Who Was Your Toughest Competitor?
This is a very common question for anyone who has competed at a high level in the sport of wrestling, but that doesn’t mean that it is an easy question to answer. When you’ve competed for as long as Cary Kolat has, against so many different competitors it can be hard to distinguish one single person. Though one does stand out, due to the fact that he forced Cary to fundamentally change and adapt his training and wrestling style. He forced Cary to adapt the way he mentally approached a tough situation.
The toughest opponent Cary Kolat ever competed against was Elbrus Tedeev of Ukraine. The two wrestlers met 3 times throughout Kolat’s career. The last time being in the Bronze medal round at the 1998 World Championships in Tehran, Iran. The reason Kolat says Tedeev was his toughest opponent is because he truly forced him to change his wrestling. Tedeev brought out a tactic that is commonly used today, which Kolat calls chunking.
“Chunking” As a Practice Tactic
The best example would be 100 pushups. If someone asked you right now to do 100 pushups, would you get down and immediately count them out 0-100? Probably not, you would break it down. Two groups of 50, or four groups of 25, maybe even ten groups of 10. It doesn’t really matter how you decide to do it, the point of doing it is to give yourself small finish lines. Often during a practice, you will see a peak of early intensity, then a dip as it continues and then an increase in intensity as the practice is coming to a close. This is because the athletes can see the finish line towards the end of a practice. As a coach, if you take the time to break down a practice into segments (warm up section, a drilling section, a live section and a conditioning section) then you were to give each segment a time limit, you will see an entirely different practice from your athletes. Finish lines are clear and athletes will push themselves further to reach a more attainable goal.
Navy Seal Training
A friend of Cary’s who is a navy seal once told him everyone is always held up on hell week of BUD/S. In reality, hell week isn’t the hard part, it’s designed to quickly weed out the mentally weak early in the process. This is so they aren’t wasting their time training someone for 5 months, only to have them quit. To get through hell week he used the same method as Cary. He would tell himself, “I’m not going to quit until lunch”. Then, he would get to lunch and tell himself “now I’m not going to quit until dinner”. He did so every day, breaking it down in smaller bits if necessary.
1998 World Championships
During the 1998 World Championships, before Kolat had to wrestle Tedeev, he won a match that was contested and overturned. After the match was overturned, Kolat entered the consolation bracket. Kolat wrestled his way back to the bronze medal match where he finally met Tedeev. During the match, despite being conditioned and prepared, Kolat found himself exhausted very early in the match. Tedeev was a very tough wrestler, constantly snapping and attacking from every level and angle. All Kolat could do to get through the match was compete with himself, constantly setting small goals to get him through. Don’t fall over for just 20 seconds, then 20 more, then 10 more until the match was over.
Tedeev forced Kolat to reach another level of mental toughness. He forced him to stay focused and block out the inner demons that you face while competing. This also translated to the way he trained and the way he handled difficult situations in everyday life. He began chunking everything he did to continue to stay focused and push himself farther than before.
Where to find Mental Mondays with Ben Askren
Questions for ASK KOLAT can be submitted on therudis.com and kolat.com.