2020 Wrestling MIndset Virtual Leadership Convention


  • Lessons Learned From The Presenters 



Greg Jones – 3X NCAA National Champion & Sanford MMA Coach

Topic: Individualizing Training for Wrestling & MMA


  • Greg’s advice for wrestlers interested in pursuing a career in MMA is to wrestle as long as you can and exhaust all of your wrestling opportunities before transitioning into MMA.
  • Greg believes that wrestling is the single most important skill to master in order to have a successful career in MMA.
  • The lifestyle habits and mental skills learned through diligent consistent work put into wrestling over a long period of time is what separates wrestlers from the rest of the pack in MMA. 
    • Competition & Practice Reps
    • Accountability
    • Making weight
    • The true appreciation & understanding of hard work
    • Dealing with emotions
    • Multiple Mental Benefits


Dan Wernikoff – Owner of Wrestler Nutrition & Champion Athletes

Topic: How to help athletes perform better through better nutrition


  • Why should athletes follow a nutrition plan?
    • Meet performance objectives (Guides them on what & when to eat)
    • Predictability & Motivation
    • Proper balancing of proteins & carbohydrates
    • Includes a plan for staying hydrated
    • Reduces Stress & Anxiety
  • Benefits of creating a nutrition plan for competition day:
    • Avoid having to cut a lot of weight on a multiple day tournament
    • Practice simulating the day of competition during practices in order to know how the body will respond.
    • Sample of a competition day plan:
      • After Match 1
        • Protein Bar & 16 oz of Water
      • After Match 2
        • Turkey Sandwich , Banana & 16 oz of Pedialyte


  • The foundation of every nutrition plan includes a healthy amount of macro & micronutrients to properly fuel the athlete:
  • Macronutrients:
    • Proteins:
      • Essential for muscle building & repair
      • Can come from animal & plant based sources
      • Insufficient Amounts can result in anemia, fatigue, stress fractures and impaired muscle growth.
    • Carbohydrates:
      • Main fuel source for energy
      • Glucose molecules stored in the liver that are released during physical activity to provide energy.
      • Improve performance by delaying fatigue, compete at higher levels for longer and aid in muscle gain.
      • The balance of protein & carbohydrates is essential for maximum performance.
    • Fats:
      • Provide sustained energy, proper digestion and hormone production.
      • Too low of body fat % can result in impaired hormone production.
      • Can come from animals, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Micronutrients
    • Water
      • Helps energize muscles
      • Helps kidney function
      • Helps maintain normal bowel function & decreases constipation
      • Improves concentration & decreases headaches
      • Improves skin appearance & decreases skin infections
  • Nutrition TIming:
    • When to eat carbs, proteins and fats in order to get the most benefit from the foods being consumed.
  • Sport Foods:
    • What are they?
    • Protein Bars & Shakes
    • Supplements – (What is important & Safe?)
  • How to get started in creating & following a healthy nutrition plan?
    • Step #1 = Obtaining a body composition analysis which includes:
      • Weight – Measures Body Fat %, Muscle Mass and Hydration
      • BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate = How many calories your body requires to maintain weight.
    • Step #2 = Set Goals for:
      • Body Fat %, Muscle Mass, Energy & Endurance
  • How do you start changing your diet?
    • Calculate BMR + Activity Level (Use Online Resources to Calculate)
    • 3,500 Calories = 1 pound of body weight
    • Alter calories by 500 calories per day to lose or gain weight
    • Athletes with a high body fat % who is looking to lean down or lose weight:
      • Protein = 40-50%
      • Carbohydrates = 40-50%
      • Fat = 20%
    • Athletes who are struggling with energy levels:
      • Protein = 30-40%
      • Carbohydrates = 50-60%
      • Fat = 10%
  • Suggestions for healthy snacks during competition day:
    • Increase Carbohydrates & Decrease Protein
    • Cliff Bars, Kind Bars, Frozen Fruits, Trail Mix and Liquid Drinks that contain carbohydrates
  • Nutritional Differences for Female athletes:
    • Must maintain a minimum of 15% body fat
    • Increased iron levels due the loss of minerals during the menstrual cycle
    • Plan for weight gain during their menstrual cycle


For more info: https://wrestlernutrition.com/


Pete Jacobsen – Edgemont NY Head Coach & Founder of Win Smarter

Topic: Building a dominant culture & doing it quickly



  • Coach Jacobson’s 3 Pillars to Creating a Championship Culture:


  1. Create a culture that kids are excited to be a part of.
    • Kids are your biggest recruiters.
  2. Make it more than just about wrestling by establishing a list of core values that your program believes in. 
    • Edgemont’s Core Values (Habits, Improvements, Family, Joy and Accountability)
  3. Establish a MANTRA for your program that you speak to your athletes about on a daily basis, post on social media, print on shirts, etc.  
    • The MANTRA for Pete’s Wrestling Program is “Building Champions On and Off the Mat”.


  • Focus on 3 things to create a culture of mentally tough athletes:


  • Focus on the process not the outcome
  • Embrace failure as a necessary step towards success


  1. For the kids to embrace #’s 1 and 2 – you need to embrace and live these as their coach


  • By incorporating these 3 steps you will create athletes who are:
    • Fearless = Not afraid of failure
    • Embrace competition 
    • Are excited for challenges 


For more info: https://www.winningyouthcoaching.com/tag/win-smarter/


Leigh Jaynes – Olympic Bronze Medalist & Head Coach at Delaware Valley College

Topic: Overcoming a self defeating attitude


  • Leigh explained the importance of focusing on positive self talk with female athletes when they are doubting themselves.  
  • Leigh shared Dr. Masaru Emoto’s Water Experiment on the Power of Thoughts. 
    • Through the 1990’s, Dr. Masaru Emoto performed a series of experiments observing the physical effect of words, prayers, music and environment on the crystalline structure of water. Emoto hired photographers to take pictures of water after being exposed to the different variables and subsequently frozen so that they would form crystalline structures. The results were nothing short of remarkable..
  • If the words and thoughts that come out of us have this effect on water crystals, it’s amazing to think of what kind of effect they have on the people and events that come into our lives.


For more info: https://ljwrestlinginc.com/


Tom Ryan – Head Coach The Ohio State University

Topic: Chosen Suffering


Coach Ryan’s 3 Pillars of Success:

  • Mind
    • We are the landlord of our mind and we must evict the negative thoughts.
    • Your mind – master your thoughts – master your beliefs – master your feelings [The Internal You]
    • Negative thoughts attract negative while positive thoughts attract positive. Help them develop a personal mantra to guide their wrestling. Example – Kyle Snyder’s – “Don’t protect anything!”  
    • Teach students how to listen, how to speak, how to write (bi weekly meetings, transparency, don’t want people to wonder what the coach is thinking, invite outside moderator, ask questions to team, ask them to repeat what they said/learned)
    • Excerpt from the book “As a Man Thinketh” – A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.
  • Relationships
    • Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
    • A friend of Coach Ryan’s performs Ministry at a jail, he asked the inmates “Why do you think you ended up here (in jail)?” The vast majority responded by saying  “I hung around this one person…”
    • It is important to let some relationships go.
    • We all need truth tellers in our lives.
  • Environment
    • They require all of their athletes to develop a MANTRA. 
    • “I protect nothing” and “Positive Infinity” – Kyle Snyder
    • The single most impactful gift you can give to anyone is belief.
    • Why are you here? Inspect your why and your world view.
    • Teams are comprised of 10% elite, 80% compliant, 10% disaster…1 elite can help bring 1-2 compliant to next level
    • Coach Gable set a standard that was non-negotiable.  Not just about hard work, it was deep thinking.  Knew what each person needed.  “You are going to need to get a lot tougher than that if you want to go where you want to go.”  Quiet, subtle, competent.  High character.  Connected in a way that was useful and unique. 
    • Anything experienced in practice was more difficult than competition
    • Coach Ryan’s heartfelt story of losing his son led to his unchosen suffering which then led to the title of his book and his new life of “Chosen Suffering”.
  • Coach Ryan’s Quotes:
    • “Success isn’t found on google,” 
    • “Success isn’t instant it takes time.” 
    • “Trust will always precede progress.”
    • “There is always WHY in wrestling. – work to determine it, explain it, to get real answers, don’t lie to yourself, search for why and be thankful.”
    •  “Wrestling gives you absolute truth.”
    • “Wrestling/Life gives you two choices: RIGHT & WRONG”
      1. Option 1 – Chance – (Out of air)
      2. Option 2 – GOD – (Creator of all things)


Terry Steiner – Fifth Olympic Cycle as the Women’s National Team Head Coach & the 

Longest-serving National Coach in USA Wrestling’s Programs

Topic: Building Women’s Wrestling


  • Coach Steiner told the story of when his wife said “You’re just not good enough” on the car ride home from the World Team Trials.
    • Even though the message hurt it was exactly what he needed to hear.
  • Coach Steiner stated, “I believe in the sport of wrestling to develop the total person.”
  • Coach Steiner indicated that having males and females train together is good, but feels that males should compete against males, and females should compete against females. Suggested that encouraging athletes to bring a friend with them to practice especially at young ages is a great way to improve retention of athletes. 
  • Difference between an artist and a coach is that an artist can crumple up their work and start again.


Damion Logan – Apex Wrestling Owner & AD at St. Joe’s Regional

Topic: What to know and value when starting a wrestling club


  • The goal is to work to strengthen each wrestler’s commitment to the sport by instilling essential values such as: competitiveness, good sportsmanship, responsibility, and respect.  These values are crucial to any successful wrestler.
  • Work to strengthen all areas including: strength training, nutrition, road work, technique, match strategy, teach how to use video study, ability to focus, motivation, and mindset.
  • Don’t focus on now, look forward. 


For more info: https://www.apexwrestlingschool.com/


Zain Retherford – 3X NCAA National Champion & World Team Member

Topic: Advice to wrestlers pursuing the highest level


  • In between rounds of a tournament get out of the arena to relax and conserve mental energy.
  • Refrain from watching video or scouting opponents as he prefers to focus on improving his own abilities.
  • Even though Zain enjoys and understands the importance of play wrestling he prefers to wrestle live as it is more realistic of what to expect in competition.
  • On the mat you are not my friend. Be mean, aggressive, and do techniques hard. Fair, square, and by the rules. It is their choice to turn or not. 
  • Incorporate play wrestling when you do extra after a practice as it can provide benefit to your overall development when working on a specific position or technique.  


Chris Bono – Head Coach University of Wisconsin & NCAA National Champion

Topic: Branding and Firing up Your Program


  • Post content consistently on all forms of social media
  • Create a MANTRA – 
    • South Dakota St. – “Get Jacked!”
    • Wisconsin – “Jump Around” – “Hustle, Effort & Attitude”
  • Never say “No” to anything
  • Don’t be afraid to do the work yourself or ask others for help.
  • Create many partnerships with other coaches at the University. 
  • Bono explained how he went to the women’s volleyball coach when he first arrived to learn how their program had built their attendance. Through this partnership both teams have become huge supporters of each other. They regularly attend each other’s matches as spectators.
  • Bono discussed how communication with other sports coaches is important. 
  • He expressed that there has to be trust, no jealousy, and that you need to be a FAMILY.  
  • If you can dream it you can do it
  • A great coach is a CEO – Manager of people
  • The first test of the day is your alarm clock


Matt Lindland – Team USA Greco Head Coach

Topic: How to become a more well-rounded Martial Artist. Greco-Roman and the road less traveled.


  • Bring passion and fire to everything. 
  • Greco-Roman the road less traveled 
  • Coach Lindland discussed he tenants of international wrestling including: 
    • Passivity is forbidden
    • Total Wrestling 
    • Universal Wrestling 
    • Taking risk – The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward 
  • Coach Lindland was drawn to Greco because it forces you to be bold and courageous 
  • “On the other side of fear is growth.”
  • Encourages coaches to start implementing Greco at the youth level because it teaches hips in, creating angles, making contact, and hand fighting. 
  • Coach Lindland’s story about Pat Smith:
    • Pat was struggling and getting frustrated when he was trying to learn the proper footwork in his lifts. Pat returned from a surfing trip and said he figured it out now. Moral of the story is to be creative in your training by incorporating activities outside of the wrestling room.


Joe Galli – CEO and Executive Director of Milwaukee / Techtronic 

Topic: Wrestlers in Business


  • Winning the ACC Conference Title was far more challenging to accomplish than becoming a CEO
  • Wrestling teaches you:
    • Not only hard work, but more importantly how hard you can work
    • How to overcome adversity
    • Discipline – “If you stop being disciplined you lose your edge.”
  • As a coach you must understand the importance of situational leadership
    • Prudence
    • Justice
    • Fortitude
    • Temperament
  • You only have one chance to make a first impression
  • Joe’s definition of culture = “What you want people to do when you’re not around.”
  • Leaders must do the following:
    • Smile
    • Use appropriate humor 
    • Have command of relevant facts 
    • Say it with less words 
    • Learn to narrow their focus and master these areas (10,000 times to develop mastery)
  • Joe’s Favorite Quotes:
    • “I fear not the man that practices 10,000 different kicks, I fear the man that practices 1 kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee
    • “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” – Alexander the Great


Ben Askren – 2X NCAA National Champion, Olympian, UFC fighter & Owner of AWA

Topic: Thinking 3-4 Steps Ahead in Technique


  • Askren’s #1 secret to coaching is you must love it and love your athletes more.
  • Get your kids interested in wrestling at a young age by incorporating ignition events.
  • Don’t force your kids to compete at a young age:
    • Wait until they have practiced 3-4 years 
    • Developed a passion for the sport.
    • Developed an overall understanding and knowledge of the sport
  • Ben described his philosophy on practice structure for different age levels and abilities that they implement at all five of the Askren Wrestling Academy’s locations. (See the chart below)


Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Teaching 80% 40% 20%
Drilling 20% 20% 20%
Sparring 0% 30% 50%
Live Wrestling 0% 10% 10%


For more info: https://awawisconsin.com/


Joe De Sena – Founder & CEO of Spartan Race

Topic: Wrestlers in Business


  • Joe’s keys to success:
    • Wake up early / Go to bed early
    • Exercise, stay hydrated and eat healthy on a daily basis
    • Work and Life Integration – not necessarily balance
      • Joe includes his family when he exercises and works
    • Organize things in a fashion where they are likely to happen


For more info: https://www.spartan.com/en


Matt “The Immortal” Brown – UFC legend

Topic: Fight Mentality, Westside Barbell Strength Training & Immortal Coffee


  • Matt’s keys to success:
    • Having clarity in training ultimately breads aggression.
    • Matt never makes post fight plans (After parties, vacations, etc.) prior to the day of the fight because he treats all of his fights like it could be his last day on earth.


For more info: https://theimmortalcoffee.com/


Dustin Myers – Ohio State RTC Strength Coach & Owner of Old School Gym

Topic: Designing & Implementing a Strength Training Program for Wrestlers


  • Coach Myers provided his thought process while developing and facilitating strength training programs for wrestlers during each phase of the year. (Included in the chart below)
  • When designing a strength training program it is important to include:
    • What specific movements & exercises are most important to your sport?
      • Movements (Hinge, Squat, Pull, Press, Core and Functional)
    • Why are you including them?
      • Athleticism, Leg Drive, Grip Strength, Hand Fighting, Positioning and overall sports specific power.
    • How are you altering the volume & intensity for the different training phases throughout the year? 
      • Off, Pre and Post Season


Hinge Squat Pull Press Core Functional
What? Deadlift

Post Chain




Pull Ups







Why? Athleticism Leg Drive Grip Strength


Hand Fight


Positioning GPP


Off Season Sumo


Back Squat

DB Lunge

Wt. Chins

DB Rows


Wt. Dips

High Volume

High Intensity


Push / Drag

Pre Season Bands Split Squat

Rev Lunge

Rope Climbs Single Arm

Close Grip





In Season Concentric

Kettle Bell

Step Ups

Band Lunge

Rope Climbs


Contrast Active Recovery Med Ball Slams



For more info: https://oldschoolgym.com/


Scott Goodale – Head Coach Rutgers University 

Topic: Taking a Program From Top 50 to Top 10 & Recruiting 


  • The biggest challenge Coach Goodale faced early in his career was being an enabler.
    • Allowed his athletes to cut corners in their training, academics and social life.
    • Only focussed on winning in the moment and not the big picture.
  • Messages he often addresses to his team:
    • “Don’t be a 3 O’ Clocker” – Everyone works hard then.
    • “If you aren’t 15 minutes early – then you’re late.”
  • They don’t name captains in their program.
  • Wednesday’s are a scheduled OFF Day (Penn State also does this).
  • Take the time to get to know everyone involved in your program.
  • Everyone needs to believe in your mission.


Dr. Mark McLaughlin – Neurosurgeon, West Point Speaker & Author.

Topic: What you don’t know about “Blind Spots” that can kill you or save you.


  • Dr. McLaughlin shared his inspirational stories from his experiences as a Neurosurgeon and related them to his advice for becoming a more successful coach.
  • Minimize Your “Blind Spots”
    • Sight – Admit Humility
    • Hear – Read Poetry and Literature
    • Feel – Understand Perspective
  • Dr. McLaughlin encourages coaches to write down their own personal blind spots that they are going to improve on and share them with their assistant coaches.
  • Dr. McLaughlin’s definition of a “Wrestler’s Mindset” = To impose your will. 
    • However, that strategy doesn’t always work in every scenario.
    • Discuss how the wrestler’s mindset can be a blind spot itself. 
    • The mindset of imposing one’s will to get athletes or children to do what you want them to do does not work.   
  • Dr. McLaughlin’s definition of a “Coach’s Mindset” = To provide service while creating collaboration.