 30 feet wide just shoots out of the wall and heat just fills this entire hallway up. I’m like, “Dude, we should go.” We start to walk in the other direction away from the fire, which is towards the arena. I look up and (Kevin) Bracken is growling the guys off, like, Hey, we’ve got to get out! I didn’t know where Robby (Smith) was, he must have sprinted for the door because I don’t see him. We all ended up outside on the same side by the beach, and there are people pulling fire alarms. There’s no fire truck. We get outside, the building is still billowing smoke out of it, I’m counting the guys and still no Robby. He had scurried around to the other side of the building, he was out there ready to get on the bus and go (laughs).
We loaded everybody up on the buses and got back to the hotel, and then the rest of the story. We started up the tournament at 7:00am the next day, so it was a pretty early wakeup call — 5:00am the next day, get up, get over to the arena, get warmed up and start the tournament back on. But this stuff doesn’t surprise anyone. When you host a tournament in South America anywhere, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, it’s all the same. I think we made a pretty good argument for future qualifiers being held somewhere in North America. Toronto did a great job. Dallas, Texas, we could have used more marketing and promotion to get some fans in the seats, but no buildings were catching on fire. You could walk outside of the hotel without being afraid of getting robbed or dogs attacking you on the beach. So, you know, it happens.
7. Spotlighting a few performances from the Senior World Team Trials (John Stefanowicz, Cheney Haight, Robby Smith, Patrick Smith, and Mason Manville)
From Post-2017 Trials
Lindland: No, Stefanowicz started coming on the radar this year due to his international competitions and how he has performed recently here. You start to watch this guy and he’s doing better and better. But no, you don’t predict he’s going to beat Geordan Speiller. But he had a great tournament overall, a fantastic tournament.
Haight and Robby Smith
Lindland: It’s great to see them perform to the best of their capabilities. Like you said, they’re both on the back-nine of their careers, but they are both very capable athletes, they’ve both been there, they both have loads of international experience. And they are great leaders. I’m super happy to have them both on the team so they can show these younger guys. When I look at the roster, practically every other guy made their first Senior World Team. So yeah, it’s great to see those guys perform and still have it in the tank. They’re experienced and they know what it takes at the international level.
Lindland: I’m certainly happy for all of our World Team members for making the team and reaching the first part of their goals. But yeah, Patrick is somebody I’m fond of and have taken on a lot of tours and have seen his coachability and his eagerness to learn. He’s the consummate worker. The guy is a workhorse and extremely disciplined in what he does. And he’s not just an athlete. He’s a college grad who is in a master’s program now and it certainly didn’t hurt that during his abroad studies he included working out with several Swedish National Team members at some of their clubs over there. He was able to catch a couple of international tournaments, as well. He’s doing what it takes. I mean, how much fun would that be? You go over to Europe to take a class for a few months and get to do what you love to do, which is wrestle.
It wasn’t a surprise. I heard a lot of people say, That sure was a surprise. But no, Mason is a great wrestler, he’s a World Champion, and on top of that, he was wrestling Greco exclusively for eight, nine months this year at the Olympic Training Center, training alongside Kamal Bey. He did something really smart. He got a little injury and then he left and said, “I am going back to Penn State this year, so I’m going to move off-complex early so you can use that bed for someone else.” He came up with a plan not just to beat Kamal Bey, but to actually win a lot of really competitive matches in a really tough weight class.
6. Kamal Bey’s and Cohlton Schultz’s victories at the World Championships
From Post-2017 Junior Worlds (Bey’s gold)
Coach Matt Lindland: We brought Kamal in because he was an incredible prospect for our program. He was an incredibly talented, tough, and athletic young man. But putting himself in position this past year, he won a Senior medal. He’s won numerous Junior medals at international tournaments and then he put himself in position to win a Junior World title for the first time since Garrett Lowney, which is so exciting.
He’s definitely had his up’s and down’s this year. He lost to Mason (Manville) at the Senior World Team Trials and I think he was definitely the favorite heading into that tournament from the fans’ perspective. Both are very talented young guys and we’re seeing the whole youth movement that we’ve been talking about for the last few years. People are noticing it now, it’s not just me talking about it on the weekly reports or you reporting on the results we get from Junior tournaments. And sometimes I think those Junior results are overlooked by the fans because it’s overshadowed by what is going on in America only. I think a lot of the international tournaments happen in the winter while a lot of our wrestling fans, our general population of wrestling fans, are focused on high school and college results, and not paying attention to what’s going on internationally. It gets kind of lost, but it isn’t lost on us.
We’ve seen Kamal up, we’ve seen him down, but we’ve always known he has that ability and just to see him put everything together this weekend, the physical with the mental, the discipline and the structure that it takes…there are so many things that go into a World Championship-winning performance. You’ve got to go over to Europe; you’ve got to get rested; you have to get recovered; you have to get acclimated to the time zone; you have to cut your weight; you have to rehydrate; you have to fuel up; you have to get a good warm-up, and you have to cool down after each match. I mean, the list of things you have to do and the structure and discipline that it takes, and then to see a 20-year-old guy put that all together in a very short period of time is an incredible journey and I’m really just honored to have a small part in that.
From Ithaca (Schultz’s gold)
Lindland: Personally, I am very fond of Cohlton. He’s a very dedicated athlete who made a huge commitment and a ton of sacrifices. You know, he’s 16-years-old and someone who is willing to make that huge of a commitment and fully knows what it takes and what kind of sacrifices he has to make. It’s very impressive to see somebody at that age level not only make that commitment, but also follow through with that commitment. He just got his license so he could drive to practice (laughs). It’s an hour and ten minutes each way. At least. If there is traffic, it could be worse. But he makes it to every training session, whether he is driving or before he was driving. So his family has also made a lot of sacrifices for his career.
It also showed the rest of the team. I talked to you about how I had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with the Cadets this year just because of how the schedule worked out and because the World Championships were taking place late in the year. I really got to know these guys and spend a lot of time with them, and I have to feel like these guys are going to start to make that transition out of a mindset which says, Oh, I’ve got to wrestle at a D1 college, because all of these athletes are capable of competing at a Division I level. But again, that is not the highest level. I think they can see that they are capable of competing at the true highest level and I think they really enjoy Greco-Roman.
But the biggest difference is the experience Cohlton had over these guys. They were all asking, What’s it going to take, Coach? I don’t know, ask Cohlton what it takes (laughs). So Cohlton is like, Well, I had 28 matches international last year. I went to X amount of tournaments, eight weeks overseas at training camps, and 28 international matches, if I remember the conversation correctly. So these guys are like, Well, how do we do that? It started a dialogue to have those conversations and we’re already making plans.
The athlete he beat in the finals (Balint Vatzi), he also beat in the finals of the Croatia Open. It was the same wrestler, but it was also a different wrestler, because it was in the finals of the World Championships. He (Cohlton) handled him in Croatia and then he had a really close match (in the World finals) because that athlete was preparing for the World Championships. Cohlton knew that going in. He had that mindset of, This is somebody I am not going to walk over, but I know I can beat him. My favorite thing was after he won, he looked at me and goes, “How did I score that takedown?” He was just so happy. I said, “Oh, you snapped him down and went behind.” He had gotten himself in the flow state and that is a hard thing to do, where you’re not thinking, you’re just competing, reacting, and wrestling. There was no thought in that match.
5. The Fargo Nationals — how it helps, how it doesn’t, and where its value lies
From Fargo 2017
Lindland: This is a very tough, challenging tournament and wrestlers need to develop that toughness and resiliency, that grit. There is definitely something to be said for that. What I don’t love about Fargo is that we really don’t have a high number of athletes who are proficient in Greco-Roman. We’re sending guys out and telling them to get an underhook. But they’re not bringing their bodies close, they’re not keeping their heads up, they’re not controlling the body. There are so many technical things we can make small adjustments to if we just had a big enough network of coaches who were very proficient in Greco-Roman. That’s really what we brought Gary Mayabb on to do, to establish a network of coaches that way we can grow our sport of Greco-Roman. That way, eventually, when we tune in to watch Fargo, we’re seeing the same type of wrestling we already see in Croatia, Hungary, or Russia when we send our athletes onto the mat.
From Momentum Building
Lindland: Frankly, it’s not really Greco-Roman. It’s more of a “folkstyle-without-grabbing-the-legs” tournament. If you want to see our top young talent, you need to get to Akron, Ohio for the Cadet World Team Trials or Las Vegas for our Junior World Team Trials. This is where our Greco-Roman athletes are at. The Fargo tournament? It’s great. It gives athletes a chance to compete, they get exposed to it and hopefully someone will fall in love with the sport and want to continue.
We’ve got so many wonderful athletes in this country and if we could just get a few more to focus full-time on Greco, which I think is going to happen if we keep seeing the success our guys have been having. I think they are going to be the trailblazers, the Kamal’s, the Tracy’s, now we have Nick Boykin, who is a resident out here. We’re going to continue to grow the program and I don’t think I am the only one seeing the growth and the results. And I think we’re going to see a lot more athletes take a chance to just focus on the international styles because they don’t have goals to win a college title, they want to win World and Olympic medals. That is what I’m here to do, support the guys who want to do that.
From Live on Contact
Lindland: I don’t put too much stock in it. It’s just another event. Like I said, we’re always preparing for the next World Championships or the next Olympic Games. Hopefully, my guys who are full-time committed Greco athletes are thinking along those same lines and aren’t beating themselves up about Fargo. It’s a great event and congratulations to the gentlemen who won matches and took home titles. I’m very happy to see them have that success. But I don’t think it’s the end-all be-all. We’ve got bigger things ahead of us.
Look at some of the guys who had wonderful success. (Andrew) Berreyesa, he’s committed to go to Cornell, one of our few schools which has a Greco-Roman RTC (regional training center). So I mean, everything I saw out of Fargo was a positive. I don’t think we had big number drops changing it to Greco going last. I think the depth at the top is certainly getting deeper. They are beating more guys, and maybe they are just savvy, tough wrestlers and that’s why they were able to beat some of our full-time Greco guys. Either way, we’re getting more depth and that’s great to see.
4. General reactions to the Senior performance at the Paris World Championships
From After Paris
Lindland: Everyone wants to see results. I think one of the more disappointing things was that there were some performances that weren’t up to our guys’ best abilities. I think some of our guys fought up to their abilities and came up a little short. Guys like Tracy (G’Angelo Hancock), who wrestled an Olympic champion and now a three-time World champion and arguably one of the best guys in the sport. What was really great to see about that is that we’ve seen (Artur) Aleksanyan. You’d say, He’s a got a nice arm drag, he’s got an underhook he can drive you off the mat with for one point and if he gets on top, he’s going to gut you, but he doesn’t have a lot of tools. That’s actually not true (laughs). The guy has got a lot of tools and Tracy made him have to use those tools, and that was fun to watch.
But again, I am not too hung up on the results because I feel like we’re going in the right direction, we just might not have gone far enough. So it’s not, Go home and regroup. I mean, I’ve heard some other people go, Oh, back to the drawing board. No, that’s not necessarily the case. We are absolutely going in the right direction. We saw the results at the Juniors with the World champ (Kamal Bey). We know we have two other guys who earned medals last year at the Juniors (Taylor LaMont and Hancock). We have the guys in place.
No, I’m definitely not disappointed and I’m not about to point fingers or place blame on anybody. I’m the head coach and it’s my job and my goal to get results. But it’s also my job to care for and protect these guys, and help them reach their potential and find a way to get them there. There are a lot of things that takes and one of them is right now, a little more time overseas getting experience. We’re doing those things and getting results, we’re winning matches. But we have to put it together at the right time on the right day, and that’s at the World Championships. I know we are headed in the right direction and it’s at ramming speed (laughs). Just keep going forward. I think it’s an exciting time. It’s always darkest before the dawn, right? It sounds cliché, but it’s true. We’re right about to have that breakthrough team and it’s early in the quad. We’re moving into 2020 in a good place.
3. Lindland clarifies his response to the U23 World Championships and what he saw as the main issues leading to the result
From Post-U23 Worlds
Lindland: I think there has been a lack of understanding how serious of a situation our team is in and how serious we have to approach our sport at this level. We are competing against the best guys in the world and we’re trying to put our athletes in the best position to win medals at the Worlds and the Olympic Games. I mean, you see the interviews and read the things where our guys are talking about going out and eating this or eating that. How are we at a point now where we have to start talking about structure and discipline instead of that just being the norm, that we have structure, we have discipline, and that we have great leadership within our ranks?
There are four things that every one of our athletes needs to develop and that starts with character — good relationships with their teammates, their coaches, and their sponsors. I think they have to have their own identities, they have to know who they are, and that is a bigger issue we’re dealing with culturally. They also need to have a mission, a focused mission, and know what that means, where nothing is going to stop you from reaching your goals, certainly not yourself.
2. Mechanisms to build leadership
Lindland: I put them in situations where they are out of their comfort zones a lot of times. Whether that is leading a warm-up in front of a bunch of their peers, or taking them out and putting them on the river, or just different training situations and modalities where you can get athletes out of their comfort zones and you can make them uncomfortable. It makes them grow leadership skills.
As for what are the immediate benefits? You develop more of the individual. I think a coach’s job is not to just develop the athlete, but the full person, to help the individual. It goes along with the Olympic creed, which is about fulfilling your potential. If you’re not developing leadership skills, if you’re not developing character along the way, it’s hard to just have an athlete. We’ve seen example after example of athletes who have been great in the ring, on the courts, or on the mats, who just don’t make it to the finish line. They don’t get on the podium because they lack the discipline, they lack the structure, they lack the character qualities that it takes to be successful at the highest level. So you need to develop the whole person along the way. Certainly, we use wrestling to do that as our vehicle, but there are so many opportunities on the mat and off to keep building up these athletes and their character as men.
1. Why there is an emphasis on the US Greco-Roman program engaging in community outreach and how being grateful for opportunity translates to both competition and life off the mat
From A Purpose-filled Identity (Mission trip to Mexico)
Lindland: We were told a pretty interesting story about this time when the ocean got really high. All of the starfish washed up on the rocks, and there was this little kid just grabbing starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. An old guy then came up and said, “What are you doing? You can’t save all those!” The kid replied, “Well, I can save a few.” So that is what I am going to do.
For these guys who are competing, they have a lot of their identity wrapped up in who they are as an athlete and how they perform. With their identities so wrapped up in, If I win, it feels good, well, you have to continue to win to keep getting that feeling. If you don’t have a purpose-filled identity where you think of others, and your identity is only wrapped up in how you perform, there is a lot of shame when you don’t have success. I wanted these guys to understand that there is more out there than what they do. There is more meaning.
The other thought was that it doesn’t produce fear. When your identity is so wrapped up in how you perform, when you do compete, you tense up and don’t even perform up to your abilities. So I think this kind of stuff really helps change the mindset of our athletes and helps them build healthier relationships with everyone, but also with their teammates because we’re working together. We had four guys on the roof, we had four guys putting the walls up, I was working with a couple of guys building… I mean, we literally put a roof over someone’s head and changed their life forever. When they were living in a shack with the mattress on the dirt floor, when it rained the mattress would take on moisture and attract mold. It’s just an awful situation for these people to live in, so for them to have an actual floor and a roof over their head, it was a really fulfilling experience.
From Post-U23 Worlds
Coach Matt Lindland: You’ve got to be proud of what you did, there has to be some level of being proud, I accomplished a big task, a tough task, and not very many people do this. But there is definitely a difference between authentic pride and hubristic pride, and you really have to walk that fine line by essentially saying, Yeah, I’m proud of what I did, but I can’t be hubristic about it. The hubris is antisocial, it takes us away from that relationship we’re trying to build. We’re trying to build relationships with one another and they are going to help us move forward. Every one of those relationships we’re trying to build should be a positive relationship helping us move in a forward direction.
But if our pride in what we’ve done is more hubristic and we’re not grateful — not grateful for what we have done, not grateful for having had that opportunity, not grateful for our training partners and resources that the program and the USOC has afforded us, not grateful for traveling overseas to compete in multiple tournaments and train with the best athletes in the world — if we feel we are entitled to that, then it is hubristic pride, not authentic pride. So I think there has to be a real sense of what you’re looking at there and understanding yourself, which goes back to what we talked about in terms of identity. You have to know who you are, you have to understand what your core values are, what you stand for, who you are, and you really have to watch those things and you have to understand that we’re not doing this alone. In the sense that you are proud of what you accomplished, you are also very humbled and very grateful for all of the blessings that you have.