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EXECUTIVE NOTES By Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive Director


LOOKING AHEAD TO HIGH PERFORMANCE IN RIO 2016 It may seem like the 2012 London Olympic Games were just a short time ago, but USA Wrestling has already invested con- siderable time and effort on its plan for success at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The work we do now will make a big difference on how well American wrestlers com- pete four years from now.


There is not enough room in one column to cover all of the areas which our staff, volunteer leaders and Olympic family partners have developed in the last few weeks with a focus on success in 2016. I will touch on some important things which are already underway, with a promise to keep the sport updated on our progress. The first important change to note was the promotion of Les Gutches to the position of Associate Executive Director of Programs and Strategy for USA Wrestling. Les is a high-quality individual with extensive knowledge and experience. His per- formance in building our membership and grassroots programs is commendable and will continue. His new responsibilities include integrating our grassroots with our Senior-level pro- grams and making sure that the pathway for our athletes in each stage of their careers is efficient and effective. We see Les as an additional resource for our Olympic-level programs as we seek excellence in Rio and beyond. We have recently concluded the initial phase of our High Performance Planning process with our partners at the U.S. Olympic Committee, which focuses on specific strategy, plan- ning and resource deployment for the 2013-16 Olympic four- year cycle. This is an in-depth and exhaustive effort, where we review exactly where we are now, where we want to go, and how we will get there. We come off the 2009-12 Olympic Quadrennium with an improved performance from the 2008 Olympics, where we won three medals and one gold. Winning four medals, including two golds, at the 2012 London Games means that wrestling contin- ues to produce for the overall U.S. Olympic Team effort and remains one of Team USA’s best sports programs.


That said, we know that American wrestling can do better. We did not win a Greco-Roman medal for the first time in eight Olympics. Our women’s team won a medal, but we are capable of more. Men’s freestyle did well, but we know we can increase our medal count there also. We approach each Olympic style separately, based upon the specific competitive envi- ronment, athlete development pipeline, and challenges and opportunities in that discipline. All three styles are motivated to do better, and all three styles have a legitimate reason to believe they can improve. We are already executing key action items that have been identified for the early part of this Olympic cycle. Our leadership understands that this must be an inclusive process, where we bring all assets that our organization and nation can muster to the task at hand. In some cases, that means looking at things in a different way, and doing things that we may not have done before. We must keep an open mind, with an attitude that change can be good. In some situations, that change is truly a requirement for progress towards success. In Greco-Roman, National Coach Steve Fraser is creating an advisory team of successful past Greco-Roman athletes, coach- es and leaders to help guide the program back to international success. The Greco team is also creating a grassroots network of educated and motivated coaches to work with our youth. National Women’s Coach Terry Steiner recently held a Summit with the women’s college coaches to work together on a system to improve athlete training and better link our colleges to the national effort. The women’s team is putting more focus and programming at the FILA Cadet and FILA Junior levels. In November, National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones is hosting the Freestyle Leadership Summit, held every four years at the start of the new cycle. This brings all of the key stakeholders together to unify behind a four-year plan and to take responsibil- ity for making it work on the road to Rio.


Success in Rio in 2016 requires us all to work together and commit to a shared vision for our national wrestling effort.


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