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!
“Base Training Camp” for the 2018 US Senior World Team wrapped up last weekend in Eagle Creek, Oregon, and that serves as the primary topic for this week’s Report. Coach Lindland provides his insights as to how the athletes responded to the curriculum that was centered heavily around laying down the physical foundation for “Worlds season” as well as team building. The World Teamers came out of the camp offering rave reviews but for one outlier who is addressed below. In addition, it’s what comes next that is also an emphasis, as Lindland shares details regarding what the camp in Vegas is going to entail.
5PM: You had certain goals that you wanted to reach for this camp in terms of both work on the mat and team bonding concerns off of it. Were those goals accomplished?
Coach Matt Lindland: I think we accomplished a lot of goals in several different areas throughout this camp. It was a lot of fun just to be around the guys and see them come together as a team a lot more so than I’ve ever seen a team do this, at least since however long I’ve been coaching. We’re seeing these athletes not just work together, but actually hold one another accountable in a lot of different areas, and encouraging each other to step up and lead.
We did things a little differently. I talked about the paradox of trying to bring a team together by splitting them up into smaller groups. That’s what we did; we broke the guys up into groups according to which days they are scheduled to compete at the World Championships. Each team had its own leader, and within those groups, other leaders emerged, as well. It wasn’t just the guy who was the assigned leader of that team. We had other guys step up and do as good, or maybe even possibly a better job of leading than some of the leaders. Because — they were supporting the leader and trying to help their teammates fill that role. That was really positive and encouraging to see.
Every morning had a run, whether it was a long run up the hill, a slow and steady run, or sprints up the hill. Every morning at 7:00am we ran. Then they came back to have breakfast. In terms of encouraging more accountability, each team was assigned to cook breakfast. One team would have to cook breakfast, another team would have to clean the kitchen. For the most part, I thought the guys did a really good job of doing that. You know, it’s actually fun when you can serve your team in whatever capacity. If you clean the kitchen, you’re serving the team. Cooking a meal and feeding your teammates, that is an opportunity to serve. It really takes that element of selfishness out of the equation. It’s like, Okay, our team has to work together, we have to prepare this meal. Then the other team has to come in and work together to tidy the kitchen up. There was a lot of good stuff happening on that end.
We also had a lot of great discussions and some really positive things came out of those team meetings. We looked at where our program is and what are the gaps that we need to close. One of the things at the very end of camp that we really nailed down on how to get better as a team was communication. We need to communicate better with one another. We need to focus on what kind of image it is that we’re portraying. That just comes with being a professional, in every aspect of what we do — on the mat, off the mat, how we prepare, how we compete, and how we live our lives.
Accountability was number three on the list; holding yourself accountable, holding your teammates accountable. Number four is something I’ve been talking about, which is that we have to have a sense of urgency. The guys came up with this list. Maybe subconsciously they heard me talking about it, but this list was developed by the team. And finally, trust and respect for one another. We have moments where we are doing really good and we have respect for one another, and there are moments when we don’t do so good. But those are the five things we need to focus on, drill into them, and keep working on developing. It’s not one thing you talk about and put away, it is something you revisit every opportunity you get. If I can be a better communicator with my athletes, then maybe they will communicate better. If I can portray a better image, hopefully they will, too. I definitely hold myself accountable and want to be held accountable by others, as well.
Leading by example is important. I definitely feel like I give everyone trust and respect until they give me a reason not to, and my trust varies sometimes. But I want to trust my athletes, and I want them to be trustworthy. I want them to do things that I can trust and believe in them. For the most part, I was very happy with the way that went.
5PM: Your 82-kilogram representative, Geordan Speiller, did not appear to have enjoyed his time at the camp and disagreed with certain aspects of the curriculum. He made this all very clear but he is apparently the exception. How do you address a situation like this with an athlete?
ML: I think it sounds like Geordan possibly came into camp with a negative attitude, just from what I’m hearing. He didn’t necessarily come into camp prepared and he didn’t show up with the right attitude. This camp was about working together as a team, building that camaraderie and bonding with one another. It doesn’t sound like he had that experience, although I believe the other nine guys did get a positive experience and benefit out of this camp. It’s really the mindset you come in with. It’s critical. And so, it sounds like he needs to make some adjustments to his mindset and the way he approaches it.
These issues weren’t addressed when he was at camp. This is what I am hearing from a third-party now afterwards. None of these things were addressed. When we went through all of these issues, communication was at the top of the list and that’s an area where Geordan probably needs to spend the most time working on, that communication piece.
There were definitely opportunities to customize certain workouts. There was one athlete who came to camp with a specific plan in place. He said, Here is my strength plan and this is what I want to continue with, and we made adjustments for him individually. The other guys who came to camp were on the plan that we had. The guys who came to camp from Colorado Springs work with Morgan Flaharty and he was monitoring their training and their plan, and we continued on with that plan. The athletes who came into camp flexible got on board and followed the plan we had in place. The athletes who had a plan in place, we continued to work their plan. Really, that comes down to communicating and I never heard from Speiller that he had a plan in place or a plan that he wanted to continue. And the training he did, I didn’t feel all of it was 100% on board, I feel like he went through the motions on a lot of things and I think his teammates recognized that.
5PM: The strength-and-conditioning, the focus on the laying down the base, was a main focus of this camp both last year and this current season. There was a change in how it was run this time with the core training aspect. How did you like this added wrinkle and what kind of advantage do you think it offers?
ML: I was very happy with how the training went, and that consisted of strength training and different circuits. We brought in Joel Berens from SPIKE Training, who works alongside Dennis Hall. I’ve worked with him on a couple of separate occasions. I brought him out to Colorado Springs and then we reconnected when I was up at Northern Michigan. Dennis and I have a very similar philosophy and Joel was brought in to translate that philosophy in a different way. He’s coming at it from a purely athletic standpoint. He’s not a wrestler, he hadn’t been around wrestling before he and Dennis connected, so he offers a different perspective for the athletes in regards to holding their centers, maintaining their stance integrity, and building that foundation, that base.
You’re correcting habits that these guys have had since the first time they ever stepped on a mat. The way we teach wrestling in the American culture is that the more moves we think we know, the better the wrestler we are. That’s just not true at all. Some of the best wrestlers in the world have one or two techniques that they go to, but they can hit them on everybody. They can hit their techniques on the best guys in the world even if they know it’s coming. That’s because they focus on their foundation, they focus on their base, their position, and their stance integrity first. Then they develop the skills and the techniques later. That is something the athletes can develop on their own, and once they have the foundation in place, they can be the artists and create those kinds of technical things that maybe I would have never thought of because they are in that position and we all come at the sport from a different perspective.
The techniques are important because they are what scores, but if you don’t have a solid foundation it is hard to get yourself into position to where you are going to be able to execute any techniques against the best guys in the world.
So all in all, it was an outstanding camp. I was very happy with the way we put it together. Morgan Flaharty did a great job with the strength-and-conditioning side. Speaking of trust and respect, he is someone who has gained the trust and respect of all the athletes and the staff included. We’re really fortunate to have Morgan step up and take on that role. Because you know, Greco-Roman in this country right now is not of the highest priority for the USOC (United States Olympic Committee). We haven’t performed, we haven’t won medals, and so they haven’t given us a lot of resources as far as a full-time strength-and-conditioning coach. Morgan stepped up and took on that role because he has that knowledge, education, and desire to help Team USA. With being a part of Team USA, I think he has a sense of urgency to help us get to where we need to be.
5PM: It was a two-week camp. Did you notice any kind of evolution among the athletes from the time you arrived in camp to the time it ended?
ML: Yes, definitely, especially when we got to the end of camp and we were discussing what we need to get better at. I think the guys were already getting better at those things, and that’s why that list was a lot easier to develop, because they recognized the things we can do better. Just in those two weeks together, there were some times where we had opportunities to go, You know what? We could do a better job of being respectful; we can do a better job of promoting the right image and holding one another accountable. I think those things spawned out of the fact that we saw that maybe we weren’t on top of our game in terms of some of those items. We can get better, and we got better throughout the camp. But like I said, it’s not something we can just talk about, it’s something that we have to focus on and reinforce.
When we go to Vegas (the next scheduled World Team camp), we are going to have not just our Juniors watching us, we’re going to have all eyes on us because the Junior Team will be training with the Senior Team, and we have to really be diligent in leading by example in showing what good communication, a good image, accountability, and respect for one another looks like. Plus, we’re going to have cameras on us the whole time because we will be filming a lot of this camp since it has a completely different purpose. This (Vegas) camp is about developing our own individual attack plans. We’re not going to share that information with everybody (laughs), but we’re going to share clips and highlights of what we’re doing. So, eyes are going to be on us in Vegas. And if we get better — which I know we will — then even more eyes are going to be on us from the whole wrestling community.
We really have to focus on those things and concentrate on hitting our marks pertaining to the five things I mentioned, the five things our Team decided that we need to focus on really getting better at. And I need to focus on creating opportunities for these guys to get better at these things.
That’s what the camp in Vegas is going to be about. We’re going to work on technical things in the morning, we’re bringing in some extra coaches, we’re bringing in a few extra training partners as coach-player kind of athletes, and we’re also going to have our Juniors there. They are going to have a great opportunity to focus on what kind of attacks they want to hit when they head over to Europe once camp ends.
5PM: You have a collection of first-time Senior World Team members. Adam Coon and Sam Hazewinkel kind of stand out because they hadn’t been around on a full-time basis, or at least Hazewinkel hasn’t in years. How did they acquit themselves during their time at the camp?
ML: I mean, I really enjoyed having them there and I know the rest of the Team did, as well. I think they bring a lot to our program. I think they bring some of those things we might be lacking, especially a guy like Hazewinkel, or Coach Hazewinkel, I should say. He’s a head coach at a university (Oklahoma City University). He knows what it takes to be a leader. He’s a father, a husband, he leads in many capacities and areas of his life. His career is about leading a team. Sam brings a lot to that, and Adam does, too, but it’s in a different way. He doesn’t have the same experience Sam does in terms of leadership but some guys have that ability within them to where they are leaders. And then there are some guys, like I talked about earlier, who just stepped up even though they weren’t appointed that role. But they stepped up and maybe picked up the slack for a younger leader. They weren’t there trying to one-up the leader; they were just trying to provide support along the way, and we saw that with a lot of our guys.
I think the part about caring for your teammates and just loving one another in that capacity, just saying, I don’t want to one-up this guy, I want to help him. I want to encourage and support in whatever way I can. Adam and Sam probably showed that better than anyone else because they brought that with them. They have been on a lot of teams. Some of the other guys hadn’t been on teams before, they’re young, and like you mentioned, there are a lot of first-timers. It’s a different environment when you go through this a second and third time, like Hazewinkel. Adam Coon has been on a lot of pretty high-profile teams in college and everything else he has been through in his life. I’m very happy to have them and I think everyone on the Team is excited to have those guys be a part of what we’re doing.
5PM: Was there any one or two athletes who impressed or surprised you more than others?
Coach Matt Lindland: No question, Ellis Coleman. He is super passionate about wanting to be on a team of quality men and he is leading by example. He had many opportunities to step up and help his teammates and he took advantage of those opportunities. I was really impressed with him.
Jesse (Thielke) is in a really good spot mentally and we’re seeing him undergo some real growth spurts regarding his maturity, lifestyle, and discipline. He’s a great leader because people are going to look at him since he is a phenomenal wrestler, but he also has character behind his excellence on the mat. He has the character that he is developing alongside the wrestling skills.
Those two guys right now, there were other guys who had their moments, but those two stick out, Ellis and Jesse. For Jesse, Hazewinkel had to leave after the first week. He has a family and full-time job as a head coach with a lot of commitments on his own, so Sam had to bow out after the first week, but he did a really good job setting Jesse up for success. Jesse took the ball and kept running with it as far as leading his group in the absence of Sam Hazewinkel.
I think it was a great question because there were guys who stepped up and did an amazing job.
5PM: What about two of the fresher faces in the group? Dalton Roberts and Jon Jay Chavez had been on age-group World Teams. This is their first time as Seniors. Were they at all wide-eyed, did they expect something different, and were they surprised by anything?
ML: I didn’t see that. I didn’t see any big surprises. There was quite a lot of volume of work. The load was pretty heavy. We tried to do a lot of recovery. This year we were very fortunate that Dr. Marie Ruddack and Phil Reget came out to help us with our camp and both provided services for us. Phil is a massage therapist and Marie is a chiropractic doctor, and I think that added a lot to the camp. We didn’t have that connection last year. That was something I wanted to add and I was very fortunate and blessed as a team that they came out to provide their services to the Team. I think that really lifted the spirits of the guys.
I think the guys were starting to get tired and a little worn down. There was one morning when we were getting ready for our scheduled run Morgan came to me and intimated that he felt the guys could use a walk and a visit instead of a run. Those types of things, making adjustments — they are things good coaches see and make the call, and Morgan did a good job with that.
So I don’t think they were overwhelmed at all, the young guys. I think I made it clear what the expectations were going to be. Before camp started I handed them a written schedule. There might have been a little bit of a, Wow, okay, but they knew what needed to be done and the guys worked really hard. There was no question they were tired. But there is definitely a time for work and a time for rest, and we structured the camp in such a way that there were opportunities to rest. I told you my plan was to limit some of the extracurricular activities and I think we did a better job of that. Although — we’re in my hometown and people wanted to take the guys shooting, rafting, and really, just wanted the athletes to experience everything the Northwest has to offer. We also had two workouts at Team Quest where we did our MMA training on Fridays. That was kind of a refreshing break and the guys were really looking forward to that. It’s a fun environment. It’s fun to just punch things and kick some bags and pads, and each other (laughs). I think overall that they managed everything very well and handled the expectations accordingly.
5PM: Between now and Las Vegas camp, are athletes encumbered to individual training plans or is this time leading up to be seen as net downtime?
ML: Not at all. They have been sent home with specific strength plans, plans from Joel. I’d like to see the guys start to get back on the mat, as well, but continue the strength-and-conditioning while incorporating some mat work. When we get to Vegas we are going to have a lot of opportunities to be on the mat, but it’s only five days, and those five days are going to involve cognitive work because we are going to be talking about their own systems for attacking. Their systems to get to their attacks, their first positions, their first contacts, their tie-ups, and from those tie-ups, their best positions to execute along with their secondary attacks and how they are going to chain different techniques together when the first attack is countered.
There will be a lot of time on the mat but we’re probably not going to grind these guys down at all because we’ll be headed into a competition. But, we are going to put some time and work in, and like I said, there are going to be quite a few more discussions. We are going to work on the items we discussed earlier, things that the Greco-Roman program wants to get better at as a whole. We are going to continue to have those conversations, but really, it will be about individualizing your systems of attack.
5PM: Realizing that you’re going to the German Grand Prix and that it should be well-attended, is it too far out from the Worlds to begin scouting opponents, or is that time fast approaching?
ML: Yeah, I was just talking to Gary (Mayabb), we need to get a letter out to the guys because I want them to bring their own laptops so I can dump some matches on their computers from my various hard drives where I am storing film. We’ll definitely have opportunities to go over that throughout the next two weeks, for sure, in our own programs, and when we get to camp we will continue that scouting process. But a lot of it is going to come down to how they perceive the matches. As coaches, we can write down, Oh, this guy attacks left and guys right, or whatever. But unless you are watching it, writing it down and taking mental notes, I think it is much more valuable to have the athletes watch film on their own. To watch different guys to see what they are doing, that way if we are matched up against a specific opponent we have a really good idea of how we would approach that match — not necessarily different from what our attack plans are — but to just look out for specific tendencies or opportunities where we can find weaknesses in our opponents and opportunities to score, as well.
I think scouting should be ongoing and something an athlete can do every night on his own. In the 90’s, you had to wait for videos to get back from Europe and it was all on VHS and mini DVD or whatever. Now, it’s all online or in Dropbox, you can send a link to them. We’ve been doing a lot of this here in Colorado throughout the year. Every week we have a film session where we break down three or four matches and we discuss what we all saw and what we took away from the matches. We have kind of been teaching the guys to do that on their own, but really, that’s just discipline. It is putting in the time and the effort. You know, just every night, sit down and watch a couple of matches. It should be an enjoyable process, honestly, if you’re a fan of the sport and into the sport. And at the end of the day, it’s going to help you get better, why wouldn’t you take that opportunity every night?
5PM: You were away at camp while Fargo was going on, so it’s a simple question: do you plan on watching any of the tournament that you missed?
Coach Matt Lindland: Well, I certainly plan on watching the finals and bronze medal matches, just looking at the names. And — I have watched a couple of them already. There were some guys who we’ve had the opportunity to work with on Cadet World Teams and stuff like that. They were performing very well at the tournament, so just to keep an eye on those guys. I know there were a lot of great matches. I know when we get to those finalists and those top-three guys, and at some weights it’s a little deeper, we have phenomenal guys up and down the board. Hopefully, we can keep some of these guys on a Greco-Roman path. If not a complete Greco-Roman path, at least a dual-path where they are at a college that supports Greco-Roman. And not just supports it, but encourages their passion and what they love to do.
Either way, I am hoping to keep these athletes involved and to stay connected with them at some level, even if they go into an NCAA type of program. There are some guys who will get immersed in it, and there are some guys who will stick with our path and as soon as their seasons are over we will see them out here in Colorado getting ready for Junior or Senior Nationals and trying to get on Teams throughout the summer.
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