Romania, Belgrade and Moldova Tour

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Jounral Entry #16

Ok, this will be officially my last post of the trip.  Today we only had one session.  The boys jogged to a park near by where they warmed up and played soccer for about an hour or so.  They then jogged back to the villa where they had a short strength workout and then ended the day with Sauna.  

As mentioned in a previous post, I am happy with the training we received out here in Romania.  I am happy to see improvement, I am happy to see Aidan grow, not only in wrestling but within himself.  I forgot to mention in my previous post that yesterday evening, Aidan was selected to run the warm up for his last official training session.  For those that know Aidan, he is shy, will not go out of his way to create conversation with random people.  I had told the trainer a day earlier to have him do this for his development.  Yes, I set Aidan up. But he took the reigns and executed a perfect Club Heracles warm up with no hesitation.  I am happy that he was able to do this.

As I sit here and watch the finals of the NJ State Tournament, I can’t say enough how proud I am of every single one of our athletes that competed this weekend.  We didn’t all finish the way we wanted to, but the lesson is, we do belong, we can compete.  Some of your HS careers are officially over.  What is your plan, what comes  next?  Not just in wrestling, in your personal life.  The work in your life isn’t finished, there are other chapters needed to get through.  We are here for each and every one of you, any time, if you ever need help.  Congrats to all of you.  We are proud of all our Scorpions.

Se you guys back on the other side.

Journal Entry #15

This will most likely be my last entry for this Romania training camp.  Although I may post some thoughts as we begin our travel back home.  Yesterday evening was a match simulation session where Aidan had three matches where he went 3-0.  His scores were 5-4, 6-1 and 7-1.  His last two matches were against the same opponent, the same opponent that also placed Bronze with him in the a tournament in Serbia.  I feel he has made a tremendous amount of gains since last April, almost a year ago.

When Aidan decided to focus on Greco, it was almost literally 365 days ago.  With a couple months until Fargo, it was a good test to see where he was at the time.  We felt he would place at Fargo, he didn’t, he went 1-2.  And he was crushed, slightly demoralized.  I had to explain to him that, his journey had just begun, that it was going to be difficult to win Fargo with only 3 months of dedication to Greco.  I challenged him to work hard for the next 365 days, focusing solely on Greco, and he will see the difference.  Well that time has come and my predictions are correct.  He is a totally different wrestler with a compete understanding of the style.  I look forward to continuing to get better and preparing for Cadet Trials and Internetional season for him.

One had to understand, unlike Folkstyle and Freestyle, which translate somewhat smoothly, you can attack legs, Greco Roman does not, especially at the highest level.  It is a mentality to not touch legs, to stand up straight, to avoid sprawling when an opponent level changes and attacks the body.  There is a completely different strategy and tactics involved.  Essentially, one needs to completely stop training folkstyle and freestyle in order to compete with the best, because that’s what they have been doing since age 9, not attacking legs. So there instincts are sharper, there is no thought of sprawling or grabbing legs, it doesn’t even cross the mind of the athlete.

In conversation with the trainer Roman, I remember him saying to me that he can not teach Freestyle.  He explains he knows the rules, he referees freestyle competitions, but he can not teach the style.  This is because all he knows and has trained and competed was Greco-Roman since the age of 9. I found this odd as this is something that I am trying to do, be proficient in all styles of wrestling for the benefit of our athletes.  But that’s how it works overseas, you either concentrate on Freestyle or Greco-Roman,  not both.  Although the other two styles are similar, I feel to be the best, one has to choose which one to train to be the best.

Of course there are athletes that we have that break that mold, but think about over the last 12 years, how many of those athletes are there? In the past 12 years there have been maybe 4-6 people that have won the majority of our medals on the senior level, and for 5 years, it was basically one, Jordan Burroughs.  Then Snyder, then Dake, Taylor, Cox, these have been the Champions. That’s five individuals who have won gold over the past 12 years and again, Burroughs was alone for 5 of those years.  Gilman just recently won, in his mid 20’s, Gwiz has been at best, a bronze medal threat.  I’m not counting Gable because he’s a one and done, although Gable was a age group multiple time World Champion.

All in all, we all know, I’m order to be the best at something, there has to be another level of focus and attention to detail.  At some point, one has to decide, in their lives, what they want to be the best at.  The sooner the better, to be able to create a set mentality and work on the craft.

Until the next one.

Journal Entry #14

6:30am Good morning.  I haven’t written in a day or so, not because there is nothing to write about but, just been a little more focused on Aidan and finishing off the training camp.  A lot more attention to details over the past day or so and tying up loose ends.  Training has ramped up in intensity a bit over the past 3 or 4 sessions with more intense focus on specific positions and situations.  Parre Terre offense, misdirections, lifts, reverse grip lifts.  Parre terre defense, constant movement, hip pressure, lift defense.  Neutral techniques such as, drags, arm throws, head punches and attacking the body.  We’ve also worked on controls such as single under hooks, double under hooks,  and two on ones.  These are the things that are repeated on a daily basis.  Different sessions consist of more detail and focus on a particular part, but one way or other, they are all touched upon in every session, whether it’s for 2, 3, or 4 min.

Aidans body is beginning to feel tired and sore.  I had a conversation with him about ensuring that his mental focus was at an all time high as we get to the end of the training camp.  We have to finish strong and leave with a sense of accomplishment, that we had a great training camp and prepared accordingly.  There is one purpose for being here, to make a USA Cadet World Team in April,  win the Cadet World Championships and win a Cadet Fargo title.  Unfortunately, the brutal truth and harsh reality is, and there is no sugarcoating what we are trying to do, if these don’t happen, it’s a disappointment and we have to wait and train another 365 days to attempt to accomplish the goal.  Fortunately for Aidan, he’s only 15 and has that opportunity to be able to try several more times before his career is over. That is the path and journey of a wrestler whose dreams are to be a World or Olympic Champion.

That’s not the reality for wrestlers as they get older and move on to the senior level.  Time becomes of the essence for a lot of athletes.  Some high level athletes train for 4 years just for a chance to represent their countries at the Olympics.  Wrestlers train and dedicate their lives to a goal, a dream, like I said in an earlier post, with no guarantees.  Everything is sacrificed, friends, family, fun time, significant others, all in the name of glory, victory, standing atop that podium and being able to hear your national anthem play.  This is why you see wrestlers cry as they hear their anthems.  At that moment, all the sacrifice, the work, the training, the sweat and tears, the time missed with loved ones, it all flashes replays in their heads, right at that moment and then they smile because it was all worth it.

This is a brutal journey with a harsh reality and it will be one fun ride.

Until the next entry….

Journal Entry #13

Good afternoon.  This morning we had another 6am training session,  Similar to yesterdays.  This morning all the athletes appeared to be more prepared than yesterday,  mentally.  Everyone was ready to go, most bright eyed, the younguns still wiping crusties from their eyes, not enjoying having to be up.  But this quickly goes away as it gets closer to 6am. 

This mornings session was more of a technique session.  Not necessarily clinic type technique but specific time spent working on certain techniques.  Like with anything in life that anyone wants to master or be good at, it takes focus, attention to detail and repetitiveness.  Constant repetition of the core attacks from neutral and parre terre have been performed since I have been here.  This morning there was a little bit more focus on parre terre defense, specifically countering normal grip lifts and reverse grip lifts.  This is a position that American Greco-Roman wrestlers are definitely not good at yet, for whatever reason.  Overall, it was a good, light intensity session with just some work on specifics.

On to other news, it has been a nightmare the last 24 hours as far as travel arrangements.  We were supposed to leave to Moldova yesterday for a really good tournament featuring some of the best Cadet National Teams from around the world.  Unfortunately, due to everything that has been going on in this side of the world, the tournament was canceled.  Not to mention, the airport in Moldova has been closed for about a week, until March 4th, and we were supposed attend the tournament and training and then depart back to the US from Moldova.  So, I’m not going to say we, because I haven’t had much part in it other than receiving the information, Aidan’s dad, Tim, has been on the phone with United, Priceline and everyone  and anyone you can think of to redirect our travel plans to leave from here in Timisoara, Romania, where the airport is literally 10 minutes away from the Villa Heracles, where we are staying.

Not to get into too much detail, but we had purchased insurance on our tickets when they were purchased.  Tim was told that we would have to pay fees to change our travel plans.  Tim explained to customer service that we were unable to leave from Moldova as the airport was currently closed and ummm, there is a War that is going on.  Tim was repeatedly told that it was the “Policy” that fees would have to be paid.  I was up until almost 1 am waiting to hear from Tim about any updates, of which Tim recommended I go to sleep and he will continue to work on the plans.

At about 6:30am, time over here, Tim requests a pic of my passport, which I sent to him, not really knowing why, he was still and probably more aggravated as, in his words, it has been a complete travel shit show trying to maneuver our flight plans.  Up until now, I’m not clear on our travel plans as United  Airlines has shown little to no compassion of the fact that there is a War going on over here and that we are unable to leave from Moldova because we can not travel to Moldova, because that  airport is currently closed.  Tim was told the FAA has not informed them of anything, but it clearly states on the Chișinău Airport FB page the fact that it is closed until March 4th.  We weren’t scheduled to leave until the 10th, which is what they were hanging their hats on, I’m assuming, still not considering that the current events may not change, risking that if we actually tried to get to Moldova, we may get stuck and completely not be able to get home.

I, as well as Tim, and he probably more than I am, am  mentally drained with all of this, thinking about how and when we are going to return home.  What began as an awesome training camp, with some of the best training Aidan could get, a Bronze medal at a tournament in Serbia, the focus now has become travel, instead of finishing off the training camp strong.  Aidan, of course, is not privy to many of these details as his focus is training. We will continue to focus on the goal as Tim irons out the details.  This brings me to the last entry I wrote about Sacrifice.  What are you willing to sacrifice.  This is a sacrifice unparalleled to anything anyone has ever experienced.

Until the next entry…

Journal Entry #12

Sacrifice.  It hit me today at 6am session, that no one really understands what sacrifice is, what it means to be on this journey that Aidan and I are on.  People have asked why Aidan isn’t wrestling high school or folkstyle wrestling.  I explained to him when he made this decision that this journey was going to be extremely lonely, that it will be me and him 90% of the time who understand and know the sacrifices it’s going to take to attempt to accomplish his dream.

Sacrifice, most may think they know what this means, until they look around for someone to help and see no one else standing next to them, until people begin to question your journey or purpose and snicker behind your back.  Things we have experienced thus far.   What does it mean to really have a dream a goal?  There is a sacrifice unparalleled to anything that I have experienced, with no guarantees, not just from me, but from him and his family.  Most don’t know that Aidan lives with me during the week, going home on weekends and a lot of the time not going home at all, traveling to various camps around the country and the world, not seeing his family for days, weeks, and this time around, a month.  The kids here range from 9-21 years old and are from Moldova, not Romania.  They have left their families to chase a dream that few people have or want.

I can’t explain that to my kids or people what it takes, what we are going through, why we are here.  My kids don’t understand.  They don’t understand why I work so much, they don’t see it as work, they just know that I coach and go to practice every day.  This is extremely difficult to try to help someone, let alone a 15 year old, accomplish his dreams of becoming a World or Olympic Champion and keep him grounded.

What is it that you want?  What are your dreams?  How much sacrifice are you really willing to endure?  Do you only sacrifice during the day, during the week, during the season, in your life, period.  Are you willing to go through the pain and suffering, true pain and suffering, for something you dream of and really want?  I challenge you all to look in the mirror, write your goals and dreams down, have a plan of attack and don’t care about who, what, where, when, why or how.  Be you and stick to your dreams and never let anyone deter you or steer you away from something you really want.  I challenge you today to evaluate your sacrifice and don’t be afraid to be different.  Be strong in your mind and heart.  I can honestly tell you from the bottom of my heart, I understand.

Until the next entry…

Journal Entry #11

It is 5:15am, training begins in 45 min.  I get up to brush my teeth and notice the trainer walking into the house to prepare for training.  The house is quiet.  All I hear is the sound of the pool pumps running and the trainer moving around in his office.  My room is adjacent to his office and by the pool.  There is no light outside yet and I don’t hear any of the children yet.  As it gets closer to 5:30am, I start to see children begin to roll into the kitchen to grab something to eat before the start of training.  I enter the training hall that is quiet and still empty and sit down.  As it gets closer to 6am, the kids begin to stroll in, slowly, dragging, noticeably tired and slightly cold.  More and more kids begin to walk in, ready to begin training.  They all sit down quietly, awaiting the arrival of the trainer to begin the session.  There is absolutely not a peep in the training hall, that when during normal hours, is usually loud and playful.

The trainer walks in and the boys immediately walk to the other side of the room and lineup by size as normal.  Their faces immediately change from tired to concentration and focus.  The trainer begins to speak, normally asking the boys how they feel, asking if there are any injuries and issues, and then proceeds to explain how the practice is going to go.  He then blows his whistle once, and the boys begin to jog in one line, led by the oldest in the group, who proceeds to take control of the warm up, listening the the trainers instruction as he randomly yells out, how much time left in the warm up.  The trainer notices the boys dragging a bit and begins to raise his voice, telling them to pick it up.  They follow instructions and wake up a little bit more and add some more pep in their step.  The warm up lasts about 20 minutes, with jogging, tumbling, different dynamic stretching movements, jumping jacks, cross leg kicks, down blocks.  They proceeds to get into forward neck bridges, back bridges, walk arounds, gut wrench and parre terre movements.

Trainer blows the whistle and they partner up, beginning to pummel and slowly get into drags and duck unders, still warming up.  Now parre terre offense, with about 30% resistance, taking turns the whole time.  There is no talking in the room.  All you hear is sound. The sound of feet and bodies sliding and rubbing across the mat, thumps from the throws and techniques being performed, the trainer occasionally raising his voice at someone who is dragging.  The pace then picks up, back to neutral, 5 minutes of throws, arm spins, arm throws, pinch headlocks.  Back to parre terre to work on misdirection guts and lifts.  Back to their feet, the intensity picks up more, except now they are working on any type of clinch position techniques, throws, etc.  The thumps get louder, the breathing gets a little harder, now you start to hear some grunting, now the boys are awake and working at about 70%.  Back to parre terre to guts and lifts, the intensity and defense now picked up a little more.  I’m witnessing a beautiful training session that starts at 6am in the morning, and surprisingly, I’m wide awake to notice all the details.

Back to neutral, to spar technique, taking turns.  There is a definitely more fight and more intensity.  Now the boys are getting frustrated when they don’t do something correctly, the trainers voice gets louder as he notices technique not being performed correctly, lack of focus, some one not giving their 70%-80% resistance now.  Back to parre terre.  Finally, 90% spar goes on neutral, three 2 minute goes with 1 min parre terre each.  The room by now is already warm, I’m can feel the heat generated by the boys, they are definitely sweating and awake now and really pushing it.  They stay up, and go to parre terre, go back up and then back to parre terre.  Meanwhile, there is still not a peep, since the session started almost 55 minutes ago.  Not even from the four smallest ones, who are probably around 9 or 10 years old, training right in the middle of everyone.  One more neutral and parre terre to go, the boys are really breathing hard now, pushing the pace.  The whistle blows, and the trainer tells them to finish with 2 x 3 sets of rope climbs.  When they are done, they all line up again to await the trainers closing instructions.  It is now about 7:05am, I hear him mention something about showering, school, which they will be going to somewhere around 7:45 or so.

They quickly shower in an open shower, they pile into the dining room to have breakfast, and one by one, as they finish, leave and come back down with their coats and book bags, grab a muffin or make their sandwiches for lunch and leave for school in small groups.  I want to point out that at this point in time, the only adults in the house with the boys are myself and the trainer.  This is a daily routine, the boys wake each other up, the older boys rush the younger ones to prepare for school, they give them their phones back that were collected at 10pm the night before.  Then they leave.

It was a beautiful morning.  Makes me wonder, what would happen, what would the attitude be if our boys had to train at 6am.  I heard a story once, i believe was John Smith and probably Dave Schultz who said, while training for World or Olympics, they changed their training habits and times to train at the times their opponents were training here overseas.  Makes a lot of sense.  It really was a beautiful morning and training session.  Inspiring.

Until the next entry…

 

Journal Entry #10

Good Morning from Timisaora, Romania.  Today it is snowing and appears to be cold.  I don’t plan on going outside unless I have to.  If you know me, you know that I don’t hate many things, but I do hate the cold and the extreme heat.  My ideal weather is anything where i can where a hoody and shorts at the same time, so anywhere between 75-88 I’m good with. 

There was no entry for yesterday, Sunday as it was an off day.  We didn’t do much other than relax.  Aidan and I did go out to lunch a local pizzeria.  I found the pizza to be pretty good, seemed to be brick oven style.  Other than that, I was catching up on how our guys were doing at the Region tournaments.  I have to say I am and always have proud to be a Scorpion and a part of this club.  

What does it mean to be a part of this club?  From the beginning, when I was 7 years old, it’s always been about family, about being different, about working hard, about not accepting mediocrity, pride, passion, respect, loyalty.  Over the years, some of these have been lost and then found again.  There is always someone new that has to be taught or informed about where this club started, where we currently are and where we are planning to go.  

We began in a garage with one wrestler, then a YMCA basement with no windows or ventilation, where the first generation Scorpions really took off, then up 3 or 4 stories to the boxing gym, then there was a lull, as the coaches led a high school team out of Paterson, NJ, Don Bosco Tech.  When the school closed, the club started up again out of Kennedy HS in Paterson.  This is where the second generation Scorpions began.  The club began to grow.  We began to attract talent from out of town and that talent brought more talent.  We began to travel the country and have our kids placing at states and national level tournaments. This was the beginnings of how people really began to notice us not only in NJ, but around the country.  Our kids were winning and placing at the Tulsa, American Crown, Rocky Mountain National Tournament  series.  

From Kennedy, we moved to Clifton, NJ, then back to Kennedy HS and finally to the Pio Costa complex we are currently in, but across the parking lot with The Maker Junction is located.  We only had two mats in that facility, but the club just began to make more noise in NJ, around the country, and we began taking international trips.  After a couple of years, the club moved to where we currently are today.  Today, we  now have an Academic Academy, we’ve had guys on NJ National Teams, USA World Teams,  Fargo Champions, and have now expanded on our international contacts and travel.  We have accepted girls into our school, something that wasn’t thought  of back in the day.   

All in all, the goal for me for this club is to continue moving  forward, improving our kids, our facilities, our equipment our brand and hopefully one day, build a World or Olympic Champion.  The goal is to move forward, not look backwards. On the way, mistakes will be made, lessons will be learned, both individually and as a club.  As long as we are a family and stick together and fight for what we believe is right, the only thing we can do is move forward.  I want to thank everyone for your support, not to me, but to our club, that has given so many children the opportunity to get off the streets, stay out of trouble, the ability to learn about dedication, hard work and loyalty, because these are the characteristics that have produced for us not only wrestling champions, but doctors, lawyers, social workers, law enforcement, etc.  The values taught are more important the the hardware earned.  

Thanks again for everyones loyalty and support as we continue to improve our kids and our club.  Until the next entry…

Journal Entry #9

Good afternoon all.  As you all are, I’m sitting here writing this entry, watching Region finals.  Let me first say I am so proud of hearing how all our boys have been competing.  We definitely went hard this weekend, Scorpion Strong!!!

So this morning, we weighed in for the tournament in Serbia.  Aidan had a great day going 4-1.  Unfortunately, I don’t like to make excuses, but when you hear that it’s difficult to compete as an American overseas, that is 1000% correct, anyway you think about it.  So he won his first match by technical fall, with an arm drag for the takedown and then two lift and throws for 4pts each for a 10-0 win.  In his second match, Aidan wrestled a kid from Serbia, home country.  Aidan scored what in any other country would be a 4pt takedown and only received 2pts.  He was also hit with a passivity (stalling) when he was controlling the ties and holding center, and ended up giving up a gut wrench.  

In international wrestling, there are essentially no wrestle backs unless the guy that beats you makes it to the finals.  Fortunately for Aidan, the hometown hero did make the finals and pulled Aidan back into the repechage (wrestlebacks)  where he proceeded to technical fall his next two opponents on his way to winning a Bronze Medal.  All in all, I am so proud of Aidan for his performances, albeit, wrestling on an injured toe knuckle on his big toe, something extremely painful if  you’ve ever hurt the knuckle on your big toe, doesn’t feel too good and is needed for him to be able to lift, throw and perform almost all of his techniques, but he fought through it.

I made some really good contacts for girls wrestling in Serbia and Moldova, as well as another Greco Roman contact in Greece.  Our international contact list is getting bigger for the sake of our kids development.  One day, soon, hopefully we can all travel together and experience this.

We got back to Romania around 10pm.  It was pretty cool to return as the younger and older boys were lined up in the doorway welcoming us back with handshakes and applauses for the teams performance.  The team took first place in the tournament for an end to a great day.  Then there was a meeting before the trainer left where he was yelling at the younger boys for not leaving enough food for us when we returned. I thought this was funny and had to hold back my laugh.  In what i could gather, I believe the trainer was telling them that they didn’t have to be greedy and learn how to eat to be satisfied not full.  

I have to say that this is an awesome place.  Like us back home, it is truly a family here. While we were gone, the Junior boys were watching and taking care of the younger boys.  There are about 5 or 6 boys that are Junior level, 18-21 years old.  Everyone takes care of each other here and the boys literally are the ones who take care of the house.  Makes me feel warm inside that we have something similar back home without our athletes living in a dorm/house.

I’m going to finish watching Regions and then head to bed. Enjoy the wrestling.  Go Scorpions!!!

Journal Entry #8

Good afternoon all.  There was no entry this morning due to no training and it being a travel day for us.  This morning, I took the Wisconsin and Alaskan boys the airport to return home.  At 2pm we headed out of Romania to Belgrade, Serbia for a Cadet level Greco-Roman tournament.  Aidan is underweight and of course, slightly miserable at this time. The drive to Belgrade, Serbia was about three hours.  I can now add Serbia to my list of countries visited, as well as, driving in Serbia.  I have now driven in two different countries.  I find that pretty exciting..lol

So we arrived in Belgrade around 5:30pm or so and checked into the hotel.  As soon as we arrived we saw wrestlers.  We were scheduled to eat dinner at 8pm where we ultimately saw all the delegations that will be participating, Greece, Serbia, Moldova, USA (woot woot), maybe Germany or some Nordic country, and a couple others I couldn’t make out.  I am pretty excited to be able to coach in my first tournament in another country.  I’ve been to many countries bringing kids to train, but never a tournament.  It will be an awesome experience I hope.  It will definitely a memorable experience if Aidan can get on this podium.

Tomorrow we get up at 7am for breakfast and then head to the tournament to compete.  I pray that Aidan gets some good rest, weighs in and then is able to compete  at his best and stay healthy.  All in all, the goal to compete and  learn from our mistakes win or lose.

PS: I thought it was funny that while we were going out to the store earlier, one of the wrestlers from another country asked if we had a scale.  We didn’t by the way.   So it made me think how many times back home wrestlers travel and don’t have a scale.  Must be a wrestler thing, not just a USA thing…lol.

Journal Entry #7

We had a good evening session where the boys were scheduled to wrestle three matches.  Everyone was involved from the Junior level kids to the small younger kids.  Coach instructed the group to go through a tournament style warmup which was pretty similar to a practice warmup, just at a more focused and faster pace.  You can tell in the body language and behavior that matches it was a match session.  There wasn’t much talking during the warmup and everyone seemed to be in their own heads and zone.  The Romanian/Moldovan boys basically went around to our guys and said, “i go with you first, second or third.”  I was extremely impressed with the young ones and how aggressive and fearless they were.  I saw a couple 8 year olds get tossed and got right back up and kept scrapping.

Aidan wrestled well, albeit, being two weeks into his camp and cutting some weight for the tournament this weekend.  He went 2-1 in the matches, by scores of 6-5, 3-6, and 3-3.  He needs to move his feet a little more and be a little more fearless taking risks.  The style of Greco-Roman rewards the risk taker, so it’s beneficial to be fearless and sometimes just go for broke.  He gave up a headlock in the first match due to his opponent being frustrated and just bum rushing him into a headlock. After that match we talked and determined that as the kid was rushing him, he pulled his hops slightly back, not allowing him to be able to counter and defend.  He said that minutes before his opponent had attempted a high dive, which is a actual penetration shot in  Greco-Roman, but instead of grabbing legs, you shoot to the waist/body.  Aidan countered this attack and then when the opponent tried it again, he immediately switched midway and came all the way up for a headlock.  So Aidan saw the high dive coming and pulled his hips back thinking he was attempting the same attack.

All in all, I was happy at his performance.  I sometimes have to remember that Aidan is only 15 years old and he is wrestling kids that are 17-20+ out here so that puts things into perspective.  It was a successful match day for us.  Tomorrow we head out to Belgrade, Serbia, which is about 3 hours away for a tournament on Saturday.  The Moldova tournament is now up in the air as, we all know there is some conflict out this way.  Rest assured, we are currently safe and we will make the right decisions come Monday on whether we will travel to Moldova or not.

We miss all of you.  Thank you to everyone who continues to stay in touch with your texts and responses to the pics and things I’m sharing.  We are done for the day.  Until the next entry…

Journal Entry #6

Good morning all, got some better sleep last night, so feeling not so tired today.  This morning we had somewhat of a strength workout, utilizing resistance bands.  All of the exercises were done with a partner, each group had two bands.  Most of the exercises involved one guy working with one side of the band while the partner held tight to the other side and then would rotate.  The session, again, was high paced and fast.  Only lasted about an hour or so.  No practice thus far has gone much longer than that, but the athletes are leaving practice drenched in sweat, as well as fatigued.  This is slightly different then when I travel to Ukraine where the sessions are about 2 hours long.  I wonder if this is a normal Greco practice structure.  I also think a lot about now the benefits or lack thereof, of longer practices.  I’m in the mindset of it depends on the nature of the practice and what is needed to get done.

I learned that most of the kids that live here in the facility are actually from Moldova and not Romanian.  They have left their homes and families to train here.  Most of the athletes are age group world team members and age group world championship competitions.  The facility and property was purchased by a Moldovan Tomato tycoon, who hired the current trainer and brought them here to Timisaora, Romania.

The Wisconsin and Alaskan boys leave tomorrow.  This morning they were taken to get COVID tested.  Aidan and I will be the only Americans left on this tour until we return.  This afternoon, the boys will have 3 matches in preparation for the weekend tournament.  I am excited to be able to see Aidan wrestle this weekend at the competition to evaluate his progress and see where he has improved and what improvements he needs to make for Cadet World Team Trials and Fargo, the two most important competitions for him.

We are about to eat lunch, not sure what to expect but the food has been-Rhett decent thus far.  Thank you to all who are reading my stories.  If there are any questions about what is happening, please feel free to comment on the Facebook post.  Lastly, I would like to ask that we all pray for the situation in the Ukraine.  Our brothers in Kolomiya are currently safe, but things could have quickly.

Journal Entry #5

Good evening all, actual good afternoon to you all, it’s evening for me.  Our day has pretty much ended.  It is now time to relax and wind down.  This afternoon the boys played some wrestle ball, pretty much basketball without bouncing.  If you haven’t seen this type of game, it is pretty funny.  You have wrestlers, who really don’t know how to play basketball, trying to.  Oh snap, the boys are getting yelled at right now for leaving a mess in the dining room.  This old guy is going off and I have no idea what he is saying, but he definitely looks and sounds upset.  Anyway, so, it was hilarious to watch this game going on.  There must have been a total of 10 pts scored in an hour, the worse are I’ve ever seen.  Our American boys did not do us any justice lol.  After the game, the boys were told to go to the weight room and complete 3 set of 8 reps of 12 different exercises, then we hit the sauna and cold plunge.  If you have never been to a sauna and cold plunge, you don’t know what you are missing.  Back home, I try to get to the sauna at least once a week.  There is an awesome and relaxing place I go to in Fairlawn, NJ, right on Broadway called BRC Day Spa. There is a pool for kids, they serve food, drinks, have massages and numerous different types of sauna rooms, steam, dry, aroma, wet, infrared, massages, float pods, etc.  Check it out at BRC-spa.com.

For dinner we had chicken and potato soup.  It was pretty good.  We had some Borsch soup for lunch today and some, what looked like quinoa and meatballs.  Meatballs were kind of dry, but they did the job.  So the plan for tomorrow is, the four boys leaving on Friday need to get a COVID test before coming home, so they will be going at 8:30am.  Since we are also leaving Friday for the Belgrade tournament, tomorrow will be a light day.  Not sure if it’s in morning or afternoon, but there will be matches tomorrow here at the club.

All in all, I am enjoying myself, being in an environment with athletes and coaches that want the same things I do, athletes who are the best in the World.  It’s difficult to stay focused on this task back home, but I try to do my best lol.  Back home it’s different, we have endless amounts of options, distractions,  too many ways out, other than wrestling.  I try to explain this to people, but I don’t know.  My goal is to be the best in the world, that’s how I have always been.  When I played baseball, i wanted to be a professional baseball player. When I played soccer I wanted to be a professional soccer player.  When i wrestled, i wanted to be the best in the world, like John Smith.  I didn’t even know back then that he was a college wrestler who wrestled folkstyle also, all I knew was he was an Olympic Champion, I had his shoes, and I wanted to be like him, the best.

I think this came from my parents.  As far as I can remember, I can hear in my head my parents telling me, if i want to do something, be the best at it, whether it was being a student, a brother, a friend, a son, an athlete playing multiple sports, if i was going to do something, be the best.  I never heard from them I had to win, but train and be the best, or practice to have the best hand writing, be the best in the class, etc.  This has always stuck with me, there is nothing that I do that I feel i can half ass, if I can, i just don’t do it.  Like working our for myself, I don’t like it, I want a six pack, but i can’t motivate myself to workout to get that six pack, so I’m stuck with my one pack because I’m not going to half ass working out, taking breaks when I’m sore and blah blah blah.  It’s just not my nature.  The downfall of this, and not many of you may know, I have to be the worst loser in the world, I’m even good at being the worst loser lmao.

Anyway, enough about me, the purpose of that anecdote was to point out that, life here is different.  There are not many options for these kids to half ass their dreams and I pray that I can convince our kids back home to do the same, whether it be at the youth, hs, college or world and Olympic level.  Train to be the best YOU, that you can be.  Don’t half ass your life.  I mean, if you are in the business of competing, what’s the point in not going all in?

Good night all, I’m going to watch some Netflix and pass out.  I’m having fun sharing my experiences with you guys. Hope you are enjoying them as well.

 

Journal Entry #4

Good Morning all from the Heracles Greco Roman Wrestling Club.   I hope that guys find my daily stories entertaining and informational.  My goal is to show you, through my stories, the mindset and experience of what the athletes are going through on a daily basis.  The ups, the downs and everything in between.  This morning at 10am, we had a strength training workout.  Very similar to the circuit type workouts we put The Academy through during the week.  I want to say that I am extremely impressed with the work that was put in by all, not just our guys but by the host athletes.

I want to point out that although we worked pretty good, they worked harder.  It’s amazing what you can get from an individual or individuals based on the look in their eyes, their posture, their mentality. This is the biggest attribute or characteristic that sets apart the fakers from the real ones, those who say they want it and those who have a purpose for what they really want it, those who train with a purpose for every second and those who clock watch and just want to get through a training session.  The look in their eyes is so telling, so purposeful and meaningful.  I see pain, struggle, heart, and you will here me say it a lot, I see purpose in everything that is happening.  As we were getting ready to shut it down last night, I noticed one of the middle aged boys walking around the house to all the younger boys and collecting their phone in a shoe box before they went to sleep. I guess that was the signal that it was time to go to bed, and that’s exactly what happened, without complaint or incident.  The mentality is just different, it has a purpose, every single sec of the day.  No second of the day is wasted, not even rest.  When it’s time to rest in between sessions, that’s exactly what happens, rest, no goofing around.

Anyway, the training circuit was hard, or as hard as the individual made it.  They warmed up for 12 minutes on any machine or exercise they wanted to, like i said in a previous post, timed by the trainer.  EVERYTHING is controlled by the trainer.  They then went into three, 3 min goes on an exercise, switching exercises every 3 minutes, followed by three 2 min, three 1 min and finally three 30 second goes.  Equipment used were, treadmill, elliptical, bike, hand bike, plates, kettle bells, dumbbells, barbell for land mine movements, and bands.  It was an awesome workout.  Boys have a break now until 4pm.  Lunch will be served soon.  It’s about 11:45am so I’m assuming within the next thirty minutes.

Had a small conversation with our trainer, the one that speaks some English and began to question him about habit, training and competition schedules for their athletes.  Specifically, I asked how often their athletes compete.  I was not surprised by the answer as it has be the same answer that I have been given since I started traveling overseas. At first, coach wasn’t understanding what I was asking so I explained that in the United States, athletes for the most part compete on average every weekend.  The trainer immediately said it depends on the age, but every weekend was extremely too much to be competing.  He said for the Schoolboy and Cadet age, 13-16, athletes compete once a month and when there is a major competition, ie Trials, Nationals, Europeans, he will try to get in 2-3 competitions the month before the competition and then no competitions or live in practice, 4 weeks leading up to the competition, just structured, specific training.  So basically, training and competition is scheduled with a purpose, there goes that word again.

So, Friday, the Wisconsin boys leave to go back to the United States and Aidan and I are left to continue training and preparing for some competitions.  Friday we leave for Belgrade to a tournament on Saturday.  We then return to Heracles for couple days before we head out to Moldova on the following Tuesday at 5am.  We arrive in Moldova Tuesday night and will train Tues-Thursday.  That Friday is the weigh-in and competition.  The following day will be a team competition where Aidan will be put on a team and compete in team duals.  We then have one more week of training before we head back home, just in time for kids states.

That’s all I have for the morning.  Oh wait, I haven’t slept well, not because I haven’t been able to sleep, but because my loved ones keep calling me and texting me in the middle of the night here lol.  I don’t mind, I love each and every one of you and I will continue to pick up and answer texts when I get them.  I want everyone to know that Aidan and I are safe and being well taken cared of.  Until the next entry.

Journal Entry #3

This afternoon, Coach Wes from Alaska left and I had to take him to the airport.  Yes, I drove in Romania, yes they drive on the same side of the road, no I didn’t know where I was going, but thank god for GPS.  Oh by the way, the van was manual, I haven’t driven a stick in a while and it went smooth.

At training the environment before practice is light with a lot of goofing around, just like our guys.  What if I find amazing is once the trainers come in, it immediately ends and everyone lines up from tallest to smallest to hear instructions and then the group begins to warmup and jog around.  The warmup is always controlled by the trainer, just like in Ukraine.  There is rarely anything the athletes do on their own.

When training begins there’s is an athletic warm up that lasts about 20-25 or so minutes and is comprised off gymnastics type things like we do, short fast drilling techniques, partner stretching and short arm massages.  The training reps are primarily done in 3 min segments each wrestler, which kind of makes sense since international matches at the senior level are 3 min periods.  There isn’t much technical instruction, but sparring positions and situations, again kind of similar to what happens with we go to Ukraine, although in the Ukraine trainers do a little bit more showing, and it’s freestyle.  The practice lasts about an hour or so, not much longer than that, but it is at a very fast pace with situations and positions switching quickly. There is really no time to break, no time to Let your mind wander, no time to go to the bathroom, unless a break is given by the trainer.  Positions worked in neutral were drags, double underhooks, duck unders, clinch position and then the parre terre work were 70% resistance spars.  There was also some match simulation zone work with parre terre added, these were about 45 sec spars with 20 sec parre terre spars, this was done for about 3 or so minutes.

All in all, the training session went smoothly, again, at a very high paced and everything is controlled by the trainer.  After training we had some dinner, chicken and rice.  As a Puerto Rican, although it was good, I thought it was a little too moist lol.  We walked to a corner store after dinner to get some snacks and now we are just relaxing for the rest of the night.  It’s currently 7pm.

Journal Entry #2

Good morning.  It is currently 9:30am, got a chance to sleep in a little bit and have some breakfast.  Some bread and a spread of ham and cheese.  There was also some cereal, which usually comes in bags instead of boxes like we have in the USA. Oh, and of course had some cafea (coffee).  I learned how to say Thank you, “multumesc” and good morning “buna dimineata”.  The Romania language seems to have a lot of Latin origin, mainly French and Italian, so I can pick apart some words that sound similar in Spanish.  Most of the boarders here are currently in school.  There are two women who seem to take care of the facility and feeding the athletes, a younger one and an older woman.  It’s pretty quiet right now other than listening to the women talking to each other as they clean up from breakfast and begin to prepare for lunch.

One of the difficulties, obviously, when we travel is being able to understand what our counterparts are saying in normal conversation.  It always feels awkward, as I’m sure foreigners also feel awkward when coming to the United States and not understanding the language.  The beauty of traveling and training is that wrestling only really has one language.  You don’t necessarily have to understand what a coach is saying.  You basically watch, copy, and learn.  Wrestling is a universal language.

I’ve watched hours and hours of technique videos, specifically from 9x World/Olympic Champion, Buvaisar Satiev’s master classes. Although I do not understand what he is saying, one can watch foot movement, hand placement, body positioning and put together what you see with what is being said.  The other way to learn is to just learn the language lol.  This is what the late, great Dave Schultz did.  He learned to speak Russian in order to understand what the Russian coaches were saying in the corner.

All in all, everything so far is going well, it’s only really been not even a whole day here thus far.  The boys will be playing soccer this morning at 11am for their training session.  That’s what I’ve gotten from the coaching staff here.  Soccer and Basketball are a huge part of wrestlers conditioning and training over here in Europe.  I’ve experienced this in several places I’ve visited, including the Ukraine.

I look forward to what the rest of the day presents for us.  This is officially day 1 of continued learning for me.  I leave you all with this, if you thin you know everything and csnt learn anymore, you should probably stop wrestling.  I am continuously learning and trying to improve myself for the purpose of helping you improve.  If I can honestly believe I don’t know everything and can still learn, so can you.  Be comfortable, being uncomfortable.  That what happens when you learn new things or step out of your comfort zone.  Treat is as a challenge, not something that is a burden because you just can’t do it.

Journal Entry #1

I write to you from about 38,000 ft over the Atlantic Ocean.  I am about 2 hours from Frankfurt, Germany, where I have a layover before heading out to Timisaora, Romania to met up with our boy Aidan.  I will talk more ab out Aidan later on in this entry.   It is 1am back home and if you have ever been on flight with me, you know that I can’t sleep on planes, so all I can do is think and reflect on our weekend.  There are a number of stories that have been created and one that continues to take shape.  Stay posted on our FB page to see our results from this past weekends boys districts and girls states.

It has been an eventful weekend for our club and our wrestlers.  This weekend began the road to Boardwalk Hall for our High School boys and the State Championships for our High School girls.  This is the time of year where we sit back and know that all the work was put in and now it’s time to go and compete and let it fly.  We had numerous Scorpions athletes who have given themselves a chance to wrestle another weekend by for the Regions.  We are proud of each and every one of you who competed, whether you won or lost.  We hope that you left it all on the line and have no regrets about your performance.  If your season ended this weekend, it’s time to evaluate and set new goals.  If you advanced, it’s time to get into the room and continue to improve and prepare for one more weekend.

I want to send a big shout out to to our girl, Junior 120lber, Kira Pipkins of Bloomfield High School.  I’ve known and worked with Kira since she was in 6th grade and it has been nothing but pleasure being by her side, watching her grow and be come a great woman and wrestler.  Yesterday, Kira wrestled her butt off, banging out two pins and a  3-1 decision in the finals to win her 3rd NJ High School Girls State Title.  Kira is on her way to making history in NJ being the first Girls 4x State Champion next year.  Congratulations Kira, we are so proud of you and look forward to seeing you continue to improve.

Today, I left for Romania to meet up with Aidan who has been in Romania since February 10th, getting some good training in.  For those of you who don’t know Aidan, he comes to us by way of Connecticut.  Aidan lives with me during the week and goes home on the weekends.  He is the tall, blonde 15 year old boy in our Academy that you see at night in the classroom doing his work.  Last April, Aidan made a life changing decision to forego wrestling folkstyle and committed his training to the style of Greco-Roman.  This was not an easy decision for Aidan to make, as he is well aware that his journey was going to be different.  It will be lonely, people won’t understand, people will make fun of him, think he’s crazy.  But it’s ok.  To get to where someone wants to get to in their lives, one has to do things that are uncommon, different, not normal.  This is what separates athletes from being good to great.  We at Scorpions, fully support Aidan’s journey and commitment to making a USA World and or Olympic Team and hopefully one day, be a World and Olympic champion.

Many people ask me all the time, why I focus on the international styles of wrestling.  Why I travel and take kids overseas to train.  Is it worth it?  Can’t we get the same type of training home.  The answer to all of these questions is huge YES.  I take kids overseas for a couple of reasons.  One of these reasons is to introduce athletes to different cultures, different types of training, different mentalities and philosophies.  Another reason is, to be the best, you have to go and train with like-minded athletes looking to accomplish similar objectives, usually you find those on the other side of the planet.  Also, I am under the understanding that college coaches want to see athletes competing in the international styles, to show that an athlete is willing to learn, is willing to get out of their comfort zone, and also looking to be the best in the World.  These are characteristics that the big time colleges programs and coaches are looking for in recruits.  Lastly, because World and Olympic competitions are the pinnacle of our sport.  Many people, if asked, will tell you that NCAA’s is the pinnacle of  wrestling.  Unfortunately, it is not.  

Gene Mills told a story once, a NJ native, and he says, when he started wrestling in high school, he won a county county title.  Then he realized that there were 21 counties in NJ.  So he trained to be the best in NJ.  Once he won a state title, he thought, well, there are 50 states in the United States, so he trained to be a National Champion.  He then realized that there were about 200+ other countries that had wrestling.  So he trained to be the best in the world, and he did that.  He realized that there was always something bigger, another goal, another challenge, another person that he may not have been better than and trained to be the best in the world.  Why not try to conquer the world.  I want to challenge any wrestler that reads this, what are your goals?  Why do you wrestle?  There is no wrong answer, so if your mentality isn’t to be the best in the world then, that’s ok.  Train to be the best YOU, you can be.

I will continue to add my journal entries about our trip my thoughts, our training experiences and the culture we are immersing ourselves in for the next couple of weeks, right here on this post.  Check in on our website daily to see new thoughts, new pics, new sites we have seen.  

Aidan has a tournament in Serbia next weekend and then a tournament in Moldova a week and a half later.  I am excited to see him training and competing.  Who will be the next Aiden at Scorpions Wrestling School?

Until the next entry…

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