Home USA Wrestling Who s The Boss

Who s The Boss

By Douglas Haney | Oct. 05, 2001, 12 a.m. (ET)

*The following feature article appeared in the most recent issue of "Coach" published by the United States Olympic Committee. After the Los Angeles Olympic Games, Fraser's career spun from a tenure as a deputy sheriff to National Director of Sports Marketing Systems for Domino's Pizza, Inc. before returning to his talents at his present position. But if the former state high school champion, turned two-time All-American the University of Michigan and Olympic gold medallist were to ever leave wrestling, it would be like Michael Jordan blowing off basketball. "Becoming an Olympic Coach was my goal," said the 43-year-old Fraser. "It has always been my goal. After competing in the sport all the way from childhood until winning gold, I knew it would be a part of my life. Now that I've reached my goal, it's my job to make sure that the U.S. athletes are the best pre-pared athletes in the world and with the team of Ike and Anatoly, we are doing just that." Fraser rebuilt the Greco-Roman program with a new base in providing the individual coaches with autonomy for their programs, no second-guesses. This individuality flourishes from the talents of the coaches, who stand as both wrestling and personal resources for the athletes. Wrestling's premier program stands as a combination of two aspects, the individual and the team. While Fraser maps the route, Petrosyan drives the team bus and Anderson provides the navigation. GIVING GUIDANCE As a coach, Anderson makes it completely clear to the wrestlers that he is committed to his wrestlers, both as athletes and as people. A 10-year veteran of the U.S. National Team and a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team, Anderson has proven his record as a winner. Now in his third year as the U.S. National Developmental Coach, he has a knack for finding the best, bringing them into his program and keeping them in the Olympic family. "I take a special interest in the careers of each and every athlete I train," said Anderson. "These guys are people first and wrestlers second. I make it my job to know them as a person before I know them as a wrestler. It's impossible to coach an athlete unless you tune in to their individual personality. From there I build my training methods and then we work together." Anderson stresses the importance of knowing the athlete's technical capabilities and then knows what they want from a coach. 'My way or the highway' does not flow with this program. He takes athletes and builds a strategy for coaching around their needs and abilities. His philosophy: the student must know the teacher as well as the teacher should know the student. Once that is worked out, it's time to build a team. LEADER OF THE PACK Speaking of team, for coach Petrosyan team is the name of the game. His resident team tore up the competition in Sydney with four athletes placing in the top six including the gold medal won by Gardner and silver from Matt Lindland. Jim Gruenwald and Kevin Bracken rounded out the top U.S. performers with equally impressive sixth place finishes in their weight classes. After competing and coaching for 33 years in his native country Azerbaijan, Petrosyan, moved to the U.S. in 1991 and joined the Olympic coaching staff in 1994. His goal: to build the greatest team of athletes in the world. But for Petrosyan, accomplishing this task is not a matter of having the world's greatest athletes. Those athletes grow out of the team. World-class athletes come from a world class team and that's what Petrosyan created in the U.S. "Anatoly is the man at practice," said Anderson of his fellow coach. "He's the one who gets the guys to push themselves, to do ten more reps, and to really squeeze the most out of every practice. He's the one who makes this team work as a team." As Greco-Roman resident coach, Petrosyan has stood behind numerous national champions and World medalists while helping to turn the U.S. Olympic Training Center into a world-class training site. ATHLETE SUPPORTED, COACH APPROVED But with all these leaders, how does this group work together? "Easy," says Fraser. "We bounce ideas off each other. No other program works as we do. We are all involved in each other's program, with each of us as a leader in our own area. It just works great, we assist each other, yet everybody gets to be the boss." However, no coaching staff is complete without athletes and in this program, they are just as much coaches as they are athletes. It is the belief of USA Wrestling that the athletes choose how they want to be coached, they determine their program and the coach makes sure they follow it. "They know what we need to do just by looking at us," said Darnell Lollis, Olympic Training Center res-ident athlete and 2000-2001 Greco-Roman National Team member. "It's just the way that they get us to realize our potential and the way they assist us in training at the highest level that amazes me. Each one of these coaches carries their heart in their hand when it comes to wrestling and us. It's a great feeling to know that you have a coaching staff like this at the helm." A coach is there for the athletes, and the athletes are what tie this team together, but flexibility is the key. With three leaders each bringing a new angle to the table each time, it gives the wrestlers an opportunity to decide what works best and then run with it. "It's motivating to know that in a way, I am my own coach," added fellow resident team member Kevin Bracken. "Each coach will show us a different technique or move and then it's up to me to decide how I want to use it. I've got Ike who is committed to me and takes an interest in my career; Anatoly, who makes sure that I push myself to my full potential each time I hit the mat and Steve, who keeps the wheels rolling with the whole national program. These guys really know how to rotate it around and yet keep everything on track." If there was ever a right way or a wrong way to lead a program, USA Wrestling has found a positive direction that is rivaled by few others, but more importantly, it works. With the talent of Fraser, Anderson and Petrosyan and hundreds of equally talented athletes, Sydney was simply a small peak for this team. "It's all a group effort," said Anderson. "We all put our ideas in and then work everything out from there. We call it a world team coaching staff and from that, we have built a world-class wrestling program."