By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Chase Pami, shown winning the New York AC International in freestyle, enjoys training in Greco-Roman to help become a better wrestler in all positions.
For the last two Friday afternoons, the U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athletes in men’s freestyle have gone to practice with the resident-athletes in Greco-Roman, for a combined workout which was entirely in the Greco-Roman style.
This unique training opportunity has been very helpful to the men’s freestyle wrestlers in their efforts to be more successful athletes, and have also given the Greco-Roman athletes a new competitive environment and new training partners. For everybody involved, it has been a big plus-plus.
Why would freestyle wrestlers practice in Greco-Roman? Just ask the athletes and coaches are part of the joint training.
One of the hottest wrestlers on the freestyle circuit is Chase Pami of the Sunkist Kids, who is just off a big win at the New York Athletic Club International. Pami, who was an NCAA runner-up for Cal Poly, has not done much Greco-Roman in a number of years.
In these joint USOTC workouts, Pami worked out hard with veteran Greco-Roman wrestler Bo Beckman, and even went a live match with National Greco-Roman Coach and Olympic champion Steve Fraser. Pami is sold on this kind of cross-training in his quest to be the best in freestyle.
“The first thing that is good is that it changes it up. You wrestle freestyle all the time. It’s good to hear different voices and it pumps you up. For me, I love it. There are so many things you can pull over. Greco-Roman is good for cross training. Greco helps a freestyle guy in upper body positions, learning to use your body to control people and getting him to move. It’s really helpful,” said Pami.
One of the young resident athletes in freestyle is Dwight Howes, a star from Colorado who is at the OTC for training prior to going on to college. Howes grew up doing Greco-Roman as well as freestyle. The Greco-Roman training has been intense for Howes. He worked out with a variety of top wrestlers, including veteran Anton Gottfredson, 2011 U.S. World Team member Andy Bisek and some hard battles with 2012 Olympian Ben Provisor. When practice is over, Howes knows he had a great workout.
“I’m wrestling World contenders here. It’s really good for me. I’ve always liked Greco. I came here just for freestyle, so it’s good for me to come back to Greco. It is good for positions in freestyle. You get in those upper body positions and in freestyle, you don’t always know what to do. We are learning a lot,” said Howes.
The U.S. National Coaches involved in both styles believe that these joint practices in Greco-Roman are helping the freestyle wrestlers improve, and also has been a good experience for the Greco-Roman athletes.
Olympic champion and National Freestyle Resident Coach Brandon Slay won a pair of World Greco-Roman medals when he was a Cadet. He went on to Penn, where he was a two-time NCAA runner-up. After college, Slay focused on freestyle as a resident athlete and went on to win an Olympic title in Sydney, Australia in 2000. As the coach for the resident freestylers, he has been pleased with the combined workouts.
“As a freestyle resident program, one of the biggest advantages we have at the Olympic Training Center that no other place has is the ability to train with our Greco-Roman team and the national Greco-Roman coaching staff. We get the Greco guys to battle with the freestyle guys, and it has been an extra burst of energy. We have extra coaches in the room working with our guys. It is encouraging for them,” said Slay.
National Greco-Roman Coach Steve Fraser, who was also an Olympic champion in Greco-Roman as an athlete, was also a Senior national champion in freestyle. He is a big advocate of cross-training in all styles and has welcomed the freestyle wrestlers into the Greco-Roman training environment.
“I thought it went great. I love it. Bringing the teams together, nice pummeling, nice fighting, everybody’s competitive. Having a lot of coaches in the room at the same time brings up the energy. It is a good practice. I was telling the freestyle guys today, the pummeling, the handfighting, the underhooks, all that stuff is great for their freestyle. The Greco guys get a lot out of this too. The freestyle guys are tough and competitive,” said Fraser.
National Freestyle Developmental Coach Bill Zadick won a World title in freestyle when he was a resident athlete at the USOTC. Zadick wrestled Greco-Roman often when he was younger, and went on to win an NCAA title for Iowa. He often would train with the Greco-Roman guys when he was a freestyle resident for additional experience in upperbody positions. He is pleased with how the joint training days are working out.
“You get the two teams together and there is a good natural rivalry. The energy level is great and everybody is fighting hard. From a technical perspective, the freestyle guys have a lot to develop. They learn a different feel. They learn to use their bodies more, not just their limbs. Just the feel, the hips, the body position you develop there, will enhance what they are already doing in freestyle. Greco wrestlers are also par terre experts. We improve our defense and will be better turners from the top position when we get there,” said Zadick.
Assistant National Greco-Roman Coach Momir Petkovic was an Olympic champion wrestler. He believes that the joint Greco-Roman workouts are great for the athletes in both styles.
“It works out well. They are from the same family. Wrestling is on the mat. It doesn’t matter what style. The freestyle guys will get a lot out of it. They are getting the skills. They are in a very uncomfortable zone, getting close to the bodies. It is valuable for everybody.”
You can hear what the coaches and athletes have to say, and see some of the training, by visiting TheMat.tv video playlist linked below:
VIDEO PLAYLIST: Freestyle and Greco-Roman combined USOTC workout