Episode 53 of the Five Point Move Podcast follows the two most recent World-level tournaments, looks towards the future, takes occasional glances at the past, and addresses several pressing matters which exist in the present.
First up on E53 is Northern Michigan University assistant coach Parker Betts, whose wrestling room in the Upper Peninsula currently boasts the majority of the United States’ best Greco-Roman prospects. Key among these athletes is “Mr. Fantastic” Benji Peak (72 kg), a wrestler requiring little in the way of introduction. Peak was on both the Senior and U23 World Teams in 2022, which meant an extensive, rigorous training schedule coming off of his return from injury this past April. Betts discusses Peak’s recovery and state of mind heading into the new season before the conversation switches to three other young NMU stars: ’22 U20 World Team members Jonathan Gurule (55 kg), Max Black (60 kg), and Payton Jacobson (77 kg). Also on the docket is the US’ impending trip to Sweden, of which Betts will be part, and he shares why this opportunity can provide a substantial boost to up-and-coming competitors who hold grand aspirations.
The second segment features one of the brightest minds in American Greco, ’21 Pan-American Championships gold Jamel Johnson (72 kg, Marines). A vast scope of subjects are touched upon by Johnson, including his thoughts on stepping away from competition. Due to the All-Marine Team’s skeletal status in the wake of the Olympic Year coupled with his actual Marine Corps career goals, Johnson has been force to de-prioritize competing as of late, an issue that has resulted in obvious bittersweet feelings but nevertheless requires confrontation. The Senior World Championships are briefly examined, as well, along with Johnson’s perspectives surrounding Greco-Roman development, education for officials, and what he sees as the style’s most glaring deficiencies in America.
A Few Highlights
Betts on the trio of Jonathan Gurule, Max Black, and Payton Jacobson following their first-ever appearances in a World Championships
“I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that when they got back, not that their attitudes have changed, but it has kind of gone in a different direction to where they have gone overseas now, they’re hungry for it, and they want it again. They are working even harder than they were last year, which is hard to imagine because they were working their butts off everyday. It looks like they have this vision now that they know what they want, and they know how to do it.”
Betts on his first year as a coach for NMU
“I would just describe it as ‘awesome’. Not only being back up there and being back in the room — and I’ve spent a lot of time in my life in that town and in that area. Practices were great. You know, it was a long time before we actually got to a competition, and actually going out and coaching. But once it started, it was a blast, and it went by so quickly. It is awesome coaching these guys during matches. It gives you a rush.”
Johnson on Greco officiating in the US compared to elsewhere
“It is very, very, very, very, very different. But you see, us talking about it, this is what goes through my mind: we have all of these criticisms, and maybe there are refs who will listen. That can do either one or two things. It can hit them and then maybe they do an internal investigation, such as, ‘Am I part of the problem? Or am I not part of the problem? Can I do better? Or, it can work the other way and become an ‘I’ll show them’ type of deal.”
Johnson on how the All-Marine Team currently functions despite no longer enjoying the full support of the service branch
“Technically-speaking, we still have practices. We have a couple of lieutenants who still hold practices Tuesdays and Thursdays. I know it’s not much, two days out of the week. But, we’re trying to keep it alive as best as possible.”
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