USA Wrestling

Aug 15 POLAND BLOGS Women s freestyle team shows promise on trip

By Kelsey Campbell, | Aug. 15, 2009, 10:31 a.m. (ET)
Friday, August 14
by U.S. World Team women's coach Kevin Black


The Poland Cup was just a stepping stone to the World Championships in Denmark. We are now five weeks away and still very optimistic. There were some heartbreaking losses that took place over the two-day tournament, but every athlete competed hard and wrestled well. Overall, Team USA's performance was satisfactory for this stage of the preparation. Each woman has been working on specific focus areas during the training camps and we approached this event as an opportunity to test them in live competition against the best in the world.

Everyone that competed in Poland showed signs of improvement throughout the camp and the two competitions. After a short break, we will all go back the "drawing board" and re-hash those same focus areas so they become more proficient when it all matters the most. We will also need to review video footage of each American athlete and some of the top foreign competitors. Fortunately, we acquired a lot of new footage this week.

In surveying the crowd, we had the world's best video crew. Two past world medalists, Clarissa Chun and Tatiana Padilla, were responsible for recording various matches throughout the tournament. As we all know, Clarissa was a World Champion last summer and Tatiana won a bronze medal. As we discussed this phenomenon, we realized that we probably need to see the footage that was taken before we can give them the title of the "world's best video crew." Both are social butterflies so we consciously have reduced our expectations to hoping that there is wrestling on the video and not random ceiling shots or floor shots. Whatever the footage looks like, I am certain that there will be some very intellectually stimulating conversations that took place while they were behind the camera.

Tomorrow morning we leave the hotel and head back to the States. I think everyone is excited to be in familiar surroundings. The Polish Wrestling Federation took great care of us during this trip. However, we are eager to see our families and eat food that has a little bit of flavor. Personally, I am excited to see my family. It has been over a week since I have seen my little man. I am sure he is much bigger than when I left (and he was already big). I always look forward to that first big hug that I get from my two favorite people. I miss them very much, but will see them soon!

Thursday, August 13
by U.S. World Team women's coach Kevin Black


The first day of the tournament concluded very well as our two competing athletes each won medals. Elena Pirozhkova won a gold medal and Ali Bernard finished with a bronze. Elena wrestled as well today as I have ever seen her wrestle. Ali lost a tough bout to one of the Russians, but was able to fight her way back to third. She wrestled very solid in her final two matches. Both of them have a legitimate chance to win a medal in Denmark next month.

Not only was the wrestling top-notch, but the camaraderie was second to none. It is difficult to portray, actually how much we enjoy each other's company on trips like these. We always return home with endless stories that others have trouble comprehending. They become inside jokes that never get old (dirty, smelly shoes and kneepads, for example - B.O.B.). We usually result to reminiscing of past experiences and they seem to bring new ones to light and keep our experience rich.

Before the finals today, we were honored to have one of Warsaw's finest young talents perform center mat in song and dance. "Polish Elvis," as we so eloquently called him, graced us with his presence by entering on a motorcycle with smoke and neon lights and he did not disappoint. He did a few covers of some great American artists including the real Elvis, Roy Orbison, Queen and, of course, the Village People.

Very few people enjoyed "Polish Elvis" as much as the Americans…or, well, as much as Kelsey and I did. It is potentially true that we were the only people cheering and performing the Y-M-C-A dance in the stands. Polish Elvis fed off our energy and was ecstatic to have people joining him in his performance. Just experiencing Polish Elvis in this way could have been enough to complete our memory, but then it turned legendary as he attempted to make his dramatic exit. He climbed back on the motorcycle not knowing how to start the engine. The fans began jeering as he managed to get it started. He crept ahead slowly and turned the bike around, and then he proceeded to "gun it" and crashed into the hockey boards. It was priceless and thoroughly fitting. His performance was a giant crash and burn, and the literal crash and burn will indelibly engrain this moment into my mind forever.

Polish Elvis was just what the audience needed to re-energize after the break. The placing matches and championship finals produced terrific matches with plenty of excitement. I am anticipating another great day of wrestling tomorrow. We will have twice as many competitors and as coaches will be very busy. Today is Keith Wilson's birthday, but we cannot celebrate in style as we have an important job to do tomorrow. We need to get enough rest to be sharp in all situations. However, my mind cannot begin to imagine what the Polish federation will have in store for us before the finals tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 12
by U.S. women's wrestler Kelsey Campbell


We have recently arrived in our final destination, Warsaw, Poland. We left Spala around 9 a.m. and arrived around 11. After a couple hours of down time, most of the teams headed to the facilites where the competition and weigh-in would be taking place.

As far as it looks, this will be a really great tournament in preparation for Worlds. And arguably, the level of competition is comparable, minus a few countries. For most of us, this is just the competition we want at this point in the season. We are confident in our conditioning and training, and ready to take home the victory.

Only two women weighed in today: Elena and Ali. Each of us wrestled and worked out as much as we needed, some more than others. The men's team also came and utilized the mats. When the workout was over, a couple of us waited outside for the bus.

Then we played "Snaps."

At first, it was just Jessica and me. Clarissa joined shortly after, followed by Tatiana. By the time we filed onto the bus, we were pros. Initially, the men's University team opted out. Apparently, this game was too silly for them. Then one spoke up.

The toughest to win over was Jon Reader. He suggested we play the "Quiet Game" instead. Then, to all of our amazement, he finally joined in, and played the game. The first trial run (we wanted to keep it at beginner's level) was "Iowa." No reason, really. After a few moments, he appeared to get it, only to have his teammate answer. And so it goes, the haters became players.

Wednesday, August 12
by U.S. World Team women's coach Kevin Black


As we settle in for the evening, I am very grateful to have a great internet connection. I like to follow a few specific websites to get my daily news and sports news fixes. It is also important for me to call home a few times daily. Most of the athletes use Skype to correspond with family and friends back in the States. It is a great tool as it costs only 2 cents per minute. However, an internet connection is needed.

We just finished our small team meeting to prepare for tomorrow's tournament. Every season, this particular tournament is a big event in Europe. The U.S. has competed at this tournament many times. This year, the tournament is near the caliber of a World Championship tournament. Japan has a few of their top girls competing, while China does not have anyone in the tournament. Otherwise, nearly every top female wrestler in the world will be competing in the next two days.

The Olympic weight classes will be competing tomorrow (48, 55, 63 and 72 kgs). Elena Pirozhkova will wrestle Justine Bouchard from Canada. They have faced each other a number of times and both are past University world champions. Elena defeated Bouchard earlier this season in Guelph. We have already discussed her game plan and, if she executes the plan and finishes her holds, she should be alright. Ali Bernard will face one of three Russians in her weight class. The Russians are very strong at heavyweight. Ali had the opportunity to wrestle this one three times in the training camp. It should be interesting because if Ali wins first round, she would have another Russian second round.

Our non-Olympic weight classes will weigh-in tomorrow during the short intermission. We will all travel over to the venue in the morning to warm-up. For Ali and Elena, they will obviously be getting ready to wrestle. For the others, they will use the warm-up to manage their weight before weigh-ins.

We are staying in a very nice hotel in the center of Warsaw. The food was very good at lunch and was "typical" banquet-style food at dinner. I sat with Terry at dinner after watching Pauly and him join with the Russian coach to line-up future training camps. At dinner, we reminisced about a time when Terry and his twin brother, Troy, were working out at Camp Randall in Madison, Wis. They were working hard through 10 x 100 meter sprints. Almost halfway through, one of the janitors (named Tony) was riding his Astro turf vacuum and pulled up to the starting line, jumped off the machine and dropped his tool belt. He lined up alongside the two and blew them away in a 100-meter sprint. Tony quietly walked back to his machine and went back to work. It was a great story because you can picture the fury that was burning in the minds of Terry and Troy. They were extremely intense during workouts while they were competing.

Another great story I remember about Troy, and Terry reconfirmed it tonight, took place just after he was done competing at Iowa. He entered a 10K "fun run" and was bound and determined to win the entire race. His wife, Shawn, was a track and cross country athlete at Iowa while Troy was competing and she understood how to pace herself for the race. Troy was not interested in pacing himself. As a wrestler who was Gable Trained, it was important to go as hard as you could for as long as you could. Troy took off sprinting at the sound of the gun and was soon out of sight only to be caught 2-3 miles into the race by the entire field after "hitting the wall." Eventually, he was passed by an elderly gentleman wearing an Oklahoma State t-shirt and the man chanted, "Go Cowboys" as he passed by Troy.

It is always nice for the athletes to hear the roots of the coaches. It helps them understand that they have paid their dues as well. Trust is also built as they become aware that their coaches have suffered through the same situations as those they are leading them through. Ultimately, as coaches, we are here to serve the athletes. I make every effort to practice servant-leadership by thinking of myself less, setting aside my privileges and striving to win. Our competitive days are over as athletes. These trips become one selfless act after the other as we help them get down to weigh, prepare for matches, help them with nutrition and just simply listen to their thoughts/concerns sometimes. It can be very demanding, but that is why we are here.

Tuesday, August 11
by U.S. World Team women's coach Kevin Black


It rained all day today at the training center. We are just outside of Inowlodz, Poland, a village of roughly 750 residents. Effectively, we are in the middle of nowhere with lush, green forest surrounding us. The rain is actually very peaceful and did not interfere with our workout schedule. The ladies had two great workouts today.

This morning we wrestled as a small group amidst the chaos of the training camp. The camp itinerary included a basketball-type game for the morning session. Since we were off the mat yesterday, we took the opportunity to work on a few specific areas as a group before engaging in some live wrestling. All of the girls looked great, but I took special notice of Deanna. She trained at my club for a year and we worked on a lot of wrestling, but more on life. She has come so far in the past two years; I am very proud of her. She has overcome a lot of tough situations and a lot of adversity and she has grown into a very strong woman in the process. I cannot wait to see how she does in Denmark.

With two long days on a bus, the girls were all very eager to roll around. To our amusement, as we were wrestling the Spanish and Italian teams spent nearly two hours dancing as their workout. They played a variety of music and performed a variety of dances from salsa to hip-hop. It was quite impressive. However, during wrestling practice, I assure you that our focus was wrestling, not dancing.

Our focus changed for the second workout, however, as it was a "typical" weight cutting practice. We did a warm-up with dynamic movements and agility before playing a game. The game was a great way to allow the girls to have fun while making weight. They stayed very active and kept their sweat going for nearly an hour. Keith and I did not get our rematch, but the Keith-Kelsey battle continued and Keith was able to tie the score at 1-1. Following practice, a few of them jumped into the sauna to continue sweating or to stretch and massage some of the soreness out of their bodies.

The most entertaining part of the day took place during dinner. I walked in to the cafeteria, grabbed my food and sat down across the table from Clarissa and Tatiana, who were deep in conversation about the Italian team. It was an hour of pure entertainment as Tatiana fumbled over thoughts and words. If you ask anyone within women's wrestling at USA Wrestling, Tatiana Padilla is someone you love to have on every trip. She is extremely entertaining just being herself. We reminisced about the first trip I took with her to China when she was 14 years old. R.C. Johnson, Spenser Mango and Jessica Medina joined the table later and we were never short on laughter, thanks to Tatiana. Pauly and Terry even chimed in from the other table when Tatiana was looking for honey to put into her tea. Obviously, there are too many inside jokes to share with everyone and, as always, sometimes you just need to be there to understand. I think we were all glad we were there tonight for dinner.

Tuesday, August 11
by U.S. women's wrestler Kelsey Campbell


We have recently had the opportunity to embark on some non-wrestling related activities. After the long drive back from the dual to Spala, most of us got about two hours of sleep before we were up again, getting ready for a more serious outting. The U.S. women's and men's teams got to visit the concentration camps in Auschwitz. It was pretty sobering to see these places. These were events I learned about in high school and different historical films. To actually walk the paths of so many that died was an unmatched experience. It also gave the teams a chance to meet and relax a little.

Upon our return, the women played a game, to get our heart rate up, formally known as "butt-ball." It was getting dark out, and there were a lot of flies - something most Colorado residents become unaccustomed to. Going into the game, I knew Keith would probably change the rules and manipulate the score at some point. I couldn't have been more right. I'm pretty sure for every score we got (it was Jessica, Deanna, Ali, Elena, and I against Kevin, Keith, Otis, and another guy I had not yet met), Keith gave us a half point. We still won, as expected.

Today was day one for any minor or serious weight cutting for Olympic weights. We had a good hour and a half of sparring, live wrestling, and par terre. The turnaround was quick, however, and we were back again at four. That second workout involved some wrestling (but mainly on our feet), tumbling, and drills to get those fast-twitch muscles going.

Then it was on.

Game two. Keith somehow has it in his head that he dominates in every sport against me. He has it wrong. I am not particular awesome at butt-ball, but I can hold my own in a game involving soccer or basketballs. We split up teams fairly equally. But it didn't really matter. Keith wanted revenge. But after about thirty minutes of outscoring them a ridiculous amount, he decides that the last three points scored by a team wins. Fittingly, at this point, we had aqcuired Mike Tamillow and another male wrestler played for the other team. I am sad to say, they probably got the better draw. And although we probably outscored them 5-1, they managed to edge us 3-2 in those final minutes.

So of course, Keith is once again convinced that he is the reigning champion of basketball. It is fine though. Whatever helps him sleep at night.

Monday, August 10
by U.S. freestyle wrestler Mike Tamillow


Today we go to see Auschwitz. It is an all day affair, a four-hour bus ride each way. Some of the guys make fun of me for eating so much throughout the day. My rule of weight cutting though is never miss a meal. The women's team is going also. They just had a seven hour bus ride each way for their dual meet this weekend; I don't know how they do it. Auschwitz is not nearly as fun as I thought it would be, concentration camp is not at all like camping; it's all gloom and doom. We go into several different buildings that look nearly identical on the outside. The first one has records of a few people's imprisonment.

A majority of the people that came through Auschwitz had no records and so estimates are used. As we walk through the building, there are different maps of the Auschwitz landscape. They kicked many Polish families off 15 square miles of land around Auschwitz. There are pictures of families with bags packed getting on the trains, they wrote their names and addresses on their belongings. Jews were being told that they were simply being relocated. They were told to leave their bags and then were forced to travel in cattle cars for days or weeks.

The illusion was kept up at Auschwitz. The Jews were taken into big gas chambers and told that they were going to take showers. There German soldiers would drop pellets of Zyklon- B, a type of rat poison, that would turn to cyanide and kill the Jews in about one to ten minutes. The Jews were then harvested for any fillings and hair. Their hair was used for fabric.

We get to another building on the other side of the complex. Our tour guide explains that the next two buildings were used more for administration. There are meeting rooms in one building. The other is an old hospital where tests were done on the prisoners. The basement of one of these buildings contains prison cells. The prisoners were left in the cells for several days to weeks without food, water, or bathroom breaks. There was no circulating air so most of them would die. The standing cells are about three feet by three feet and seven feet high. The door doesn't allow light or air in. I imagined a slow, dark, lonely death; you can understand now why I say it isn't much fun.

A shooting wall is located between these two buildings. As our tour guide tells us, one soldier estimated he shot nearly 20,000 people in his time there. We go on to the crematorium after seeing a building showing the bedding of straw on wooden bunks that the prisoners slept on. Stables that were made for 52 horses held roughly 400 prisoners. The housing at Birkenau was line after line of stables like this. Unlike Auschwitz which is designed like a small town, Birkenau is designed like a factory or a series of barns, large thinly designed structures with nothing but a shoddy roof over the prisoners' heads. The crematorium is in the side of a hill, much like a bomb shelter.

The ovens were made for several bodies to be burnt at a time.
But soon there were too many dead to handle, so bodies were burnt outside. At this point there was no secrecy any longer in the genocides. This was a good thing for the Nazis, since it became essential for the prisoners to cooperate in order to sustain Auschwitz. A prisoner would lead another to the standing cells. For some small advantage of knowing he would make it tomorrow, perhaps with an extra cup of water, he would lead people into the gas chambers and carry corpses out. One day a person is the executioner, the next he is the victim. A postwar play describes hell as a self-serve cafeteria, torturers are unnecessary.

I thought about that, seeing such horrible treatment and what I might do. The thought is so disturbing it agitates me to think about losing anyone, even someone I've just met. Perhaps I would stand up for what is right and be killed. Or maybe I would have seen it coming and left the country early. And, God forbid, I could find myself doing as I'm ordered, just a gear in this factory of death. Any way I look at it, fate has determined what happens.

It's nice to think we are past the possibility of a holocaust. It happened on the other side of the world, in a culture of misunderstandings and simplicity. It's in the past and we have learned better. We have progressed. It gives us a feeling of comfort that we are all too humane; we don't have to live in fear.

That's a world from the truth. The holocaust writers knew better. The message of the holocaust is simple - gloom and doom. The world is bound to repeat itself and 99.9999% of people will find themselves helpless to their fate. Gloom and doom, a message without a moral.

Monday, August 10
by U.S. women's wrestler Kelsey Campbell


After many hours away from any legitimate internet, we finally found a good location with a high speed connection. Fittingly, the hotel dining area. A lot has happened, so we'll get right into it:

Before even leaving for our dual against Poland, Otis woke to find his toenails green. He didn't know why or how. The details of the previous night were unimportant. Let's just say, Otis once again, was off to a great start. For more details, Jessica would be the one to ask. She even has pictures.

We're sad to say Coach Tomeo is gone now. Since the last post, we prepared ourselves for the four hour drive (which actually turned into a seven hour drive, just to clarify) to... we actually were never told exactly where this location is. Somewhere in Poland. And I should add, we have now covered a descent amount of Poland. At one point, we were less than 5 kilometers away from Germany.

As for the road trip, one of the Polish girls decided to put in what we thought was a nice Ben Stiller flick, but what actually turned out to be a "home video" or sorts. This was quickly changed to a Polish-dubbed movie.

We made a few stops, some more or less sketchy. We had to pay to use the restrooms, but finally we arrived.

The hotel was great. Very cozy and cute. Dinner was amazing-we were introduced to an awesome dish: "cornflake chicken," which most of us enjoyed, along with French fries and soup.

This morning, we started the day with a good workout, including a medium-pace run and some sprints. Different drills to wake up our muscles for the dual that would be a few hours later.

Then it was off for our "excursion." The Polish Federation treated us to a day of castles and torture chambers. Literally. Czocha Castle was at it's peak around the 1600s. The earlier mentioned chambers were the most interesting. Elena wanted to get into the mind of the victims, so she shackled herself on what appeared to be a man-made bbq pit. Some of them were really scary, some rooms were very interesting. From trap-doors, to hidden passages, to even a wine-cellar, it all was all around a fun experience.

Next, the dual. We had a quick lunch and break before leaving. The venue was nice; they even had a picture of Kobe Bryant. In our team room, they had prepared for us a table of food and huge bottles of water. Everyone in the local town seemed to be there.

We competed well. It was almost a complete shut-out. A couple of the girls did not end up competing, so Jessica, Deanna, and Elena each wrestled two matches. I had one match. Elena was named MVP and each of us were given really neat gifts on behalf of the Polish team.

We returned, hoping for more of that awesome cornflake chicken. All in all, this mini-trip was pretty successful. Jessica and Terry continue to improve their relationship, none of the girls have slept through practice (which, I might add, the University men were struggling with a few days ago), and we are happy to be headed back-a good six hours to go. At least.

Monday, August 10
by U.S. World Team women's coach Kevin Black


How does one begin to explain Auschwitz? It was very surreal and impossible to comprehend. The preservation of the two camps, Auschwitz I and Birkenau (Auschwitz II), is remarkable. I truly felt that I was walking through the entrance of the original camp when it opened in 1942. It was haunting, sad and unbelievable. I am very fortunate to have taken advantage of the opportunity to experience history in this way. Entering Block 4 at Auschwitz I, this quote hung above the door: "The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again" - George Santayana.

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen is a literary classic in Poland of a firsthand account by a prisoner named Tadeusz Borowski. Borowski is a hero in Poland because of his literature. I found it very interesting that in the introduction of this book, Borowski mentioned that he realized Plato lied. Ironic that Mike Tamilow wrote the same thing two days ago. "For the things of this world are not a reflection of the ideal, but a product of human sweat, blood and hard labor…" Auschwitz is an important part of history because it reminds us of the horrible capabilities of humans when we chose not to love one another.

God is love. He created us as beings that can experience, feel and give love. Love is an unlimited commodity. There is enough love for everyone in the world if we chose to give it.

The bus ride to Auschwitz took four hours. Many of the girls were very frustrated by the length (especially after last night), but I took it as an opportunity to listen to a few sermons from one of my favorite speakers named Erwin McManus (www.mosaic.org). He spoke on the importance of human relationship to one another and how God values relationship above all else. It was very fitting for me leading into the history of the German concentration camps. McManus explained that relationships are healthier when humility is demonstrated. Ken Blanchard describes humility as "not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less." Humility is placing others above you and serving others for their good.

Faithfulness - maintaining our social contracts; keeping our word - is the second point to healthy relationships. The third, as McManus states, is gratitude. Grateful people help you see the beauty in all situations; ungrateful people suck the beauty out of situations. Gratitude costs you absolutely nothing and really raises your value as a human.

On a much smaller scale, the thought of relationship becomes a central theme while working with female athletes. This year, the Women's World Team is comprised of many young athletes who are just beginning to understand their needs as a world class wrestler. The same virtues that McManus suggests for our daily relationships also become very relevant when working with new teammates and coaches. The female athletes communicate their needs and feelings much more than male athletes and these discussions arise on nearly every trip. In fact, we are delicately working through some relationship building with one of our athletes at the moment.

To lighten the heavy load from a day of thoughts and emotions, we returned to the training center and were very eager to play "butt ball." It was great to see the women enjoying themselves and being able to quickly regain their focus. Keith Wilson and I decided it was appropriate to pit the boys against the girls. We are manly men and figured that this would not be a challenge. Keith and Kelsey trashed talked each for an hour leading up to the battle. Along with Keith and I, Otis our trainer and official Jerry Kuntz joined the Men's team to play against Ali, Deanna, Elena, Jessica, and Kelsey (Clarissa and Tatiana went for a run).

We jumped out to huge lead, but faltered midway through the game. Ali was a force upfront, but she was not able to carry the team alone. When Deanna (the "cherry picker") took advantage of having an extra player, she could not be covered and she took over the game scoring nearly all of their points, including the final goal for a decisive 20-13 victory. I think, as men, we are confident that the slick grass and dark night sky played a big factor in the outcome. It had nothing to do with our declining athletic ability that comes with age as the girls suggested. Given a level playing field (hopefully tomorrow) we will step-up for mankind. Without disrespecting the intent of the Santayana quote, we will not forget history on this day.

Sunday, August 9
by U.S. men's freestyle wrestler Mike Tamillow


I see Lloyd Rogers at breakfast this morning. Our team hasn't coordinated anything for today so everyone has slept in. We plan on working out at eleven. This is the first workout that I try to cut any weight. I haven't seriously cut any weight in about three years. Lloyd wrestles 74kg but is a good partner to drill with. We warm up, drill for twenty minutes, and play wrestle for fifteen. I am wearing a pair of sweats with a windbreaker over it. We keep a good pace going for an hour. I weigh out at 90kg; I have to make 86kg on Thursday.

We go to sauna afterwards and Llyod tells me his plans for the future. He wants to keep wrestling and then go on to coaching. He was one of Terry Brands' guys in college and is going to be at Iowa next year. I give him my two cents. Simply put: expect others to help you. I expect someone to send me on international trips. I expect my coach to show me a move until I understand it. I don't want to blend in. The people I expect something from can expect me to work hard, represent them well, and ultimately win. I sleep the rest of the day away.

Sunday, August 9
by U.S. World Team women's coach Kevin Black


I am pretty sure that international tour blogs are intended to give readers a solid understanding of the daily routine of wrestlers and, in my case, coaches. With that said, this may be one of the least impressive blog entries on themat.com ever.

As I stated yesterday, the women's team traveled by bus to a competitive dual meet with Poland. We knew that they would not return to the training center until very late on Sunday. As a result, I spent the entire day at the training center with very little excitement. I walked around and explored the campus briefly, but was unable to find anyone working out. I would likely not have been able to participate in any kind of workout anyway as my luggage still has not arrived. Going for a run would have been nice, but without a change of clothing I needed to save my khaki pants and polo shirt. I usually pack a few extra items in my carry on, but chose not to this time for some odd reason.

It is imperative that the athletes pack their wrestling shoes and workout gear in their carry-on, but as a coach, I thought I would be able to get away with it. It does appear as though my luggage will arrive on complex tomorrow, so in hindsight, I have not really needed it because I was privy to sitting in my room all day talking on Skype, attempting to follow baseball on the extremely slow internet connection, listening to Polish music and completing unfinished work that I brought with me (on my carry-on). So, I actually have gotten away with not adding workout gear to my carry-on…assuming my luggage does arrive tomorrow.

It is nearly midnight right now and the team has not arrived yet. I did have brief correspondence with Deanna and Ali on Facebook as they were preparing to leave their hotel, but I did not get any information on how the dual meet went or when they would arrive back at the training center. I will be waiting up for them to return to get the schedule for tomorrow as we will go visit Auschwitz. In an eerie kind of way, I am very excited. It will no doubt be a haunting and somber experience, but I am certain that it will leave an indelible mark on my life. It will be a very educational experience, as well. I have a History degree and am fascinated by World War II. I do not know what to expect or how to mentally prepare for this encounter.

Saturday, August 8
by U.S. men's freestyle wrestler Mike Tamillow


We're supposed to have a dual meet at 11:30 with the Polish team. That's what we thought. At 10:50 the coaches knock on a handful of people's doors and let them know that the Polish team started at 10 a.m. - communication problems. This happened yesterday too; about half our team thought the morning was off because of the afternoon dual. It's difficult because we are trying to coordinate it with the other countries. I show up at 11:30. I had already swam today. So I do some grip work, some neck strength work as well as some stretching. It isn't very difficult but I have to put in the time, about an hour; starting is the hardest part.

The women's team has gone away for a dual meet for today. It is a six-hour drive to the dual meet but it has been well marketed. It is our No. 1 team vs. Poland's so it should be a good dual. Being an optimist I will say we should win. (Even though I know nothing about Poland's team.)

I head down to the small town surrounding the training center. I see some of the guys on our team before I get there and catch up to them. There are some temporary markets set up in the area. They are selling random goods and a few flags or other memorabilia with "Polski" and the flag on it. We walk around a little bit and I get a delicious waffle covered in pure sugar; whipped cream, apples and apple flavored sugar, and toffee. (Like I said, I'm not perfect) I pick up some gifts and we head back. Four of our guys are playing beach volleyball on the courts. We all decide to change into shorts and play also. I see Lloyd drying his clothes when I head back to my room and invite him to join us in beach volleyball. Our whole team ends up playing. Some head to the sauna and pool after the game, me being one of them.

Saturday, August 8
by U.S. World Team women's coach Kevin Black


I am finally in my room after nearly 30 hours of travel time from when I left my house until now. We had some confusion at the Warsaw airport organizing a ride to the training center and my luggage did not arrive. For some reason, I arrive at my final destination without my luggage more than anyone that I know. At the 2007 World Championships in Azerbaijan, my luggage arrived the day before we left. I spent 7 days borrowing Izzy and Troy Steiner's clothes. It ended up becoming an ongoing joke because I wore the same shirt for six days in a row. The hotel employees found that quite amusing and blatantly laughed at me as I passed through the lobby. My luggage was temporarily misplaced on a trip to Southern Russia a few years ago as well. Hopefully, everything will arrive much sooner this time.

We are staying at the Centralny Osrodek Sportu, one of Poland's Olympic Training Centers. As Mike has said, it is a very nice complex. They had a cookout for the athletes and coaches that were there tonight. Keith and I arrived after 10 p.m. so we were fortunate to see some of the "best" that the foreign countries had to offer after four or more hours of them hanging out. You can fill in the blanks. Our women's team is not on complex tonight because they traveled five hours by bus to compete in their dual meet. They will return late Sunday evening. We are eager to see them and to see how they are doing. Our week will be very interesting as we will travel to Auschwitz on Monday, workout Tuesday and travel to Warsaw on Wednesday for weigh-ins. The tournament is Thursday and Friday.

Friday, August 7
by U.S. men's freestyle wrestler Mike Tamillow


My clothes are starting to stink. Later, I am told by some of the girls that I should put them outside to dry after my workouts. They won't have the wet ammonia stench that starts to build. I wake up with a headache from the smell. I toss my clothes in the washer, and then do the run we did on Wednesday. There is plenty of time before the first practice to get a workout in, with time to relax between workouts.

I pair up with a taller, skinnier wrestler in our first workout. He appears young. After the warm-up we pummel for five minutes, hitting moves off our pummeling motion. Our warm-ups are similar everyday but are not meticulous in the routine. We wrestle for six minutes; One minute goes for the first four minutes and a two minute go. I have no trouble with him, although he is good for me to work my moves on. I am able to try out new moves and if one move doesn't work, I can easily turn it into another. He speaks a little English. He tells me he is 20 and wishes me luck at the tournament, telling me he will be watching it from the internet.

After practice, Coach Peters talks to me and Geisen. At first we talk about wrestling in general and then the conversation turns to coaching. Coach Peters talks about how good coaching is so much different than good wrestling. He tells us how being a good coach is about being a good teacher. Being a good wrestler comes secondary; it is the equivalent to knowing the material you are going to teach. It is meaningless if your students fail to comprehend it.

Our second practice is a dual meet that we set up against the Spanish team. They have only a few guys so we hold matches against ourselves at 96 kg and 120 kg. (Although I am going to wrestle 84 kg this tournament, a decision I have been considering, and have determined is best to try now.) I wrestle Clayton Foster. Clayton is incredibly tough; when I wrestle harder, he wrestles harder; by the end of our matches we are both exhausted. Zach Rey wrestles Ryan Tomei at heavyweight. Rey is incredibly talented and Tomei is stronger than I would ever be.

Zach Sanders wrestles strong and solid. Mario Mason is on another level than his opponent. Reece Humphery is impressive, I watched him hit a front headlock knee-pick for three points and all I could think was "how?" Jon Reader has been deemed Capitan America; if he hasn't beaten his opponent into submission already then he beats his opponent into submission. Lloyd Rogers and Zach Geisen both wrestle well, the same opponent at 84 kg is willing to wrestle them first and last, they both beat him solidly. Needless to say, the United States wins every match.

After I go to dinner, I am told my teammates left already. I head out to find them but I see Coach Stutzman first. I end up getting Kielbasas with the coaches. I know Coach Stutzman because he was Bryce Hasseman's coach in college. Bryce was my roommate at Nationals and World Team Trials. Coach Stutzman would wake me up (on an off day) at seven in the morning and start a conversation with me. (Way before I was ready to get up)

Coach Steiner, Coach Stutzman, Coach Peters, Paul Kieblesz (our team leader, associated with NYAC for a long time) and I talk about different topics in wrestling. The last one we seem to be stuck on for the longest time is the state of wrestlers who we might say "have taken the wrong path" after wrestling. It seems to be a never ending topic. I blame Socrates (or Plato) for this one.

Plato's Republic describes a world where the immoral acts of our heroes are censored. In this way we can see the ideal world, a world where heroes are perfect. If heroes are perfect, then those who want to be heroes when they grow up will try to imitate perfection. But this leaves too many loopholes. What if a hero makes one mistake?.. In his mind he has failed and may give up altogether. Or what if a hero has already obtained the ideal of perfection, perhaps an Olympic gold medal or a national title?.. He has reached his ideal of perfection. Now what? Nothing… post success depression.

No one wants nothingness. Plato has failed us by giving us a world where humanity is nonexistent. He even censors laughing in storytelling. To him it is an indicator of too much emotionality. Laughing, perhaps one of the most enjoyable things in this world. The more I read, the more I realize how much our culture is influenced by him, a sad state of unrealized dreams.

Wasn't real pro wrestling's motto "a new breed of hero." I don't want hero, I want real. That's why I've been watching rock of love on MTV Austria for the past week. It's why the ultimate fighter beats us in popularity with the same talent. It's why Obama won the presidency. I want to know I can slip morally or in my training or my discipline and still, perhaps in the end, come to succeed. I want to be reassured that I can be human and not destined to failure. In the end it comes down to Socrates' over enthusiasm for perfection and not for humanity, a life of accepting imperfection in one way or another.

Friday, August 7
by U.S. World Team women's coach Kevin Black


Today is Friday, August 07, 2009 and I am in the middle of my travel schedule to Warsaw, Poland for the Poland Cup (there was a minor airplane malfunction prior to departing from the Denver International Airport, but all is well now). Our Women's World Team will be competing together as Team USA for the second time since the team was assembled in Council Bluffs, Iowa, earlier this summer. Tonight, as I fly, the girls will be competing in a series of dual meets. This is a great trip for the team because when on foreign soil together there is a vast opportunity to come together as a team because they need to rely on each other in so many ways.

I am joining the team halfway through this particular tour. Along with Keith Wilson, I was selected as a volunteer World Team Coach. I am very excited about this great opportunity for many reasons, but most of all because I get to be mat side with some very special athletes that I have invested a lot of energy into and get to be a part of the vision of seeing the USA become the strongest women's wrestling program on the planet. I am excited to work alongside Terry Steiner and Coach Izzy, as well. Terry coached me at the University of Wisconsin. There are few individuals I respect more than Terry. He has graciously welcomed me into his coaching circle and I am serving on his staff as a world team coach already for the second time in my young coaching career. I can honestly say that I would have never pictured myself coaching women in the sport of wrestling. However, I am extremely honored and fortunate to have the opportunity to see these girls grow into tremendous women.

The feeling that I get while I fly overseas has become very familiar. It is difficult to leave my home and my family for over a week. I recently had my first child. Isaiah is now ten months old. My appreciation of the commitment level of the coaches that I have had in my life has grown exponentially now that I can first hand indentify with the sacrifices that they made for me and other athletes. Isaiah has been teething and has a small cold. It is difficult to leave him knowing that my presence could help him feel better, but it "comes with the territory" and I look at these trips as an opportunity to serve my country and the sport that has given me so much.

I own and operate a successful wrestling school in River Falls, Wis., and have the opportunity to impact over 300 athletes each year, most of them young men. Trips like this allow me to bring back new techniques and training strategies that give our athletes a small "edge" in northwestern Wisconsin. However, I do not take these trips for my personal gains or to experience the world, but rather to help our women's program become the best in the world. This year will be a very interesting team as we are extremely young overall. The paradox, however, is that we are a very experienced team. We have a returning World champion, a University World champion and Junior World champion on the team, so it is a young team with an abundance of international experience. Nearly every member has followed the path that is desired by USA Wrestling by making Team USA previously at the various age levels leading up to the senior level. This gives the athlete a distinct advantage as they have had the privilege to train with the National Team coaches and compete in World Championship events before they wrestle on the biggest stage in the World.

The flight over the northern Atlantic Ocean provides a tranquility that allows me to focus on the task at hand. When I touch-down in Poland, my mind will be focused on helping to prepare our women for the World Championships in Herning, Denmark in September. I have worked extensively with many of these young women and believe that this team has the potential to set the standard extremely high for the next four years leading into London 2012. There is a lot of work to do, however, and I am excited to be involved in the process.

Friday, August 7
by U.S. women's wrestler Kelsey Campbell


Today, for the most part, went as planned. As mentioned, Erin and Terry had gave us a good workout at 8 a.m. to wake us up a little before our matches today. We ran a timed mile on the track. Erin ran it with us, and we thought Otis would too. As we finished the run, we saw him soaking in the rays to the side of the track. It was actually pretty amusing. Terry critiqued us on our running technique before we continued with sprint excersizes.

At 10 a.m. the lighter weights (48 kg, 51 kg, 55 kg, and 59kg) wrestled 2-3 matches, including a clinch after the first and second period. The other weights (63 kg, 67 kg, and 72 kgs) came in at 11:30, with the same schedule. Overall, the U.S. girls competed well. It was helpful to get a feel for the full-match, live situations. I like getting a couple of matches out of the way before a competition. It gives me more confidence, but also keeps me on my toes since all the wrestlers use this time to become familiar with the opponent's technique.

The second practice included one match, followed by four-women groups. Some call it "king of the mat," while others refer to it as "shark-bate." The first person wrestles the other three girls in the group, followed by the second girl, and so on. The idea is for each person in the middle to wrestle a full match, but against a fresh person every two minutes. It is a good and challenging push physically and mentally.

I feel like I have gotten helpful feedback from the coaches as well as my team mates. While each of us are wrestling, there is always a good chance that the other girls are watching closely, ready on the sidelines with critiques, and the frequent "good job" and high-five. We are all working hard to stay coachable and even coach each other. There has also been a good mix of weights. Sometimes I will wrestle with Clarissa, which is always good for sharpening my technique. Jessica was grappling a little with Ali today during the warm-up, as well. We are all learning from each other.

It is a couple days in now and we are becoming more aware of our weight, taking good care of any injuries, and basically just getting ready for the competition to come. A couple of us are going to try to get some laundry done tonight, as we are leaving this location tomorrow for a dual against Poland. The internet is hit or miss in the dorm rooms, but I am happy to say those at the front desk here have been extremely kind in letting me use the computers here. Tonight will be spent stretching out, maybe watching a movie, and a good night of rest. Until next time!

Thursday, August 6
by U.S. men's freestyle wrestler Mike Tamillow


Breakfast today for me is with the women's team. Jessica Medina tells a funny story. Her running technique was a little sloppy when she was getting fatigued. She realized this and didn't want to be criticized about it. So she avoided Terry Steiner for five hours. Then at dinner he sat down next to her and criticized her on it. She got really upset about it but since they were in front of everyone else she had to keep her cool. The women's team is trying to decide on gear for the world championships. It appears to be a pretty big decision, more than could be settled in an hour.

Again, practice is situational goes. This time we drill before we wrestle live. The situations are crackdowns, ankle laces, and front headlocks. We have done a surprising amount of crackdowns; I haven't done crackdown situations in a long time. I wrestle well from there though and win more than I lose.

After lunch I spend some time reading Plato's Republic. I can finally learn some things now that I don't have class. This Socrates guy doesn't make any sense. He claims to be pursuing the truth but all he does is get people to agree with him on simple things and then gets more abstract so they don't understand what they are agreeing to. He's not so much of a philosopher as he is a salesman. I like his style. Some of the points he makes are valid but the ways he arrives at them aren't reasonable.

I take a little nap and wake up right before the second practice. I don't have an alarm so I've been running on the panic system. I try to use my internal clock to wake up. It's been working well but I usually show up to practice right on time and I have to rush. The second practice is shark-baiting. One person stays in the center while two people rotate in every minute. The one guy is in the center for six minutes but every two minutes we get a thirty second break. I wrestle well but once again we are all too slippery so not many points are scored. It's hard to work setups. When I try to penetrate I can't get solid footing. I take a few low singles which work well but all end in big wet scrambles. I talk to Zac Geisen, reviewing practice and breaking down what the other guys did before heading back.

Thursday, August 6
by U.S. women's wrestler Kelsey Campbell


It is Thursday out here in Poland - Day 3 for the U.S. women's team.

We got off to a great start. Our trainer, Otis, had his bags lost on the trip here - after flying first class, ironically. They've since been returned to him. And Coach Terry Steiner's TV on the first flight (which happened to be almost nine hours long), didn't work the entire flight. Jessica Medina has since taken up a new collection. It was a long trip, over 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived at the training center, where Paulie had table of different foods waiting for us. It was a nice surprise after tiring travel.

So far, it has been a good camp. Every day we wrestle to awesome Polish techno music. We have mixed in well with the other teams. Currently, Poland, Russia, Italy, Spain, Hungary, and Belarus are here in preparation for the Poland Cup. We have had a chance to drill, combat, and play some intense basketball. Elena Pirozhkova has represented the U.S. well in basketball! She's the only one who can really communicate with a lot of the girls.

We have also had a chance to utilize the different facilities, including the outdoor track - where we were pleasently surprised by the Polish Olympic Speedwalkers. None of us attempted to outwalk them ... except Tatiana Padilla. The weight room and the sauna were also among the facilities we have used. Tomorrow, Terry and our other coach, Erin Tomeo, are putting us through an early run before a day of exhibition matches, and later on, a second lift.

Most importantly, the food. It has been exceptional. We have had the opportunity to experience many new international dishes. These include pasta and yogurt, rice and yogurt, hot milk for cold cereal, and home grown apples.

Right now, it is just Clarissa Chun, Jessica, Tatiana, Deanna Rix, Elena, Ali Bernard, and me. Leigh Jaynes will be here in a couple of days, along with the other coaches, Keith Wilson and Kevin Black. Overall, it has been a good trip and we are all bonding well.

Wednesday, August 5
by U.S. men's freestyle wrestler Mike Tamillow


Today is our light day. I still can't sleep well at night. I fell asleep late after finishing the first book of The Histories. I wake up at six in the morning and go for a walk in the woods before breakfast. I follow a trail about a mile then come to a fork in the road. In trying to figure out which road to take I remembered the wisdom of Robert Frost. Unfortunately both roads look identical so I decide to head back, which made all the difference.

We run instead of wrestling. It is about 5 or 6 miles through the woods. The area is beautiful and seems to go on for miles and miles. We pass other trails that lead off deeper into the woods as we are running. There seems to be hundreds of unique trees of different size. The forest is covered in spider webs as I found out earlier this morning by walking right through a few. After our run we decide to get together at five to lift.

The weight room isn't up to the standards of most high school weight rooms in the U.S. However it is head and shoulders above the quality of Ukraine's OTC weight room. The weights are locked up which was why we had to schedule the workout. We are on our own and several of the wrestlers choose to play basketball with the Italian team. The game doesn't appear very competitive and dribbling is optional. I do some power cleans and a few other basic lifts and then go for a swim.

The training center is actually very good compared to many foreign countries. I am in a single room; most of the others are in doubles. The beds are a little hard but have a layer of foam padding on top. Maids come in regularly to clean the rooms and restock towels. (In Ukraine the maids would wash the floor with turpentine) There is only one washer on site and no dryers. Other than the weights, the facilities are really good. There are some beach volleyball courts and tennis courts outside as well as an outdoor track and field area. There is a small wooded park inside the facility and a mini amphitheater, big enough for about 100 people. There is also a little café/bar right next to the cafeteria. This is a change from the USOTC policy which doesn't allow any alcohol on site. There are eight wrestling mats and then four mats in another gym where the girls practice.

Tuesday, August 4
by U.S. men's freestyle wrestler Mike Tamillow


We arrive in Poland at midnight. The women's team and most of the men's freestyle team are with us. I got about two hours of sleep the past thirty-six hours so I'm exhausted. I'm also surprisingly hungry since I haven't eaten a decent meal on the flight. We are staying at Poland's Olympic Training Center; fortunately they have some food left when we arrive. I make myself a sandwich and go to bed.

I wake up at nine in the morning, just in time to get some breakfast before the cafeteria closes. I spend some time getting to know my teammates before I head back to bed. Most of today is spent sleeping. Soon enough my body is going to acclimate to the time change, so for now I just want to catch up on my sleep. Practice is at eleven thirty and five thirty, not the most desirable times.

The first practice I am matched up with a short thick Polish wrestler. We begin by drilling and play wrestling. Then we wrestle a match. I win all three periods. One of the biggest differences in wrestling foreigners I've found is their style of hand fighting. I've learned never to reach and also to use my body to hand fight. If I can control his hands, he can't do much. If he controls mine, I can't do much. I have to use my body to gain position so that when I do use my hands he can't control them.

The second practice I wrestle with a much bigger guy. Ryan Tomei was matched up with him last practice. Immediately after the warm ups we start wrestling live. We start in the crackdown position, and move on to single leg and high crotch locks, and finally some par terre. My opponent gets the better of me on a majority of the goes. It's incredibly humid out and our portion of the mat is covered in a pool of sweat. My gut wrenches aren't working nearly as well. Our wrestling is comparable to Turkish oil wrestling or mud wrestling. Both practices end with a ten minute drill.

That night the team heads out to find some vittals. The area around the training center is a huge forest with a small town in it. Later, Coach Peters tells me that the houses out here are summer homes. We are told there is a gas station down the block. We pass the gas station but it looks shady so we assume it's closed. As we walk back the two guys we left behind, Lloyd Rogers and Tomei, are coming so I let them know that the gas station is up there. Jon Reader and I go with them to it. The gas station only has oil, car parts, and cigarettes. There's a sawed off shotgun sitting on a table behind the counter. We leave and this sparks a conversation about whether we're in a safe neighborhood. The neighborhood seems safe enough and we assume it's just a precaution. We find a convenience store and head back to the training center.
Comments