Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Weight Cutting Hurts You and the Sport

Picture from
I've told you on several occasions how cutting weight will hurt your performance on the mat, but I haven't talked nearly as much on how it hurts the entire sport.  Throughout this past year, I've tried to read Foley's Friday Mailbag as often as I get the chance.  Intermat Wrestling writer T. R. Foley is one of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic writers of our sport.  I've never met the man, but I feel like we'd get along because he loves wrestling as much as I do.

In the link above, Foley recalls how the three college wrestling deaths during the 1997-1998 season caused the weight control rules to be swiftly overhauled, yet we still have changed our mindset very little - "The sweeping system changes were a mere paper tiger."  The harrowing story published by the NCAA which Foley references, Wrestling away From a Troubled Past, cuts deeply and hits home hard.  Not only does it hurt hearing about the three young lives that were lost, but it hurts to know that this is the impression that our sport gives some outsiders.  We on the inner circle of the wrestling community don't need any convincing to know the benefits of our sport, but for many others their first thought about amateur wrestling is the worst part of it - weight cutting.  In an era where we are trying to increase participation and grow the sport, the last thing we need to do is perpetuate a poor public image revolving around an unhealthy practice.

This is the sorry state that some outsiders saw as a first glimpse to our sport [at an NCAA tournament the night before weigh-ins], and unfortunately this paints their image in their minds, rather then allowing them to see the good in our sport:
Uryasz, on site for drug testing, met Wilson at the Target Center and led him into the exercise area where wrestlers were attempting to lose weight in advance of the weigh-in. There he saw what Uryasz first reported nearly a decade earlier: wrestlers wearing plastic sauna suits, exercising to a point of exhaustion, leaving pools of water in their wake.
“It just didn’t pass the test of looking smart,” Wilson said. “A lot of what went on was fine. But some of what went on, you would not want your mother, or girlfriend or anybody to see.
I know I've harped on the negative ramifications of weight cutting before, but if this doesn't sound bad, I don't know what does:
The loss of fluid from the bloodstream weakens cardiovascular functions and reduces endurance. If the water isn’t restored, blood flow to the skin and muscles will start to shut down to preserve the remaining fluid. Without the ability to sweat, the body begins to overheat. With no oxygen, the muscles start to die. It can trigger the potentially life-threatening condition rhabdomyolysis, in which the starved muscle fibers break down and flood the bloodstream with proteins, clogging the kidneys and stressing the electrical processes that support the heart.
Wrestlers undergo the most rigorous training in all of sport, but the weight cutting mentality can give one such a warped self image that many wrestlers don't even realize how chiseled their physique is.  As National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Executive Director Mike Moyer said: “Now we are in a unique position to promote wrestling as the gold standard in promoting fitness and nutrition.  What we are trying to do is to position wrestlers to be role models in schools across America to combat the No. 1 threat to our nation’s children, which is childhood obesity.”

But the bottom line is, the community needs to decide to make the change, or else it will never take effect.  As long as "coaches firmly believed their athletes would gain an advantage if they were willing to suffer more than their opponents by cutting to a lower weight class," as one coach told the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport in a letter in 1996, we will have athletes cutting weight because they are obeying orders.  That same coach also said: "An athlete that has more muscle has an advantage over those that are not willing to cut the extra water weight."  To put it bluntly, this is downright foolish, as cutting water weight means losing muscle.  And as long as we have high school and middle school boys jogging in plastic suits, which makes me cringe every time I see it, we'll have youth wrestlers that don't have good role models.

In order to change our sport for the better, everyone, including coaches, parents, referees, wrestlers, and fans, will need to buy into the healthy mentality.  If we all do that, then maybe one day we'll get to the point where "it’s in those moments that wrestling coaches see the future, when the next generation looks to the current, sees a healthier athlete setting a different example than their fathers and grandfathers learned from, and aspires to be just like them."

Keep the Sport Healthy,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Move With Purpose

The past couple weeks I was working in Arizona (I know, rough weather).  It was a great, fun group of people that I worked with, but there was plenty of work to be done and I meant business.  At one point one of the other workers told me that I "always move with purpose."  Heck yeah I do!  I'm very focused, and I'm on a mission whenever I set out to accomplish anything.  When I set my sights on what needs done, I walk quickly and efficiently, and I keep great posture.

When you move like this, your entire body and all of your systems function better.  When you walk with your head up, back straight, and swing your arms you emanate positive body language and you subconsciously set yourself up for success.  On the other hand, if you trudge along with your head down and shoulders slouched, your performance will probably be as low as your mindset.  Posture and body language are also important when sitting, too.  Research shows that testosterone, crucial for muscle growth, levels are higher if you sit up straight in your chair.

Putting all this into practice, don't wander around aimlessly; rather, decide on your goals, put some blinders on, and zero in on them.  It could be the way you strut out to your next wrestling match, or the way you powerwalk to that meeting at the office.  Put a little swagger in it and you'll be surprised at the increase in energy.  Speaking of swagger, one of the kings of it, Jordan Burroughs, just got handed his first loss since 2009.  It was to fellow American Nick Marable, who won the TourACW event back in October at 170 lbs.  I knew Nick was for real when he wrestled a gutsy 46 minutes in his three matches at TourACW.  JB did a fine job of coming back with a vengeance for third, but it just shows that everyone is human.

Move purposefully,

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jordan Burroughs I am Not

Wow, that's a shocker.  The only similarities are that we both broke our ankles last year and then took an extended period of time off from wrestling afterwards.  As I mentioned in a previous article, JB managed to win the World Championships on a broken ankle, and then he took the rest of 2013 off to rehab his ankle and to get married.  I, on the other hand, broke my ankle at a rinky-dink local tournament.  I've been MIA from blogging since then because of rehabbing my ankle, job searching, and coaching (what else did you think I've been doing since October???).  Now that most of that is done, I want to recommit myself to providing one article for you each week.

This season I once again was an assistant coach for the Copley Youth Wrestling team.  I've also been working one-on-one twice a week with a talented eighth grader from the Copley Middle School team.  He only has one loss on the season, and I've got high hopes for him.  I'm also working with some students at the University of Akron that are looking to start an NCWA (National Collegiate Wrestling Association) Club Team.  They've got uniforms, a place to wrestle, and plenty of enthusiasm for next year.

There are plenty of good tournaments that I'm planning on seeing as well.  I'll be meeting up with a friend from college in Columbus the last weekend of February to watch the Ohio High School State Championships and the Arnold Classic.  March 14th-15th, I'll be up in Cleveland watching the NCAA DII National Championships.  I'm already looking forward to 2018, when Cleveland will host both the NCAA DI and DIII championships.  If only the USAW US Nationals could come back to Cleveland one of these years...

After this season my focus will be helping the UAkron students get organized and prepared for next season, freestyle and greco-roman wrestling, possibly helping to start a Beat the Streets program in Akron and/or Cleveland, writing more, and continuing my crusade against excessive weight-cutting.  It wasn't until sometime this past fall that I finally had a clear vision of my long term-goals supporting the sport of wrestling.  Whether I'll compete any more is still up in the air.

Support the sport at all levels,

P.S.  Long overdue, here is the webcast from the TourACW competition I wrestled in back in October.  Only one of my three matches was recorded.  Check out the Early Round Archives, 2 hr 6 min mark.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Difference Between a Fighter and a Martial Artist

Just some of the free stuff from the tournament sponsors!
 Well, I didn't bring home the oversized $2500 check, but I still had a blast at the inaugural Tour ACW competition.  I got to meet and compete with some of the best of the best, got put under the lights and camera for an interview after my weigh-in, and got plenty of free goodies from the tournament sponsors.  What was even cooler was the reminiscence of 2005's Real Pro Wrestling (RPW), which Tour ACW founder Teague Moore was a competitor in.  I still remember watching those RPW matches each Sunday with my dad and I still have the recordings on VHS.  Although the caliber of this tournament was a notch below that of RPW, Moore told us during Saturday's rules interpretation meeting that they spent a good two and a half hours debating the new rules the night before RPW was filmed.  When he said that I couldn't help but feel that I was a part of something almost as big as RPW.

I went a humbling 1-2 at the event, and although I got rocked in my two losses, I felt proud of the one win I earned.  The unlimited time rule played right into my hand in that match, as I clawed my way back for a come from behind win in 12 minutes 52 seconds.  After the match one of the tournament directors came up to me and asked a few questions.  One thing I told them was: "That was exactly what I wanted!"  I knew that if it came down to a match that long, I would NOT lose.  I was confident that my training this year would allow me to push the pace while my opponent got tired, and by gosh that's what happened.

While most scholastic wrestlers are gearing up for their season, I'm going to be taking a little time now to recover and restore some balance to my life.  I'm unsure of if and when I'll compete in a tournament as big as that again, but I'll still continue training to constantly improve myself because I am a Career Wrestler.  As UFC Welterweight Champ Georges St. Pierre said:
There is a difference between a fighter and a martial artist.  A fighter is training for a purpose: He has a fight.  I'm a martial artist.  I don't train for a fight.  I train for myself.  I'm training all the time.  My goal is perfection.  But I will never reach perfection.
One of the best ways to get better is to do as St. Pierre says and train like a martial artist.  Rather than only training when there are medals to be won, make a commitment to train consistently year round and make small 1% improvements every day.

I'm training all the time,

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pittsburgh here I come!

I'm gonna look sharp for this tournament!
 Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd have the chance to wrestle for money and have sponsors.  But many years of work are paying off this weekend.  I may be a little outclassed in this star-studded tournament, but I have improved a decent amount this off-season.  I've been fortunate enough to be injury free since college, which has given me plenty of uninterrupted training.

I had my final practice yesterday evening, where I got a good drill in at my friends' house, where he has a nice mat in the basement.  Making weight has been pretty painless, and I'm feeling energetic, fast, and strong.  I'm about to leave to pick up my warmup partner and head to Pittsburgh for weigh-ins.  There will be a competitors' meeting and some interviews tonight, but I'll mostly be relaxing for the big day tomorrow!

The event, which starts at 12 noon EST tomorrow, will be streamed live.  You can check out Tour ACW or NSide Wrestling for more information.  Watch for me in the 135 pound class wearing the singlets shown above.  All competitors were required to affix patches with the Tour ACW logo on their competition apparel.  Since I don't remember a thing about sewing from home economics class in middle school, I have to say that my girlfriend sewed those patches on for me!

Again, I can't say how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to compete at this high of a level.  I'll be wrestling the best of the best in a fairly prestigious tournament.  To anyone who's helped me along the way, I owe you one.

Gonna do my best,

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Strong like Lincoln!

Abe Lincoln gained much of his formidable strength from chopping wood.  Photo from
I've probably mentioned to you before that Abraham Lincoln was a wrestler of considerable reputation.  What I may not have mentioned to you was his incredible strength.  Despite his scrawny appearance, Honest Abe was a legend on the prarie and his feats of strength did not go unnoticed.  In addition to wrestling anyone willing to take him on, "Lincoln's father worked him like a dog when he was chopping wood, so he emerged from his teen years really strong. ("

Last Sunday I wound up chopping some wood in my girlfriend Bernadette's backyard with her father and one of her brothers.  I had only chopped wood on one occasion prior (over three years ago), and, for reasons I won't mention right here, I only had one contact in my eyes, so it goes without saying that my performance was pretty abysmal.  But with the stubborn perserverance that I have, I kept on hacking away.  I didn't get much better as the afternoon went on, but I really enjoyed the work and told her father that I wanted to do some more of it this fall.

As I was doing this I recalled a set of brothers from Akron Wrestling Club who became recognizably bigger and stronger this off-season; rumor has it that their father makes them chop wood often.  Chopping wood, as Bernadette's brother reiterated to me, is a fantastic workout for your core and upper body, especially your ever-important grip strength.  So have some fun chopping wood this fall, enjoy the fires, and get stronger for this coming wrestling season!

Chop wood,

P.S.  Abe Lincoln supposedly got his strength from his mother - she was known as the toughest wrestler in Kentucky back in her day!

P.S.S.  Read about the time when Abe outwrestled the town bully!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Broken Ankle Can't Stop JB!

Jordan Burroughs won the 2013 World Championships on a Broken Ankle!  Photo from
Jordan Burroughs has done it again, winning another World Title.  That extends his streak of World/Olympic titles to three straight years, putting him halfway to John Smith's US record of 6 straight.  But get this: he did it on a broken ankle.  Most likely for psychological reasons, Burroughs and his coaches and trainers kept that a well guarded secret before and during the competition, so as to not give his opponents a mental advantage.

Having fractured an ankle myself, I find this particularly incredible.  Although I managed to wrestle at some tournaments before it was healed, I certainly didn't do so with the poise and composure that Burroughs did, not to mention the level that he wrestled at.  His feat was a great demonstration of mental toughness, and it exemplifies one of my favorite quotes: "Don't let your feelings dictate your actions; let your actions dictate your feelings."  Instead of telling himself that his ankle hurts and he's not going to be able to compete at his best, Jordan continued to walk with his usual swagger and didn't let on that he was feeling any pain.  He told himself that he felt good and was able to win the tournament, he firmly belived it, and so he made it a reality.

Under most circumstances I wouldn't advocate that you wrestle on a broken ankle, but when it's crunch time and you've got a tournament that will be the pinnacle of your career, go all in!  Don't let anything stop you!

Wrestle with composure,

P.S.  Now that wrestling is back in the games, Jordan Burroughs plans on wrestling through 2020.  He not only wants to meet, but beat John Smith's record of six straight World/Olympic titles!

Celebrate like an Olympian

This is how I reacted to wrestling making it back into the Olympics.  Photo from

I meant to post this over a month ago, so I really hope you already heard the news that wrestling is back in the Olympic Games for 2020 and 2024.  If you hadn't heard about this yet, we've got some issues here and I'll need you to contact me ASAP...

When I was on vacation out west, my friend and I took a tour of the Olympic Training Center while we were in Colorado Springs.  I was devastated when I found out that we wouldn't be able to see the wrestling room because it was being painted and they were performing maintenance on the facility.  Somehow it didn't even cross my mind that we'd be visiting there while the US contingent was en route to Budapest, Hungary for the World Championships, and while they were gone would be the best time for the US Olympic Committee to upgrade the room.  Oh well, I guess I'll just have to go back sometime.  I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the video that they show guests at the start of the tour.  It showed highlights from some of the recent Olympics.  Many of the scenes gave me chills, especially when there was close up audio and video of one of the US Women's skiers after she won her race and roared in victory.  It was awesome to see and hear the emotion being poured out after such a moment.

That was exactly how I acted when I got the news that wrestling was back in the Olympics.  I hope that my neighbors didn't mind the noise...  However, the fight isn't quite over and we as the wrestling community need to continue the momentum built up from this spring and summer.  Wrestling is not part of the official programme of 25 core sports, and is only guaranteed inclusion in the 2020 and 2024 games.  Much of our victory on September 8th can be attributed to increasing the number of women's weight classes to appease the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in their quest for gender equity, but it came at the expense of men's weight classes.  We are now down to 6 weight classes in each style, a far cry from the 10 we used to have a couple decades ago.  And the IOC made it very plain and clear that while this was an improvement it their eyes, the fact that there are still two styles for men and one for women means that we'll need to make further changes if we want to survive past 2024.  This means that we'll either have to add women's greco-roman, or, more likely, eliminate men's greco-roman.

The following link shows the probable new weight classes: new FILA weight classes.  The major flaw that you'll notice is that the weights were hardly rearranged for an even distribution.  Instead, they essentially eliminated one weight classes and barely moved the others.  That one weight class happened to be 60 kg (132.25 lb) - my weight class.  Before they announced the weights, veteran Greco-Roman wrestler from Akron, Harry Lester, said that the new weights would either be a blessing or the end of his career.  Well, it was likely the end of my career as far as major USA Wrestling and FILA events.  The international weights are so ridiculously spread apart to begin with, and this didn't help at all.  The problem with six weights is that many athletes are forced to cut large amounts of weight.  Under the new weight classes, I'd have to either cut over ten pounds or gain over 10 pounds - in the near future I'm going to cover how you can GAIN some lean muscle if you need to move up a weight class!

Roar in victory,

Monday, September 30, 2013

All I See is Gold!

The Running Indians Wrestlers chillin' after the race.

Well, almost.  Copley Wrestling participated in the Akron Marathon Relay for the 9th straight year, with four teams making up the 2013 contingent.  The coaches' team has never placed first out of our squads, but Team All I See is Gold gave the three student teams quite a scare this time.  I can honestly say that my time of 52:35 for 7.5 miles (more than 2 minutes better than I did last year) was what put us in first from mile 15.5 to mile 25.  None of us saw team 5 Kage cross the finish line, so for a few brief moments we celebrated and talked trash, thinking we'd won, only to be disappointed when the anchor runner of the real winners made it up to the bleachers.  Oh well.

I had 17 days to prepare for the race - far less notice than I had last year - yet I shaved a decent chunk off of my time.  Before finding out about the race, I had been in Texas for a week-long business conference, and then out west on a road trip for nearly two weeks, with limited workouts during those excursions.  Oh, and I almost forgot - I slept just shy of 5 hours the night before the race, had a root beer an hour and a half before hitting the hay, and my ankles had been killing me from a foolish decision to wear my Five Fingers shoes for a six mile run while training.  How I pulled it off, I'm not entirely sure, but I do have a few theories.

For starters, I believe that I've been more committed to my training and nutrition overall this year than I was when I first moved here.  I weigh less than I did a year ago and have been more serious about wrestling.  But the real gem may have been the "elevation training" I received from my road trip.  For most of our time we were at base elevations of about a mile, and many of our day trips brought us much higher.  One outing in particular was a hefty hike to the 11,000 ft summit of Snowbird mountain.  All that huffing and puffing during our ascent proved worthwhile when I did my first run upon returning from vacation.  Despite not having been on a normal workout schedule, I felt fantastic during my runs that week.  Unfortunately the effects had all but worn off by the time the race rolled around, but it was the catalyst I needed for my last-minute preparation.  Easier said than done, but I highly recommend going up some mountains if you get a chance...

See gold,

P.S.  Speaking of gold, keep an eye out for my next posts, where I'll talk about Jordan Burroughs' third straight World/Olympic title, as well as updates on the Olympic outlook on wrestling.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Power Yoga

Try telling NCAA Champ Jesse Jantzen that yoga is for wimps.  Photo from

You may not think that it sounds very "tough" for a wrestler to do yoga, but that's exactly what NCAA Champ Jesse Jantzen from Harvard did during his career, and that's exactly what I did today after practice.  I was wrestling at John Carroll University tonight, and their assistant coach told me about a Power Yoga class that goes on every Tuesday in the basement of the building.  He went for the first time last week, and suggested that I come today.

Yoga's benefits include flexibility, balance, relaxation, strength, and more, but I felt it was even better following a wrestling practice.  My muscles were warm, which made stretching easier, and the relaxation was much needed.  If your training sessions on the mat and in the gym are intense, you need something to balance it out and to prevent injuries.  If you're serious about wrestling, I suggest you man up and do some power yoga.

The class I went to tonight was free, but unfortunately that is often not the case.  Even if you don't have the cash to attend an instructor led class, there are countless videos and instructionals on basic yoga movements on the internet.  If even that seems like to much effort, you can always continue with your normal post workout stretching routine, but incorporate the deep breathing that is an essential part of yoga.


P.S. After being out of town for a week for work and then on vacation for nearly two weeks, I need to get back on the saddle, so stay tuned for more blogs in the near future.  There's a lot for me to write about - wrestling's back in the Olympics, the international weights are going to change, my lungs got a boost from the elevation out west, and I've got less than four weeks until the biggest tournament of my life!

P.S.S. By the way, "namaste" is what most yoga instructors have everyone say at the closing of the session.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Final Push for Olympic Wrestling Bid!

Your vote counts!  Make your voice heard!  Even if you don't have the time or money to help the Save Olympic Wrestling movement, you can do your part by voting in this poll and passing it on to others:

We have until September to prove to the world why our sport belongs in the games!

Are you a career wrestler?

Wrestling with Dr. Michael Whitely [photo from]

I know I definitely am.  I didn't just wrestle in high school or just wrestle in college - I am a wrestler.  I continue to stay involved with the sport in any way that I can make time for.  Far too many people just hang up their shoes when their high school, college, or even international career is over, and even if they do some coaching, they never really wrestle again.

I really think this is the wrong idea.  Although wrestling is mostly a young man's (and woman's) game, I believe that in order for us to advance the sport and make it grow, wrestling needs to be an activity that you can do recreationally.  There needs to be a way for people to just go to the gym and wrestle, just like anyone can just go to the gym and shoot hoops.  Some may say that wrestling should only be a competitive sport reserved for the diehards, but if that is the case, how will you ever get people that are on the fringe interested in the sport?

And for anyone that thinks that you can't wrestle when you're middle aged or older, think again.  I know of a handful of wrestlers that are in their 70s+ that can still get on the mat and whoop your butt, and I personally know two fifty-year-olds that decided to make a lifestyle change and get back in shape by wrestling.  Both of them lost at least 40 pounds in the process and still roll around on the mat with college wrestlers.  But on the other hand, your body will change as you age, despite your best efforts.  Thus, it becomes even more important at that point to keep your body in good enough condition to handle wrestling, warm up properly to avoid injury, and maintain your flexibility.

In addition to continuing to wrestle after our competitive days are over, we should be doing things such as bringing back wrestling as part of the curriculum in P.E. classes and reinstating wrestling as an intramural and interfraternity sport at colleges.  We should be starting recreational groups such as the one my former college teammate practices with in New York City.  We should be teaching wrestling as a method of self-defense and exercise to people of all ages and genders.  And we should be opening up gyms that are dedicated to wrestling for both competitive and recreational athletes.

Now finally to the point I wanted to make.  Last week I signed up to compete in the new concept tournament, Tour ACW (Association of Career Wrestlers), on October 20th in Pittsburgh, PA.  This is a first of its kind event for post-collegiate wrestlers that even offers a cash prize to the winner of each weight class:  Without going into too much detail, the rules are a combination of freestyle and folkstyle, and I personally think it takes the best of both worlds.  What's most unique about this tournament is that there are no periods, no time limits, no nothing.  The match ends with either a pin or the first person to ten points!  The first to ten rule will make it exciting for both fans and athletes, as it will promote action and risk-taking.  I'm most excited about the unlimited time, as it favors my endurance.  I always did well during long "grind" matches during college or "red flag" practices at camps.  So pumped!

Be a career wrestler,

P.S. One of the fifty-year-olds I wrestle with sometime sends out mass texts to myself and others saying: "Anyone interested in rolling around at Cleveland State today?"  In my opinion, this is totally awesome; it is exactly what I envision with people just being able to go the the gym and wrestle!

Dr. Michael Whitely Wins Greco-Roman World Gold in Belfast!

Dr. Michael Whitely Wins World Gold!

Ironically, one of my pupils since April is a college professor.  I mentioned this unlikely scenario in a previous post, but now this phase of his research has come to a close, and a good one at that.  Although it wasn't feasible for me to make the trip to Belfast, Ireland with Dr. Michael Whitely for the World Police and Fire Championships, I was one of the first here in the US to find out that he took first place in Greco-Roman!  Going into the tournament, Mike was nervous about all of the rule changes for freestyle and greco-roman, but he put together a great run by beating the wrestlers from Japan, Sweden, and Russia!  I couldn't be more proud of him.

His local paper interviewed him a couple weeks ago regarding his research project, and then they photographed one of our training sessions in the John Carroll University wrestling room.  You can read the article here:

Congrats Mike!

Looking Back on Off-Season 2013

"Tomorrow is promised to no one." - Walter Payton [photo from

Well, it's been just over a year since I started coaching here in Ohio, and it's been quite a ride, especially this off-season.  Although I still coached wrestlers from ages 5 to 50, I dedicated a good chunk of my time to advancing my own wrestling.  When I was in high school I was very active in wrestling during the off-season, wrestling at different camps, clubs, clinics, and tournaments.  I usually was on the mat about 5 times a week in the spring and about 2-3 times per week in the summer.  Once I was in college and was working full time during summers, it became harder to stay involved during the off-season due to the limited amount of open mats for my age group that fit my schedule.

Despite how busy I've been, I think I managed to make this my best off-season since as long ago as 2007.  Since mid-March, I've wrestled anywhere from 1-6 days per week each week, with the exception of a vacation week in June.  I worked out with some high school wrestlers that I coach, and I attended open mats at two different area colleges.  I practiced with a Division I All-American without even realizing it.  I competed in the University Nationals/World Team Trials and got my weight down to the lowest it's been since college in the process.  I helped coach a wrestler to 4th place at the FILA Cadet Nationals.  I assisted a college professor as he wrestled for an academic research project and helped train him to winning a gold medal at the World Police and Fire Olympics.  And last but not least, I finally got cauliflower ear (more on that later).

I had already been planning on wrestling in the University Nationals for about a year, but the IOC's recommendation back in February to cut wrestling from the Olympics really set me in action.  Although the Olympics isn't a realistic goal for me (I know, I know, I should be preaching to you all that anything's possible if you set your mind on it), I decided to start somewhat of an experiment.  I wanted to see just how much I could improve if I tried to train as if I was preparing for the Olympics.  Due to untimely injuries in college, I hadn't had more than a couple uninterrupted months of training since 2009, and so I feel I didn't come close to reaching my potential.

The next summer Olympiad is still three years away, but that's precisely the point.  If I continue what I've done this off-season - walking the fine line between working hard and overtraining, while trying to maintain balance, consistency, fun - for three years, imagine how much progress I could make.  As Ohio State University head coach Tom Ryan says in the book Elite Wrestling, "wrestling is a marathon, not a sprint."  I can't go all out each day and burn myself out.  I need to train both hard and smart, get plenty of rest, and take care of my body so that I don't fall prey to some of the most common career enders for wrestlers - knee and shoulder injuries (more on that in future posts!).

As I said before, my chances of making it to the Olympics would be slim to none, but with the predicament wrestling is in, 2016 may be the last chance for any of us to make an Olympic team.  If wrestling does end up getting axed in September, people will be coming out of the woodworks to make the 2016 team.  We need to keep in mind a line from football great Walter Payton: "Tomorrow is promised to no one."  Live each day like it's your last, and wrestle at each practice as if it's your last.  You don't want to have any regrets.  I can tell you from experience that when I thought my career had ended two and a half years ago, I most definitely had some regrets.  Don't let it happen to you.

What did you do this off-season?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Please, please, please don't do this

Forgive me for not telling you this sooner, but I've been involved in a fascinating project with an adjunct professor from Kent State University this spring and summer.  In a nutshell, I'm helping him relearn wrestling after a 30-year hiatus.  To give you the full story, he is a professor of educational psychology, and one of his research areas is multiple intelligence theory.  That theory proposes that there are nine (some experts argue that there are even more) different types of intelligence.  In each phase of this project he is exploring a different type of intelligence.  Right now he is working on the Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, and what he is trying to do is reconnect neuro-muscular pathways from a physical activity he did long ago, wrestling.  I met him by pure chance at a wrestling practice at John Carroll University, and he recruited me to help prepare him to wrestle at the Police and Fire Championships (he is also a retired Police Officer).

By all means, try to do what he's doing and regain some muscle memory, but DO NOT do the following.  When going over his training regimen with him I found out that he had been running for 60-90 minutes a few times a week.  I cringe whenever I hear that for a few different reasons.  First of all, it's not efficient for fat loss.  Second, it doesn't meet all the energy needs of a wrestler.  And lastly, it can wreak havoc on your knees and other joints, especially if you're 50 and already have knee problems like he does.  What I advised (more like strongly recommended, or forced) him to do was switch up his conditioning to the following three workouts each week, done on non-consecutive days, and preferably after wrestling practice, rather than before:
  • Hill sprints - run up the hill as fast as you can, and walk back down - this is much easier on the joints and whoops you into shape in about 15 minutes.  Bleachers/stairs are a good option if you don't have a hill.  This is the energy system (anaerobic) you use when you lift your opponent or execute an explosive movement.
  • Intervals - find a track and sprint the straightaways and jog the curves - alternate this way for about one mile and you've got yourself an incredible workout.  This is the energy system (glycolictic) you use to win a scramble or dogfight lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to an entire period.
  • Long distance - before you think I'm contradicting myself, I'll say that I'm only recommending running a mile or two, three at most.  Go at a nearly "race pace" and try to improve your time each week.  This is the energy system (aerobic) you use to make it through a six (or more) minute match without gassing.
Long distance running does have its place, but it can't be the sole source of your conditioning.  If your knees or ankles bother you, try substituting biking or swimming as I had my trainee do last week.  Wrestling is one of the most demanding sports and has very unique needs - you must develop all three of the energy systems that your body uses.  If you do that your opponents will have a difficult time wearing you out, and you will have an easy time losing weight.

If that weren't enough to convince you to ditch all the long distance cardio, someone at my office passed out from a heat stroke at mile 23 of the Cleveland Marathon - and he was one of several people carried off on a stretcher.  Hmm, something's not right here; if a particular exercise can put a highly trained athlete in the hospital, it may not be the best thing for you.

Please don't do that,

I Had no Idea what I was Doing

No matter how much you think you know, there will always be someone who humbles you by showing you how much you don't know.  Earlier this week I was working out at one of the YMCA's which I recently discovered has a punching bag.  Being that boxing, whether it be shadow boxing, hitting the heavy bag, or sparring with a partner, is great cardio, I finished up my workout with a few minutes of it.  I've never had any formal training in punching, but I felt that I was working up a good sweat and doing some damage to the bag.

A few minutes later I was stretching out and relaxing in the sauna, and a man who had observed me asked if I do any fighting.  No, I just like using the bag for a workout.  My eye doctor would never let me fight, anyways.  He explained to me how my footwork was off, and he also emphasized how I need to twist my body more to get more power out of my punches.  Instantly a lightbulb went off.

If I knew how important my obliques (side adominals) were in wrestling, why wasn't I taking advantage of them when punching?  In any sport, especially wrestling, your power is generated from your hips and through your core.  And goodness knows how much your hips and core twist in wrestling.  If you want to be faster and more explosive on the mat, you can't neglect your obliques.  Rather than just doing crunches or leg lifts at the end of a workout, include a twisting or oblique exercise, whether it be twists with a medicine ball, side planks, or "Rocky crunches" (watch the movies and you'll see how he touches his elbow to his opposite knee when he crunches).  In order to build a balanced core, you need to work all parts of your abdominal muscles, not just the front of them.

Get twisting,

Monday, May 27, 2013

Souped-Up Gatorade

Have some souped-up Gatorade after weigh-ins.  photo from

I don't know why I never used this tip until now, as I first learned of it when I wrestled for Team Illinois in 2006.  That experience at the training camp and then at Fargo was the first time that I was exposed to serious weight cutting.  As for whether it's good or not is a whole other story, but some of these guys sure could cut.  But what they also knew how to do was how to rehydrate quickly after weigh-ins.  As silly as it sounds, many of them would drink Pedialyte.

The well-known children's drink used to replace fluids lost from vomiting or diarrhea can also be used to rapidly replace water and electrolytes after cutting weight.  I like to think of Pedialyte as souped-up Gatorade, as it contains vital electrolytes, salts, and other minerals.  I had a bottle of it after both of my weigh-ins this weekend at University Nationals/World Team Trials, and it tastes delicious.

I would always advise to reconsider going up a weight before you cut any drastic amount of weight, or to start planning far ahead if you want to move down.  However, there may be scenarios where you need to fit into a particular spot in your team's dual lineup or you just plain didn't prepare right.  Or, you may be as frustrated as me that the international weights are so spread out and so you need to shoehorn yourself into a weight class for any FILA tournament.  In any case such as that, grab some Pedialyte at the store before weigh-ins and then drink up.

Don't be embarassed to drink it,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Buddy Bear Crawls

Just when you thought bear crawls were tough, I've got an advanced version: buddy bear crawls.  The wrestler crawling will get on all fours as if he was about to perform a normal bear crawl, but his partner lays down face up underneath him, with his body parallel.  The partner reaches up and interlocks his hands behind the crawling wrestler's neck.  The wrestler then bear crawls as fast as he can while dragging his partner with him!

A slightly less torturous variation is to bear crawl backwards.  Just as when going forward, you are encouraged to gallop quickly if you can do so.  Backwards bear crawls, and backwards running for that matter, challenge your hamstrings in a unique way, and goodness knows you need powerful hamstrings in wrestling.

Use these exercises in your warmup, or for conditioning after practice.  They're great for kids to do, too!

Drag your buddy,

P.S. The rules for freestyle and greco just underwent a major overhaul, with the most obvious change being the move to two three minute periods and continuous scoring, rather than best two out of three periods.  The rules aren't perfect, but I'm excited for this weekend's competition because the three minute periods favor my endurance!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wrestling Shouldn't be a Pain in the Neck

Believe it or not, you can use this as a training tool

 No matter how much you stretch, you well you warm up, or how flexible you are in the neck bridge, there will inevitably be times when your neck gets cranked and you end up in a lot of pain.  I consider myself to have a pretty strong, flexible neck, but I still occasionally get my neck tweaked and it's no fun when it hurts to turn your head.  The worst neck injury I've had was my freshman year in high school at a tournament at Notre Dame High School.  I took third, and the guy that beat me really did a number on my neck.  So much so that my head was cocked to the side for a couple days and I had to walk around looking like an idiot.

I didn't know as much at the time, so I just iced my neck and upper back where it hurt and tried to roll my neck around to keep it loose.  If only I had known some of the tricks I know now.  Aside from neck bridging and other stretches, one of the best ways to relieve a strained neck muscle is by using a tennis ball to apply pressure and massage out the knots.  Since you probably don't have a masseuse at your beck and call, this is a great substitute.  Simply place the ball on a mat or carpeted surface, and lay down with the point of pain directly on top of the ball.  One thing worth noting is that one of the muscles on the back of your neck is actually your trapezius (see the picture here: and it is usually there where I need to massage things out.  The trapezius muscle extends horizontally from your shoulder to your spine, and vertically from the base of your skull to the middle of your back.  Even if the strain is somewhere in your upper back, it probably still will hurt to turn your head or rotate your neck since the muscle works as one unit.

When you lay on the ball, put as much pressure on the muscle as you can.  If you can stand the pain with your hips off the mat, then do so.  Slowly move yourself over the ball so that it rolls around the area that hurts.  When finished, you will probably be surprised at how much looser your neck feels.  Give it a try next time!

Buy a tennis ball,

Monday, May 13, 2013

Don't Let Squash Overtake Wrestling!

As you all know, wrestling has been placed on the chopping block for the 2020 Olympics.  There have been numerous articles and videos posted all over the web, petitions to sign, and t-shirts to buy (if you haven't bought the official Keep Wrestling in the Olympics T-Shirt, do so at  It's a pretty cool performance gear shirt, it costs $30, and $20.20 of each shirt goes towards saving the sport.

One of the polls out there asks readers what sport the IOC should include in its core program of 25 sports.  Wrestling has been leading, but squash is catching up for goodness sakes!  Vote now and every day before May 27th, and encourage others to do so at:!

Several weeks back I was wearing my Keep Wrestling in the Olympics t-shirt to the gym, and I ran into a lady who's husband wrestles and who has two sons that wrestle.  She asked where to get the shirt, and we talked for several minutes about why it's so absurd to drop wrestling from the Olympics.  I've done my homework and read most of the articles out there, and there are simply too many reasons why wrestling should be kept, and there are facts and figures supporting it.  I've got way too many points to make to list here, and I told the lady I could probably write an entire book explaining why the IOC's decision was flawed.  She quickly responded by saying that I absolutely should write a book about that.  It got me thinking that I most definitely should!

That's been an idea in the back of my head for a couple months now, but I haven't really acted on it, other than keeping a list of all the articles and videos I've viewed.  However, there's been a legitimate reason that I haven't made the time: I'm going to be competing in the University Nationals/University World Team Trials at the University of Akron in two weeks!  It is the last year that I'm eligible for this age division, and so I can't pass up an opportunity to wrestle in a tournament like that when it'll be in my own backyard!  I don't want to have any regrets about not giving it a shot, because I'll never have this chance again.  It will be a meat grinder at each weight class, but you can't win if you don't try, and the winner of each weight class gets to represent the US in Russia this July.  I've been training as much as I can at high schools and colleges in the area, and I'm nearing peak condition.

Obviously saving the sport is a high priority, too, and so I plan on writing like mad once the tournament is over in two weeks.  Just days after, the IOC will have an executive board meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia to decide which sport should be added to the core program.  If wrestling gets chosen, then we're in for certain.  If it doesn't, it will have one last shot in September at the IOC General Assembly in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  It doesn't matter whether or not you want to be an Olympian - this should be important to you, too.  Show your support in this fight!

Keep the dream alive!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Ever set off to achieve a new goal with lots of fire and enthusiasm, only to see that zeal fade away as times get rough, setbacks push the goal out of reach, or your simply not hitting your target?  I know I sure have, and I'll bet it's happened to each of you.

Many times wrestlers start a season with lofty aspirations and everyone is eager on the first day of practice.  But far too often those same athletes get to a point in the season where they're worn down and the season seems to be dragging, and they can't wait for the season to be done.  They can't wait until the days when they don't have to go to practice.  They can't wait until they don't have to watch their weight.  They can't wait until they don't have to be disciplined about their strength and conditioning workouts.  But many times the season flies by before they know it, there's a big physical and mental letdown, and pretty soon they're bored because they don't have anything they're working for.

Similar things happen in several areas in life.  You can't wait for this semester to be over.  You can wait until you leave this job and start a new one.  You can't wait until your kids are out of diapers.  We always think that once I finish this, once I have that, once I achieve ______, my life will be better, I'll be happier, and I won't have as much to worry about.  However, life will always present you with new challenges, and you will never really get "there."  If you did, and you had nothing left to work for, then the rest of your life would be really boring.  We're never happy with where we currently are, and we're always looking for the next best thing.  That's not entirely bad, but if we don't enjoy the present moment, it will pass us by before we even know it.  And if you don't enjoy where you're currently at in life, you'll never be happy.

Rather than letting time and opportunities slip through your grasp, the highly acclaimed sports psychologist Brian Cain recommends: "Stop counting the days, and make those days count."  Stop counting down the practices left in the season just because it's hard.  Stop wishing your time away at work just because you don't like the job.  Stop trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel in an academic course just because it's a lot of work.  I've done all three of those, and I truly regret each instance.  You may feel like it's awful while you're going through it, but believe me, you'll miss those things after they're done.

That being said, you need to bring a fresh perspective to practice each day (or work, school, or whatever you're pursuing), no matter what the circumstances.  As Olympic Champ Jordan Burroughs says, "Embrace the grind."  I challenge each of you and myself to live more in the present and make the most of each day.  The mother of one of my wrestlers likes to tell her sons, her husband, and herself to "recommit" if they're losing fire for a goal.  If you're running out of steam, take a quick mental break and think about why you do what you do and what you want to come out of it.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

How to Hit a Five Point Throw

A five point throw in a greco-roman match.

It's freestyle and greco-roman season right now, and everybody loves seeing a five point throw.  As one ref described it at a tournament last month, those are the types of throws that make everyone in the stands go "ooooh" - except for the mother of the kid being thrown, who is probably screeching in fear.  Most often, it is a beautiful, high arching suplex.  It is as much a form of art as it is superb technique.  Wouldn't you like to know how to hit one yourself?

Before you learn the technique of getting into position and then executing the throw, you must first have enough strength and flexibility in your core, as well as good mind-body (kinesthetic) awareness.  For starters, you should be able to hold a back bridge with your nose touching the mat and your feet flat, preferably for three minutes.  The next step to working on your back arch is an exercise that many wrestlers refer to as wall walks.

After you are sufficiently warmed up (I don't advise doing wall walks cold, same as for bridging), stand with your back to a solid wall, oftentimes the padded wall of your wrestling room if you're warming up for a practice.  Put one foot in front of the other, toe to heel, and then take one more step in the same manner.  You'll now be standing about two feet from the wall.  Spread your legs shoulder width apart and begin arching backwards.  Do not tuck your chin, instead look straight up/back  Once you start arching, place your hands on the wall and slowly walk them down to the floor.  Once your head gently touches the mat, walk your hands back up the wall until you're standing again.

If that is too hard, try standing a little farther away from the wall.  As your flexibility improves, inch your way closer to the wall.  The closer you stand, the more you'll have to arch.  Doing this ten times without stopping is a great strength and flexibility builder that will also get your heart rate and breathing racing.  It is an excellent warmup for a wrestling practice, as well as a great all-around exercise for any individual.

Walk the wall,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Koalas must have superb respiratory systems

No, I'm serious.  Eucalyptus, which we all know Koalas eat, can keep your respiratory system in check.  On Friday I did a stint in the sauna after finishing up my swimming, and this one other guy brought in a bottle of eucalyptus oil and began spraying it on the walls.  The aroma hit my nostrils instantly.  Eucalyptus oil is one of the ingredients in Defense Soap, so at least I was somewhat accustomed to the overpowering scent.

I asked him about it and he told me that he does it to clear up his sinuses.  After hearing this, a quick search online taught me that it wards off colds, reduces inflammation, and increases oxygen to every cell in your body.  Some people spray it in their house, car, or even on their pillow.

I don't know too much else about this, but I'll probably look into it more.  The man I met said that they keep the bottle in a storage box right outside the sauna, so I'll have to give it another shot next time I'm at the pool.

Spray away,

More Ravens Tidbits

59-year-old man doing the splits.  No big deal, just chilling while I check my phone.  

At this point you're probably beginning to think that I'm a Ravens fan, being that this is the third blog where I've referenced them.  I can assure you that's not the case, but that doesn't change the fact the I received an e-mail from Roger Erickson, the stretching guru that the team hired this past year.  He saw the post I wrote after the Super Bowl, and he showed me a link to an article that was written about him and his work with the Ravens:

To quote the article, "who wouldn’t listen to a 270-pound man who can lift his leg over his head?"  Erickson has helped many clients extend their careers and enjoy life with less pain from stiff muscles and joints.  His main job with the Ravens is to prepare their bodies the day before a game and to help them recover the day after a game.

Wrestling and Football are two very different sports, but many principles cross over.  Both are very physically demanding, and recovery is a key aspect.  This past weekend I worked out with Cleveland State's team at their open mats, and it was certainly the toughest practice I've done since college.  I'm very excited to get back on the mat and get back into fighting shape, but I made a huge error in not stretching out afterwards.  Exhausted, I slumped into my car and drove home.  Forty-five minutes later I arrived at my apartment, my muscles undoubtedly no longer warm, so a stretch wouldn't have been as effective then.  I told myself that I was going to stretch later, but I just never got around to it.  I paid the price, and I was a lot sorer than I would've liked yesterday.

Based on this weekend's experience and others from the past, I'm sure that I would've felt a heck of a lot better if I'd stayed just a short while longer and stretched.  Instead of making excuses or putting it off, stick around after practice and get your recovery in.  You'll thank yourself later.

You'll thank me later,

When breaks between matches aren't breaks

In the past I've stressed the importance of consuming foods or liquids between matches at day-long tournaments.  I still can't emphasize that enough.  Even if you pinned someone in 30 seconds, you still exert a lot of energy for each match.  First of all, physical and emotional highs of a tournament use up much of your nervous energy stores.  Second, you most certainly are putting forth maximal effort in every match; if you're not, your coach has probably already yelled at you before I even conceived of this blog.  Lastly, your warmup and cool-down routine for each match require a great deal of energy.

In order for you to compete at your peak for each match, you need the proper fuel.  However, that can very considerably for each competition.  For example, this spring there are many Freestyle and Greco-Roman tournaments going on.  One crucial difference in the international rules is that they only require that you have 15 minutes between each match, whereas American Folkstyle rules require 45 minute breaks.  Clearly, you need to eat differently at tournaments of different styles.

As you may know, your body has to work harder to digest proteins and fats than it does carbohydrates.  That being said, you don't want to divert all your blood to your stomach if you're going to wrestle within the hour.  At a Folkstyle tournament I'd recommend an energy bar or drink, with mainly carbs and a little protein - something with a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio would be optimal, as I wrote about in my book.  If you have a bye for a round, you can have something more substantial, perhaps a sandwich with lean meat.  If you have a several hour break, such as in between sessions at a state or national tournament, you can have a full meal.

But at a Freestyle or Greco tournament, they may call your name again before you know it.  You need to get some quick nutrition in you.  It should be something simple and easily digestible.  A banana, granola bar, or Gatorade should suffice.  Regardless of what style it is, you need to keep yourself nourished.  Many wrestlers make the excuse that they aren't hungry or they can't hold any food down during a tournament, but then they feel sluggish because they haven't properly fed themselves.  If you find it hard to stomach food with a match coming up shortly, stick to sports drinks or meal replacement drinks.

One exception I can think of to avoiding fats before a match is coconut oil.  Coconut oil is a special fat called a medium chain triglyceride, and your body uses it as quick energy - it gets processed even before sugars do.  One bizarre yet tasty combination I sometimes use as an "energy shot" is extra-virgin coconut oil mixed with raw, local honey.  Consuming this shortly before a competition will give you an extra boost.  It is known that a fast-burning carb (honey) combined with a fat (coconut oil) gets treated like a slow-burning carb by your body.  When the oil is slightly melted, this delicious mix has the consistency of peanut butter.  Enjoy it straight or spread it on toast.

Eat between matches!