Joe Russell Training Camp Blog: Last workout, moving mats and fellowship with John Bardis

By Joe Russell, USA Wrestling | Aug. 19, 2018, 3:10 p.m. (ET)

Friday, August 31

Photos of California sunset over the ocean, plus the team picture and the mat moving picture courtesy of Joe Russell.

The last day of training went well. Guys had to make weight in the morning. After breakfast they worked on technique.

In the afternoon they wrestled their final match of camp. The focus and intensity was great. Up and down the lineup they were exciting matches to watch. Everyone scrapped.

We had the honor of having Karen Mendoza watch practice. Her late husband Ray was a Big Ten Wrestling Runner up and decorated Marine. He gave his life for our country.

Thanks to California USA Wrestling ,we had seven mats for camp. After the final practice the team loaded the mats on the cool California semi-trailer. I loved seeing America’s team pitching in and getting the job done.

We were blessed to have dinner hosted by John Bardis. The team and guests were spoiled with great fellowship, food and ambiance.

We head home in a few hours.

Thursday, August 30: Live simulation match day a big success
Photos of Nick Gwiazdowski (inset), and photos below of Kyle Snyder, J'den Cox, David Taylor and Logan Stieber by Joe Russell.

Great first day of our simulation tournament. Guys worked hard.

Stephen Neal, 1999 World Champion, said he was impressed with the effort he saw the team put forth trying to score points.

The World team wrestled three matches in the morning and one more in the afternoon. They mimicked the format of day one of the World Championships.

It was a positive dress rehearsal for Budapest.

Wednesday, August 29: Thanking Camp Pendleton's food service employee

The USA Wrestling Freestyle Team poses with the food service staff at the mess hall at Camp Pendleton, thanking them for their support and effort. Photo by Joe Russell.

During our stay at Camp Pendleton, we have been blessed with great food service. The staff at Camp Pendleton has gone the extra mile to take care of the team and their nutritional needs. Today, we gathered together for a group photo to express our appreciation.

We have been at Camp Pendleton for 11 days. The team was on the mat two times yesterday. During the morning session, they worked on individual areas of focus. It was impressive watching wrestlers and coaches sharing knowledge with each other.

For our afternoon session the team focused on match tactics. They worked on various situations they will invariably encounter at the world championships. Practice things now, so if faced with the situation later, they will be ready.

Today was an individual training day. We will be wrestling a simulation tournament on Thursday and Friday. The guys will be required to weigh in, so tonight many guys are going to bed thirsty and hungry.

Lastly, we held a late night team meeting led by Bill Zadick and John Bardis. I believe the meeting had a positive impact on the team.

Tuesday, August 28: Concern for Richard Perry and his family

Competition portrait of Richard Perry from the 2018 U.S. Open finals by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

Monday was a tough day. Richard Perry was injured.

All of us are very concerned for Richard and his family. We want to rally behind him.

A gofundme page has been set up at

Please keep the Perry family in your prayers.

Monday, August 27: For John McCain

On the flagpole closest to our barracks, the flag is at half mast for Senator John McCain.

McCain was a fellow wrestler.

Sunday, August 26: Individual training and a day of rest

Photo of the barracks by Joe Russell. 

Saturday the focus was on individual training once again. As a coach, I enjoy seeing athletes do self-review and then game plan for what they determine is needed. I believe our team has great skills in this area. They are professionals.

When I was a college coach, I tried to teach guys how to think independently, do self-review, take ownership of their careers, and become like professional athletes. As a rule of thumb, the start of the third year of college was critical to see if they would make the leap or lag behind. If they took ownership, did self-review and implemented practical plans, it was a solid predictor of success on the mat.

Having a coach, someone to help shorten the learning curve, is essential. So also is being able to make the right decisions on your own. Team USA is in good hands with the athletes on this team.

Sunday was our designated day to rest. Recovery is important. As soon as the training ends, recovery begins. Guys need to work on recovery just as hard as they work on training.

We have four Squad Bays in our barracks: two on the first floor and two on the second floor. We are separated as follows: World Team in Squad Bay 1 on the first floor; National Team and training partners in Squad Bay 2 also on the first floor. Coaches are on the second floor in Squad Bay 3, while UWW Junior and Cadets are in Squad Bay 4.

Typically there is lots of chatter. Usually you can find a group playing board games like monopoly or card games like Uno or the occasional game of Mafia. Saturday night and Sunday have been much quieter. Most guys have found the beach or other places in Southern California to explore.

There are some interesting sights and sounds staying on a military base. We are staying close to Marine recruits. They are still busy on the weekend. Before sunrise you can hear them marching, doing pull ups or practicing their marksmanship on the shooting range. Their effort and desire to become Marines is inspiring. I know it has positively impacted our camp. Excellence fuels excellence.

Friday, August 25 - Turn up the music, practice has new sounds

Photo of Jordan Burroughs by Joe Russell. 

For nearly a week we have trained in a land of no music. The gym is quiet. You can hear the wrestlers’ shoes squeak as they brush the hot wet mats. You can hear the grapplers’ breath and grunt as they train with zeal.

Occasionally you could also hear me humming or singing songs I have hidden in my heart. The sounds I utter seem like sweet music to me, but I have been told for many decades they are not. I have been told I sound like every cliche ever uttered to a bad singer. Nevertheless, I still try.

Well today, Jordan Burroughs came to the rescue for Team USA. He showed up to our second practice of the day with a brand new sound system even equipped with disco-type lights changing to the beat of each song. There were lots of happy smiles when Jordan started the tunes before practice. Our Spartan-like training camp became a lttle more doable today.

JB even gave me the honor of holding the remote control during practice so we could turn the music down as Bill Zadick gave instructions to the team. I think the honor was given to me so we would not lose the privilege of playing music during practice. I did well at my new job. Music promptly muted was promptly blaring again when instruction ended.

“Let the music play.”

DJ Russ (Richard Perry thinks I should spell my DJ name with 2 z’s instead of 2s’s. Stay tuned for the possible change).

















Thursday, August 24 - Tough practice, then off to LA for USWF/BTSLA Gala

Photo of Chris Pratt, Kyle Dake, Randy Couture and Jay Glazer by Joe Russell.

Due to the Beat the Streets/United States Wrestling Foundation Gala today in Los Angeles, the team was only on the mat in the morning. The practice was longer than most and the workload was high. Nevertheless, the team kept a high focused pace.

We traveled to the gala on a bus where we were joined by Marines and family. Personally I was pleased to be a passenger as opposed to a driver navigating I-5 traffic.

We saw and heard some great things at the Gala. I left inspired. What a great night of conversation and laughter.

After Randy Couture spoke David Taylor said he was ready to compete. Other speakers challenged us as well, made us laugh and helped us grow.

Wednesday, August 22 - Tough practice, then off to LA for USWF/BTSLA Gala

Photo of Hayden Zillmer looking through the scope of a Marine sniper rifle, by Joe Russell.

Today was an individual training day. Each individual was allowed to train as they deemed best. Some worked on conditioning, others strength, lots got on the mat to refine skills. It’s a good day to do some self review to gain ground.

We have mats set up in two facilities. One is a gym with 4 mats. The other is a few steps from our living quarters. We have 2 mats in a Marine Martial Arts Facility. Wrestlers were able to train where they wanted, when they wanted, and do what they believe fit their needs.

In the afternoon we received a unique inspiring opportunity to meet with the Marine Raiders - United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

The time spent with these men made us better. The knowledge gained from these elite soldiers will help us on and off the mat.

Tuesday, August 21 - Garrett trains hard on birthday; dinner with Team Leader Dinan

Happy Birthday Nahshon Garrett. 1/4 of a century ago you started your journey to Budapest. Glad to see you spent your birthday training with your team and on your own.

Today the team got on the mat in the morning and in the afternoon. During their break time most, if not all, spent ample time in the weight room.

Being elite requires great sacrifice. Nahshon gladly sacrificed today and celebrated his birthday the nontraditional way.

Thanks to our team leader Jamie Dinan, the World team did get to enjoy dinner together with an ocean view.

Great food and fellowship after a long day of training was welcomed by all.

Monday, August 20 - First practice and Marine Leadership Course

Mess Hall (dining facility) opened at 430am. Team meeting started at 745am. The Marines opened the meeting with a welcome and base briefing. Coach Zadick followed up with a discussion of our plan for camp and lastly we studied film. Then it was off to our first practice on the mat.

I wish I had the ability to adequately express how fun, amazing, inspiring it is watching these guys train. They have honed their craft to a high level, but are not satisfied. They continue to strive for knowledge and mastery. It is a joy to watch them work. As a group, they understand the need to give their best effort in their training so they have the opportunity to give their best effort in competition.

After a short break for lunch, the team joined Marine instructors to challenge themselves mentally and physically on the Marine Leadership Reaction Course (LRC). They were able to problem solve in teams of 5-6 in order to overcome obstacles laid out at 12 different stations. The team was challenged, but worked together and performed well.

We took a group photo in front of the LRC where there was a placard retelling the story of the Battle of Fullujah in 2004. One of the hero’s of the battle was an All-American wrestler for the Naval Academy - Doug Zembiac. On a Wikipedia page about his life, it reads “He was named the "Lion of Fallujah" as a result of his heroic actions leading Echo Company 2/1 during Operation Vigilant Resolve in 2004. As a rifle company commander, he led 168 Marines and sailors in the first conventional ground assault into Fallujah, Iraq. He earned the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device. He also received two Purple Hearts due to wounds incurred in action.” It was an honor for our team to take a photo with Marines in front of the LRC.

Sunday, August 19 - Move in Day at Camp Pendleton

Today was move in day. Lots of flights, miles driven and finding the path to the barracks. It is exciting to have the National Team all under one roof.

The squad will spend the next two weeks sharpening each other. Together we accomplish more.

Saturday, August 18 - Servant Leadership and preparing for camp

National Freestyle Coach Bill Zadick helps lay out the mats in Camp Pendleton before the athletes arrive. Photo by Joe Russell.

Servant Leadership has stood the test of time as a proven successful way to lead.

2017 USOC Coach of the Year Bill Zadick demonstrated this leadership as he, along with some of the OTC resident athletes, USA Wrestling staff and Marines prepared the mats for the upcoming Men’s Freestyle National Team Training Camp at Marine base Camp Pendleton.

Tomorrow morning, the team arrives for an important two-week preparation camp for Budapest. We are excited about partnering with the Marines for this endeavor.

Wrestling coaches can rest easy knowing at whatever level you coach, you will be tasked with moving mats. It doesn’t matter if you are the coach for the reigning world champions and USA Wrestling’s Myron Roderick Man of the Year - you do what is needed.

As Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy said in his book about Mentor Leadership: “Building a life of significance, and creating a legacy of real value, means being willing to get your hands dirty.”

No doubt, hands got dirty today.