Northern Michigan University, United States Greco-Roman’s light on the hill, is now fully immersed in a new season of practices and competition. Head coach Andy Bisek and assistant Parker Betts have before them once again a promising collection of motivated young athletes, several of whom are well-known commodities. The objective thus remains the same as always: develop and cultivate the baseline talents while further sharpening the more experienced lot. That is indeed how it’s done in Marquette; and with growing momentum on their side, there is plenty on the horizon about which to become excited entering the 2022-23 campaign.
But first is some retrospection on the part of Coach Bisek with regards to four of his wrestlers, as well as himself. Just last month, “Mr. Fantastic” Benji Peak (72 kg) competed in the Senior World Championships; in August, Jonathan Gurule (55 kg), Max Black (60 kg), and Payton Jacobson (77 kg) made appearances in the U20 Worlds. Bisek speaks to what he hopes this most recent grouping of NMU World Teamers have gained from their experiences before sharing the key lessons he has absorbed since becoming a coach in ’16. To close out this edition of Marquette Matters, upcoming competitive plans for the team are also discussed.
5PM: What do you think is the most valuable lesson Benji has learned from his World Team experience this year?
Coach Andy Bisek: What I hope he has learned is that you know the date of the World Championships well in advance and it is going to come, whether you’re ready or not, and you have to believe that you are ready. I think he did at Worlds, but it came up quick. He is fortunate to have the U23 Worlds. To have to wait another year for that experience, I think that hurts. When he gets that opportunity ten days from now, I think he will feel, I’m glad that I don’t have to wait that long. I can get after it again right now. He came off the mat in Belgrade saying that he wasn’t tired but wasn’t able to produce a score.
Throughout the summer, I tried to share with him my own experiences from being on World Teams or watching others on World Teams. People tend to want to be that guy until it’s time to put in the work. Benji was at camp in Colorado the entire summer. It was a long summer for him, 50-something days of training. Not many people on the Team stuck it out quite like him. He had a close match in Belgrade (against ’22 European gold Robert Fritsch) but he still lost. It’s tough. That’s how it is. I think he is really fired up for U23’s and being able to come back a month after the Senior Worlds. It is enough time for him to let off some steam and pick it back up again. He has been training hard and seems to be ready to go.
5PM: You also had three Junior World Team members with Gurule, Black, and Jacobson. That was a first-time experience for them also. Betts said that it was very important for those three. What kind of impact do you think it had on them?
AB: Well, the impact is that none of them accomplished what they had set out to do. They have come back into the room as leaders after having made that Team, but they are also more driven. They are driven not because they are leaders, but because they missed out on accomplishing what they wanted after committing so much time to train for the Worlds. It is similar to Benji. They have had time to relax but are back training with even more motivation and purpose.
5PM: What about you? In December, you will begin your seventh year as a coach and have already coached at various World Championships. What are you learning when it comes to coaching NMU athletes at Worlds across several age divisions?
AB: What I have learned and have become accustomed to is that there are many different types of athletes whether that means physically, emotionally, or the mental aspect of it. My experience as an athlete was only with me. It was with one person. With everyone else so different, it is interacting with different types. It has been great. I am seeing how guys can be similar or close to the same on one thing but it doesn’t mean it will be that way for everything. I’m just trying to help them the best way I can to navigate the same circumstances, even though they made be set up differently for them.
5PM: There will be a trip to Sweden coming up pretty soon. It has been a few years since the program has had a trip like this one. For your athletes who will go but have not done so before, what is it that you want them to take away from the experience?
AB: This tournament, how it sounds like it is going to be, should offer a really cool experience. It will be some guys from here as well as some from around the country. I think that will be cool for them to come together. They will have the dual and get to represent the US together. Also, being in a foreign country, they will see how things are different but in some ways still the same. For a good handful of them, it will be a good start to their international careers.
5PM: We will have a New York tournament (Bill Farrell Memorial) in November, when it is supposed to be and where it is supposed to be. How many of your wrestlers will participate in that event? Also, what else do you have in mind for your guys between New York and the end of the calendar year?
Coach Andy Bisek: We asked for a show of hands just the other day and it seemed to be about a dozen or 15 guys who expressed interest in going to the New York tournament. That’s great. It is good to see that back. After New York, last year in December we trained with the Minnesota Storm. That is something we are interested in doing again. We will see what they have going on and if they are interested again, as well. I have heard of other things, like January Camp or something possibly overseas. Either that or January Camp is what we are looking at doing.
Listen to “5PM52: Two-Time Olympian Jim Gruenwald” on Spreaker.
Listen to “5PM51: Lining up with Tanner Farmer” on Spreaker.
Listen to “5PM50: Mr. Fantastic Benji Peak” on Spreaker.
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