The first full week of ‘January Camp’ 2023 is now complete with only two more days of activity left to go. It has been a sizable group of athletes at the US Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, many of whom well-established Seniors and younger, fast-developing types.
Most years, winter camp at the OTC for Greco is about setting a foundation for the remainder of the season. While that is part of the intent in ’23, there are other motivations which seemingly own priority. One is the attempt to engineer unity and a willingness for collaboration. They are chasing positive emotions, which stands to figure why athletes (and some coaches) are filling up their social media accounts with clips of throws and techniques tethered to pseudo-inspirational phrasing. Those who are steering the Greco program’s ship at the moment are trying — very hard, it would appear — to encourage a message that points towards a more cohesive attitude.
Following months of turmoil, various coaches and leaders wish for stability. Athletes do, too. So cling they must to each flicker of hope, such as Cheney Haight stepping in as the National Developmental Coach, a move that should have (and could have) been made two months ago. ’05 World bronze Justin Ruiz, who in the fall assumed USA Wrestling’s Director of Donor Relations role, is also currently Greco’s acting General Manager. For however long Ruiz occupies this particular task-set, the one item onto which those involved with the program can grasp is that at least they know the man making organizational decisions is suitably solid both in knowledge and character.
One step at a time, Greco-Roman in the United States is aiming for progress. As far as how much progression is actually being made will remain unknown until after the summer, when the ’23 Qualifying Worlds pops up on the calendar. In the shorter-term is next month’s Grand Prix Zagreb Open (Croatia). Zagreb, a “Ranking Series” tournament, is not to be seen as a test of the program’s viability, but rather a check-in on the participating athletes’ respective statuses. Nothing more, nothing less, as the winter European tour for the Americans was booked more for training’s sake than as a hardcore competitive excursion.
Assistant US National Team head coach Herb House is heading up the still-ongoing ‘January Camp’ in addition to fixing his eyes on future concerns. House provided several insights earlier this week with regards to camp and what he sees as the path forward for the athletes.
5PM: How has the condition of the athletes been thus far? And how has the level of enthusiasm been?
Herb House: I’d say that the athletes came in pretty good shape. We did some live-wrestling a couple of days ago and it was pretty intense. The guys aren’t too out of shape. I think they wrestled great, they’re in shape. Their enthusiasm is at the top of the level right now. These guys are happy. I had a couple of athletes come up to me and they said how they are loving the camp and that we are uniting. That is the goal right now. We want to become one family. One of the biggest mantras that I always say to these guys is that ‘We are one team, and when you’re in this room you are Team USA’. We’re not NYAC, Sunkist, or the Army, we are all Team USA when we are in the room together. That is the message I want to try to bring to these guys, that we are all one family. They buy into that. They like it, they’re all excited. I’ve asked the wrestlers after practices about how they feel, and they all say that they love the camp and like what we’re doing. So, it’s going well.
5PM: Describe the thought behind bringing in some of these foreign influences as coaches. Obviously Borrero has been in the country for a minute now, but what was the general idea behind the rest for this camp?
House: I think that my biggest idea was to get these guys here because they all live in the US. For example, Borrero was here; we called in Manny Rubio, who used to be a National Team coach for Cuba and Mexico. He lives in Arizona. I just contacted everyone and said, Hey, if you guys are in the US, do you want to be a part of our Team? And they jumped in the car and paid their own way to get here. I got them meal passes and access to the OTC, but the majority of it they took care of themselves. They want to be a part of our organization.
I want to give different looks. Different coaches, their experience, different international experience… Some of the guys who don’t usually go overseas miss out on being taught by international coaches. This is their opportunity to have these guys here in their own home. They have the ability to be taught by international coaches and train with international wrestlers.
5PM: As the camp progresses, what are you hoping to see more of? And what you do not want to see?
House: I’m hoping to avoid seeing complications, a lack of team unity, and not giving 100%. That’s what I don’t want to see. What I do want to see is for these guys to go out there and trust the system while trying to improve their skills. I want them to absorb what everyone is teaching them. I want them to grab a pen and paper, and write it down. I want them to ask the coaches about it, analyze it, and come back the next day to try and fix it. One of the biggest things Borrero has told us is that in order to get better, it takes small things. Just small things each practice.
You don’t get it all overnight. You don’t get it in five days. But if you go and practice that move five to ten times everyday, that is what’s going to get you to the top. I want these guys to practice, practice, and practice, and get something out of it. Our main goal in par terre is understanding par terre. Getting on top in par terre and being able to turn our opponents. We have to be able to get small details about our wrestling in order to make sure that we are successful internationally.
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