2017 US World Team member Cheney Haight (80 kg, NYAC, world no. 18) just returned home from Budapest, Hungary, where he, along with the rest of the American squad, participated in an intense two-week training camp. Prior to that, Haight competed at the 2017 Tbilisi Grand Prix in Tbilisi, Georgia. He went 0-1 at that tournament, dropping a 2-1 decision to Varlam Kvaratshkeli (GEO) in which passivity points ruled the day. It all comes on the heels of an extremely busy period for the 32-year-old. After clinching the 80 kilogram spot on the World Team back in April, Haight won his second straight Pan-American Championships gold in Brazil. Next it was onto the first World Team camp in Oregon, a brief respite, and then Tbilisi.
We wanted to check in with Haight to see how camp in Hungary went for him personally as well as get his thoughts on the upcoming training phases the US squad will go through prior to the World Championships, which begin on August 21st in Paris.
5PM: Just real quick, your match with the Georgian at Tbilisi was one of several frustrating bouts that weekend where it looked like the American was the one applying pressure and making legit attempts, yet the calls didn’t go your way. You’re probably used to that to a degree, but what is your major takeaway from that bout? Is your biggest disappointment not getting more matches in? Or did the camp in Hungary kind of wash that away?
Cheney Haight: I think the camp in Hungary kind of washed that away just because you know where we were at before Georgia. We were up in Portland not doing any wrestling, just lifting weights and stuff. And I kind of felt in that match like my timing was off. Every time I felt like something was there, like a high dive or something, my mind just wasn’t hitting it. As soon as you have time to think about it, it’s already too late.
But once we got to Hungary, it was like six matches every time we went to practice. It was just a grind and it was all mostly on the mat, so I feel like I got that back at the camp. I think I was able to forget about the whole competition part of it.
5PM: You knew going in that the camp in Budapest was going to be heavy on live wrestling, so the question is, how did your body respond once the first week was out of the way?
CH: It was a grind the whole way through, but it was good once we got that over with because we have that base under us now. When we hit (the upcoming) camp, we’re not going to go through that again. I think if you asked the other guys, they’d agree with me in that we felt pretty tired throughout the whole camp, but I think that was the purpose of it.
5PM: Were there any adjustments you wanted to make in Hungary specifically?
CH: Mostly stuff Momir (Petkovic) and I have been working on. There have been times in the past when I’ve gotten too tense before my match. It makes me burn up energy too quickly. This entire camp, I wasn’t working on doing anything. I was still doing a lot of movements, a lot of positions, and a lot of actions, but with my mind, I was trying to stay relaxed the whole time and not overthinking stuff. That’s pretty much what I tried to focus on and I think I got a lot out of it.
5PM: When you are going live with international partners, how much of it is just all-out competitive aggression, and how much of it is paying attention to making improvements? Maybe that answer is different at different stages of your training.
Cheney Haight: That’s an interesting question.
5PM: In other words, at this stage, when you’re going live, are you trying to win?
CH: You are trying to win, but it’s both. You kind of want to get both out of it because like I said, it was five or six matches every single practice and it’s hard to turn every single match into a brawl. In my philosophy, you’re there to get better, so I don’t always want to just go for a win every single time, I want to figure out what I have to do to make progress with the practice. But at the same time, you still want to keep that competitive spirit going in. It’s both, really.
5PM: Now that you’re back home and you have a couple more stages of training before you leave for France, how do you feel overall not just physically, but your mentality, attitude, whatever?
CH: I feel good about what I’ve got behind me, like I said, with the two camps. I feel like I have a great base under me. Coming back from the camp, I’ve been writing stuff down. I have a good game plan going forward in how I want to approach everything. I feel good. I feel like I got a lot of good direction on where I am going to go from here, so I’m hopeful.
5PM: I might have asked you this on the podcast, but does this feel like it is going super-fast, this lead up to the Worlds?
Cheney Haight: I guess it kind of does. It felt like the camp took forever, but at the same time, it feels kind of shocking that we’re halfway through it, if not a little more than that. We’ve got one camp starting in July and then we’re going to be working with our residents here (at the Olympic Training Center) for a couple of weeks.
Below: Cheney Haight’s appearance on the Five Point Move Podcast from May.
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