George Mason Wrestling

2014-15 Pin Club Open

Help inspire the Mason Wrestlers to go for bonus by joining the 2014-15 Mason Pinners Club. Your per pin gift is the perfect extra incentive for the grapplers as they attack the season!

More information is available on the Pin Club Page HERE.

Mason Wrestling to Host Fall Clinics for Athletes and Coaches

Patriot wrestling coach Joe Russell has announced two exciting fall clinics that will be hosted at the George Mason Field House.

A clinic for athletes and another for coaches are planned the weekend of October 24th and 25th.

Please see the attached brochures for more information.

Fall Coaches Clinic

Fall Wrestling Clinic

University Nationals

We had 20 guys attend University Nationals. 11 wrestled in Greco-Roman, 19 wrestled in Freestyle. We had one of the largest contingents in the tournaments. I was pleased we had such a significant presence. It bodes well for our future. Guys, who train and compete in the off season, tend to show greater improvement. Our guys were able to be the guinea pigs for the new rules implemented by FILA and USA Wrestling. It was a unique experience as the wrestlers, coaches and officials were learning and interpreting rules on the fly. For the most part, the rules seemed to be a huge step in the right direction for wrestling.

If a team score was kept, we would have been in the running to win in Greco-Roman. We had 6 All-Americans. All of the placers won matches. Zach Isenhour finished 7th, Corey Smith finished 6th, Shohei Takagi and Matt Meadows finished 5th, Jake Kettler finished 4th, and Sahid Kargbo led the way with a 3rd place finish.

We did not have as good of results as I had hoped for in Freestyle. The weight classes were large and had lots of tough competitors. We did not have a place winner. Ryan Hunsberger made it the closest to placing. He wrestled well. I liked the pace he set in his matches and his desire to score points.

We drove vans to Akron, so we had a good time to bond. We also stayed in a hotel that did not have many other guests, so we had our run of the place. The highlight for most was going to the Meadows home every night for a great meal. They treated us great. We have never eaten so well on the road. At the end of each evening, Mrs. Meadows sent us home with a lunch sack with snacks to help tide us over. We were blessed.

Most of the guys have now gone home or are taking a few days off. After a long school year and some added training and competition, they are ready for a break. We will host a short training camp this weekend for the Virginia State schoolboy, cadet, and junior teams. Some of the guys will return to help with the mini-camp.

We will take part in our alumni golf outing on June 10. Hopefully, we will have a large turnout of wrestling alums on the golf course. If we have the most, we will get part of the proceeds from the event. We won last year, so I am hopeful we will do it again. We are also participating in an alumni challenge in regard to the percentage of alums who donate to the program by the end of June. If we win this, Dan Wotring will donate more money to us. He made this challenge a few years ago and we lost to Men’s Volleyball. We better not let this happen again.

EWL and Upcoming Events

First of all, I want to say thank you to all of you who supported us throughout this school year. The guys are currently finishing up final exams. Remember those good old days. I, for one, do not miss them. My hope is the guys finish well.

Some of the highlights for me from the past season were being able to watch Jake Kettler wrestle at the NCAA Championships, watch the guys compete in Madison Square Garden, competing in front of our largest home crowd against Navy, having some extra fun on a few of our road trips, celebrating our season together at our end of the year banquet, watching 5 seniors leave Mason with a degree; and having some great promotional items and events including the Mason Pinners Club, videos, pocket schedule cards and a team poster. Thanks, in part to you, we are making progress.

We are already hard at work for next season. We have joined a new conference. We will now compete in the Eastern Wrestling League. The league will consist of the following teams next season: Bloomsburg; Clarion; Cleveland State; Edinboro; Loch Haven; Rider; and us.

We have 23 guys signed up to compete next weekend at the University Nationals/University World Team Trials in Akron, Ohio. Guys will be competing in Freestyle and Greco-Roman hoping to make the USA University World Team that will compete in Russia in July at the World University Games.

The schedule is starting to take form. As of now, it looks like we will have 7 home competitions. Our road trips are highlighted by attending the NE Duals, Grapple at the Garden and Virginia Duals. We will be tested and wrestle against some great competition.

We will kick off the college season by hosting the NWCA All-Star Meet at the Patriot Center on November 2. We will be the focal point for college wrestling on that day. Thus, it will be a great day for George Mason University Wrestling. Our goal is to Pack the Patriot Center. This event will be a program changer for us. We are currently looking for key stakeholders to help us run the best All-Star Meet in the storied history of the event. We will hold a meeting for those interested in volunteering on Tuesday, May 28th at 7pm at the Field House. If you are interested in helping, please try and attend the meeting. If you cannot attend, but would like to help, please let me know.

We are also currently working on 2 fundraising events. If you can participate, we would greatly appreciate it. The annual alumni golf outing will be held on June 10. The largest alumni group will receive 10% of the proceeds. We won last year and would like to win again this year.

The Patriot Club is also in the middle of a fundraising challenge. The highest percentage of alumni donors from a team will receive an extra donation from Dan and Patty Wotring. It is important that we win this challenge. 3 reasons why: Dan is a wrestler and he would prefer the money go to his team; we need to show the school the importance of the wrestling program; we need the money to support our basic needs for building the wrestling program. Please consider making a donation.


We held our wrestling banquet on Sunday. It was definitely a step up from the previous year. Thanks to the Squires family, the team and staff meals were covered. Every member of the team received a plague. My hope is this memento will be something they can hang up with pride. There is nothing easy about being a division one athlete. These guys have done something special.

We also presented some individual awards. Logan Ritchie and Zach Isenhour received awards for their performance in the class room. I am proud of the success they are having academically. This success will serve them well long after their wrestling careers have ended.

We gave out a new award this year. We gave out the most dedicated wrestler award. We named the award after Paul Maltagliati. Paul was our first NCAA Division 1 qualifier. He stayed connected and involved with the program until his death last summer. Paul is certainly missed, but his presence is still felt. Derek Dwyer and Corey Smith received the award. Both earned the award through their effort and attitude.

Lastly, we honored our outstanding wrestlers. Sahid Kargbo won our freshman most outstanding wrestler award. Jake Kettler won our most outstanding wrestler award. Both wrestlers had winning records this year and stood out amongst their peers on the practice and competition mats. We are lucky to have both of them in the room for a few more years. Their futures are bright.

Our 4 seniors all spoke to the attendees. Jaaziah Bethea, Ty Knepp, Rich Lavorato, and Drew Squires are all on track to graduate this spring. Their leadership will be missed. I wish them all great success and hope to see and hear from them often.

Our camp dates have finally been approved so we are starting to advertise them. We will be doing commuter only camps this year, but hope to have residence camps again next year. We are doing 4 different types of camps. We will start out with a 2 day Greco-Roman Camp on June 16-17. We will do a 2 day Freestyle Camp on June 18-19. Both of these camps should help prepare competitors for the kids, cadet, and junior nationals later in the summer. We will host 2 – 5 day folk style technique camps. The dates are June 24-28 and July 22-26. Lastly, we will host a father/son camp on July 26-27. To learn more about the camp specifics, you can go to to see a brochure and to register.

Finally, I want everyone to know we have chosen and been accepted into a new conference. It is good to have a home. I am excited. An official announcement will be made on Monday. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you want the inside scoop.

Las Vegas

We were able to have 6 guys compete in Las Vegas. Jake Kettler wrestled in the US Open Greco-Roman Tournament. He placed 7th which qualified him for the final world team trials in June. The 5 other guys competed in the FILA Junior Nationals. We had no placers in Freestyle, although Sahid Kargbo, Matt Meadows and Corey Smith all won multiple matches. In Greco-Roman, Matt Meadows placed 7th and Sahid Kargbo placed 3rd. Both of them qualified for the Jr. World team trials. Thanks to the efforts of our wrestling club, we were able to pay for most of the athletes expenses to compete. We plan on sending everyone willing to train and compete to the University Nationals in late May.

On Sunday we will celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of this past season. We made improvements as individuals and as a team. It will be fun to share some good food, give out some awards and to hear the senior speeches. If you are free on Sunday, come join us at Brion’s Grill at 5pm.

It is hard to believe another year is coming to a close. The guys are one week away from final exams. Although it seems like some of their professors are ready to be done as well, because a bunch of guys will be doing final projects this week. I hope they have been diligent in their studies this semester and finish well. It is extremely important to the individuals, the team, and the program that our guys do well in the classroom.

We have tentatively accepted an offer to join a conference next season. We just need to get it approved and signed. I am excited to have a home. Watch for the announcement in the near future.

Jim Lehrer

Thanks to Matt Stull for inviting his Great Uncle Jim Lehrer to speak on campus. The event went great. Jim Lehrer was very entertaining. He shared some great stories and insight. Many good things happened as a result of the event. Our wrestling program made a step forward by aligning ourselves with the academic side of campus. The event was free to the public. People only had to RSVP. Too many people requested seats, so they stopped taking reservations. The President, Provost, College Dean and other administrators were in attendance. It was a good day.

We have also been receiving donations from the people who joined the Mason Pinners Club. Year number one was a success. The guys enjoyed trying to get pins a little bit more thanks to the generosity of the Mason Pinners Club members. This year’s Mason Pinners Club donors were: Dan and Patty Wotring, Kirk Volm, James Baillie, Joe Corbin, Bob and Debbie Flournoy, Ron and Lori Hembury, Ronald and Trish Hembury, William and Christine Hembury, Steve and Carol Kettler, Rob Koll, Chuck and Diane Moore, Pat and Janet Smith, Tom Carr, Sr., Greg Scott, Stephanie Scott, Paul Bowden, Tom Carr, John Delgado, Damion Hahn, Tommy Owen, Terry Willie, Bob Fredrick, Aaron Anderson and Dave Marble. Thanks to all of you for helping build George Mason Wrestling.

The team has been working hard this spring. They are running and lifting 4 days a week. We are also doing some individual skill instruction. Most of the guys have also joined our Olympic Regional Training Center. We run 4 days of Freestyle and Greco-Roman Practice for our RTC. We will have 6 guys compete next week at the 20 and under nationals in Las Vegas. We will have 2 other guys compete at the US Open. They will all wrestle for the Patriot Elite RTC.

We will complete our spring training cycle on May 3. We will have our team banquet on May 5. Then, the guys will be on their own until finals end on May 15. When finals are done, we hope to take most, if not all, of the team to the University Freestyle and Greco-Roman Nationals held at the University of Akron on May 23-26. Success comes with preparation. We are preparing.

NCAA Tournament

Well another college wrestling season has come to an end. The NCAA tournament was exciting as evidenced by being sold out and the high ratings ESPN had broadcasting the event. Jake Kettler finished 0-2. He was disappointed by the results, as was I. On the other hand, he competed hard. I was pleased with his effort. His perspective after the tournament gave me hope that he left the tournament a better wrestler and person. I expect great things in the future for Jake Kettler.

We left our hotel Sunday morning at 3am to make our 7am flight out of Omaha. Due to the tournament being held in Des Moines, we could not get a return flight home out of Des Moines as every Sunday flight was full. It has been awhile since I have driven on snowy roads. Fortunately, my years in Minnesota helped me to drive quickly and safely so we did not miss our flight.

After about 14 hours of travel time we finally made it home. I was exhausted from the NCAA Tournament week and season. I was excited to rest. My rest was short. I started to receive texts and calls asking me about George Mason University leaving the CAA. I did not know anything about it which was not a good feeling. I found out via the news we were joining the Atlantic 10 conference. The Atlantic 10 does not sponsor wrestling.

Early Monday morning a staff meeting was held where the Athletics Director told us the news. I was pleased he pulled me aside before the meeting. He said finding us a new conference was a top priority. He also said he would make sure to quell any doubts about his support for the program by publicly stating his support. He told me he felt we would be in a better situation in the long run.

I believe he is correct. We now have a unique opportunity to choose a new home. I also believe there is potential for the Athletic Department to grow in the Atlantic 10. The growth of the athletic department can help our wrestling program.

The past few days have been quite hectic. There is lots of work to be done. We need to find a new conference, we started our spring strength program for the team, we started preparing our guys for the spring national team competitions, we are closing in on our spring recruit signing period, we are trying to plan our banquet, settle last season accounts, finish our pin club fundraiser …

For some reason, I keep hearing inside my head one of my youth coaches, Pavel Katsen. In his thick Russian accent he would often implore us to train harder during practice. He would shout, “Come on my pupil. There is so much work to be done and so little time. Come on Tiger.” I guess a good coach stays with you and continues to push you when you are long done competing on the wrestling mat. Thanks, Pavel.

I am excited to report we finished with 29 official pins this season. We had a handful more that did not count because they occurred in Open competitions. Thus, I will be contacting the generous donors in our pin club soon to collect their pledges. Good job grapplers and thanks to the pin club members.

On April 10 we will host a free event on campus. One of our 2nd year wrestlers, Matt Stull has invited his Great Uncle Jim Lehrer to speak. When Matt first got the promise from his Great Uncle, I thought it would be a good event for the wrestling team to be part of to align us with the mission of the University and to reach out to other groups on campus. I had no idea what a huge deal this really was. Jim Lehrer must have done many great things in his life because the word spread like wild fire and multiple groups wanted to be part of the event. Personally, I am excited to meet Mr. Lehrer and excited the wrestling team is part of this event. If you are in the area, we would love to have you attend. I posted the link for the event below:

CAA Championships

We went to Boston University over the weekend to compete in the CAA Championships. We traveled via air. I was surprised most of the guys on the team have not traveled much by air. It made the trip more enjoyable. We were fortunate our flight was not canceled as we flew into a snow storm. Other teams had tougher travel.

We finished in last place overall, which is never fun. I had hoped we had made enough progress during the year to close the gap on other teams. We did improve, but are still behind. In my two years at Mason we have yet to win a conference dual. I find that disheartening. On the negative side, we were 8-20. We only had 3 placers, no champs.

On the positive side, we were more competitive this year. In 2012, we had 3 guys win matches at the conference tournament. This year, we had 6. In other matches, we were more competitive. We lost some close matches and in others were able to hold our ground better. We scored 6 bonus points (2 pins and 2 majors). If you look squarely at what we were expected to do on paper (seeds and ranking), 8 guys wrestle at or above their pre-tournament ranking. We had 2 guys who probably wrestled below. Thus, on paper, we had a much improved tournament.

For the most part, I was pleased with our effort and attitude. Guys wrestled hard. It is hard to see guys fall short of their goals. The more you have put into something, the more it hurts when you don’t get it. Tears were shed on Saturday night. It was a tough night.

The 3 seniors that wrestled in the tournament are now dealing with the questions of “what now?” I know it is a tough time for a college wrestler. There is no next year. There is no second chance. Rich Lavorato and Jaaziah Bethea both finished 4th place, both guys were unseeded, scored bonus points and placement points for their team. I know both wanted more and planned on wrestling next week at the national tournament. Nevertheless, they contributed to their team. Ty Knepp did not place, but he went down swinging. I think when you compete as hard as you can it is easier to walk away with no regrets.

A few years ago, Jayson Ness taught me a great lesson. He had just lost in the NCAA finals his sophomore year. I was fuming and freighting over his loss. I wanted him to win badly. I was angry that he did not win. When we were walking off the arena floor and into the tunnel, he turned to me and said, “I wrestled as hard as I could. I tried my best. I guess God had a different plan for me.” At that moment, I was ashamed at my attitude. Jayson’s perspective and attitude helped me grow that night as a coach and person. If you truly give your best effort and have a great attitude, you can walk away with no regrets.

Jake Kettler wrestled a good tournament. He won by pin in his quarter-final match. In his semi-final match, he won 9-2. The guy he beat in the semi-finals had beaten him earlier in the year. In the finals, he came up short.

Since there was only one qualifier at his weight class, he did not automatically qualify for the national tournament. Thus, we have spent a few days awaiting the committee’s decision on the at-large entrants at his weight class. I also delayed posting my blog until we knew the decision. I was very happy when we saw his name on the list of competitors.

We crunched the numbers and thought Jake deserved to be in, but until you see it, you don’t know. I am happy Jake is fulfilling a dream. The waiting has been tough, but now we need to focus on getting him physically and mentally ready to compete. It is a great problem to have.


Let the fun begin. I am excited for the guys to compete at the CAA Tournament. We have completed our training (the hay is in the barn; the money is in the bank…). Now we must wait for the competition. I am hopeful the guys go into the competition as rested, healthy and fired up as possible. Watching the guys train, I feel great. I believe they are wrestling their best. You cannot ask for much more this time of year.

Our non-starters have been doing well. Last weekend we had 13 of them compete at the National Collegiate Open. I was pleased to have so many of them compete. They had to go on their own, so it is a testament to their dedication. Our results were not good. My hope is the guys use the bad results as motivation to improve their skills. I believe they will improve as a result of competing at the tournament and by working on areas they struggled with at the competition. We did have one guy place, Ryan Forrest. This is the 2nd tournament he has placed at this winter. Ryan is red-shirting. I am excited to have him off red-shirt next fall.

We will depart for the CAA tournament on Thursday Evening. The tournament is in Boston. I have never been to Boston University. I am excited to see another campus that sponsors Division 1 wrestling. This will be our first trip of the season where we will fly. I am still amazed at how close we are to so many schools living in Northern Virginia. The tournament will take place on Saturday, March 9. Hopefully when the tournament is over we will be planning our next trip via airplane as we book our tickets to the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, IA.

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