By popular demand (and thanks to everyone who not only read, but commented on the piece), Jordan Gagliano has been kind enough to agree to go another round with our Q&A. This time, and even better, it is your Qs he will answer. Because Jordan is still a student and should not be devoting that much time to RMN (ahem), I’ve gone ahead and selected some questions from the previous thread.
Threadkiller asks: What are some of the things you think make Brian Smith such a successful coach?
I think Brian Smith is a successful coach because of his honesty and composure. Even with regards to recruiting, I was never misled nor have I seen others come to Missouri without believing in the program and knowing what they were getting into. We work hard, we live right, and we compete, which is what you are told coming into the program. He never makes promises that he can’t or hasn’t followed through with, which is why I know we will win a national championship as a team. Coach Smith tells you what you need to do or change in order to be a better wrestler, without beating around the bush. This honestly is why I think parents feel confident when their sons come to wrestle at MU, because they will be taken care of and have the chance to succeed both academically and athletically. He doesn’t over sell the program to be what it isn’t, because you won’t survive and it’s a waste of time for everyone.
He is a very humble and genuine coach, and you can see that through his composure. He is normally a coach of few words, but he can also go into an inspirational history lesson, or fire us up with the flip of a switch. We do a lot of things that we don’t want to do, but we trust Coach Smith to take us where we want to go. He really treats every athlete the same and expects the same effort out of them, which is why we rarely have athletes that transfer. Truly, when you get into college athletics, you are the captain of your own ship and will go as far as your own drive, desire, and determination, but I promise Coach Smith will point you in the right direction.
Shaffe asks: Jordan, not to discredit your wrestling ability, but you got your ass kicked by some pretty great wrestlers in practice over your five year career. Do the Askren’s, Cox’s, Houdashelt’s etc. always dominate practice like they do competition or does the rest of the team humble them from time to time?
I don’t know what the chances are, but the guys you mentioned are some of the most down to earth and friendly people I know. Everyone has their own level of outgoingness, some are a lot more outspoken than others, but the guys from Missouri have always been extremely team focused. Maybe it’s type of people we recruit, but they do everything right. They never have problems with eligibility or trouble, and they have the admiration and respect of the whole team. I’m not sure if they were born leaders or made, but they are a vital part of our team.
To answer your real question before my tangent, they're animals in practice and competition. They don’t take breaks, are always composed, and it’s tough to find a weakness. Those guys don’t give up points even in practice, which is the right way to carry it over to competition. Personally, I probably have taken off more breaks than all those guys combined, and it’s hurt me in competition. We have those practices which are meant to break you mentally and physically, but those guys can power through them. They are still human and they get tired and frustrated like everyone else, but they know how to stay composed and work through it. Still, on those days when you are wrestling those guys, you smile, because you know it is your chance to take advantage of their tiredness or frustration, and challenge them to be better than they are.
Jack618 asks: How much more or less difficult do you think wrestling is compared to other sports when it comes to balancing the sport and class work?
I’ve thought about this a lot lately and I truly admire the basketball team and the difficulties they go through balancing sport and class work. As a wrestler, our traveling is primarily on the weekends, meaning we might miss a Thursday or a Friday, but rarely other days. This past year we drove through the night after a Sunday tournament and arrived in Columbia at 8am, but were rarely in those unfortunate situations. Basketball will have a game any day of the week. If you have a Tuesday away game, you have to be there a day before and often travel back to Columbia the next day. Missing three school days has to be painful, because student-athletes have to do the same work as any other student, but on their own time.
With regards to traveling (which is an extremely difficult part of being a student-athlete) and competition, I think wrestling has some advantages when it comes to balancing sport and school. I think wrestling is probably the most difficult sport when it comes to mental fatigue. Competition and traveling causes a lot of stress and mental fatigue, which doesn’t match up well with learning or school work. Student-athletes are expected to school work on the road when traveling, which a lot of student-athletes including myself, have difficulty doing. With the internet today, it’s even more challenging, because if you have a paper or a quiz online due by a certain time, you are still expected to meet those deadlines. Those are challenges that all sports go through, but what makes wrestling different is the mental fatigue from weight cutting. Weight cutting is a natural part of our sport, and our program monitors it very closely in order to do it the right way. They only way to describe the mental fatigue caused by dehydration is that it stinks. It is debilitating in its own way, and it affects your motivation. This requires wrestlers as student-athletes to be extremely organized, proactive with academics, and driven to work when they don’t feel their best.
Every sport has their own challenges when it comes to balancing sport and class work. The golf team will leave for a week at a time for a tournament, and I can’t imagine how difficult that is. I think these stories really show the resolve, responsibility, and dedication that is required by being a student-athlete
AlaTiger asks: On academics, did you do better in season or out?
Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, I did better with my academics in season. It requires you to be extremely effective with the little time you have. Funny enough, when our season ends, summer is merely a month and a half or so away. As soon as the weather permits, the last thing I want to be doing is school work and studying. There is no better way to enjoy the time between the national tournament and training hard again than laying by the pool and playing sand volleyball. We literally start practicing a week after nationals, but not nearly to the same degree as the fall time leading up to season. Of course I always got the work done out of season, but you have to relax during the couple months of off-season we have
Wooderson asks: Which wrestling venues have the most exciting atmospheres? Does a big visiting crowd help elevate your performance or make it harder to focus? What about a big home crowd?
Fortunately, we have held the national wrestling tournament in St. Louis a number of times in the last couple years. We will be holding the MAC conference tournament and nationals will be back in St. Louis next March in 2015, which as a Missouri fan is a dream come true. I’ve been to four out of five of the last NCAA wrestling championships and those by far have the most exciting atmospheres. You can’t find a higher concentration of great matches, wrestling fans, and alumni. I don’t know if any sport has a higher amount of dedicated fans who travel to every national tournament, no matter the location. For wrestling alumni especially, it’s a pseudo reunion to come and hang out with friends from the past and a tradition I hope to keep up all my life.
On the normal season traveling and competition, I’d say the size of the visiting crowd affects everyone differently. For me, the greater the crowd either team, excites me and fuels my performance. The bigger the crowd, the more excitement. I think it might stress some guys out, but it’s your job as an athlete to have the right mind set. Wrestling is not meant to be a silent crowd sport, it’s mean to be intense. With regard to the best wrestling venues I have been to, I really enjoy Iowa State’s venue. The lights, the set up and the feel of the coliseum give a really unique experience. Knowing how many Olympians, national champions, and wrestling legends have come through there make it that much more special. Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are much of the same. They have a huge fan base and tons of rich wrestling history.
Jack618 asks: How much interaction/camaraderie is there with athletes in other sports at Mizzou?
As student-athletes were in an exclusive fraternity that few individuals can relate with. We have summer classes together, we support each other at competitions, we live together, and we eat together in the cafeteria. There is a lot of interaction and camaraderie between athletes in other sports. Certain sports do interact with others on a much more frequent basis depending on practice schedules, student-athlete romances, and simply trends. Things change and you happen to hang out with certain groups of athletes more than others. Your circle of friends doesn’t always include everyone on your team, nor does it include every sport. We respect each other and acknowledge each other, but we simply don’t have enough free time to get to know everyone.
It’s been a journey actually, getting to know a multitude of sports and student-athletes. Freshmen year you barely know your whole team let alone other teams. Sophomore year you meet more people, and on and on. By the time it’s your last year so many new faces have come and old faces gone that you know it is your time to leave as well. I have a whole diverse group of friends now that it is my last year and one reason is that it’s nice to get away from your team sometimes and have different experiences. I was actually the President my fourth year in college, of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). It is a student government type organization that is the voice between student-athletes and the administration. With two representatives from each sport it was a great opportunity to make changes within the athletic experience along with expanding relationships.
Shaffe asks: How excited are you to follow next year’s team?
I couldn’t be more excited to follow the team next year. I still like to consider it "my" team, and I will cherish my experiences forever. I have around 40 "brothers" that I have made over the years that would drop anything to help a friend. With multiple national title contenders, returning All-Americans, a returning National Champion, Mizzou wrestling has never been stronger and in a better condition to make a run at the national championship. With the conference tournament being in Columbia, and the national tournament in St. Louis, I already have two weekends booked for next year. I hope everyone is as excited as I am, and they should be. I and many others believe something special is in the making.