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Jones on Men’s Freestyle’s ‘Terrible’ Worlds: Expect Change
By Jason Bryant
In 1971, David Bowie released “Changes.” The key line in the chorus was “turn and face the strain.”
After the U.S. freestyle performance in Moscow, Russia, at the 2010 World Championships, U.S. National freestyle coach Zeke Jones has to do exactly that, turn and face the strain.
Building up to the 2010 World Championships in Moscow, it appeared progress was being made to improve on last year’s medal count. Last year’s team featured seven first-time World teamers. The 2010 edition featured five first-timers, but only one repeat participant, returning silver medalist Jake Herbert.
What happened in Moscow was nothing short of a disaster. In the seven international weights, the U.S. won four of 11 matches and failed to place anyone on the medal podium for the first time in 35 years.
Prior to the Worlds, things appeared to be looking up for Jones and his staff, placing four wrestlers into the finals at the notoriously-tough Golden Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan in mid-July.
“It’s terrible,” said Jones. “We have to go home and make some changes.”
As far as what changes are needed, Jones pointed to several important issues that need to be addressed, but identifying what those issues are might be more pivotal.
“We’re trying to put our finger on it now,” said Jones. “I’ve talked to Coach (Terry) Brands and Coach (John) Smith and probably the No. 1 thing was we weren’t tough enough in the right moments and I just think that all comes back to training.
“We have to make training and practice more difficult. We have to get technically better,” said Jones.
Only three wrestlers placed in the top 10 — Obe Blanc at 55, J.D. Bergman at 96 and Les Sigman at 120 — while past silver medalists Mike Zadick (60) and Jake Herbert (84) failed to win a match.
Of the four bouts won, two were won by Blanc, one by Bergman and one by Sigman.
Sigman lost in the second round to Greece’s now two-time world bronze medalist Ioannis Arzoumanidis, an opponent he’d beaten twice earlier this year.
Blanc beat last year’s silver medalist, Sezar Akgul from Turkey in the opening round, then picked up another win against Switzerland’s Urs Wild before losing by fall in the second period to Japan’s Yasuhiro Ibana after winning the first period and leading in the second.
Herbert lost to Reineris Salas Perez, the same opponent who Herbert lost to earlier this year at the Cerro Pelado International in Cuba in February. Herbert was eliminated when Perez was beaten by last year’s World champion, Zaurbek Sokhiev of Uzbekistan in the next round.
In addition to Herbert, three other Americans competed in just one match in Moscow: Zadick, Brent Metcalf and Travis Paulson.
Zadick lost to South Korean Seung-Chul Lee and was eliminated when Lee was dispatched by Sayed Mohammadi of Iran
Upon arriving back in the U.S., Jones and staff have to face the strain and make changes.
“Everything’s on the table,” said Jones. “We had good results last year with seven first-timers and having a couple of medals. Our last three tournaments, we had great results. 13 of our 19 guys medaled in the last eight weeks. The body of work is good, but it didn’t create the outcomes we wanted it to.”
As far as “everything,” Jones vows it will indeed be “everything.”
“We need to go back and look at it, and we need to make the right changes,” he said. “At the end of the day, those changes will be the changes that we need to make so our men know they’ll be ready to win a World title next year.
“Those changes can be many things: technical, strategic, system wide and training competition. Everything is on the table, including coaching. We have to make sure we have the right people in place and the right things in place so the men come back here, they’re going to win.”
Jones doesn’t believe it’s a lack of talent or the amount of international matches. The U.S. wrestled overseas more times this year than last.
“You have talent for sure,” he said. “We beat a lot of the guys out there who have medaled in the past year and a half, so I know they can, it just didn’t show up. We’re behind in some spots.
“Each guy is a little different. We have every resource available. We have World and Olympic champions. We’re brilliant experts, we have support staff. We have all the things we need to be successful.
“Why doesn’t it translate into medals? That’s what we have to take a look at. That’s why everything has to be on the table.”