Headlock Hindsight 4/18
Teams of all ages competed for Team North Dakota in various places over the weekend. At the elementary and middle school levels, four teams represented ND in Council Bluffs Iowa at the Heartland Duals. At the high school level, two squads, including eight North Dakota state champions, competed in Crawfordsville, IN at the NWCA/USAW Scholastic duals. There were humbling experiences for all wrestlers involved, as no North Dakota wrestlers at the Heartland duals finished without a loss. In Indiana, both Brandon Metz and Jared Franek of West Fargo finished blemish free.
1. The High School team that Luke Mellmer, Randy Burwick, and Pat Schlosser took to Indiana for Scholastic duals was certainly a good one. The squad might be the best dual team that North Dakota has put together in any style since 2011 when a Joe Schumacher (among others) led Greco team finished in ninth place at Junior Duals (quite the feat)! The tournament featured mostly talented dual squads from areas around Indiana. Of the 18 dual squads entered, 13 of them were based out of Illinois, Indiana, or Ohio. Team North Dakota had the opportunity to win its pool and compete with the big dogs in the gold division, but they fell 28-25 to Indiana Blue and were dropped to the silver pool. I really like the idea of getting together a folkstyle team to travel to a national tournament; kudos to NDUSAW for getting this accomplished. Hopefully Scholastic Duals continues to grow and the competition gets even better.
2. Taking a North Dakota team to a National Dual tournament can be a double-edged sword when it comes to the competition level our teams will face. Part of me was disappointed that North Dakota didn’t beat Indiana Blue because I wanted to see guys like Franek and Metz (among others) wrestle the best kids in the country. In the silver pool, Franek won every match he wrestled by major decision or better. That likely would not have happened in the gold division. At the same time, guys from North Dakota that are still in need of more development may have gotten nothing out competing in the gold division, but had good competitive matches on the silver side. A large state like Illinois can throw together an elite team (Illinois Outsiders won the tournament title) for the gold division and have a division one caliber wrestler at each weight. From there they can enter three other teams with guys of lover talent level and they will end up competing in the division they all belong in. In North Dakota, our Gold division capable wrestlers generally don’t get the opportunity to compete in the Gold division because we can’t fill a roster full of Division 1 talent to take us there. It is no one’s fault, the state is simply too small for this. What stinks is that while the dudes wrestle the dudes in the gold division and get better based on the high level of competition, our elites end up stuck beating up inferior competition because that’s where we fit in dual competitions. Pay attention for this to happen when Junior Duals rolls around.
3. I have said this since I started ND Headlock, but North Dakota wrestlers have got to start getting away from wrestlers of equal talent level when on bottom. Twice in North Dakota’s match with Indiana Blue did North Dakota lose matches in which they were down by one and on bottom with a minute (give or take) remaining in the match. North Dakota lost the dual 28-25. During the high school season, North Dakota’s best do not see hammers on top that often, and as a result we are very deficient when we compete in places like the Rumble on the Red and need to get away. Again, I am not talking about matches where there is a great talent disparity.
4. If you do the work to take a shot, finish the darn thing. The other place North Dakota struggles at national tournaments is finishing shots on guys that play hard defense. As with number three, I think this comes down to the fact that most good North Dakota wrestlers don’t have to wrestle competitors with good defense that often, so when they do, it is a shock. If I finish every shot I take against lesser competition and that is the only competition I get, I will not know what to do when someone actually gives a hard whizzer or punches me in the face with their hips. FINISH!
5. The other thing I saw a lot when watching North Dakota at all levels this weekend was a lack of head-hands defense. The first line of defense is head-hands. Get your head in there and defend. The more I watch high school wrestling, the more I think that if I ever take over a program again, we will drill head-hands defense for a set time daily. You don’t have to sprawl ever if a guy can’t get passed you head and hands.
6. Hugely important weekend coming up as Olympic Trials winners in unqualified weights travel to Mongolia for the second to last Olympic qualifier. As of the present time, only nine of eighteen wrestling weight classes in men’s freestyle, Greco, and women’s freestyle are qualified for the Rio games. Wrestlers need to finish in the top three in Mongolia to qualify their weight. All eyes will especially be on J’den Cox and Frank Molinaro in men’s freestlye, and Jesse Thielke in men’s Greco-Roman, who had amazing runs to Olympic Trials titles, but are currently not qualified for Rio. Can those to navigate a very difficult field to qualify their weights only two weeks removed from a very tough weight cut?
7. I must say that at this point, Flowrestling has a lot of work to do to make their “FloArena” as functional as Trackwrestling is. I am having all kinds of trouble figuring out how best to share results from North Dakota’s youth and Heartland duals and with Trackwrestling the task is quite simple. Maybe I just have no clue what I’m doing.
8. What I can tell you in spite of the above issues, thank to North Dakota kids director Justin Decoteau, is that The Middle School A Team took second in the Gold Division (not the highest division) and the B team took second in the Silver Division. All Americans at the Middle School level were Kelby Armstrong of Minot and Danek Vega of Mandan. Team MVP for the A squad was Armstrong, and Gorilla Wrestling Club’s Clay Radenz was MVP of the B squad. The Elementary A team finished eighth in the Platinum division a the Elementary B team took fifth in the silver team. I watched a lot of this tournament over the weekend and couldn’t believe the talent level of the top level youth wrestlers in the country right now. Unbelievable.
9. Jared Franek was downright filthy at Scholastic duals this weekend. His low single attacks are a thing of beauty and the shot should translate perfectly to a leg lace. This provides the potential for a ton of quick points in freestyle matches this summer. Franek has already won USAW Cadet Folkstyle nationals. Can he get the job done at the freestyle level as well? I can’t wait for FARGO!
10. This was the first weekend that the new national team singlets were unleashed. Congrats to Laken Boese for the awesome design. I have been waiting for North Dakota to move away from the “gimmick singlets” of the past and toward more of a “we are here to kick ass” (excuse the language) singlet for a few years now and think Laken has accomplished that with his design. I look forward to North Dakota All Americans looking great in those this Summer in Fargo.
Mr. Headlock’s Musings:
1. The Coach Kayle Dangerud is a Los Angles Rams (of Anaheim??) lover. So when reports surfaced that the Rams traded up to grab the first pick in the NFL draft and are likely to take Bismarck native Carson Wentz, he was understandably excited. As am I. As should be all North Dakotans. This is the best think to happen to the state since Hillary and Barack showed up on the same day in 2008 to beg for Democrat primary votes….lol
2. I read that the Bismarck Tribune is running a contest where you win prizes of you pick the team that drafts Wentz. I guess the promotion kind of backfired when STL traded up.
3. Still no guarantee Wentz goes to LA, but I sure hope he does. When you have a running back like Todd Gurley in the backfield forcing defenses to pack the box, the job of quarterback gets a bit easier!
4. If you are into weird psychological thrillers, watch “The Invitation” and let me know what you think. It received a 93% (fantastic) on Rotten Tomatoes, and though it was good, I’m not sure it was worthy of that high a rating.
5. One week down for Mr. Headlock and the boys. No major accidents and I am starting to understand that at certain crazy times, I just have to let one of the boys cry for a few minutes while I solve the worlds problems. There is only one of me after all.
6. I used to teach economics, and for that reason, don’t know why it took me so long to get into ABC’s Shark Tank. What an awesome show! As I used to tell all my students, my wife may make great money some day as a doc, but you know who will make more money than her, anyone who creates anything. What is your creation? Mine is ND Headlock and sadly I think the earning ceiling is lower than I would like…LOL
7. Three in a row for the Twins!
8. Fantasy Football Season is fast approaching and I have a chip on my shoulder
9. It was 81 degrees yesterday in Peoria. We played in the pool in April! WOW
10. Have a great week everyone