I’m old and busted. I wish I were able to recover like I used to, and I wish I had as much free time as I once had to practice more frequently than I do now. Currently, I make it on the mats 1-3 times a year, if I’m lucky. It’s one of those things that you don’t really get to just do in your spare time. It’s not like playing 3 on 3 basketball on Saturday mornings, or over lunch. There just isn’t the same sort of outlet for wrestlers, so you have to know people, where there is a room, that you can practice in, without it being weird. That last part is important. I can’t just show up at a high school, uninvited, and declare that I’m going to practice. That’s weird, and I wouldn’t want to do that. You can show up to an open gym to play basketball with strangers, but again, doesn’t work that way with wrestling. Anyway, through this podcast, I’ve been fortunate to establish some connections, that make it not weird (or at least less weird) for me to show up and get some mat time.
One of those connections, has been with former Michigan Wrestler, and current Head Coach at Alma College, Jeremiah Tobias. I knew I was going to be in the area, and he allowed me the chance to drop into a practice, get a workout in, and more importantly, get some insight into his methodology, and how they are entering the home stretch of the wrestling season. At this point of the year, Alma has two guys ranked in the top 5 at their respective weights, 141 - Brendan Ladd ranked 4th, and 149 - Zachary Cooper ranked 2nd. Alma as a team is coming off of a 2nd place finish at the Mid State Championships, and are now preparing for the NCAA D3 Central Regionals, which start on Feb 22nd. Coach Tobias let me know beforehand, that at this point in the season, their focus is really on maintaining their health, getting some of the beat up guys more healthy, and working on some techniques that some of their guys will need next week. To paraphrase, most of their guys know where they are, and what they need to do. He’s helping them reach that point in their best mental and physical state they can. What you read next, will be post practice thoughts.
My body hurts. They started the practice as you’d expect, with some jogging, and stretching and such. I started stretching well before they did, because I’m old and busted. We got into some drilling and moving through tie ups, scoring from those ties, reshots, defense, and front headlocks. In my prime, I would make it through practice with no water breaks, and would pride myself on mentally and physically pushing the pace while I watched others wilt around me… I got my first water break, like, after the first set of drills. Several old man breaks were taken through the course of drilling. Like I said, I’m old and busted.
As we continued, we got into bottom work. Putting several moves together to get out. Shout out to my partner through the day, Erik Arnegard, who competes for Alma at 165. He was asking questions, and really working on areas that we found during some of these drills. Erik is a Sophomore, and has spent the majority of their year as their starter at his respective weight of 165. One thing that stood out, was just working on the mental side of wrestling. Knowing where you are in a given situation (in this case, clearing legs from bottom), and having confidence in what you are doing technically, is another huge part of wrestling. Sometimes it’s hard to pick up on the subtleties of the top guys, because it’s so natural to them, and they do it so quickly. Coach Tobias broke down this situation with the group, and individually, to help his guys have the very confidence in the technique necessary to execute in a match. Another trick, is having the confidence to let it fly in practice, so that it’s not new to you in a match. I’ve spoken with several people who were too worried to give up a takedown or point in practice, that they never allow themselves to explore other ways to score, and improve their wrestling.
There was some live wrestling at the end of practice, which was as accurate a portrayal of my cardio as one could have asked for. I was taken down (including a legit, Louden Swain lat drop), I got some take downs, gave up some back points, got some back points, got into some legit scrambles, and overall had a blast. Back to the pickup basketball analogy. I’d say my performance was a lot like the guy who takes 2/3 possessions off. I’d run up and down court, but have no intention of doing anything but stand in the corner and wait for a three, or possibly grab a rebound. Every third play I’ll cut to the rim, and really try to score, but for the most part, I’m floating through, and really hoping not to have to play defense. I had a good time though, and despite my whole body hurting today, and probably for the next several days, I’d do it again. It was cool being in the room, and seeing these guys make a push for the post season, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they finish it out. Again, shout out to Coach Tobias, Coach Groeneveld, Coach Roberts, and Arnegard for giving me the chance to drop in, and confirming that I am in fact, old and busted.