Making the Transition from Folkstyle to Freestyle

 cheapseats photography

cheapseats photography

By Sarah Bollinger

I began wrestling when I was 4 years old, but didn’t start competing until high school. I was aware of freestyle because my older brother competed in both freestyle and greco during the summer. Besides that, I knew very little. I didn’t know it was the Olympic style, I didn’t know it was the style in college for women, and I didn’t know it was the style for high school national tournaments like Fargo. My junior year of high school, I was allowed to wrestle in a college open tournament. I did not have a coach and freestyle rules were different. I just wrestled. I thought I was winning the match, but it turns out I was loosing by a technical fall! This is how I learned you cannot expose your back in freestyle at all, or else risk giving up points (I tried to granby...a lot). Now as a college coach and former college athlete, I can say with confidence that freestyle is my passion! I always encourage young ladies at camps to continue working on freestyle because it is their future. Once you graduate high school, you compete exclusively in freestyle. Even during high school, you have the opportunity to become a freestyle world team member. Even at a young age, there should be nothing stopping you from dreaming of being the greatest! If you put the work in, you can be an Olympic Champion!

The fear of changing wrestling styles

When it came to transitioning from folkstyle to freestyle I didn’t think it would be hard or easy, I just knew it was going to be different. Many wrestlers are scared to try a new style, but I was excited to learn more. Mostly, this was due to the challenges of my first freestyle tournament. I also had the opportunity to work with some great wrestlers and coaches because my brother was already in the freestyle and greco world. I knew that if I wanted to succeed in college and on the senior level, I would need to focus on freestyle.

Making the transition

The two steps I took to help my transition to freestyle were to practice as much as possible, and to compete as often as possible. Putting time on the mat is a major factor that you can control completely.  I discovered who were the best coaches and athletes around me and found a way to train with them. My high school didn’t invest much time into freestyle, but I was committed to improving. During the summer I would drive two hours to practice at Laguna Hills with coach Valentin Kalika in the morning, then drive another hour to practice at Mark Munoz’s gym at night. In between those sessions, I added another workout. I went to any camps or practices offered by 2008 Olympian Marcie Van Dusen whenever I could. I attended three competitions my first summer, then countless the following year. I developed a passion for freestyle and never wanted to stop. I figured out how to make it happen, and took advantage of every opportunity.

The lessons from freestyle

I learned quite a few lessons from freestyle. I learned how to be a student of the sport. It is important to watch freestyle competitions and understand the history of the greatest sport in the world. I began to recognize the importance of someone you can look up to, follow, or learn from. Every great mentor/teacher was once inspired by their own mentor, past wrestler, or coach. Whether it is Helen Maroulis or your high school coach, always look for ways to grow. My toughest lesson was that it’s ok to fail. Failure is always an opportunity to learn, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” Proverbs 4:25 NLT. Focus on your goals. Don’t get sidetracked with little setbacks. Lastly, just wrestle. I always had so much fun being on the mat because I was doing what I loved, no matter the style.  

3 steps to jump in to freestyle fearlessly

  1. Be a student. Don’t be ignorant and think you know everything. No one knows everything about wrestling. Put the work in and always be ready to learn with an open mind. Freestyle is just another way to grow your talents and explore the sport you love so much.

  2. Make opportunities, don’t wait for them. I used to pity myself and think, ‘Well, I would be as good as her if I could travel like that.’ YOU are the only one that holds you back! Don’t compare yourself to others. Use your resources and become the best version of you. Watch video, practice in your living room with your little brother or sister, work on visualization. There is always something you can do to be better. Don’t let external factors keep you from being great!

  3. Enjoy it. I got injured my sophomore year of college and couldn’t wrestle for 8 months. I never took it for granted again. When I finally let go of worrying about external factors, I had the best year of my college career. I may not have won every match, but I did everything I could and gave 100%. It didn’t matter who was on the mat, I just wrestled. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your passion alive. Passion is what drives your motivation, and will ultimately allow you grow.


Sarah Bollinger is the Head Women’s Wrestling Coach at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS. She was a 3x WCWA All-American with Missouri Baptist, and graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science and Physical Education. She was an Assistant Wrestling Coach at Missouri Baptist for three years, where she helped produce six All-Americans and a national champion.



Breaking Boundaries: Coach Maryam

We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to wrestling's unsung heroes around the world. Coach Maryam was introduced to us through our friend, Hooman Tavakolian of Tavak Partners, a sport diplomacy company. Hooman was kind enough to make the introduce us to Coach Maryam to get to know her better and spread her story. 

What was your upbringing like?

I was born in Tehran. I am the middle child. I have an older sister and a younger brother. My father was a wrestler. My mother was a teacher. We come from a working class family. I was raised around the wrestling mat and [my father’s] involvement. Because of this, I always wanted be involved, but on the coaching level.

What introduced you to wrestling, and who ended up teaching you?

I was introduced to the sport by my dad. I used to watch him wrestle, practice and compete. My father taught me the sport. Also, let it be known that wrestling is very popular in Iran, and is part of the culture. We are all raised in the environment and are aware of the sport as it's the national sport.

What inspired you to coach?

I was inspired to be a coach because of my interest in the sport. My dream and many of the girls’ dreams in Iran is to have wrestling for women in Iran. When Mr. Khadem created wrestling for females, I jumped on it quickly, got involved, and wanted to give back. I was lucky to have learned the basics from my dad. I was just waiting for the opportunity to jump in.

Who have been your biggest supporters in your wrestling journey?

My biggest supporters has been my mother. She always supported me and believes in equal rights for women. She always pushed me to chase this dream. My dad wasn't really too big on the idea, but now he is better since it is now available for women in Iran. Also Mr. Tavakolian (Hooman Tavakolian, Tavak Partners) has been supporting all of us and Iran wrestling, for males and females.

Has teaching and coaching others in wrestling helped your technique and understanding of the sport?

Coaching others has helped me drastically in learning and improving my technique. I also watch a lot of technique videos online from YouTube, and try to learn from great wrestlers. I am a big fan of Helen Maroulis, she is so good.

How has wrestling affected you personally?

Wrestling has helped me become stronger and get my character stronger. I also was introduced to a whole new world. It brought me to a new environment; sometimes good, and sometimes bad. I used to be a sensitive person, but wrestling has helped me become a stronger person and individual. Wrestling has helped me get thicker skin and taught me how to deal with various people.

What keeps you motivated throughout hardships in wrestling?

I get my positive energy from my students. They motivate me to continue when things don't go smoothly. As you know, it's a new sport for us, so there are many growing pains. But, I love when I see my students are so dedicated. They keep showing up for practice, even when they don't have gear, shoes, or appropriate training opportunities.

Have you competed? If so, how often?

I have competed locally in my town, and in my state. In my state I took first place. This was in the early stages of when women’s wrestling was created. I was very good in the Wu Shu style‒ I made it to nationals and the league championships. I also was very active in Kung Fu and Futsal (indoor soccer). Overall, I loved contact sports and competing. I refuse to lose.

Would you recommend this sport for everyone, or do you think it requires a special type of person to fully appreciate the sport?

I recommend this sport only to those who are dedicated. The sport is for those who have goals, big goals. I recommend wrestling to girls who are driven and don't accept loss. Girls that when they are told NO, they  challenge it and ask why, or say yes I can. Done for success, I mean. Also for those who need to be built, I  recommend wrestling to them. I recommend for them to try it, to help them overcome issues and challenges.

What do you think of the advances made for women’s wrestling in Iran (all styles)? 

I believe it's great. I believe it's moving forward thanks to the hard work of Iran Federation. But, there are growing pains. I am confident there is a bright future for Iran. Iranian women are full with national pride. They train hard and want to be the best.

It is reported that there is a critical need for more female wrestling coaches. What do you think is the best solution?

Yes, we need better coaches. Currently men are not allowed to coach us. We need more training by greats like Kori Icho from Japan. I also believe we need joint training camps. This brings us experience and interaction. We are being coached with limited knowledge. We have a coach for our national team from Ukraine. But we need more great technical coaches for local gyms to help us so we can learn and teach our students the correct techniques.

What is the typical background of the women you coach?

Most females who are in this area come from families who's fathers and brothers wrestled. All come from working, blue collar families. Most wrestlers are 18-25 years old. There are older wrestlers, but they are not allowed to compete on the national level. We hope age restrictions will change so older women can one day compete on the national level. Iran is planning to start a cadet and junior national team as well as the sport grows in the next few years.

How is belt wrestling tied to the success of bringing Classical wrestling to Iranian women?

Belt wrestling has helped on the macro level, but I believe it has also hurt wrestlers in learning. As you know, it is hard to change one’s style. Belt wrestling has its own ways and techniques. Unfortunately many have brought their belt wrestling style to classic wrestling.

What has been a major pushback for female wrestlers in your country?

Lack of support from sponsors and help with growing sport. We need more funding, and I also think getting rid of the age restrictions will help. There are many many interested females who are above 23 and who can be great.

What do you think the impact will have on muslim women throughout the world?

This is great progress for all muslim women. Many girls around the world also shared the same dream of wrestling. This has now created an opportunity for all to participate and help empower themselves. It is also great that they have their own specific clothing, so they are not bothered by cultural and religious restrictions on gear. I am very happy for the future of the sport and the opportunity for ALL females, not only muslim ones. Together we are united and can grow the sport.

In closing I would like to thank the Iran Wrestling Federation and Dr. Rasoul Khadem for all their support and in helping make this dream a reality for the many girls in Iran, and now around the world. We still have a long way to go, but I am certain and I feel confident that with your help we can build awareness and support. Thank you for your interest in us and thank you for writing this article to build awareness. We are all sisters on and off the mat.


5 Ways to Transfer Your Judo Techniques to Wrestling

By Elizabeth Dosado

In the combat world, we often see technique translating from one sport to another. One of the most translatable combat cross-overs, is judo to wrestling. When I started wrestling, I had difficulty with my technique as judo was my first sport. created a strange style of wrestling for me at first, as I didn’t know how to combine the two. However, I started seeing a progression in both sports once I learned how to marry both styles. Modifying the moves from judo to wrestling can be a bit tricky, but doing so can really improve your skill set. Applying judo concepts to wrestling throws will help to create a better understanding of throws overall. This article is a compilation of the judo throws I have been able to successfully incorporate into my wrestling.  

The physics of judo throws vs. wrestling throws

In both wrestling and judo, the concept of action-reaction is essential. The main difference between judo and wrestling is the concept of kuzushi (off-balance) and posture. The creation of this off-balance is very different between the two sports. Due to the judogi (robe-like uniform judoka wear), off-balance is generated easier due to the ability to grip your opponent’s gi. Also, the posture used when doing a judo throw is very straight up. However in wrestling, the tie ups must be modified in order to generate enough momentum for a judo throw.  stance also changes the way a judo throw is performed in order to be effective.

Making the Adjustments

Adjustments of judo throws to wrestling are primarily based on compensating for the lack of a gi. The footwork for the throws remains the same, with the main changes occuring in the grips/tie-ups. There will also be a difference in the way a reaction is generated, since  a wrestler moves differently in response to being thrown from that of a judoka.

Ogoshi

An Ogoshi throw is made possible by getting your hips through and sending your opponent flying to to their back. A judoka will use the gi as ameans to grip and pull their opponent close enough to throw. However, the best position when you’re translating this to wrestling will be in an over/under position. Your arms must be locked down tightly by trapping your opponent's arm to your rib cage with your elbow, and gripping their back with your other hand. In order to replicate this movement, you must practice pulling your opponent towards your body and sending your hips through just like in judo.

 

Ippon seonage

An ippon seonage throw is generally done from a standard gi grip. Once the off balance is created, the thrower will place their dominant arm in a position in which it looks like they’re “making a muscle” and will place it underneath and snug into their partner’s armpit. At this point, the partner is loaded onto the back and thrown. In wrestling, this is often done from an over/under position. The off balance can be easily created through pulling the overhook, and getting your partner on their toes.

 

Harai-goshi

Harai-goshi can be done with an around the back grip or an around the head grip. With these grips, the judogi provides little difference. This throw is similar to that of a “head and arm” in wrestling. However, there is a stark difference in the execution of the throw. Rather than simply throwing your hip through, you also reap with you leg. This reap is aimed towards the opponent’s outer thigh, and is the thigh on the same side as your dominant side (you will reap with your dominant leg). This throw is especially brutal, since it captures the opponent’s leg to further ensure the throw.

 

Footsweeps

Footsweeps are a bit more tricky to set up in wrestling. If done properly, it will make your opponent afraid of even having their feet around you. A common set up for footsweeps in wrestling is done with an over/under grip. The opponent is moved in a circle through pushing/pulling with the over/under and the foot closest is swept. Footsweeps can also be done in wrestling with a two-on-one grip, in which the two-on-one is thrown and the closest foot is swept.

 
Uchi Mata.gif

Uchi Mata

Uchi mata is similar to harai-goshi in that it is also a reap. In judo, uchi mata is generally performed from an over the back grip on the gi. In wrestling, uchi mata is super effective from an under-hook. It is essential that when doing an uchi mata in wrestling that one throws up the under-hook as they reap towards the inner thigh and throw.

Ultimately, it is clear that there are many benefits to including judo in one’s wrestling game. These are the moves that can score a critical 4 or 5 pointer, which could turn around the outcome of a match. Additionally, learning these moves will add more variety to one’s arsenal. Sometimes, keeping an open mind in your training journey can make all the difference.


Elizabeth Dosado is from Ruther Glen, Virginia. She is 16, and going into her junior year in high school. She has been practicing judo for three years, and is currently a blue belt. She just completed her third wrestling season. Elizabeth teaches beginner wrestlers in local high schools in an effort to grow the sport for girls in her area.

Elizabeth was fourth in the region during the school season, and made it to Virginia State as the only girl in the 4A division. She is a three time VAWA Girls Folkstyle champion, a two time VAWA Girls Freestyle champion, and has competed nationally representing the Virginia National Team. If she isn't working out or doing combat sports, Elizabeth can be found fiddling with a guitar, singing to herself, or trying her hand at writing. She has done multiple mission trips through her church, and participates in the Army JROTC through her school. 

A Wrestler's Experience with Herniated Disc Surgery

 UWW PHotographer

UWW PHotographer

By Victoria Francis-Weiss

Just a month after becoming the 2016 Olympic Trials Runner-up, I was back home and injured. I had a herniated disc in my low back and the symptoms were so intense, it hurt to sit or carry my laundry. It was a scary time not knowing what recovery from this injury would entail, or if it was possible. I was too eager to return to training and thus worsened my situation and lengthened my recovery time. Fortunately I was able to recover from this injury with the help of my family and medical staff, and have been able to continue my wrestling career. This is how I overcame the biggest injury of my career, and how you can hopefully avoid the the same fate.

The Injury

College graduation weekend was an exciting time home for my husband and I. He was home on leave and proposed to me. We spent a lot of time visiting family, and attended my graduation from Lindenwood University. After a long weekend of driving and sitting, I was experiencing some light sciatic pain (pain starting in my low back and radiating down my leg). I tried to ignore it, thinking it was caused by tight muscles. I had a bulged disc less than a year ago that had given me sciatic pain, but this was not as intense. On Monday I was continuing my training at the the gym and did a lower body lift, all seemed well. But later that day sitting at home, the pain became intense and it was clear to me I had injured a disc again.

The Diagnosis

Within a couple days I went to my doctor, and after hearing my symptoms, they agreed that I had a bulging disc again. A vertebral disc lies in between two vertebrae in the spine, and holds the vertebrae together. This allows for slight mobility and absorbs shock. A disc is made up of a soft but sturdy outer portion that contains a gel-like inner core. A bulging disc means the disc is protruding from its normal position. Sometimes, this can happen without any symptoms. Conversely, in my case, the disc bulging into nearby nerves caused symptoms such as pain, weakness, tingling and numbness in one or both legs.

Managing the injury was very hard on me emotionally. It was already my second disc injury within one year, and I was aware degenerative disc disease ran in my family. Would I be able to continue wrestling? Would I be plagued with disc injury after disc injury? I had just graduated college and became engaged. I was at a point in my life where I was content with my wrestling career and could possibly retire. Thoughts about moving on with my life, starting a career, or starting a family often danced in my head. But I still felt I had to leave wrestling on my own terms, not because an injury knocked me down. After long mental battles within myself, I decided to continue on with the intent to return to the mat and competition full force.

My doctor immediately referred me to physical therapy. We began with light stretching and soft tissue work to allow the disc to heal. We set off with the goal of being ready for my summer tour, which was only a few months away.

Rushing Recovery

My symptoms had become far less intense after about a month of physical therapy, and I thought I was healed. Physical therapy was going well back home, so I pushed myself to travel to National Team camps that summer. Unfortunately as soon as I hopped on the plane, I knew that was far from the truth. After a couple hours of sitting on the plane, the sciatic pain returned full force. I arrived at camp knowing I couldn’t wrestle. Instead of wrestling, I focused my time on physical therapy while at the Olympic Training Center.

Life as a National Team member requires travel continuous travel back and forth for camps and training. Between the mandatory travel and visiting my fiance on the east coast, I did not have a consistent physical therapy schedule. The traveling and sitting was putting further strain on my disc and new symptoms were arising: I had tingling and numbness in my right foot and weakness in my right leg. My doctor and I decided to do imaging on my spine. While we waited to hear the results, physical therapy now had a new goal of getting me healed, however slow that needed to be. This allowed the staff to identify any weakness, imbalance, or mobility issues head to toe. They found poor ankle mobility, weak glutes and core, tight hip flexors, and poor T-spine mobility. These imbalances were all possibly contributing to the stress on my low back. While simultaneously giving my low-back the chance to heal, we started to tackle the other issues with stretching, mobility exercises, and light strengthening exercises. Despite fully dedicating myself to recovery, I was still showing symptoms of a disc injury. Eventually, the imaging results came back and I made an appointment with the disc specialist.

Deciding on Surgery

The imaging showed damage worse than I had expected: a herniated disc. And it was a big one. A herniated disc is when the outer portion of the disc is broken and the core is starting to leak out. The specialist said surgery may be needed at this point, since it was not healing like we had hoped. Surgery (called a lumbar discectomy) would entail a surgeon removing the part of the core escaping the disc to help relieve pressure from my nerves, and allow space for the outer portion to heal. These outpatient surgeries have been fairly successful, even for athletes, so I decided to fix my body. While I waited for my surgery date to arrive, I still continued my therapy. Therapy during this time was still tackling my imbalances and weaknesses, and managing pain with stretching and traction (light pulling on my spine to relieve pressure on the disc).

Road to Recovery

It had been 5 months of bad attempts at therapy by the time I finally had the surgery.  The operation was successful, and I was back home the same night sleeping on the couch (I couldn’t go upstairs to my bedroom quite yet). The inflammation in the surgical site caused quite a bit of pain, numbness and weakness in my right leg for a couple days post-op. As the inflammation went down, I noticed I had no pain and the tingling and numbness was going away.

I was much more dedicated to recovery and therapy post-op. Recovery meant allowing the disc to heal, which takes approximately 6-8 weeks. From there, I needed to slowly build back to full training. The first two-weeks were nearly-zero activity, just short afternoon walks. The next 2 months entailed activity as long as it didn’t put pressure on the disc. This meant avoiding carrying too much weight, bending, twisting, or impact. I also continued my therapy to help with ankle and T-spine mobility, hip flexor tightness, weak glutes and core. After being off the mat for more than 7 months, I was able to start wrestling again.

Protecting Against Future Injury

Since my return to the mat, I have seen my greatest wrestling successes. 6 months post-op, I made my first Senior world team and later earned a few medals at international open competitions. I have not had any additional disc injuries, but occasionally feel tingling in my foot. I have taken great care to protect myself from another disc injury and hope you can include some of these precautions in your training to prevent injury.

There are small adjustments in your daily life you can make to help keep your spine happy and healthy. For instance, your posture is important. Sitting slouched or sitting for long periods of time is not healthy for your back or hips. I try to focus on sitting with a neutral lower back and taking time to get up and move after sitting for awhile. I have even bought myself a kneeling chair to help my posture. I am sitting in it now as I type this blog. Furthermore, if I have the option to stand rather than sit, I stand.

Another example is lifting in daily life. Even to lift the smallest item on the floor, I try to pick it up using my knees and keeping a flat back. If I have to carry things, such as a heavy backpack, I try to carry it on the middle of my back using both straps as. Carrying a backpack with one strap on one side of my body means stress is being put on my discs unevenly. I also try to minimize my time carrying a backpack. If I’m standing in one spot for a few minutes, I take the bag off my back and let my spine rest.

On the mat in order to protect my back, I limit my time in my stance without a partner. Being in a stance without a partner puts a lot of strain on my back, so I keep my stance in motion time short. To make up for the time I miss during stance in motion, I do other foot speed and reaction drills outside of my stance. Wrestling with another individual is less strain since some of my weight is supported by them. As a result, normal drilling and sparring usually doesn’t give my back issues.

Off the mat, I have placed certain limits on my strength and conditioning to help protect my back. I still lift lower body including squats and deadlifts, but I have taken a lot of time and effort to ensure I have good form and lift safely. Using heavy weights on a lift is not worth jeopardizing my health, so I have learned to check my ego at the door. I often video myself or ask a coach to check my form. if I see or feel bad form, I lower the weight and address the issues. To further protect my spine in the weight room, I keep bending and twisting core movements to a minimum. No crunches or Russian twists for this gal anymore. Instead, I try to stick to isometric core exercises, such as planks or single-arm dumbbell holds.

For conditioning, I have nearly eliminated running. I think some wrestlers would jump for joy at the thought of not having to run anymore, but I actually enjoyed long-distance running. I even trained for a half-marathon during college. Unfortunately, the impact of running was the biggest trigger for pain during my first disc injury. I also avoid row machines because the repetitive forward bending strains my back. So instead, I stick with the elliptical and bike. I use airdyne or spin bikes for interval training and the elliptical for long, steady-state conditioning workouts.

Mental Battles

All athletes experience injuries and the mental battles which accompany them. So many athletes feel alone during these experiences because many of us don’t make the injuries and the heartaches public. I was afraid to share my experience because it made me feel weak and vulnerable. Now that I am on the other side of this injury, I want to share this experience so other athletes don’t think they are alone.

This injury was no easy feat, both physically and mentally. For months, I endured pain from the daily tasks, like sitting for dinner or trying to carry my backpack. But the hardest part of this injury was the mental warfare within myself. This injury forced me to seriously question my dedication and passion for wrestling. When you can only manage 10 minutes of rehab a day, it gives you plenty of downtime to reflect.

Once I sorted it out in my head that I was willing to make a return, waiting for my body to be ready for that return was another mental challenge. All athletes hear the gong of upcoming competition and the gong was teasing me. I was spending all day lying in bed trying to heal and I could see on social media everyone else still wrestling. Team USA went to battle at the Olympics and I was only able to do a measly amount of physical therapy every day. I felt like I wasn’t doing my part. I had to remind myself that my daily training was small but important, and everyone else had their own. Without a healthy back, I was never going to be able to do my part. Learning to go my pace and take care of my needs was a daily battle, and one I still face today. After this injury, I now feel equipped with the discipline to focus on my training and my needs rather than looking at what everyone else is doing.

After 7 months off the mat, I went through so much pain, physically and emotionally. My wrestling career had to take a pause while my spine healed, but upon my return, I was a mentally stronger athlete and person.  Like myself, many athletes experience disc bulges and herniations, but there are measures that can be taken to prevent these injuries. Posture, weightlifting form, core and glute strength, and overall mobility are all areas athletes can work to improve on their own or with the help of their coaches. Taking time to address these areas can not only protect you from injury during your wrestling career, but are good practices to use throughout your life to safeguard your back as you age.


 photo by Mindy Pastrovich 

photo by Mindy Pastrovich 

Victoria Francis-Weiss is a 2x national team member. She was a 2017 World Team Member at 75kg, and was runner up at the 2016 Olympic Trials. She is Junior World Bronze medalist, has 2 WCWA National titles, and 2 University National titles. She attended Lindenwood University and graduated with her degree in mathematics and computer science. She currently resides in Maryland with her husband and their dog. 

Dear Fargo Wrestlers...

 katherine's fargo throwback- 2003

katherine's fargo throwback- 2003

Fargo! The crown jewel of our nation’s national high school tournaments. A huge undertaking for all involved. I've watched girls prepping, planning, excitement stirring...it's the biggest (figuratively and by actual size) tournament of the year for high school athletes who continue on to freestyle and greco. For a small percentage, it's triumph and success, and for others, it's heartbreak and disappointment. The first year I coached Fargo, I had just competed three and a half months prior at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Switching gears on my perspective was a challenge. I had just spent a career completely focusing on myself and my own training. You don't always remember the similar struggles of your youth, especially when you spend years conditioning yourself to a mindset always focused on moving forward and improving. However it was exciting to support young athletes through this huge event, as I had just done the same.

When you arrive at the national tournament, the seasoned Fargo coaches stand out. They know the stats of the wrestlers, who’s beaten who, and why so-and-so shouldn't lose to so-and-so. It was hard to bring myself to the same state of mind. I knew the stats were important to these athletes, but as a coach with my long athletic career perspective, I saw it as an advantage to be unfamiliar with everyone's record. I was able to stay grounded in the moment along with my athlete, and I believe they appreciated the redirection of focus. The more the coach is focused on what should have happened, the less they are focused on the process for the athlete. It is immensely important for the coach to stay in the moment. It’s a false notion that you need to tell your athlete everything about their next opponent. Give them key points on offense and defense, then allow them to put their focus back to their warm up, back to their process.

My advice for coaches: help your athletes understand the importance of properly preparing for a big tournament, and how those skills will transfer into every aspect of life. Teach them how to move forward quickly, win or lose. It's important to not ride the high highs, or the low lows. It is easy to get caught up in all encompassing magnitude of the Junior and Cadet Nationals. It’s important to bring yourself back to the ground, so you're athletes can also see that it's not the end-all-be-all.

Some of these young athletes will continue on and have college careers, some will decide to go even further and test out an international career, and some will be done after their senior year. When I competed at Fargo, I thought this tournament would decide my future. I thought it would give me the perspective of what level I was on, and how I could move forward with my career as a wrestler. Fighting through mostly disappointing performances at Fargo became the true test of how my career would be shaped. I was the one who continued even when I wasn't on the top of the podium.

The lesson for the athlete: use the experience, excitement, victories, and heartbreaks to fuel your next move. Never allow one tournament to shape the choices you make, or the path you take. Wrestling is a sport about not only inches, but centimeters. Success at Fargo can create opportunities, but only you can take full advantage of what is presented.