photo courtesy American University athletics
Some programs use the early weeks of the season to make a statement with a win over a ranked opponent. Others spend that time just trying to get a feel for where their wrestlers are at before fully diving into the year ahead.
Count Teague Moore’s American Eagles among the latter group.
American hosted the first-ever AU Round Robin this weekend at Bender Arena, inviting Maryland and VMI to compete in a round robin-style tournament between the three teams. The event allowed each team to have multiple wrestlers in each weight class so that everyone could get some experience.
“I really feel like an event like this, since we’re not just seeing the starters, I can also see where my backups, and the guys who are maybe not going to fight into the starting lineup, what they need to improve on,” Moore said after the day’s competition was over. “As we get deeper into the season, we’ll only see our starters time and time again, so some of those non-starters aren’t getting the one-on-one time with a coach in specific areas they need to improve and that was a big part of what we were trying to do today.”
The event was the second tournament that American has participated in so far this season. The Eagles traveled to Charleston, S.C. last weekend to compete in the Battle at the Citadel, an open-style tournament.
While open tournaments provide plenty of competition, Moore says for the purposes of evaluating his team, he prefers the round robins.
“Sometimes, when we go to the open tournaments, if you’re a non-starter, you might lose your first two and then you’re out,” Moore said. “That’s it, you get two chances on the day. Here, some of these guys got four, five matches on the day, and for us, that’s a lot of footage, there’s a lot of things we can improve on from this, or at least learn from it.”
Moore got the idea for the AU Round Robin after participating in the Journeymen Northeast Duals in the past. He liked the idea of being able to observe his entire team in competition and not limiting guys who might not get starting roles.
This style of competition allows Moore to evaluate all of his wrestlers on a deeper level. He’s not just watching how they wrestle in a match, but how they handle themselves before, during, and after the match as well.
The ninth-year head coach is keeping track of how his athletes manage their weight prior to a match and how they prepare for competition. He’s monitoring their warm-ups to make sure they’re fully prepared for the match. Once they step off the mat, he sees how they cool down and how they assess their own performances. The round-robin format allows him to make these observations for every wrestler on his team, not just the 10 that will be in his starting lineup later in the season.
“If they truly want to reach their goals – some of our guys want to be national champions All-Americans – you have to assess yourself in all those facets,” Moore said. “’ Am I getting the right type of warm-ups that are mentally and physically ready? Do I execute on the mat? And when I’m done do I learn from it and make my strengths stronger and correct my weaknesses?’”
At least a few of his guys are already doing a good job of evaluating themselves post-match, including No. 16 Kizhan Clarke. Clarke has gotten off to an 8-0 start this season and went 4-0 Saturday to win the 149-pound weight class.
“I feel great,” Clarke said after the tournament. “Still a lot of places I can improve. Still gotta get in the wrestling room and work hard every day to keep where I’m ranked and keep this ball rolling. I’ve got a lot more to come during this season, so looking forward to it.”
The redshirt junior pointed out some specific areas that need work, such as staying relentless during matches and not letting up when he gets tired. He didn’t have any problem with that on Saturday though, winning two of his matches by tech fall. Clarke was dominant in every bout, and showed how much he’s improved over the offseason.
Joining him as a weight class winner on Saturday was heavyweight Niko Camacho. The heavyweight class only featured three wrestlers, so Camacho only got two chances to wrestle. He won his first match by a 5-0 decision, riding out the third period to pick up the win.
“I think one thing I did today was, I was pretty tough on top,” Camacho said when asked what he thought he did well. “In the first match, it was closer. It was 3-0 going into the last period. If he would’ve been able to get out of it, if I wouldn’t have kept him down, it would’ve made the match a lot closer. Considering I kept him down and was working on a lot of different positions on top, I was actually able to get another point for stalling.”
Camacho’s next match saw him pin his opponent in the first period to go 2-0 on the day and take the crown at the heavyweight class. Working from the top position has been something he’s been focused on so far this season, and his performance on Saturday is what he’s been hoping for.
The Eagles’ next stop this season is the Navy Classic on Nov. 23. Navy hosts a plethora of teams in Annapolis that Saturday in a tournament that Camacho says will be the toughest one yet for American.
“This next tournament we wrestle is definitely, I would say, gonna be a big improvement in competition,” Camacho said. “You’re gonna see a lot of guys in our conference, and it’s just you’re wrestling more teams. This next one I think coach said was 17 teams, so when you have 17 different teams there, you’ve got 17 guys in your bracket from different schools, you’re bound to see better guys.”
Luckily for Camacho and the rest of the team, they have a weekend off before they head to Annapolis.
“This upcoming week, we don’t have any competition,” he said. “So it just kind of gives you time to recover, recover your body and mind, just so we can really head into that full steam.”
American dominated the overall tournament, with Eagles wrestlers winning six different weight classes. But winning wasn’t everything at this competition, and Moore is confident each team got some benefit from the Round Robin.
“We all got what we wanted, which was to be able to see our guys compete, gather some information, and now go home and we’ve all got work to do,” Moore said.
Full results from the AU Round Robin can be found here.