NYAC International Tournament

 The international wrestling season is well under way, but in actuality, there are no concrete seasons since major tournaments are held throughout the entire year. The only point of reference we have in the international community is the World Championships For and Olympic Games. Since these events are considered the end of the season, the time immediately after is the start of the new season. I have had my athletes compete in four different tournaments in three countries already this season. On November 10, the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) hosted its annual international tournament, Yakutsk, and for my men who wrestle for the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club/NYAC, this tournament was the end of their fall season. As such, this is a perfect time to reflect on our training, so we can adjust our future training to fit our needs moving forward.  

Here is a quick rundown of how the fall went for our CKWC wrestlers:

Jimmy Kennedy, 60kg

The NYAC tournament was the third tournament this season for Jimmy. In his first tournament, Jimmy wrestled at the University World Championships in Finland. I would have loved for Jimmy to win this tournament and believed he was ready to win, but as we all know things happen for a reason. Jimmy went there with high hopes and came away with nothing to show for all of his hard work. International wrestling is tough. You can travel all that way and not even get a chance to medal. Jimmy was not happy at all after this tournament. I remember him telling me that he knows how he is capable of performing and that he was not going to leave Russia empty-handed. I have known that Jimmy was something special from the time I arrived back in Ann Arbor a year ago. He has a perfect mix of speed, agility and strength that I haven’t seen in a long time. Jimmy was young last year and was cheap jerseys more worried about letting down the people in his life by losing than just wrestling to win. So when Jimmy went to the Ramzan Kadyrov tournament in Russia and placed third, I was not terribly surprised. This may be one of the toughest tournaments in the world; you do not place in this tournament by fluke.   Jimmy was riding high on his accomplishment of winning bronze in Russia, and I knew it was going to be hard to push him through all the way until the NYAC tournament. I was not concerned about his strength or conditioning, we as a team have been working really hard and wanted to make the NYAC tournament a focus for our training and an end point of hard work. Jimmy pushed through it and did everything he was supposed to in order to compete at his best for the NYAC tournament. I think knowing Reece Humphrey was going to be there was extra motivation for Jimmy as he made his final preparation for the tournament.   On tournament day Jimmy was calm and focused. His attitude is such that he knows he is going to win every time he steps on the mat. I love that attitude, because anything other than this will make it impossible to win at the highest level. In his matches, Jimmy stuck to his game plan. He started quickly in each match, which is very critical in freestyle. The best part about Jimmy’s wrestling is that he never stops moving. He has a rare ability to make everyone he wrestles change their style; almost all of the action in his matches is dictated by him. Since Jimmy never stops moving, his opponents have a hard time setting their feet — before they can even think about shooting on him. Using his first-place finish at the NYAC and third-place finish in Russia, Jimmy and I can get together to come up with a plan to take over the world. When I was in Hoboken for the National Team training camp, the Russian coach told me that Jimmy reminded him of Besik Kudukov. I lived and trained with Kudukov for almost a whole year, and I agree with that sentiment. My plan with Jimmy moving forward will be to keep getting him to lower his head just a little in his stance. This is more beneficial for the end of the match than the beginning. He also needs to keep plugging away at his situations so he is prepared for everything his opponents may throw his way. I’m expecting great things this year from Jimmy. He will cheap mlb jerseys take a little time off to heal and recover, but now our focus will be on getting him ready for the international trips we have scheduled for January and February.  

Kellen Russell, 66kg

Kellen is still young as a full-time American freestyle athlete. He has a lot to work on and has a bright future. After he won his second NCAA title last March, Kellen expressed his interest in Show wrestling freestyle full time. He sucked it up and went 60kg for the US Olympic Trials. He would have been undersized at 66kg after the long grueling NCAA season. After the trials he took some time off to recover, gain weight and do some clinics across the country. He was very sporadic in his training leading up to the University World Team Trials in late August. For him it was just another tournament, I know he would have liked to be on the team, but none of us really pushed the issue with his training. Kellen finally was able to get back into a proper training regimen heading into the NYAC tournament. In his first two matches, he was not challenged that much and did what he needed to do to win. Not having much international competition to look back on, Kellen’s third match got out of control. Kellen had to wrestle a veteran international competitor from the Republic of Georgia, and the outcome was not that great. Kellen wrestled really well, but he made some mistakes that will only happen 1-2 times in his career. The same can be said for his second loss to Drew Headlee, who has been wrestling freestyle for some time now and used his skills he has developed to beat Kellen. In the first period of the match with Headlee, Kellen was winning 7-3 when he gave up a second three-point move to end the period despite his losing 6-7 score. As a two-time NCAA champion and a four-time Big Ten Champion, Kellen was not pleased with his performance.   I have not been coaching long and I am relatively new to my profession — only a little over a year to be exact. I have a lot to learn, but one thing I do know is how to handle losing. During my competitive career, I had many ups and downs and for the most part, I think I figured it all out. After his second loss of the day, Kellen was visibly upset and rightfully so; he expects to win every time he is on the mat. What I had to explain to Kellen was that he is not far off from the best in the USA at his weight. I know losing stinks, but there is no use beating yourself up over it. We can dwell on not placing at a tournament or we can use it as a positive driving force to push us to never have that feeling again. In order to gain the most out of a loss, one has to look back at it with an open mind and clear focus. I explained to Kellen after NYAC that if he had been giving up a lot of points on pushouts and takedowns, then we would have to reevaluate our training. Kellen lost to the Georgian because he has never felt an arm drag like that, and between the Georgian and Headlee, Kellen gave up way too many three-point moves. This is an easy fix since those were new experiences for him. I am never happy after a loss, but I am glad this happened to Kellen now rather than closer to the U.S. Open and World Team Trials.   Over the next few months, in order to get ready for international competition, I will have some specific things for Kellen to work on. First for Kellen, since he already does a great job not letting guys in on his legs, is to get to his opponent's legs.This sounds simple in theory, but when you are wrestling the best in the world, it is a little harder than NCAA wrestling to get your hands locked around the leg. My coaching philosophy is simple, get to the legs and score on the best in the world. I am training my guys to learn how to finish from every situation; nothing in a match will ever be perfect so you have to plan to be in bad position and work your way to where you want to be. Kellen will have his finishes down well before he is comfortable getting to the guys legs. Another one of the threats we encounter when Sparring transitioning from collegiate to freestyle is in the front headlock position. I want my men to have no fear in the front headlock position. That means they will spend a lot of time sparring and doing live situations from here. If you have any fear of giving up a front headlock after you shoot, then you are not ready to wrestle the best in the world. Kellen is making great progress with this and will continue to become so efficient that nobody in the world will be able to front headlock him. Kellen is a student of the sport and being able to train alongside Jimmy will decrease the time it takes to get him to a world-class level.  

Tyrel Todd, 84kg

Tyrel was not able to wrestle at the NYAC tournament due to an injury he sustained while training. This wholesale jerseys fall was a great learning experience for Ty, and he is well on his way to having a good, successful year. Already this year, Ty spent 28 days in Russia competing and training alongside some of the best wrestlers in the world. He was able to compete in two international tournaments while over there and one dual meet. Ty and I go way back to when I was training and he was competing at the University of Michigan. We were training partners almost every Karten day for years, and because of that relationships, I think I know him as well as he knows himself. I know what he is capable of doing this year. Ty had to battle some significant injuries his senior year and again right after he graduated. He has not had a lot of time to develop into a freestyle wrestler, but he is learning a lot. He is receptive to everything brought to him; he picks it up and strives to perfect it. I believe with consistent training and good health Ty has the tools it takes to beat everyone in the U.S. at his weight.  

Kyle Massey, 120kg

This was the first tournament Kyle has wrestled in a long time — four years! While he has been committed to training for some time now, until you get on the mat you do not know what to expect. The transition from collegiate wrestling to freestyle is hard, and the first tournament is by far the hardest. Heavyweight wrestling is different, and with Kyle, I’d like to keep things simple with his training. Kyle is really flexible and athletic for a heavyweight and is really good at using cheap nba jerseys underhooks. At the NYAC tournament, Kyle lost to a Junior World champion Russian and Ryan Tomei. In the match with the Russian, Kyle was pinned off a scramble position, but in the match with Tomei, I think he controlled the match. Kyle needs to get a better feel of using his underhooks and using the edge of the mat at the same time. This is a different feel than college wrestling because in college a guy can walk off the mat with no repercussion whereas in freestyle they actually fight back. If Kyle can figure out the edge of the mat, I believe he will have some good potential this year. The plan is to have him ready for the U.S. Open. I do not want to put a big emphasis on the early season, because it is a long season and different wrestlers train differently throughout the year. My goal for Kyle — and all of my guys — is to train them consistently day in and day out so they are proficient in all areas of wrestling.  


I am excited about this season working with the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club. I have great athletes to work with, and they trust the way I am training them. The guys are sold on the program, and they can see the progress they are making. It is our goal to be the best Regional Training Center in the USA.  

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