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Macedonia- Part 2

Zadravo, 'hello' in Macedonian. I'm pretty sure I don't say it right, but whatever. I am really enjoying my time in Macedonia. It is something of an honor to the macedonians for us to be here. They are very proud of their country and want to show it off. The people are friendly, all the girls even wave back at us (not me, don't worry Emily).

We were talking with the front desk clerk who we chat with and he talked to us a little about the politics and the types of people. There have been some political problems with Albania, and to describe it, he used this as an example: "You know, in Lion King? Macedonia people are like Mufasa, Albanians are like Scar, they are friends with the hyenas and always want to take, but Mufasa (Macedonians) are good" I thought it was hilarious that he used a Disney movie as his analogy, but it is all good.

The Olympic Champ from 1984 is actually the only Olympic Champion ever from Macedonia, so he is something of a celebrity here. He took us all out to a very nice kabob dinner the other night at a place where even the president goes. Afterwards, one of the wrestling coaches took us to his teahouse for chai and then another coach took us back to the school to meet with the FILA representative of Macedonia. The school is pretty cool, it was 10 o'clock at night and kids were still playing soccer under the lights on the cement court. We have been there at all hours now and there have always been at least 30 kids playing. It is definitely different to see that here.

We have been warming up with some games before we train. It has been fun and Team Canada is technically 2-1, but really 3-0. We started back in Rome with a win in soccer over Italy (World Cup champs!) and then another win vs. Macedonia in basketball (although they don't dribble and you can foul and tackle people = weird). Then a few days ago we 'technically' lost to the school (under age 12 team) in a game of soccer. We were beating them about 12-8, then said next best of 3 goals wins to end the game. We thought we would win easily but I think those kids were sandbagging (plus they subbed in fresh kids) and they smoked us at the end. My pride is still hurting. Some of those kids were playing in flip flops and jeans but they were incredible. I guess that is what happens when you play around the clock.

I weigh in tonight, have been taking it easy after wrestling fairly hard earlier in the week. My weight is good, looking forward to the tournament tomorrow. Hope all is well back home!



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Competition Tips

Hi guys. Good luck CHIMERA WRESTLING at California state this weekend. So somebody asked me a while ago how I 'manage' a competition, so I thought I would post some of the things I've learned over the years, mostly from trial and error and bad experience. A lot of this has to do with energy management for a long day of competition, but there are a few tricks in there as well.

Expect delays, but remember they affect everybody, so don't let them throw you off.

If you are called unexpectedly to the mat, don't rush over there. They will wait for you, so finish your warm-up and make sure you are focused and ready to compete as you make your way over there, don't rush over and not be focused when the match starts.

Be sure to communicate what you like to hear in the match from your coach. Whether it is time left in a period, technique, motivation, screaming insults, whatever.

You usually wrestle later than you think. Even after you get called to the mat, it will probably be another 20 minutes, so make sure you don't start your warm-up too early. I hate to see people let their nerves get to them and warm up for an hour before every match, it is a huge waste of energy. Force yourself to sit down and relax.

Along those lines, I used to not eat during the competition because I thought I would be up soon and didn't want food in my stomach. Force yourself to eat something so you have energy for the day. You eat for your last matches of the day, not the next one.

Bringing toilet paper and hand sanitizer to the competition is a must, especially in foreign countries!

Especially in long tournaments, it is very good to get out of the gym in between your matches, get some fresh air, get out of the noise, and refresh yourself. Sitting in the gym all day is exhausting, just ask your parents who don't even compete. If you lessen that toll, you will be fresher at the end of the day. Obviously, tell someone where you are going in case you suddenly come up, but you should be able to time it so you don't miss a match.

Noise is draining, so at long tournaments I bring and wear a set of earplugs. Seriously, it is a secret weapon. One time, I was so focused I forgot to take them out and wrestled my entire match with them in. It was one of my best performances because I was so focused. And yes, I could still hear my coaches, it only blocks out the background noise.

A fresh set of clothes, including socks and underwear, can make you feel like a new person. It is amazing what getting out of the clothes that are sweaty from your warm-up and first couple matches will do.

Cool down immediately after the match until your heart rate slows down. Don't stop completely or you will let all that lactic acid sit in your muscles for a few hours.

Make sure you come 'down' in between matches. Don't stay at a peak all day, always ready to wrestle. In between matches, you need to cool down and then sit and completely relax. If you stay at a high pace all day, that is like 10-14 hours straight and is exhausting.

Also, try and not watch too much wrestling. When you watch wrestling, even people you don't know, you subconsciously watch and tense up, at least for me. Remember, you are there as a competitor, not a spectator. You can have somebody film the matches you want to see and watch them later if you really want to.

It is important to film your matches so you can review them later, but don't do it between matches. Take the key points from your coach, but don't focus that much energy on the past, look forward to what you need to do in the future match.

Anyway, I'm sure there are more things I've missed, but if you have any questions, leave a post.



We arrived into Skopje (pronounced skoh-pee-ah) today to the Alexander the Great International Airport. It was not nearly as big as Medford, had one gate, 2 baggage carousels, so I'm not sure its namesake would be proud.

Anyway, it is very nice here, we are staying at a bed and breakfast type hotel, it has been open for exactly 10 days, so it is very nice, has about 30 rooms. My camera hasn't been working but hopefully I'll be able to get some pics up, it is very green and humid here, but not too hot, so it is very nice.

We trained today, I basically just went live with Haislan Garcia, our 66 kg guy for about 30-45 minutes straight. We are both pretty competitive and evenly matched, he is almost as big as me, so it was a good workout, which I needed. I've been trying to eat as much as possible, but I still seem to be light. I'm sure most people are envious to have my problem, but I'm just saying...

We trained at a local club run by a guy whose name I shouldn't forget, he was an Olympic Champ for Macedonia in 1984 in L.A. He runs a kids club and there were about 20 kids age 8-12 and before practice I challenged them to a match. I was kicking their butts until the littlest guy hit the best sweep single (I think he was lower to the ground so it was easier for him) and I let him get a takedown. It was only a couple minutes but it was fun and they really did have pretty good technique.

Anyway, what are these comments about me not training? My brother thinks he can take me or something? haha. I have been working out quite a bit over the last year, so making the jump into competition didn't take much. Actually I know the mental break was good for me because I am more relaxed in my wrestling and don't feel like I am forcing things as much, in other words I'm trying to rely on technique more than just muscling or out-conditioning my opponent. Eventually you want to do everything, but I think it is more of a Russian mentality, and they are the best in the world. We'll see, as there are supposed to be some very good teams here this weekend, Macedonia, Russia, Bulgaria (the Olympic bronze medalist), Albania, and a few others I can't remember.

OK, things are well, I'm excited to compete again, so hope to have some fun! Thanks for all the posts. They are great to read.

PS. Shout out to my brothers (20) and Carl's(18?) birthday which was May 29, I didn't have internet access then...

El Competicion

That probably isn't Italian, but I say a lot of Spanish words and they seem to get the point, or at least they nod and smile, so who knows.

Anyway, I just wanted to fill you in on the competition. I had my toughest win of the day in my first match. I wrestled a Greek guy who was ridiculously strong. I ended up beating him 1-0, 1-1, although I don't think he ever actually scored a takedown. I was in on his legs and he Miguel Matta'd me! (cutback), I stepped over and thought I got 2 points for exposing his back, and then as he came on top, I did a switch and got away. It should have been no points, but they gave him 1, so I had to score again. It was a good scramble.
I wrestled a German next who was really pissed that I beat him. I beat him 3-0, 1-0, controlled the match and felt good. All the teams were staying at the same hotel and later that night he sat down next to me at the table after dinner, then looked over and said "ah crap", I guess he didn't know who it was he was sitting down next to. We ended up chatting a little, he was still upset I think. In the semifinals I wrestled a British guy named Mike who we hung out with last summer in Madrid, he was a nice fellow, I couldn't understand a word he was saying, i swear the British accent is barely intelligible English. I actually wrestled him 1 year ago in the first round of this tournament and this year I won 5-0, 2-0.

In the finals I lost 1-0, 1-1 to Denis Tsargus, the Russian. I shot with 10 seconds left and got countered, I didn't have a good attack, but my coaches didn't want me going to the clinch. In retrospect it was forced and unneeded, but something I need to work on. 2nd period, I got a takedown and then reversed from it, can you believe a collegiate wrestler was reversed in freestyle? Stupid. I was trying to secure his ankles and he did a switch. I am so mad. I scored with 40 seconds left then by the time I was on top, then he was on top, there was less than 20 seconds left. Mistakes.

Anyway, tomorrow we leave for Skopje, Macedonia. I guess it is the capital city. We weigh in Friday, wrestle Saturday with the finals on Sunday. Speaking of the schedule, we are so busy. Here was where we have been.

Monday, May 25- Depart
Tuesday Arrive Rome, 2 nights in Rome
Thursday, travel to Sardinia, compete Saturday
Sunday back to Rome
Tuesday, travel to Macedonia, compete Sat-Sun
Sunday, begin travel home, fly to Amsterdam
Sunday night in Amsterdam, Monday return home around 8 pm

5 different places in 14 days. It is crazy.

OK, hope people are still reading this. Is anybody?


Silver Medal

Just got to Internet. We stayed at a resort, very nice, but no internet and we were 4 km from the nearest town ( I know, I got stuck there and had to walk it). At least we were on a really nice beach.

Anyway, I will post more later, but took a silver medal yesterday at the Sassari International. Had 3 good wins on my way to the finals, started with win over a Greek (I owe that country), then Germany, then Great Britain before losing in the finals. Wrestled very well, had very sharp attacks, scored lots of points, but in the finals I made a mistake and he capitalized on it. Live and learn I guess, I didn't feel too badly about the way I wrestled, more pissed about making the mistake and he was a very good wrestler, 2x Jr. World Champ, #3 right now in Russia. Like always, I didn't lose because of anything he did to me, more what I did. Make some adjustments for this coming weekend in Macedonia.

I'll get more soon, we just landed back in Rome and have to go eat dinner before the cafeteria closes. I'm curious to see what people would like me to talk about, so let me know,

Italian Tournament Results coming soon

Matt's results will get posted as soon as he gets an internet connection.

Stay tuned!


HA! I had forgotten my goal time of 18:30. Apparently I should have set it higher, because I ran a 18:27. That is a 6:09/mile pace which I was pretty happy with. I thought I was going to puke the last 2 laps but held it down. I'm pretty sure if I ran it 3 more times I could be sub 18:00 minutes, but maybe that is wishful thinking. Our other asssistnat coach, Vic Moreno is a machine, he was 16:45 or something!

Anyway, I'm actually in Rome right now about to go to bed. Arrived this morning, staying at a 'Country Club Castlefusano" that is actually more of a camping ground. It is kind of funny, but we are staying in the main building so it is like a hotel. Trained this afternoon with our 66 kg, Haislan Garcia, he is a stud, didn't go live but hard drilled to get the trip out of me. It is so hot and humid here that I probably lost 2 kg without trying.

It is past 11 pm, I must go to bed.

Looking forward to this Saturday and competing again!

Blog was hacked!

In case you didn't know, my blog was hacked last week. Basically, a virus got in, deleted all my posts since September (thank goodness it didn't get to August), and replaced them with some horror images/stories of its own.

Luckily, my brother has my posts backed up on his computer, but not sure when he will be able to re-upload them. There really weren't that many. Anyway, I have some big news, which means I will likely be posting more to my blog in the coming weeks. I'll be leaving to compete in about 5 days.

Next Monday, May 25th (Memorial Day) I fly to Italy to compete the following weekend at the Sassari International. This was the same tournament I won last year and had a couple pretty good wins, so I'm excited to try and repeat. Then we will be going to Macedonia, not sure where, for another tournament the following weekend. I'm pretty excited to compete, and have been training hard the last month or so in preparation and feel really good. My conditioning has come up, although we'll find out tomorrow as I'm likely doing a timed 3-mile run. My goal is under 18:30 but not sure if that will happen!

Anyway, i'll put more as I know more details. Thanks to those that still check this thing,

"Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell

So I really have been reading more. I finished another book this week, "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. He also wrote "Blink" and "The Tipping Point" and has some very interesting theories and studies in his books.

Basically, his book is about outliers, or people who acheive outside the norm. When you think of very successful people, whether in the arena of sports, business, music, or anything else, most people would say that the very best of those people are 'special' and that talent is responsible for their success. While that special talent may be one ingredient, Gladwell very convincingly argues that it has more to do with opportunity, luck, cultural background, hard work (about 10,000 hours worth) and being in the right place at the right time. He has some pretty wild studies to back his theories.

He concludes the book with:
Outliers seem "to lie outside the ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky-- but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all."

He goes on to say, "it is impossible for an outlier to look down from their lofty perch and say with truthfulness, 'I did this, all by myself'."

This whole book made me think about all the extraordinary coincidences that shaped my career, from the very first time my family accidently stumbled upon wrestling when I was only 6 years old to the people/coaches that influenced me and made me the wrestler and person I am today. I often say that everything happens for a reason, and I can look back and clearly see where my so called 'losses' propelled me to a higher level or where my success had hinged on an event happening totally outside of my control. I hope I have said 'thank you' enough to all the people that helped me, because you own a share in my successes (and failures).

I wonder what I shall read next?

Latest Readings

I recently have been getting some good reading done, I'm not exactly sure where I find the time, but it has been good for me. I just finished Tony Dungy's book, "Quiet Strength". I liked it, it made me think a lot about my coaching philosophies. A lot of the stuff I read was things that I already heard/believed beforehand, but it was good to hear it again and said in a different way. Dungy's philosophies come mostly from his religion, so we have a little different motivation for our belief systems, but the end result is the same. It is all about people and relationships. You get good people, you will have success. Holding people accountable, good communication skills, sticking to your guns and beliefs even when the going gets tough or you are filled with doubt, those are all things I believe. As a young coach, I sometimes get impatient and frustrated because I want our guys to have success right away. I always tell them it is a process to get better, and it takes time, so I guess I should listen to my own advice. I do believe that Borrelli and the rest of the staff are moving the program in the right direction, it will just take time and we need to stick to our guns.

I also read an AWESOME story called "Skeletons on the Zahara". It was a gift from Emily's parents and came with a caption: "matt, make sure you have a glass of water handy". It was the true life story of an 1815 Merchant frigate that shipwrecked off the west coast of Africa (right around the horn, where the Saraha Desert meets the ocean). The captain and one man on board kept a journal of their subsequent capture into bedouin slavery, their unbelievable trek across the deserts as they lived a nomadic life, and then the deal that eventually brought them freedom. After they were returned to civilization, many people thought that their stories were falsely made-up because they were so amazing, but later observations of that way of life have confirmed the tale. They basically were starved/dehydrated during their 3 months of captivity, and the captain went from 240 lbs. to 90 lbs. when he was ransomed. Now that is some serious cutting weight! People thought Lewis and Clark had it tough, this was definitely on scale with Shackleton's shipwreck in Antarctica (which is another great book called "Endurance"). Anytime I ever think wrestling is tough, I should just remember what they went through!

OK folks, not sure if people are still reading these. Let me know if you are!