Zeke Jones is on a mission.
The United States National Freestyle Coach is determined to close the gap on perennial powerhouse Russia on the World freestyle scene.
One of the ways he hopes to do that is by providing the best training opportunities in the U.S. for his team.
The next opportunity will come over the next week.
Jones said 35 of the top wrestlers in the country will take part in a USA Wrestling National Team Training Camp on Dec. 10-15 at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla.
2009 World silver medalist Jake Herbert and World bronze medalist Tervel Dlagnev are among the top Americans scheduled to participate in the camp.
"One of our goals in strengthening the American wrestling program is supporting our regional sites to see them grow in the Olympic movement," Jones said. "It's a great opportunity to leverage the resources that they have there at Oklahoma State. It gives us a chance to work with some of the best coaches in the World and a chance to work with some great up-and-coming athletes down there. Having that synergy with Oklahoma State and the National Team gives us a different look, and a different way to train and get better."
A majority of the National Team members are expected to take part in the camp. 2009 World Team members Dustin Schlatter and Jake Varner will not be there since they are in the midst of their senior seasons in college.
Oklahoma State coach John Smith and OSU assistant coach Eric Guerrero were heavily involved with USA Wrestling this past season.
"I think having the camp here is really a great idea," Smith said. "Not just because it's here, but it gives our top guys another site to train at and it's a nice change of pace for them. Training in a different setting is always good. I'm excited and Oklahoma State is excited about having this camp here."
Smith, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time World champion, was one of the U.S. coaches at the 2009 World Championships in Herning, Denmark. Smith's Oklahoma State teams have won five NCAA team titles.
Guerrero coached the U.S. team at the 2009 Junior World Championships.
"John Smith is a difference-maker," Jones said. "We obviously know the long list of accomplishments he's had in the sport of wrestling. John hasn't been involved in our program in years. I haven't seen him this excited since we wrestled on World and Olympic teams together. The guys are real excited about working with John this week.
"Eric Guerrero coached our Junior World Team to a top-three finish this year. He will be very important this week to getting our team ready."
The U.S. is hoping to build on its two-medal performance from the 2009 Worlds.
"We have a great leader in Zeke Jones," Smith said. "The biggest reason I'm back involved with the freestyle program is because of Zeke. The attitude seems to be where it needs to be again to have success. We have some individuals who are eager to learn and who are really committed to this program. That's what we want.
"Our guys competed hard at the World Championships, but we made some mistakes we need to learn from. We need to build on that performance and keep working to improve."
Jones also said the college wrestlers from Oklahoma State are permitted to train with the international athletes in the camp. Junior World bronze medalist Jordan Oliver is among the wrestlers on the OSU roster.
The camp in Stillwater also will provide preparation for U.S. World Cup Wrestle-Offs, set for Jan. 23 in Colorado Springs. Herbert and Dlagnev have secured spots on the World Cup team by virtue of winning World medals in 2009. Wrestle-offs will be held for spots in the other five weight classes.
The World Cup will be held in early March in Russia.
"We will hold National Team Training Camps around the U.S. to help our program," Jones said. "We have a lot of great resources and people out there who can help us."
Smith said he hopes camps like this one can unify the U.S. in freestyle.
"We need to all join together and work together as a country, and it needs to take place now," Smith said. "We need guys like Tom Brands and Terry Brands and Kevin Jackson and Kenny Monday to be a part of this. Guys like that all need to be involved in rebuilding this freestyle program."