What a week of Olympic wrestling! It is truly a pleasure watching the best in the world battle each other to achieve their wrestling dreams. Working with the Women's Olympic team this year, it was great seeing them compete fearlessly and watching Helen Maroulis win in one of the greatest "upsets" of all time. Of course, it wasn't an upset in her mind because she believed she was going to win! We also got to watch Kyle Snyder win Gold during my son's Baptism party. What a day!
I wanted to provide some common themes that we noticed among Olympic champions:
1. They are thankful for the opportunity to wrestle. Not a coincidence that this is Wrestling Mindset Principle #1. If you listen to nearly any Kyle Snyder interview he talks about this. Helen Maroulis is no different. She talks about the joy of competing regardless of outcome.
2. Their faith is an integral part of their lives. Hassan Yazdani says a prayer immediately after winning Gold, Helen Maroulis reads through some of the Bible verses she repeats before matches, Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs are both very open about their faith and how it gives them the proper perspective to be at peace before matches.
3. They have a high power offense. In football they say Defense wins championships. I think the opposite is true in wrestling. Of course defense is very important, but the Olympic Gold medalists are more know for their high power offenses. Go through the list- Sadulaev, Ramonov, Akgul, Snyder, Yazdani, Maroulis, etc. They all have phenomenal footwork and leg attacks. They are noticeably more offensive then their opponents in almost every match. They look to keep scoring points! John Smith talked about this constantly as he was announcing the Olympics.
4. They were not all over social media or caught in the fan mentality. Helen and Kyle do a good job of this. They were not focused on social media or being a fan at the Olympics. They focused on taking care of business. You cannot be both a spectator and competitor. You need to focus all of your efforts on wrestling your best. John Smith talks about this in this Shane Sparks interview loaded with mindset advice.
I will conclude with a Helen Maroulis quote which touches on all these keys to Olympic success:
“I didn’t come here to win a gold medal for the media attention,” she said. “I didn’t come here to win a gold medal in order to find something within myself or some peace within myself. I found that self-worth before I stepped on the mat. I think that’s why I won the gold medal."
“Yesterday was about stepping on the mat and just wrestling to the best of my ability and really taking joy in what I do. If they covered Ryan Lochte over my match, well, I think that’s a poor decision on their part, but I’m not running the show. My job is to be a wrestler, and I stepped on the mat and did what I needed to do. I’m happy with the results."
That is the Mindset of an Olympic Champion!
Wrestling Mindset statement on J'den Cox semis match:
First of all, we are big J'den Cox fans. He has an unbelievable mindset. We wanted him to win and this was absolutely crushing to watch.
Now sentiments and emotion aside here is the scoop:
Criteria is NOT to blame. Criteria is simple- highest amplitude score, least passivity calls and then last score. And if that isn't simple enough, the wrestler with the lead has an underline under his name on the scoreboard.
The onus is always on the wrestler. Obviously the coach is also responsible to communicate this with the wrestler, but ultimately it comes down to the wrestler as with anything else. Maybe the coaches could have communicated it better (I really don't know?), but that isn't the main issue regardless.
The main issue from a mental standpoint is not attempting to score for 1.5-2 minutes. Two minutes is 1/3 of the match. Winning, losing, close match or blow out its not okay to shut down a high power offense with 1/3 of the match remaining. Dual meet, Local tournament, or Olympic semi finals it's not okay to stop looking to score for 1/3 of the match.
Look to score ALL 6 minutes of the match; offense, counter offense, short offense, whatever, but continue to score throughout the bout. Then either way we can be more at peace with the outcome. This is the real lesson here!
But we ALL make mistakes. J'Den Cox has a great mindset and I believe he will fight hard for the Bronze medal. We are with you J'den, bounce back strong and have fun!
74 kilos was loaded with mindset lessons.
First things first. Let's give all credit in the world to Jordan Burroughs. He's a great champion and person who had a ton of pressure on him. JB no doubt has a great mindset. We and his opponents know on a different day, everything could've been radically different with a Burroughs tech fall in the finals- it's happened before.
Now let's examine what happened at the Olympics and see what lessons can be learned. Geduev (Russia) has a great mindset himself. Last year at the worlds, when he lost to JB, Geduev and his coaches were genuinely disappointed with the loss. Clearly, he and his coaches fully expected to beat the #1 pound for pound wrestler in the world. Fast forward to the Olympics, when Geduev won, he did not do a victory dance or jump around. He barely smiled. This shows again, he fully expected to win. How many people step on the mat against a heavy favorite and EXPECT to win, especially against Burroughs himself.
A big disappointment was not coming back. Taking nothing away from Bekzod (UZB) World Bronze medalist in his own right. We got killed in that match. Again, anyone who wrestles, knows how hard it is to come back from an absolutely devastating loss. I know I've made this mistake before. We learn this and move on- like Brands always says- if you lose, get the next best thing. Of course, easier said than done. But let's put forward a full effort. How many times has it happened to all of us where we let the same opponent beat us twice (metaphorically)?
Here's a touchy subject, but we have to bring it up so we all learn. Wrestling Mindset constantly talks about staying away from the "hype" and avoiding the "fan mentality." JBs focus was a little too much on social media, building a brand & legacy for our taste. He took pictures with many people in Rio and on his Flowrestling interview, JB spoke a lot about wanting to leave a legacy. I heard he did not like the draw he was given either. Our focus should be solely on our objective, not our legacy and certainly not on social media. We are not hating, we are big JB supporters & know that if any athlete learns from his mindset, they will be better for it. We're all human. We all make mistakes. The important thing is we learn and move forward.
In the finals, Yazdani (Iran) came onto the biggest match of his life with a somersault onto the mat. This is what we call and element of fun- 1 of the 4 crucial elements of a solid pre-match routine. Geduev was up 6-0 at the half in the finals. Yazdani stayed very composted during all the injury breaks and consistently chopped away at the lead that Geduev should've been looking to build upon. We talk about this all the time too. If you're up 6-0, you should be looking for the tech- it's irrelevant if it's practice, a summer tournament, season, state or Olympic finals. Step on their throat and be out for blood. Yazdani stayed on the offense and it paid off.
A lot of love and respect to Jordan Burroughs. I'm sure he'll be back. Not that he has anything to prove to anyone. He is already a legend. Let's all learn these lessons and remember that even the best fall down sometimes. Like Ben Peterson said to Frank Gifford in an interview in the 1972 Olympics, "they all can be beat."
Never forget these words: Your success in wrestling is the Icing on the Cake. It is not THE cake.
Many wrestlers get this wrong. They make wrestling the cake. The problem is that wrestling ends and ultimately you do not have full control over the results. You control your effort and your attitude but not the result.
The key is to make the most important thing the most important thing. Whether it is your faith, your family, etc.
If wrestling is the cake, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you do not reach your goals you won't be happy. And even if you do reach your goal, it will come to an end.
Jordan Burroughs spoke about this a few years ago at a PA wrestling clinic. He recalled staring at his Olympic Gold Medal 3 months after the Olympics and thinking this better not be it. There has got to be more in life.
The bottom line is that wrestling should not define you. Go after your goals with all your blood, sweat and tears but make sure you make the most important thing the most important thing. One thing I know when all is said and done, God is not going to demand any medals from us. Keep things in perspective and you will enjoy the sport more and compete more fearlessly.
It feels good to compete and win in this sport but make sure it is just icing on the cake.
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