Spotlight on Sports
Iron Will: Cadets Wrestle in Russia.
During the cusp of May and June, seven Norwich wrestlers traveled to Moscow with Head Coach Alex Whitney ’08 and Assistant Coach Connor Keating ’09 to experience Russian culture and practice with members of the Russian national team.
The Cadets and 16 other college-level wrestlers from across the nation formed a U.S. delegation invited to train in Moscow City’s Central Army Sports Club, a government-funded athletic facility. “There, the Cadets lived the life of a Russian national team member,” Whitney says. “Sleeping in the same narrow beds, eating three meals a day prepared by the same in-house cook in the same small on-campus restaurant, and training in the same club as former [Russian] world and Olympic champions.” The Americans quickly discovered that the training center was spartan in comparison to the conveniences common to U.S. facilities. “Staying in the facility was very humbling,” Keating says. “The Russians were doing so much more with so much less—it’s eye-opening.”
On a typical day, the wrestlers ate breakfast as a team: meat, cheese and bread, fried eggs, porridge, hot tea. They boarded the Russian team’s van, entertained by a “grumpy but kindhearted driver yelling and berating them in Russian,” according to Whitney. Most training sessions ended with a full live match, as well as five rope climbs. In the evenings, after dinner, the Norwich contingent gathered in the Russians’ rooms, trading gear and getting to know one another.
They also had the privilege of training with José Díaz, Venezuela’s sole qualifier for the 2016 Summer Olympics, who provided the Norwich students yet another example of the varied approaches to wrestling.
On competition day, the Russian wrestlers proved an impenetrable force. The U.S. team, which included several All-Americans and a Division II national finalist, fell to the Russians in roughly 50 out of 60 matches.
The Norwich grapplers came away from the 12-day experience with a broader worldview and newfound knowledge of their sport. “You don’t need the latest and greatest equipment to succeed,” Keating reflects. “You simply need the will.”