Northern Michigan University’s Greco-Roman athletes have enjoyed a more familiar beginning to the season than was the case a year ago. As relayed by NMU/National Training Site head coach Andrew Bisek below, practice schedules and participation are ticking like normal — which is a good thing especially considering what is about to take place this coming week. The one hitch to the progress on campus in Marquette is related to construction. NMU’s beloved Superior Dome is currently undergoing renovations, thus forcing practices into the PEIF (Physical Education Instructional Facility). It might not be ideal, but it is temporary; plus, it beats having to split practice schedules into different segments, as was protocol last season.
The matter occupying the most focus at the moment is the U23 World Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia. Two NMU athletes are on the roster: Senior Trials runner-up David Stepanyan (63 kg, NYAC, 5PM #2) and ’19 Junior World bronze Alston Nutter (67 kg, Sunkist, 5PM #5). Originally, Benji Peak (72 kg, Sunkist, 5PM #2) was also on-board, since all three had won the U23 World Team Trials back in May. Unfortunately for Peak, an injury suffered during training camp last month meant his removal from the Team. Coach Bisek overviews some of the particulars involving the U23’ers, including Peak’s health status. The addition of former National-level competitor and Northern alumnus Parker Betts as Bisek’s assistant is also discussed, as are potential end-of-year plans.
5PM: What are practices like as far as the schedule, and the procedures in place, say, compared to las year?
Coach Andy Bisek: Practices this year are more what we’ve been used to prior to COVID. We have been able to get in practices in the morning and in the afternoons for everyone. They have just been more disrupted by the renovations we’re doing in the Superior Dome, with the new locker room and replacing the floor under the wrestling mats. They moved us to a temporary location for space reasons, which on some days we are staggered with two groups so we have plenty of space for the guys who are in there.
5PM: The first three U23 World Teams also had a strong Northern presence. This time, there are two guys from your room and a few others who used to be. Considering you also held U23 camp in Marquette last month, has there been more cohesiveness among this year’s group than the first three years of this tournament?
AB: I don’t think so. I wouldn’t necessarily say that, because this group with the guys who are no longer training at Northern plus the guys who are still here, are all still pretty close. They get along well, work together well, but I wouldn’t say it is anything more than in the past. The one year we had six or seven guys from Northern, but it was kind of the same.
5PM: How has Parker Betts assimilated into his role thus far as assistant coach?
AB: Parker is doing well. He is kind of figuring things out with the university and how things have been running since he was last here as an athlete. He has taken to the guys really well, and they have taken well to him. He has been able to support them in practice. Things have been great.
5PM: What is Benji Peak’s prognosis as of now?
AB: He had an MRI on his shoulder. He had dislocated it in October and it was a shoulder on which he had surgery in the past. From the MRI, the doctor suggested surgery. I believe Benji has some different options, and he is weighing it out to see which path he wants to go. We feel confident we will get him back to where he was, where he wants to be — and more.
5PM: One by one we are hearing that international tournaments scheduled throughout the next month are either canceled or are no longer viable options. If that is the case, how do you plan on keeping the athletes busy heading into the New Year?
Coach Andy Bisek: We have our finals week ending with graduation on December 11. Right now, we are looking to get a few guys down to the Minneapolis area to train with the Minnesota Storm for a few days that following week.
We were talking with Jay Antonelli and hoping for a trip to St. Petersburg (Russia), and then those dates kept changing. It was going to be after finals, through finals week, and now it looks like they aren’t going to do it (the trip). Even still, I knew that not everyone would be able to go overseas, so I wanted to try and put together something. What we are looking at doing is traveling to Minnesota for a few days and just get some friendly joint-training. I think that is something we need to do more of. We usually have people come visit us, so this time we are trying to make more of an outreach.
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