Here is Andy's second blog in his Throwback Thursday Series looking back at his time in Russia. See what he has to say looking back on his first full week training Russia. Quotes in italics are from his blog more than 4 years ago while the other writing is from today. 

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“Well I finished my first full week here, and I have to say I am already feeling like a better wrestler.  This week I was able to train against some great wrestlers, including a former Junior World Champ who beat me last year at the Fila Golden Grand Prix in Azerbaijan.  It was a battle and the two of us scored a lot of points, which is good because I am wrestling a lot harder now that I am down a weight.”  

The former Jr. World Champ I wrote about is Alan Zaseev who is currently ranked 7th in the world at 125kg for Ukraine. We trained a lot the year I lived there when he was younger and lighter. I liked training with him as we clashed in styles and would always put up a lot of points. Some of the other wrestlers I frequently trained with were Ibragim Adaltov from Ukraine, and Georgi Ketoev, Atsamaz Sanakoev and Georgi Gogaev all from Russia.

“I weigh in this upcoming Thursday or Friday.  I am not sure what the schedule is, I hope I weigh in on Friday because flying to Yakuts is extremely long and I would not like to get off the plane and lose 6 pounds the same day.  I am very excited to wrestle next week and I am expecting nothing less than winning the whole tournament.  My training has been great and in practice I have been doing some drills at the end when I am tired to help with my defense.”  

The drill I mentioned is not really a drill but live wrestling. I explain the rules of the live wrestling below as well as the reasons for doing it. I also mention that this is the best thing I learned while training there, and still to this day I believe it. Wrestling under these rules in a live situation is the first step in breaking down the sport of wrestling to small actions instead of whole movements. It is a skill that is practiced daily, because if you cannot learn to get to the opponents leg you will have a hard time winning matches.

“I told the coach I need to stop letting guys in on my legs, so he has been putting me through some extra drills at the end of practice where the only goal is to get your hands locked around the leg of the other wrestler. Once this is achieved you then start back in neutral.  I love this drill because when all you have to think about is defending the legs you are able to use your head better as a first line of defense. It also allows you to get used to dropping to both knees instead of the traditional sprawl we use as Americans  .By dropping to both knees you can counter-shoot much faster and easier than dropping to your hips.  If you watch any of the World Championships then you will notice many of the great international guys using this technique.  So after I am done with my match in practice, the coach will have me and another guy do this live wrestling until the first person gets three locks.  We then take a break and do it again ‘til the first person to get two locks, followed by a break then go ‘til we get one lock.  The second day I did this drill I really started to feel better and could see the results in my wrestling when doing matches.  This is the best thing that I have picked up since coming here to train and I will continue to do this drill until I finish wrestling.  It is easy, fun, and extremely helpful no matter what level you are wrestling.”

Still to this day I use this drill when training the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club. As part of our daily training regimen we will compete under these rules 3 min a day. For the first minute one wrestler is just offense and the other is defense, only the offensive wrestler can score by getting the hands locked around a leg. The second minute the roles are switched, then in the last minute both wrestlers are offense. Getting to the leg is the most important and also the first step of finishing a takedown, so it is critical to train this everyday. Once you can learn to get to a leg learning how to finish is easy. All that is required is basic understanding of the position, physical strength, some athletic ability and putting yourself there repeatedly until you figure out what works best for you to finish the takedown. I am incorporating this way of training into the BASE Wrestling system that I am developing for wrestlers of all ages. In order to achieve this at the youth level we are incorporating Attack Bandz into the train to make the sport fun for the kids while at the same time learning to wrestle without focusing on moves from start to finish. We want to encourage creativity and learning in a natural state instead of forcing kids to learn specific moves before they are physically capable of performing the movements from start to finish.   

“Every Wednesday and Saturday we are off the mats wrestling.  We will either play basketball or soccer, seeing as the weather is still nice we played soccer outside this week.  It is crazy how good these guys are at playing soccer.  The Uzbek, who won the worlds in ‘09 and was second this year is really good and makes everyone else look like they are standing still.  I love playing games on our days off,  it gives you a break from the grind on your body as well as a mental break.  I think we need more of this in our training in the US.  We play a lot of games in Colorado and the guys love it, but when training gets tough the coaches forget about it.  I would rather play an hour of soccer than do 30 min of sprints.  Wrestling is a hard sport as it is, and I believe putting additional stress on yourself mentally during hard training cycles is the last thing you need.  Playing a game and being competitive gives you something to look forward to on your day off the mats; instead of dreading running sprints or going for a long run.  Is it wrong to have fun and train at the same time?

Well I have to go and eat dinner. I am not sure what time it is being served so I would rather be an hour early than an hour late.  The food here has been great and it is really helping me get my weight down.  This will be more helpful when I have to make scratch weight at the US Open.  Well, until next week!”

As a coach playing games is something I like to enforce in our training camps. The guys love our off days when we play handball. The game allows them to be competitive against each other, get a workout in without dreading it and it lightens up the mood in the wrestling room. I would love to see the Bahna Wrestling center get some basketball hoops to take our training to another level. During my time in Russia, the gym I trained at, Spartak, had basketball hoops. The  gym down the street called Trud had soccer fields that they played on. Some of the best times I had over there were days I was playing basketball with Besik Kudukhov and Irbek Farniev. The three of us always hustled the competition, almost to the point that it was unfair.  

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