Silver and Double Gold
This fall of 2014 has been a great one! As many of you may know my wife and I were fundraising in order to get to the 2014 FILA Pankration Submission Wrestling World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
After some intense matches I emerged with the silver medal. It was great to have my wife and baby boy there with me as part of my support team. We also were able to spend some time with a friend in Budapest and saw some of the sites. It was a wonderful trip and great experience to win another world medal and have that time with my family.
Although I was grateful for that opportunity I still felt like I had some unfinished business. I had not trained to lose and the match that I lost at the FILA Pankration worlds kept a fire burning inside me.
I had already set my sights on the SJJIF No-Gi Jiu Jitsu world championships and only had to have a couple things fall into place to get to that event. I was able to have my wife and baby boy with me again. The tournament consisted of some tough athletes and I was looking forward to the challenge.
I had a tough Brazilian opponent, Victor Barreto, in the Ultra Heavyweight final. I was able to neutralize his attacks and sweeps and pushed the match into overtime. In overtime I again neutralized his game and was able to use one of my “unstoppable” moves and gain the mount position and win the match. I won the SJJIF Ultra Heavyweight No-Gi world title!
In the Open Weight (absolute) division I was able to win again in overtime in a very back and forth final match against Bellator MMA fighter, Steve Martinez. The match went back and forth with me taking him down and then sweeps back and forth with me finally ending up on top to end regulation. At the start of overtime I used my wrestling advantage and executed a bulldozing double leg to end the match 6-4! That win gave me the Open Weight division title and I finished the tournament with double gold medals!
Brynne and I had a great time and we very much enjoyed being able to share those moments together. We’ve had a great fall and I’m happy about my performance this year, especially considering some of the setbacks and trials that we had faced since 2013.
In 2013 I herniated a disc in my back right before the 2013 FILA Grappling world championships. Then that fall we lost Brynne’s brother to Leukemia. The winter of 2014 we lost my grandfather to stroke. Then in the spring I had a retina tear. It had been a rough 9+ months.
It wasn’t all gloomy during that time. We were blessed with the birth of our fifth child, a baby boy, the start of 2014. But it did take a while for things to recalibrate with all of the major events during that time.
We felt extremely fortunate to have been able to compete and travel this year and we are happy to have been successful in those events. Thanks for all of you who helped support us in this.
DVD Review: Josh Barnett Attacking the Guard DVD and Catch Wrestling Vol. I Punishing Rides 2 DVDS that will change the way you Grapple
Attacking the Guard
I watched about 5 minutes of this video and thought to myself, “Do people understand what this guy is showing? Because if they did EVERYONE that participates in today’s MMA, Grappling and BJJ competitions would own this DVD!”
That is how good I thought the concepts and techniques coming out of this DVD were, and that was just the first 5 minutes!
Josh delves into concepts of posture and breaking grips in addition to punishing and breaking guard players wide open. He isn’t nice about it either. Josh shows you techniques and approaches that are generally frowned upon in most BJJ dojos because of their meanness, aggression and effectiveness against even the most dominant guard players.
If that wasn’t enough I got just as much if not more out of the Catch Wrestling Vol. I Punishing Rides DVD also starring Josh Barnett.
Punishing Rides DVD
Barnett shares great rides for Wrestling, Grappling and MMA. These are not just your typical Folkstyle wrestling rides either. These rides have teeth big enough to sink into any grappling situation. These are offensive rides and hold down positions not just lay-and-wait positions.
One of the most poignant speeches is about BJJ and the lack of rides and pressures. His words seem almost prophetic looking back on it now. He talked quite emphatically about the usefulness and possibilities of a certain Head and Arm ride. It is this same ride that he defeated Dean Lister with during their Metamoris 4 bout. Their match was the first time Lister has been submitted in 16 years.
On top of showing some great technique and insights Josh gets more loose and entertaining as the DVD progresses. He is very funny. Just about everything in this DVD is unconventional from a BJJ standpoint and that is what is so great about it. This tuff works!
As a competitor Josh Barnett has done and won everything there is to be won in the sport; UFC champion, Pancrase Champion, IBJJF No Gi World Champion and Metamoris Super Heavyweight World Champion.
You would think at some point the BJJ and Grappling community in general would begin to take notice and listen to what this guy has to say. However I am willing to bet that they won’t to their own detriment. Too often Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s downfall is its own popularity and perceived value.
BJJ for whatever reason both proclaims to be “the new revelation” yet at the same time holds to “tradition” and shuns anything that is not BJJ. I can’t tell you how many times BJJ guys will sit and tell me how BJJ guys can beat wrestlers and go on and on. I think to myself that they must be complete BJJ tools if they still believe that BJJ is invincible. In grappling situations they certainly thrive but let’s be honest, it has been a long time since a BJJ purist has held any of the major MMA titles.
If there is any one thing that real practitioners of the grappling arts should come to accept is that no one single art has the lock on effectiveness. Both of the Josh Barnett DVD’s show exactly why Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling is one of the best sources for powerful grappling techniques. I was extremely happy when Barnett submitted Lister using tried and true CACC techniques because it once again proved the effectiveness of one of the oldest and best forms of grappling around. I found so many gems in this DVD that it is currently at the top of my “must watch” list for grappling.
I've recently finished my first book titled, Champions Find a Way: How to Become a Champion in Sport and in Life. It is a quick read jammed pack with great information on how you can achieve your goals in sport and life. I show you principles and techniques that I've used personally to become a champion. These principles have also helped my athletes have great success. Roy Nash, 7 x national champion and world team member. Brayden Nuffer, utah junior national team member. Dalton Mortensen, High School All American. These guys have all been able to get these strategies and now I'm passing on the opportunity to you. Check it out!
Wade Schalles is one of the hidden gems of US wrestling.
Why on earth he isnt coaching more at the upper level of collegiate wrestling is
beyond me. I just got done watching his Killer Cradles DVD series. Wade’s
knowledge is amazing and im very excited to put his ideas into my team’s
training. Here is some of what Wade had done: (from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wade_Schalles)
“Wade Schalles…is an American amateur wrestler, a
two-time NCAA National Championwho holds multiple records in the sport
including holding the Guinness Book of World Records title for most amateur
wrestling wins and pins, and is the creator of several of wrestling's most
notorious moves - including the Spladleand the Cement
This guy has been credited with inventing moves for heaven’s sake!
“Dan Gable called him, "the greatest pinner he's ever seen!" Currently he is in the Guinness
Book of World Records for having the most wins and pins of anyone who has ever competed.”
This DVD is about pinning and the principles that Wade shares work. Recently I had an athlete in our club
who was struggling; I mean getting totally obliterated by everyone he wrestled. I shared a couple of
small details from this DVD with my athlete and then he proceeded to pin his way
to three consecutive wins and a first place finish at a local spring tournament.
Having the knowledge to perform is the first part of success. I saw my athlete
turn a corner at that tournament and not only did he finally win some matches he
gained much needed confidence.
I promise you that there will be far fewer athletes out there learning and doing the techniques and
that Wade teaches than those that are. You have the great opportunity to start winning
more and become a champion.
All it takes is one DVD. For the cost of what many of you will pay on a couple of forgotten weekends
of movies, popcorn and pizza you could put the keys to pinning and winning into your hands.
I highly recommend this DVD for anyone looking for more pins and wants to become a champion.
Bruce Baumgartner is the most decorated American wrestler of all time. He dominated over a decade of competition winning 4 Olympic medals, 9 world medals, including two Olympic golds and 3 World Championships, 8 World Cup
championships, and 17 National championships.
When it comes to talking about ‘Best of All Time’ in American wrestling unfortunately for some reason Bruce often gets overlooked. In my mind he is the one and only choice hands down.
In a country that prides itself on one-hit Olympic wonders and some time world medalists Bruce deserves much more recognition than he often receives. He was never a flashy wrestler but he consistently represented himself and the
Unites States in world and Olympic competition. For years the US took for granted the medals that Bruce would bring home in the heavyweight division.
Baumgartner won his first Olympic medal (Gold 1984) at age 24 and his last at age 36 (Bronze 1996). Since his retirement from competition the US has struggled in bringing home medals in the Freestyle heavy weight division.
I only had one opportunity to watch Bruce Baumgartner live in action. I was fortunate enough to see him dominate Tom Erikson in the finals match of the 1995 national championships held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Erikson would later go on to become a Mixed Martial Arts champion.
Bruce was a force of nature and was the biggest human being I had ever seen. He was big and powerful. He exuded determination and acted and performed with a purpose.
The thing that stood out most to me about him wasn’t his obliteration of Erikson but that after he had finished winning his national title he continued training. He began vigorously jumping rope; he ran sprints up and down the arena floor. He had a look of steel on his face. His determination was incredible. He was preparing for the 1995 freestyle world championships which were going to be held in Atlanta, Georgia. Bruce went on to win the world championships that year as well.
His example stuck with me for years and it was one of the more influential things I’ve witnessed as a wrestler.
Resources: Bruce Baumgartner
“You don’t always have to be the best team to win the game.” Was a quote I heard recently that got me thinking; How many times do athletes with more skill or ability lose to opponents that they should not?
Unfortunately there are times when an athlete loses to an opponent that they should not lose to. Coaches often say “he falls apart mentally,” or “It’s all in his head”. It is often in fact, not all in his head. The reason that it is not all in the athlete’s head is because the coach hasn’t put it all in there. There are often pieces of the puzzle missing and coaches need to understand this and correct it.
Athletes often have more techniques than they know what to do with, in consequence they don’t do. They are often unsure of the logical next step of the match. This has been the downfall of many a potentially great athlete. Techniques are great but one size doesn’t always fit.
Conditioning is required however on its own it gets wasted and misused. If it
is undirected it can be a double edged sword. Athletes make mistakes of being
over aggressive and forcing offense. Coaches and athletes alike are
willing to work hard and push it physically. They often miss one of the most
important pieces of the competition puzzle, Problem Solving.
The number one skill that must be developed to be a successful wrestler is
problem solving. Too often coaches and athletes forget that the sport of
wrestling is one of physical problem solving. I have never had a coach that sat
me down and explained that to me. They never explained here is how the match
starts, here is what happens next, here is what happens after that, here is how
it can end, here are options for a, b, c.
Never. Not one. Most likely because no one explained it to them. In fact I
can almost guarantee it. I did have coaches that showed me their favorite
techniques, the techniques they knew, the best techniques of the day etc.
Obviously it served me pretty well over the years but it leaves that same
problem, how to solve new and dynamic problems that come at you at extreme
As I’ve coached my wrestling club athletes and others I’ve made efforts to
pick up where others left off or missed completely. I figure if we talk about
wrestling and the grappling arts in general as being 90% mental why don’t we
actually train that way? Why do we spend so much time improving our physical
attributes while our mind and problem solving muscles get the day off?
When athletes join my club they get exposed to next level thinking. I ask
questions and make them come up with solutions. We walk through slow motion
matches and scenarios. I show them how a match should play out under xyz
I help my athletes understand there is more to wrestling than just a
hodge-podge of techniques. For many of them it has brought great breakthroughs
in their development that they were unable to find elsewhere. We often talk
through situations and scenarios involving the score and how points were created
and then what is the best choice of position and the reasoning behind it. I’ve
had the good fortune to have trained under Olympic champions and they never
taught in the way that I’m describing.
What I ultimately want an athlete to achieve is a higher level of problem
solving. I want them to be able to look at the game differently from a 10,000
feet view. This helps them gain a greater appreciation of the skills they do
have while learning more about how they can personally have success. This is
ultimately how true confidence, or self trust, is developed. Athletes cannot
truly be confident without a greater perspective and understanding of what it is
they are to accomplish and how to do so.
Take a look at your current training and outlook towards competition and
determine how you can become a better problem solver. As you develop solutions
you will ultimately have more success as an athlete or coach. Start small by
taking the first 5-10 minutes of your technical training and devote it to coming
up with “What if…” questions and solutions. Some simple questions worth
If you’re taken down in the first period and ridden for the rest of it
without giving up near fall points what is the best option if given your choice
of position in the second period and why?
How would you comeback from a 3 point deficit starting the third period?
What would you do to counter a single leg?
What if you were up by 1 with 30 seconds left? How do you proceed?
These are simple questions and you may already have worked on a few or some
similar to them. As you get more comfortable you can start asking more detailed
and tougher questions like these:
What if you’re opponent has just taken you down and gained near fall and
you’re now down by 4 points. You have not scored from the feet but you were able
to control him on top from a reversal you scored in the second period. Where
would you most likely be able to score points next? How can you bring back the
points to even and either; win or put it into overtime?
What if you’ve just scored a takedown with 30 seconds left to tie the score.
Letting your opponent up would mean that he gains 1 point but if you take
him down you can win now. If you can ride for 30 seconds you can put it
into overtime and have a chance to win in overtime. What do you do? How will you do it? What are the potential risks and potential rewards? Which option gives you the
best chance of winning according to your own skill set?
As you begin to add more detail and insert personal strengths and limitations
you begin to see the problem more clearly and a more realistic and attainable
solution begins to present itself. This is how real and lasting confidence is
developed and this is how champions are made. If you do this I can guarantee
that you’ll start having much more success than you are now.
I had just placed 3rd at the 1996 Espoir National Championships in Greco Roman Wrestling and was qualified to take part in the ‘Big Brother’ Program offered by the US Olympic Training Center. I arrived on the campus and had an electrifying charge come over me. I’d never experienced anything like it before. I can only define it as the Olympic Spirit.
Steve Fraser is someone who fully embodies this spirit of excitement, passion, and energy. While I was at my first OTC camp he talked a lot about “Expecting to Win” and being mentally tough. Who better to talk about mental toughness than the first ever Olympic Gold Medalist for the United States in Greco Roman wrestling.
In 1984 Steve stunned the world as he defeated the seemingly invincible Frank Andersson of Sweden who had already won 3 Greco Roman Wrestling world championships (1977, 79, 82). As an athlete Fraser won a gold medal at the 1983 Pan Am Games. Multiple national titles in Greco Roman and Freestyle Wrestling, was a 2x World Team Member and was also a 2xAll American for the University of Michigan.
Fraser’s athletic credentials certainly impress but what is even more impressive is his ability to pass on his success
to athletes under his watch. As the US National Team coach Fraser’s teams have; placed 3rd World championships in 2001 (the US’s best finish to that point) and won multiple world and Olympic individual medals and championships. The crowning moment of Steve’s coaching career was in 2007 when he lead the US squad to its first ever world championship title.
One of the most amazing things that Coach Fraser did was instill a sense of cockeyed optimism in his athletes. While
I was an OTC athlete I remember seeing outlandish and lofty goals in the wrestling room like; “Win Olympic Championships, 6 medalists and 2 champions”, “Win World Championships, with 7 medalists”. To Steve these weren’t just words on a wall they were dreams with deadlines, they were solid and compelling goals. His desire for the US to succeed often exceeded that of the athlete’s themselves.
Steve Fraser has had a hand in developing 23 World and/or Olympic medalists during his coaching career. Including one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history in which Rulon Gardner defeated the undefeated Alexander Karelin at the Sydney Australia Olympics in 2000. Karelin had been undefeated in competition for 16 years up to that point.
Over the years I’ve followed many a Facebook thread and forum
topic that talk about who is tougher in grappling, Jiu Jitsu and wrestling. Many
times these are interesting threads but most of them very one sided and written
by folks that think they know more than they do about the grappling arts.
Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I get frustrated, but mostly they make me
I often wonder why it is that so many guys out there blatantly
pass over opportunities to get better. I wonder why in the world a grappler or
BJJ fighter wouldn’t want a fully developed takedown game. I wonder why a
wrestler crossing over to grappling and MMA wouldn’t want a fully developed
ground game. Sometimes it just boggles my mind.
On top of that there are countless people who will only compete
in X organization or Y organization. As for me I want to compete in all of them
and win in all of them. At many events I’ve heard athletes complain about their
loss and how they would never fight in that org again. I can only assume had
they won they would decry the amazing benefits and awesome potential of that
I must confess at one point I used to hate a certain grappling
organization. I felt they were completely unorganized and their capacity to run
an event was questionable. For years I didn’t compete there. I chose to find
other events that were better organized.
Not participating because of losing was not part of that equation
even though I had both won and lost in that organization. In fact my general
mantra has been to compete under as many grappling flags as possible. I wanted
to find the groups that would best test my abilities and allow me the chance to
fight tough fighters and develop myself as an athlete.
I loved the now defunct FILA grappling organization because there
were so many countries represented. I also loved the fact that I could fight
against international level wrestlers, judoka, MMA and BJJ fighters all in one
tournament. I also loved that as a heavyweight I finally had more guys to
compete with. Being a heavyweight sometimes means there are fewer opponents
available to compete against, this is generally true in wrestling as well.
Usually at Grappler’s Quest and NAGA there aren’t a lot of
heavyweight guys so the brackets are smaller. Although I have to approach those
events with more of a ‘dual meet’ mentality I am grateful for the opportunity to
compete in them although they are often not as fulfilling as having a full
bracket of opponents. In the event that there are fewer opponents at my weight I
compete in the Absolute division which also gives another dimension.
For me the whole point of competing is gaining more exposure to
the sport of grappling and allowing oneself the opportunity to see, do and
experience more grappling. The opportunity to test oneself is the real benefit.
I struggle with the way that many schools and athletes approach
competition. They hide themselves from risk and they fear losing more than they
desire true development. Many instructors won’t allow their students to compete
unless they know their student(s) will win. This is often solely fueled by the
instructor’s fear of losing business more than the concern about whether his
athlete(s) are prepared to compete. In every single grappling and BJJ tournament
I can think of there are multiple age, weight and skill divisions that allow
each competitor the opportunity to compete against someone of their own skill
level. If an instructor is holding you back from that what is he really teaching
you and more importantly what is he not teaching that he’s so afraid of you
Contrast that with wrestling tournaments where an athlete can go
up against a state or national champion in the first round whether they are
ready or not. When I began competing at the Open or Senior division at the US
Nationals at the age of 18 I didn’t have the luxury of competing against people
of my own age, weight and skill. I drew Mike VanArsdale, NCAA champion, US
National Team in Freestyle and former MMA fighter, the first round! That would
be the BJJ equivalent of being a high level blue belt and drawing Jeff Glover
for your first match!
I had absolutely no chance of winning but that wasn’t the point.
The point was that I was laying the foundation for future wins by losing then. I
was making that first step of confronting one of the best guys in the country
and learning that there was a higher level that I needed to
One of the things that I love most about grappling is that
athletes can have a chance to develop and grow on a much more conservative pace
if they need or want to. I hope more athletes will take advantage of the great
opportunities to compete. There are so many now that you can start at just
about any level for which you are ready.
Competition after all is merely a source of feedback about your
training and preparations. It shows you how you handle real time pressures and
stresses. It shows you where your technical strengths and weaknesses are
residing. It shows you your strategic strengths and weaknesses.
Most athletes and coaches get so worked up over the winning and
losing part of competition that they miss the forest for the trees. Take a more
holistic look at your grappling experience and start giving tournaments and
yourself a chance.