Five Point Move is proud to host USA Greco-Roman National Team head coach Matt Lindland each week for Coach Lindland’s Report. Here is where you will find detailed perspectives from Coach Lindland regarding results, training, upcoming events, and other Greco-related news that isn’t available anywhere else. ALSO — if you would like to donate directly to the US Greco-Roman program, just click here. Your support is appreciated!
Now back in the US and able to stay within the country’s borders for at least a few months, Coach Matt Lindland is still very much a man on the move, and that’s because of what lies ahead. The Pan Am Championships, scheduled to begin April 18th in Buenos Aires, brings with it an added importance for the American program, and Lindland speaks to the two-week camp at the Olympic Training Center that is intended to prepare the squad. Of course there is also Denmark, which was the primary topic of the last report. It was at Thor Masters where G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist, world no. 3) earned his third medal of the winter while a pair of prized prospects got their first tastes of Senior action. We close up with a look at a clinic held in Wisconsin by two-time Cadet World Team coach Lucas Steldt that Lindland was a part of, and why such opportunities are embraced by age-group athletes.
5PM: What was your biggest takeaway, in a positive sense, from Thor Masters the tournament?
Coach Matt Lindland: Our guys, they want to win. They want to go out there and do well, they want to improve, and they had plenty of opportunities to do that when we got to camp. They competed with a lot of heart and a lot of fight. We’re just missing some elements with a few of these younger guys and we have to address those issues, which we did a lot of at the camp in Nykobing.
My assessment of Cohlton Schultz is that he’s right where he needs to be at the Senior level, minus the fact that he was coming off of folkstyle season. I think he wrestled more in those two matches (at Thor Masters) as far as time goes than he did throughout his entire senior year of high school. High school wrestling certainly doesn’t prepare you for a Senior-level tournament of that caliber. But once he got into camp, you could tell the kind of wrestler he is and where he’s at against Senior-level guys. It’s very impressive to see a guy like Cohlton Schultz, and what about Dominic Damon? Jeeze. I saw him last summer when he was preparing for the Cadet Worlds but I hadn’t been around him a whole lot. I am super pumped we are getting that caliber of an athlete in our program at Northern Michigan. He’s the real deal. He wants it, he wants to win World and Olympic medals.
I think that’s the biggest difference. Those are the guys I want in Colorado and up at Northern Michigan. Unfortunately, I think we have a few guys in our program who are just here to make a Team, or make a National Team. Those aren’t the guys we want. We want the guys who are ready and willing to win World and Olympic medals, not just become All-Americans. I mean, we want those guys, as well. There is a ton of talent at the NCAA’s and that tournament was going on while we were in Denmark. I am excited for the guys who are going to come over, but it’s an afterthought for many of them. It’s like, Oh, once this college thing is over I am going to start pursuing my Greco-Roman goals. I want the guys who are dead-set and have a vision for where they want to go and what they want to do.
And we have those guys. Plus, we’re starting to get more of those athletes coming up to Northern Michigan. I am hoping that opens up the doors for these guys, that they see there is another route other than just the college system.
5PM: Prior to your leaving for Denmark, you had talked about Tracy (G’Angelo Hancock) and how he has become consistent in how he approaches training and competing. At the tournament he picked up his third-straight medal, a bronze, which came after a weird match versus Finland. But he also beat the U23 World silver after that. It has been a lot of stuff for him in terms of the traveling and competing thus far, and now he’s got the Pan Ams and everything else after. Is it very important for someone like him to manage his output with all these important events coming up the next seven to eight weeks?
ML: Well, I was very impressed he was willing to take chances and get himself overseas as much as he has. Look at all the countries he went to. He started in Croatia, we went to Hungary, then there was the camp in Hungary, and then he went to another camp in Germany. He finished that camp up and trained in Sweden, and then he found his way to Denmark and met us over there. And he competed very well. He completed a very tough camp after Thor Masters, too.
So yeah, there are definitely certain times that you have to rest. Tracy has become very good at figuring at what he needs to do, how he needs to do it, and when he needs to do it. When we got back, what did he have, five days between him finishing up the Denmark camp and our Pan Ams camp starting? He and I have been having great conversations and I decided to rest him for two days at the end of the camp. He needed those two days off and that’s because he put the maximum amount of effort he had into each practice. He gave every training session 100%.
If he was doing everything half-assed then it would have been, Okay, I’m going to push you for a couple of more days. But when a guy is doing everything you ask of him and he’s pushing himself — and he’s not doing it because you’re asking it of him but because he has big goals and knows what it’s going to take to reach those big goals — then it’s your job as a coach to recognize that and back off. When they’re backing off and tapering themselves, you’ve got a problem. When you need to step in and pull the reins back a little bit because the guy is working himself really hard, I think that is the right balance we’re starting to figure out with Tracy. Of course he needs rest and recovery.
5PM: In the previous report, you mentioned how gut defense had been a big focus and how that has been a concentration. At Thor Masters, the US guys overall did a really good job of defending, and even if they did get turned, were very adept at not giving up consecutive turns. That was something I noticed so I wanted to bring it up.
ML: I think it’s great you brought that up. We spent a lot of time in Hungary working on par terre for two weeks. A lot of those practices had par terre in them. It was either all par terre or they included par terre. We certainly had a lot of time to work on defense and that is actually on our schedule for Monday to bring that back, because obviously, not everyone at Pan Ams camp was in Hungary with us. So that is another area we are going to introduce here. We are going to review and go over it again. We are going to bring the film out and discuss that, let the guys play around in those areas and figure out some of it for themselves.
There are only so many things you can show guys. They have to start getting in those positions and play, have fun, and really discover what they’re capable of. We have some incredible athletes who understand the philosophies and principles of what we’re trying to do, and that’s where the art comes in. This is a martial art. We are training a martial art, and there is only so much principle and science involved, and the rest is on our athletes to self-discover.
But yeah, we are going to be working on that again and I’m glad you recognized it. We were working on cleaning up our par terre defense. We weren’t giving up multiple turns, and we covered it again that next week in Denmark. It’s not something you show and then you’re done, as if you have fixed the problem just because you identified it, recognized it, and started training that area. It’s something you have to constantly revisit in your mind’s eye as a very critical area, as something very important that has to be developed into a habit.
5PM: Speaking of Pan Ams camp, Week 1 is in the books and now it’s onto Week 2. What does this one look like compared to other camps and what has gone on so far?
ML: Right now, the Pan Ams camp is medium intensity and medium volume. We want to be prepared and we want to be ready. We had six training sessions last week on the mats and three lifts outside of those six mat training sessions. We also took two half-days off for meetings. We brought in a guest speaker for the mental side of the game.
The first week of camp was incredibly productive and we worked on some critical skills, particularly tightening up our locks and tightening up our pressure on top. It’s so hard to show this stuff because when you’re in par terre and you have a guy underneath you, it’s not so much the technique, there is so much about the position that you need to show. Yes, what it looks like is what I’m doing (laughs). But then they look at you, so you say, Okay, now feel. Feel it, I am going to get on top of you. And then it’s, Oh my gosh, I feel that pressure! So sometimes, they are missing that little bit of pressure and we wanted to work on that.
How do you create that pressure? By getting more of your body surface on him and not having just one acute point where you’re trying to jam a shoulder into his back. It’s covering his whole body and making him a part of you, and creating all of that pressure before you bring your legs and start to drive your legs through this guy. If he feels like he’s going to get turned even before you started to drive your legs? That’s a good gutwrench. And when they start to defend that, it opens up our other opportunities to lift guys off the mat. That is how you develop those little intricate parts of Greco-Roman.
We’re ultimately really focusing on our position in every area and aspect of where we are wrestling — on our feet, on top, and on bottom. We had some really good technical sessions and some hard live sessions. They have been short and intense. This week we’re having eight mat sessions and two rests because we’re backing off that lift on Friday before we head out on Monday for Buenos Aires. We are just really preparing these guys to the best of our abilities and creating an optimal training environment for them. Unfortunately, a lot of our Army WCAP athletes last week had their WCAP Forum, so we were missing some of those guys, but we had Max (Nowry) and Ellis (Coleman) who will be competing (at the Pan Am Championships).
Also unfortunately, one of our athletes has had some injuries and we are going to make one adjustment in our lineup at 63 kilos. Ryan Mango will hopefully step in, provided he gets clearance to travel. When you’re in the Army, you actually need to get clearance to travel outside of the country but I am optimistic that everything will work out. But yeah, Jesse (Thielke) was doing great in camp but he does have a lot of injury issues he’s dealing with, so he needs to get healthy and prepare himself to try and get on the Team so he can compete at the Worlds this year. But he has to take care of those injuries right now so we’re going to bring our #2 guy and still go down there and kick some ass.
5PM: Also at Pan Ams camp you had Dr. Paul Stolz, the well-known author, to talk about grit and other mental techniques. How have the athletes responded to these talks?
Coach Matt Lindland: Better than I could have imagined. I think our guys recognize that we have to continue to develop the mental side of the game. We talked about “lead sequence”, which is about dealing with struggles and problems. Struggle is good. If you read Scripture, you know that word “struggle” literally translates into the word “wrestling”. You’d say I am ‘struggling’ with this problem, or I’m ‘wrestling’ with this problem, or whatever. And we need to that struggle to overcome; we need that struggle to learn, to grow, and improve.
When we talk about grit, we have an acronym — growth, resiliency, instinct, and tenacity — but there is another letter that is not in the word grit, which is the letter R for robustness, the wear-and-tear factor, how you hold up, and to what degree you are worn down over time. And that’s based on the struggle. Do we suffer through it? Do we cope with struggle? Or do we harness the adversity and grow and improve from it and then rise to a higher level in our training, our abilities, and ourselves?
Those are really important areas and we dug into them for two days straight. Not two full days — we trained in the mornings and then Dr. Paul came down in the afternoon, and we had great sessions. The guys were super engaged and asking a lot of questions. Dr. Paul did such a good job. He got us on our feet, he got us into groups, and he had tools. He had his “real deal” cards and we talked about value. We all have different values in different areas of our lives. I have a different relationship with my wife than I do with my athletes, and so there are different things that I value. You start to discover who you are a little bit more. You look at a word and there are things in those words. What I discovered is that I am a pretty relational guy. I have to build good relationships with my athletes to do what I do. But are you achievement-driven? Are you internally motivated? Or are you relational?
We picked six cards and it was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of pressure because there is a stack of like, a hundred cards. And then he would say, Okay, you’ve got 57 seconds to identify your most prevalent attribute, and you can do it! At first I asked, Why aren’t you giving us more time? And he said, “The task expands to the time you allow.” If you shorten the time for the task, you can still get the task done. That was something I got to learn and grow from.
It was great. Paul did an incredible job. My coach (Mike Haluska) came and had a lot of fun. On the second day he went up to the Air Force Academy and toured the facilities. His brother graduated with the class of 1963, which to you and I might not mean anything at all, but people in the Air Force Academy know what that means. That was the first graduating class from freshman to junior at the academy. The town has certainly change since then. But Coach Mike saw our practices and hung out on Friday afternoon. It is always great to have your mentors around to see how you’re doing and evaluate you.
5PM: When it comes to the Pan Am Championships, and how the stakes at this tournament have been raised a little bit, what do you tell the athletes? Because the event has taken on a different tenor this year, do you relay that to the team?
ML: I don’t think I need to say that so much, but I do. We have discussed its importance. It’s not just this year, but we do still have to qualify five weights for the Pan Am Games coming up at the end of the summer. We want to take a full team to that. We won the Pan Am Games in 2015 when I first got out here, which was the first time our country won that tournament since 1975. That was a pretty cool thing, to go out there and win the Pan Am Games.
I want to take our best team (to the Pan Am Championships), which is our 2018 World Team, and we need to do well so we can have every athlete represented at the Games in order to accomplish what we did last time. So, not only is this year important to take our guys to the Pan Am Games, it’s also about next year. Because if we don’t get it done at the World Championships in 2019, then we’ve got to do it in ’20 at the Pan Am Qualifier and we’re wrestling these same guys.
We have kind of changed the importance of the Pan Ams, and I think overall, it has changed how we view the program. When the US Open comes first, that is seen as the priority with the Pan Ams coming the week after. That’s not what we’re doing anymore. The US Open is not what we’re in this for. We are trying to become the best team in the world and the best wrestlers in the world. Making the Team is just part of that process. Our actions are matching up with what we’re saying now more so than ever before by putting an emphasis on the Games. Quite frankly, if we’re not able to perform up to what we’re capable of at the Pan Ams, it’s going to be really hard to do that at the World Championships.
I am looking forward to this year. Putting more of an emphasis on our Continental Championships, our Pan Am Games, the World Championships — we’re thinking globally now. We’re thinking of how to become the best team in the world. Our athletes aren’t just trying to make Teams anymore, it’s a different mindset. It’s a medalist mindset. That’s what we’re looking for.
5PM: You hardly got any rest when you returned from Denmark because soon after you arrived home, you had to turn around and fly out to Wisconsin to head up a clinic at Combat in Wisconsin, the club run by Lucas Steldt. We talk a lot about development, but what seems important here is the environment. There was likely a lot of enthusiasm from these age-groupers in attendance.
Coach Matt Lindland: No doubt, I’ve been running pretty hard. I’m trying to build Senior World medalists while still working to help develop our pipeline. I was home for 12 hours and eight of those hours I got some sleep. The other time was spent unpacking, packing, and going to the airport.
It is important to me to get in front of guys who are all-in for Greco-Roman in the United States and that camp is an important one for me. My first year here, Lucas asked me to come out and I have been able to do it every year. This year, it meant a lot, too, because it fell right on top of the folkstyle nationals — as if we don’t have national tournaments for folkstyle in this country. With the emphasis on folkstyle in this nation, a lot of coaches and wrestlers love it. But at this camp we had athletes from Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa. There was even someone from Connecticut. All of these athletes were there because they want to do Greco-Roman wrestling. They want to get better and they have goals of becoming Cadet and Junior World champs. It’s important for me to share that same information, those same principles and philosophies that we talk about with our Seniors.
As I was saying to the attendees at the camp, I told them, You are all just coming off of folkstyle so your position might not be there yet, and if we can just get you into the proper position…. The rest of the world does not have better arm throws, gutwrenches, and bodylocks than we do in the US. They just have a more disciplined position, more integrity in their stance, their centers are lower, they drive with their legs more. They don’t lean and push or get their chests over their toes.
If we stay in proper positions longer, we are going to develop a lot faster. But when we are switching styles back and forth — and the positions in folk and freestyle just aren’t the same for Greco, they are different arts — it is more challenging. The first thing I am doing is just trying to get athletes’ bodies into proper position, getting them set and centered, and helping them get their weight balanced. And then I don’t even need to show much technique! They already know most of the techniques, but that’s the job of their club coaches anyway for when they go back and train. My job is to get them excited about wrestling Greco-Roman while helping them understand the science of it, and then just letting them go out and play with the art and techniques.
One way that I learn is by teaching others, and man, we are just not in these positions enough. We are spending nine months out of the year bent over, our chests are over our knees, our hips are back, and we are completely out of position. That’s what feels normal to kids. It feels normal to reach and grab for someone’s head. In Greco, you are going to get arm thrown doing that. You are leaving all this space for your opponent to rotate underneath and hit hip tosses, arm throws, and all of those rotational turn techniques.
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