Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays (a message from Patricia)

I sincerely hope that your holiday seasons are shaping up to be awesome.
I am writing this update from Colorado Springs, where Levi and I have decided to remain and train over the holidays to make up for some lost time on the mat....

It has been one hell of a 1/2 year: after my final graduation in May, Levi and I remained for a few more weeks in Connecticut to train for World Team trials which were held in Vegas in early June. After winning a spot on the 2007 World Team set to compete in Azerbaijan in September of this year. it became time to settle into our new abode and make a calculated adjustment to enhance my final competitive run. Levi and his mother (graciously) drove our belongings out to Colorado Springs where we made our move back into the Olympic Training Center (I had lived there from 2002-04 training for the Athens Games). During the summer, we trained in Canada and then in Poland, where my preparation for the World Championships came to an abrupt halt when I dislocated my knee during practice. Actually, the halt was not that abrupt. I walked out after the relocation and was convinced that it it had been a minor patella shift at worst. In that mindset, I so proceeded with some rehab and training through the rest of the Poland camp and then back in Colorado. I was reluctant to take an MRI of my knee because I figured that if I was going to go ahead and compete in Azerbaijan (which I was pretty dead set on) then it would be psychologically better not to know exactly what was wrong with it. That plan held up until 2 weeks later when I dislocated my knee again, this time with such a small precipitation force that we knew things were not good. The MRI revealed that I had completely torn my ACL and that my lateral ligaments were also torn but not completely through. I went through several more stages of denial before the doctor put it pretty clearly - that it was a choice between going to the World Championships at 50% or to the Olympic at 100%. Coaches pretty much made that call for me and I was into surgery a few days later.So, I spent the next 3 month in intensive rehab mode - 5 hours a day in rehab, 2 in the weight room, some cardio, video work, getting into my new weight class, pretty much sums up how I and the many people helping me out, have gotten me to where I am right now...which is just beginning live wrestling again. It is so exciting and I am totally pumped for my run at Beijing. Deprivation definitely makes for appreciation and I am having one of my best X-mas's ever getting to battle a bit again.During the rehab time,

I also have worked a bit with a US Olympic Committee project to create Division I wrestling for women in the NCAA which would help eliminate the dilemma that too many high school girl wrestlers have right now between a good education and their athletic interests. I have also been working with a community organization named Project START which helps struggling high school freshmen and sophomore students (worked with them in 02-04) in their endevour to create and entire charter school around their principles of support towards achievement. It has been a great ride since graduation. The injury was a bit heartbreaking in that it cost me the World Championships, but it did leave me with the Olympics and for that I am eternally grateful.

My husband has bloomed into one of the finest wrestling coaches out there (who knew, he really just started out of necessity becasuse we were out in Connecticut) and several other girls have taken him on as their coach as well. We are having a blast working toward the Olympic Gold and I am getting closer and closer to obtaining the level of mental control that is the essential ingredient that I have been striving toward since my come back. I know that what I do is a really fun game, and the trick has been keeping that balance between knowing that it means nothing and everything at the same time.

Thanks for listening to my rounding out of 2007. I wish you and your families my kind of elation this holiday season. At times, I miss every one of my friends and supporters that have graced my life along the way. Happy Holidays!

Love you,

Monday, December 3, 2007

Back on the MAT

Patricia took a HUGE step back to top-flight form by stepping back onto the mat today. We rushed her back to the mat (which is to say, I rushed her back to the mat while nearly everyone with some power around us were either content to take more time or specifically warned against my plan) just so we could slow her down again and progress through stance work and mat sense cautiously. We did very simple wrestling motions at medium intensity this morning. Patricia was a tad rusty when we started, which I had expected. However, she did surprise with the rate at which she picked up coherent body motions that have been on the shelf for 3 months. She is, of course, eager to move fast and learn. Mostly, however, her mood has improved dramatically as she feels she can start the very fun process of moving further ahead of her competitors, day by day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I was in New York City over the weekend for the annual NYAC Holiday tournament. USA Wrestling intended me to be a kind of fill-in for National Team coach Terry Steiner when they flew me out as Terry was not able to attend. Nevertheless, the trip provided me with some valuable opportunities. Three athletes whom I have been working very close with in recent months were set to compete against some mid-range competition. It was an opportunity for them to see, and me to scrutinize their newer skill sets as well as identify other trouble areas. Katie Downing, Sally Roberts and Randi Miller were my primary targets.

While my focus for the weekend was one of criticism and low-key evaluation, I left the tournament on Saturday with a slightly elevated sense of accomplishment and a pleasant perspective on the future. Downing won the title at 67kgs, Roberts won her title at 59kgs, and Miller upset Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann at 63kgs as she was crowned champion. More important than the wins themselves, "my" girls competed well, listened even better, and are clearly improving at a quicker rate than other girls at the OTC (or other places). Such developments are good for me, good for the sport of wrestling in the US, and, ultimately, good for Patricia.

Patricia will be back on the mat in early December. At that point, her trek back to top-flight form will begin anew. I will be with her nearly every step of the way as she tackles new challenges and tries to get as prepared as possible to become Olympic champion. I have been thinking, and am now saying aloud, that Patricia will bring a style and a fervor in a lethal combination of techniques that will be impressive to watch when she gets the chance to put her new wrestling on display. We have been working for some time to make Patricia monumentally better than she ever was before. For the most part, I have been the thought and she has been the uncompromising work ethic behind what will eventually be her final efforts on the mat in the upcoming year. However, my coaching decisions have historically been unproven. My craziest thoughts and designs for Patricia's wrestling are little more than unsubstantiated theories guided by my, perhaps, unjustified belief in myself as a coach. Perhaps, in future posts I will explain the roots of my confidence as they are quite interesting to me. For now, let's simply say that I do have this confidence that drives me and steadies my faith in my instinct-- which, in turn, allows me to make bolder moves with a steadier hand.

But, I think, in New York over the weekend, validation began to materialize in the form of three hard-fought championships. Katie, Sally, and Randi all have drastically different styles from one another. I find it reassuring that I am able to help each without imposing a single-minded style on all. Furthermore, the solutions that I have helped generate are inventive, bold, and being implemented rather quickly. None of these girls, nor I, believe that winning the NYAC tourney is a major achievement, but I saw things during the course of the event that tell me we are all on the right track. When Patricia gets back on the mat in just over two weeks, she will get back on her track. With a renewed confidence based on some positive feedback, I will dump my efforts into pushing Patricia back into the forefront of the chase for Olympic gold. For mounting reasons, I believe she will get quite comfortable, and permanent, there.

(***Quick shoutout to my friends in NY who also helped make my weekend quite memorable as I celebrated a great weekend.***)


Friday, November 9, 2007

Chair races and moving forward

Hoy, friends of the dream...

Patricia has cleared another hurdle in her quest to return to top flight form. We have now moved approximately half her time in the Sports Medicine room to the Strength and Conditioning gym. Besides the weight room being geographically closer to the wrestling room on the OTC campus, her new and extensive weight program is closer in form and function to wrestling. Have no fear; Patricia will continue her 9 hours + refining her new ACL and supporting structures as well as chiseling out her body to competition size and shape. Now, however, the majority of her time will be away from the doctors and those bent on slowing and confining her natural modus operendi that seeks to advance outside the industry acceptable rate. Stay tuned, she will be back on the mat in very short order--likely a full month before schedule.

To help Patricia bear the somewhat arduous mental strain of doing physical therapy down in Sports Medicine (up to 5 hour/day in the past), I stopped by to chat and perhaps inject some fun into her routine. True to her nature, Patricia jumped at the novelty and set up a "vehicle" race between her and me. Propelled by unitlateral hamstring or quad output, we motored little wheeled stools round and round the carpeted exam area. It, perhaps, wasn't as thrilling as a Johnson/Gorden dual, but there was something Nascaresque about the way we slammed each other into the walls and had to make pit stops occasionally when a bump in the track would leave our equipment without wheels or unfortunately upended. For the record, I lost most of the races. As usual, I was graceful in defeat and showed my respect for her scooting ability by kicking over my chair and calling her a "goddamn cripple." Patricia just smiled the same grin she always portrays when the refs raise her hand at the end of a wrestling match.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Finalist...but don't get your hopes up

Hello all-- bit of news here-- Patricia and I just found out that I have been selected as one of four finalists to be named as the official Olympic team coach for the Beijing Olympics (for women's wrestling). There are four coaches named that vie for the 1-2 spots. The other finalists are 5x World Champion Bill Scherr, Oregon State wrestling coach and NCAA Champion Troy Steiner, and Tadaki Hatta. The final selection will be made in a few weeks after a few rounds of telephone interviews.

Quick word-- don't get your hopes up... While it is flattering to be selected as a finalist for the Olympic team position, the committee holding power had little choice but to include me in the final four because I have strong support from the resident team in Colorado. However, I have few allies on the Coach's selection committee, and the politics are staggering. Suffice to say, I am not optimistic that I will get to be the US representative for this position. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Question: Why do it?

[[ I have discovered recently that I have a verbal tic. I should say (or write) right at the onset that I am not sure that “tic” is the appropriate term. Perhaps I mean something else that, had I possessed a more expansive vocabulary, I might be able to illuminate for you. But, anyway, I have this nasty little “habit” (say) in my verbiage where I tend to preface the important content in what I say—or write—with unnecessary information that, in my own mind, is supposed to qualify or enhance the more important words to follow. I don’t want to sound too overconfident in this next admission. In fact, what I am about to reveal to you is more a self- imposed demerit in my own head while it might sound like bragging to you. I assure you, it is not bragging. I think my problem comes from my training as a lawyer. Perhaps it came before law school. If it came before, then it is likely, though not surely, that it stems from my intelligence. While the following is not always the case, I often find myself, when communicating with others, running the exchange out in my head before it transpires—calculating an immense number of factors and trying to shape each in the here-and-now—so that I might change the trajectory of the conversation with a few well-placed words before the critical juncture. While I am not exactly set on how I should resolve this issue (though I think it the wiser course of action to have SOME plan for the intermediate), I have decided that I do not like this habit (or “tic”, if you will…) for the time being. In this spirit, I have decided to try and change my speech patterns altogether. I must apologize at the beginning of this blog (in that case, my tic (or plain old, but perhaps more accurate, “habit”) rears its ugly head in my blog as I go forward). Anyway, on to the latest entry…]]

What was I writing about? Ah, yes, law school… In trying to answer the question why Patricia and I continue to wrestle and be involved with wrestling, it is probably more fitting to start by listing all of the reasons she and I should throw away our shirts that ripen with that first collection of perspiration and mouth guards chewed nearly through in favor of polished speech and Carpal Tunnel. And the proper way to start THAT list is to begin talking about law school.

Patricia was an economics major in college, and she taught me the catch-all phrase “opportunity cost” to help me describe how our current and former choices prevent us from living some other life with all its circumstances and differing possibilities from the path we are on now. She and I both graduated from good law schools (No—Patricia—your law school is not better than mine; the best law schools cannot be located in a ghetto), and we both have had that sensation that comes when you stand holding a J.D. diploma looking up into the legal rope ladder (to a “successful” legal career) above. The sensation is one of wonderment and absolute dread of the climb ahead. “What would it be like?” mixed with “I think I sense a trap—one I’ve seen before…” For both Patricia and I, the trapped sensation dominated the former. For myself, I have to admit this pessimistic view came with watching so many people start climbing the same ladder.

Two of these people, let us call them “Matt” and “Mike”, went to law school with me at UVA. While I knew them, they were the most fun of law school acquaintances. They hung around with me in the middle to lower end of the grade spectrum at UVA Law—more contented to play poker, betting the literal shirts off our back at 2 a.m on a Tuesday, than working through the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure one more time. None of us had much to say that was extremely optimistic or idealistic about the future gig we knew we were slowly signing up to do. At the end of law school, Matt and Mike went off immediately to Washington and New York to make the formidable six figures yearly and are well on their way to seven. Unless they start talking a lot more optimistically about their profession to me, I am unlikely to join them at their jobs. (**Important to note here that the firms these guys have worked for would probably not hire me anyway due to my persistent donning of lamb chops and inability to prevent my cursing or crude comments).

Patricia, I think, has had similar experiences with her classmates.

But, why should we stay wed to sports and the realm of the body? Patricia and I, to be fair, have always had an easier time handling a brain teaser or a problem set in an academic situation than we have had dominating even the most average of opponents with our athletic prowess alone. Furthermore, for all of Patricia’s successes on the mat, her luster will be far greater in the business world. While she was still in college, she ran a business that grossed a quarter of a million dollars in 3 months’ time. To her, the position was just a summer job which she seemed to manage effortlessly. I see her confidence, likely inherited from her parents, come so naturally when the topic turns to making money. In stark contrast, her confidence never materializes easily or naturally on the mat. Her ability to win in competition at or above her skill level has always lagged behind her performance when less is on the line or few are watching.

I do not proclaim Patricia’s talent or poise as an entrepreneur. However, I have held many jobs and excelled at each. My coworkers seem to like me, and I learn fast. I have found that I am adaptable and usually have much to contribute across a wide variety of tasks in the many varied positions I have held. Like Patricia, wrestling was altogether different and marvelously (in hindsight) humbling for me.

Patricia and I have similar, yet nuanced personal reasons for continuing to fly in the face of a challenge that became so obviously deterring. I will write here frankly about my motivation and guess a little about Patricia’s. For my part, I had always wanted to be tough. Growing up, the way I did, I got the message from above and all around that a person wasn’t worth shit in this world if they weren’t tough. My family was from the high deserts of northern Nevada and Eastern Oregon, and we weren’t people of Dutch decent, or German, or any other racial mix as much as we were bastard children of the great migration West. Our admission to this planet, our right to exist, was paid when we stood up to what, and lived where, others would not. In other words, if you grit your teeth and stand up against fear, cancer, prejudice, the elements, or anything that looked on the surface to be tougher than you, then you might be one of us. If you stood up patiently, hardened and with a demeanor that stated that this was the only way of life you had ever known, then you are probably the best of us. Even before I understood these principles, I took a mandate to fight, to struggle, into my middle years.

The problem was, I was a weak kid. Relative to my cohorts, I was always physically immature and somewhat sickly. My culture was not cruel and the measure of my inadequacies growing up was supposed to be independent of my starting point. Demonstrable, genuine fight was the only worthy goal regardless of how high it took me. However, my stature and frequent signs of physical impotence left me tentative and fearful. My mind that made school so easy by spotting all the details others could not see, also left me so pessimistic about how the factors I couldn’t control would fall against me in the real world.

Enter wrestling. There is no linear progression or anything approaching a governing logic for why I stuck with wrestling even though it gutted me time and again. I don’t know why, in every moment I was very nearly broken, I brushed myself off time and again to walk back into the ring. I only know now that there was a vague idea that this was something that I had to do to be the person I wanted to be. In the early years I was probably sustained somewhere deep down in my core by the fact that I was the kind of person that craved to wield the power to destroy, albeit temporarily, another person and take their pride. For this possibility, I found that I would risk nearly everything. Later, my perspective matured and I stuck with collegiate wrestling just to try to pull back the curtain on an enemy that seemed so simple and maddeningly elusive in the same exhaled breath. Whatever instincts, whatever fortunate breaks lead me to finish a successful struggle against my own fear, I emerged, years later, almost the person I want to be. Well on my way.

Patricia’s stated reason for getting sucked into combat on the mat cannot be all that different from mine. She grew up saturated in a culture that championed feigning elitism as the one worthy goal for a person. Somehow, she was taught, if she worked on her presentation and collected all the right societal keys, she could be handed a comfortable life where her core character would rarely be placed in question—however weak it would eventually become. Fortunately, the status of our existence, even in America, has not “progressed” to the point where even the most covert of us can evade tests of character. When Patricia was first really tested, she was fittingly knocked down. Thereafter, SHE deliberately picked herself up and walked to a place where she knew she would get knocked down again. That place became a Division 1 wrestling room. I was there in the wrestling room at Stanford, and let me tell you that she didn’t get to her feet very often in those years.

We stick around in this sport for another year—we decided that Patricia should come back for one more run at Olympic gold in ‘05—because I believe that Patricia is on the verge of a breakthrough. I see her cornering her own fear and her own sense of inadequacy, pushing both to retreat. This project you read about now is the journey to forge her character as she wants. She made the judgment to reject her early teachings and work to become the new, full hero that she now aspires. I entertain myself by her side with the more mental challenge of how to turn her struggle into, perhaps, a worthy set of wins against the best wrestlers in the world. I also support her now because, whatever we do or wherever we go after out careers in wrestling have run their courses, we can value each other much more because of the quality of our respective companion.

Regardless of our needs as adolescents and young adults, wrestling may seem like a strange pick among all the sports available to us. Wrestling has never contained big money. Our sport gets little respect from the average person. When Patricia and I play, say, basketball, we both agree that this game is more pleasurable than the suffering contained in preparing oneself for a wrestling competition. Then again, no “game” could have endangered our fire so thoroughly and force us to harden ourselves where our softness was so entrenched.

Even among combat sports, however, wrestling is not the purest. I have been playing around with Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training lately, and the innate nature of combat sports, like no-gi grappling and jiu-jitsu, that get closer to a no-holds-barred fight more easily and readily place participants in that zone where they can discover their true metal. I am so confident of this relationship that I am sure to remember it when my kids ask for my opinion when they go looking for their command in this world. Perhaps, if I had it to do again knowing what I now know, I might start out taking punches to the face to see how I might respond to such an invasive stimulus.

The simple truth is that wrestling is what was available when Patricia and I started our individual search for inner strength. We continue it today because it is adequate for our purposes. I assure you, had it been easy for either of us, we would have left it years ago in favor of something more daunting. In the very small and few ways wrestling allows us to hide from the fact that we are in a fight with the opponent across the mat (and it does, sometimes), we have embraced a mentality that forces us to always view our objectives as a battle of will that we will wage to the limits of pain and life itself.

In this way, wrestling has had, and always will have, an important kinship with well-designed combat sports. All such sports design a place where the athlete can choose to grapple themselves with the ultimate prize to be won or lost: whether or not the combatant will continue to shy away from conquering doubt, fear, and the tendency to buy into their own unproven greatness and inflated idea of their own importance. If “warrior A” chooses to step up to the challenge of his/her own inadequacies and “warrior B” elects to do the same, then, when A and B meet to do battle amongst themselves, the struggle against the self can be genuine. Here, deep in the heat of battle among the hungry with no balls or equipment and little rules as distraction, Warriors can be found and, perhaps, created. Perspective and wisdom can be gained. These moments rarely occur in basketball, American business-as-usual, or golf. I try to live by the philosophy that, when you find a forum that causes you to grow as I have described above, spend productive time in that forum. Patricia is there now, and we will give her one last chance to get what she needs.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Note from Patricia

Hello Family and Friends –

Welcome to our blog and thank you for your interest in our adventures. We are very excited about the road ahead. First thing's first. My knee injury was a bit heartbreaking. As Levi wrote earlier this month, the loss of this year’s World Championships was tough when it was still ahead and transpiring. But recovery is now going very well and the timing has left me with a shot at the Olympic gold, so you will not hear me complaining.

This is not to say that I handled the beginning stages of my rehabilitation perfectly at every step… I did go through a few stages of mourning and, er, denial, for a few moments. When Dr. Thomas (great guy) read me my MRI and relayed news of my missing ACL, my first reactions was, “Maybe I never had one of those, perhaps I do not need it…” -relaying what Levi calls my superb understanding of biology. Then I said, “I do not see my name on that chart, I don’t think it is mine.” But I did let eventually the news sink in and the good company in the room helped me decide that if it was a choice between being 30% at this years Worlds or 100% at the Olympics, then it must be the latter. Levi helped focus me, once again, by giving me half a day to freak out and then we sat down and developed a new plan for our journey. It has been up and up ever since. I have a great many people investing many hours into helping me return faster, better, stronger to the mats. I know my story will be a bit different now, but that’s all that happened, it’s just different – we still have a peak to build and I still have everything that is important to me.

Again, thank you all for tuning in. The longer into my journey I go, the more important it seems to share it with good people. I hope to do just this through by increasing communication and using this blog to keep us in touch. Levi has assured that he will make it interesting and update it fairly consistently.