Recapping the Games
I just arrived home from Russia and I am still amazed how big of an event the World University Games are. Russia being the host country wanted to show the world that they are the best sporting nation in the world. The games included more than 10,000 athletes from 162 nations. This event is on par with the Olympic Games, and as a coach I learned a lot about the logistical side of the sport. As an athlete you don’t ever think about transportation, laundry, and where you will get your food. As an athlete you only worry about yourself and getting prepared to do your job. As a coach you are in charge of everyone and everything. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have coached this team and I will use it as a learning experience for my future coaching career.
Our team was filled with NCAA stars and we all had very high expectations going into the tournament. Wrestling has not been included in the World University Games since 2000, and nobody would have known that the level of competition would have rivaled that of the world championships. We could look back and complain that the other countries used their top senior level athletes, or we can thank them for helping us out. When I said we had a team filled with NCAA stars, I was downplaying how great these kids are. We sent a team of wrestlers that will compete for many world and Olympic medals in the future. This event was a great stepping stone for these wrestlers. They were able to experience an overseas training camp and a top level tournament all on one trip. All of these wrestlers are very smart and competitive and will use this trip to figure out how to win at the highest level. Now the next time they make a world or Olympic team they will know exactly how to prepare and get mentally ready to compete against the best.
I want to share a little story about Tyrell Fortune and how this trip helped him. I believe Tyrell is a top 10 heavyweight in the world right now. His only problem is that he has to compete against Tervel Dlagnev who I believe is the best heavyweight in the world right now. Tyrell has every tool imaginable and is very mentally strong, so going into the tournament he believed he was going to win. He lost in the quarterfinals against the Ukrainian wrestlers in a very close match. He was actually a few millimeters away from ending the match with his second 3pt move. So when he came back to the warm up area after losing he was down in the dumps. He didn’t even want to wrestle back at that point, but what he did afterwards was how champions are made. He wrestled some tough wrestlers on his way to a bronze medal and when the day was over he was proud of that bronze medal, but he was hungry for more. What really was inspiring about this performance was on the second day he was helping the other athletes out mentally. He was giving them pep talks before their matches and when they lost he was giving them some great advice on how to get their minds back in the tournament and prepare to wrestle back. He learned how to be a leader on this trip and used the lessons he learned just one day before to help the others guys who were in the same position he was in on the first day. This is just a small example of how important this trip was for all the athletes that competed.
Saying that this trip was a learning experience is not an excuse for how our team fared against some of the world’s best. Everyone knows they could have done better and the only way that this trip will become a learning experience will rely on how each individual uses this trip to prepare for future events, myself included. I am excited for the future of USA Wrestling and I still believe we as a country will win the World Championships as a team in the next three years. We have great senior level athletes and some very good young athletes pushing them and looking to replace them so they can win world and Olympic titles.