A Long Day but Well Worth It

Posted on Apr 21, 2016 in Bulgaria

This morning came early with a 6:30 breakfast and 7:30 departure for training with the team from Sliven. The drive was 180 km and nearly 2 hours. A lot of wrestlers got some extra shut-eye on the drive but Coach Mike, Coach Jon, Coach Tony and Anthony spend the trip testing each other’s knowledge of the NCAA and world wrestling scenes and talking about the differences in philosophy between the Bulgarian and US wrestling systems.

We were greeted at Sliven by an incredibly friend coaching staff and one of the most beautiful wrestling rooms we had ever seen. The room was larger than two full mats with 40 foot ceilings. There were bleachers on one end and an entire wall of windows bathed the room in morning sunlight and kept it comfortably warm. The far wall of the room was adorned by two massive portraits. One was of Stanka Zlateva, 2x Olympic silver medalist and 5x World Gold Medalist, who trained at the school and often visits for practices and clinics. The other was of Dan Kolov, probably the most famous Bulgarian wrestler of all time.

The team warm-up was extensive and incorporated some unique line drills that many of our coaches liked. It had a bit of a laid back feel to it but the kids were ready to go when it wrapped up with one of Sliven wrestlers treating us to a back handspring display across the mat.

The Sliven coaches are a father and son team. Borislav Dobrev, the son spoke good English and worked a lot with our wrestlers to make sure they understood what was happening during practice. His father walked us through three techniques to drill – a double leg takedown, a single leg finish, and a half gut wrench to an opposite side trapped arm gut wrench. After the technique and drill session, we moved to a live wrestling scrimmage between the two teams.

Team picture with the Sliven team, Casco Bay Elite and coaches.

Team picture with the Sliven team, Casco Bay Elite and coaches.

Once again, the Bulgarian coaches and wrestlers displayed a tremendous amount of sportsmanship and excellent wrestling. The Casco Bay Elite wrestlers gave their opponents team t-shirts when they lined up to shake hands before the match. The Sliven team was a good match for us and all of the kids competed hard.

We wrapped up practice for a team picture and then went to a beautiful restaurant situated at the bottom of a mountain for lunch. After lunch we hopped in the vans and came straight back to Plovdiv for our second practice of the day.

Coach Pavil ran Greco Roman practice with his team and focused on some areas for improvement he noticed while traveling with us. First we worked on pummeling, proper positioning and transitioning from an underhook to a body lock. We refined our sag body lock throws and then learned simple but very effective attacks from the underhook position. Coach Pavil then showed us mid level and low gut wrenches as well as gut wrench defense. He finished the practice showing up a series of positions, scoring variations. and defenses from the Russian tie position.

It was a very low impact and relaxed practice but that’s exactly what our wrestlers needed at the end of a long day. Tomorrow we will practice more Greco in the morning at Vasil Levski and them make our return to Dimitrovgrad in the afternoon.