Flagship Brands-Gable camp aims for ultimate wrestler

BY J.T. BUGOS | JULY 09, 2009 7:21 AM

The black and gold brochure ensures this sports camp is designed for the “ultimate competitor.”

And it should be. It’s the signature camp of the nationally renowned Iowa wrestling program. Plus, it’s hosted by decorated coach Tom Brands and powerhouse former coach Dan Gable.

The Brands-Gable Intensive Training Camp taking place in Iowa City underlines, too, that being an ultimate competitor is about more than what takes place on the mat.

Brands, who this season will enter his fourth year at the Hawkeye coaching helm, stressed academics when it comes to the goals of the camp. NCAA standards keep rising, and he said he hopes the kids at the camp who aspire to wrestle in college will take to heart the academic lessons provided.

Gable also noted classroom work as an important part of the camp, but he was more focused on all facets of the camper’s lives.

“If they become a good student at something, they can apply that to everything,” said Gable, whose teams won 15 national championships. “But more than that, we want them to learn a lot about the sport of wrestling in a positive manner.”

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Brands sees wrestling not just as a sport but also as a tool to enhance life.

“The sport teaches so much about individual sacrifice and discipline,” he said. “When you see guys start to get it, that’s very rewarding.”

Gable echoed the current head coach’s thinking.

“I think part of this learning process is what you can take off of the mat and use it the same way,” he said.

The two Iowa icons also stayed on a similar page about what they wanted campers to take home, assuming only one thing could be learned over the course of the camp. Brands hoped the kids could learn how to push themselves and give maximum effort.

The training camp is designed to back the young wrestlers up against the wall and force them to learn to dig deep. Brands said he wants them to do just that and learn more about themselves in the process.

Gable said he wants the kids to learn how to be two people at once. The first is the wrestler, an almost barbaric man who goes all out on the mat. The second is the gentleman, the person off the mat who reasons rather than fights.

The goals of the training camp are to learn three critical aspects of wrestling : technique, conditioning, and strength.

In 12 days, the campers live the 12-month lifestyle of a Hawkeye wrestler.

“On the mat, they learn technical,” Brands said. “Start with neutral, counters on the feet, offensive attacks from the feet, offensive attacks from counters. It’s endless.”

Versatility is also an important trait to be learned.

“I want them to wrestle at all positions,” said Iowa wrestler Chad Beatty, who serves as a camp counselor. “I want them to get tougher, and if a guy snaps you down, don’t just let him run around behind you.”

He joked that his favorite part of the camp was free food, but he said what he really relishes is being able to share his national championship experience with the kids.

Around 240 of them showed up for the Intensive Training Camp, an attendance level Brands estimates is about even with two years ago. Even though the Hawkeyes have won the past two national championships, the number of campers hasn’t increased.

The flood last summer and the economic situation of many families seems to have taken its toll.
But Brands hopes to find a way for the camp to continue to grow.

“We have to create a passionate following,” he said. “Where you put an asterisk on your calendar because you’re excited to attend the wrestling camp hosted by Iowa.”

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