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USA Wrestling's Resident Training Program Takes Wrestlers to the Top



The age-old axiom for wrestlers has been, "in order to be the best you have to wrestle the best." In Colorado Springs, at the United States Olympic Training Center, that age-old axiom is carried out on a daily basis. USA Wrestling in conjunction with the support of the USOC has established a Resident Training program that has made the difference in the growth and development of some of America's top-elite wrestlers. The good news for future hopefuls in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling is that National Teams coaches for USA Wrestling are always on the look-out to bring more talent into USA Wrestling Resident Training Program for elite athletes. The Resident Program has catapulted some of America's elite wrestlers up the ranks of their weight classes into the international spotlight and Olympic glory. To see two prime examples of the fortune of success that the Resident Program can bring America's wrestlers, one only has to look back to last summer's Olympics. America's two gold medallists were both Resident Athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Brandon Slay, America's 76 kg champion has trained in Colorado since college. Rulon Gardner, the storied victor over Alexander Kareline, was a Resident Athlete for 3years. The top slots on America's National Teams are filled with athletes that have chosen to move to Colorado to train. Matt Lindland, Olympic silver medallist was a resident, as were his Olympic teammates Jim Gruenwald and Kevin Bracken who both placed sixth in Sydney. Freestyle stars such as Kerry McCoy and World Champion Les Gutches also honed their craft in Colorado Springs. The heart of the Resident Training Program is the coaching and facilities that are unmatched for Resident's who wish to focus on loftier goals. The OTC is much like a college campus, which is focused on the specialization that athletes need to develop in their respective sports. Athletes live in a dorm type atmosphere with room and board provided through grants. Each sport has the very best facilities available to them. In particular wrestlers are able to cross-train in a number of ways with access to unbelievable weight rooms and an Olympic size swimming pool. Access to these great facilities for wrestlers is coupled with coaching that moves wrestlers to the top of the ranks quickly. The current Resident-Freestyle Coach, Kevin Jackson, explained it simply why wrestlers should be a part of the OTC regimen, "Careers in wrestling are short. Wrestlers need to put themselves in a place where they can get as good as they can as fast as they can." Jackson knows the climb to the top of the wrestling world well being an Olympic Champion and two-time World Champion. Serving as National Developmental Coach for freestyle is Mike Duroe. These coaches have been responsible for the tremendous success of the United States freestyle team. On the Greco-Roman side the National Greco coach is another Olympic Champion in Steve Fraser. Fraser won his gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Ike Anderson, another Olympic placer serves as the National Greco-Roman Developmental Coach. Anatoly Petrosyan has run the daily operations of the Resident program since 1994. Petrosyan from Azerbaijan of the former Soviet Union is an internationally respected coach, who prior to joining USA Wrestling served as the Sunkist Kids Greco-Roman coach. Each style of wrestling brings in the best wrestlers nationally and trains them to be America's top wrestlers with incredible success. In the last two Olympics, a total of six Greco-Roman wrestlers have come from the Resident Training Program. In the year 2000, half of the Greco Olympic team were Residents in Colorado. Many more elite athletes come to Colorado Springs for a week or two at a time during several annual training camps. Olympic athlete Quincey Clark shot up the Greco-Roman ranks with his active involvement in these training camps. When Clark became the 85 kg. Olympian this past summer it was only three short years after he started wrestling in the Greco style for the first time. The Resident Training opportunity affords wrestlers the opportunity to focus on their own goals. Often many successful collegiate All-Americans choose to take an assistant coaching position in a college program. Although the reward of a coaching salary is often enough to lure athletes away from the training program, Kevin Jackson notes that these prospective international stars maybe sacrificing their dreams. "When you coach at a college your focused on building up the wrestlers on your team, and with those responsibilities, there is also the time that these coaches have to spend recruiting future wrestlers. All of this takes away from the time that coach, that athlete, could be using to build themselves up for the international ranks. An obvious success story of USA Wrestling's Resident Training Program is Brandon Slay. Slay will be forever known as an Olympic Champion, but championships for him were not easy to come by in college. Slay, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, was a two time NCAA runner-up having lost to Mark Branch of Oklahoma State and Joe Williams of Iowa. Slay had difficulty cracking the top six or seven on the freestyle ladder until he chose to move to Colorado Springs. In summing up the choice to become a Resident Athlete Slay said, "The Resident Program gave me the ability to fully focus on becoming the best freestyle wrestler that I could be. Plus, having the opportunity to work with Kevin Jackson and Bruce Burnett (former National freestyle coach), two of the best coaches nationally, increased my wrestling skills and mindset immensely. In addition, my room was with within 300 yards of the cafeteria, wrestling and weight room, and the sports medicine facility. All of this made training very easy." With all of this structured support at his disposal Slay quickly achieved his dreams. In the spring of 2000 Slay defeated Joe Williams, his old-foe, in the 2000 U.S. National Championships. In the Olympic Trials Slay defeated his former-mentor and coach Brian Dolph in Dallas at the Olympic Trials. Finally, with the intensive help of the Resident Program through the summer, which also included his former college coach Roger Reina coming to Colorado and Brian Dolph's continued effort as a workout partner and strategist, Slay surpassed expectations and became America's only freestyle Olympic Champion in 2000. When asked if enough of America's top wrestlers take advantage of the Resident Program, Slay forcefully responds, "No way, the Resident Program has the potential to be the apex of all training situations. I can understand why wrestlers that have wives and families that are fully plugged into a particular community bypass the program. But wrestlers that are single should really consider the Resident Program and take advantage of all that it has to offer." The Resident Training Program has established itself nationally as a leader in developing the future-wrestling heroes for the United States. Each day 20-25 athletes participate in two-a-day practices honing the skills that will make them champions. Four years down the rode fans of the sport of wrestling may be saluting the talent of current Residents like Kerry Boumanns, Casey Cunningham, Joe Warren, or Dominic Black. Each of these men have their sights set on Olympic glory and they are trusting the proven methods of the Resident Training Program in Colorado Springs to get them there.
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