A little over a week ago, Vougar Oroudjov returned from Baku, Azerbaijan where he was on the staff of the United States team that finished third at the FILA World Cup. The two-time World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist talked to New York Wrestling News about his experience with the USA squad.
What was your role with the team?
Zeke Jones called me about two weeks before the tournament and asked if I could come. I was a Team Leader. I was born in Azerbaijan and speak the language there so I translated when we needed it, dealt with hotels, referees and things like that. I was also at practice and the matches. I did what I could to help the guys. It was great to be a part of it with everyone on the team and the great coaches – Zeke Jones, John Smith, Mark Manning and Brandon Slay. It was my first time with the US Team and I didn’t feel like an outsider at all. We all wanted the same thing – to win. The atmosphere was great.
What did you think about the team’s performance?
The team was very good. The United States keeps making big improvements in freestyle. You saw it at the World Championships and again at the World Cup.
We lost to Iran 4-3, but I wouldn’t say they were much better. Maybe a few tactical things made the difference. In the first match, at 55 kg with Nick Simmons, there were a couple of situations where there were calls that could go either way and they went Iran’s way. Same thing with [Keith] Gavin’s match at 84 kg. It was a good learning experience. I think everyone understands that we have some work to do to be the best team in the world, but we’re getting closer. There is time before the Olympics to focus on our mistakes and fix them.
Who impressed you individually for the United States?
Jordan Burroughs, Coleman Scott and Tervel Dlagnev were all undefeated and wrestled really well.
Burroughs showed why he is the World Champion. He knew exactly what he needed to do against the competition. Dlagnev has the experience on this level and it showed.
It was the first time I saw Coleman Scott wrestle and I was amazed. He was really tough and mentally ready. He wasn’t intimidated about wrestling for the national team, he just went out to win. He never stopped moving; was all the time attacking. I really like his style – he always showed offensive wrestling. He beat some very good wrestlers. I thought 60 kg was one of the toughest weights overall at the tournament. If I were the coach, I’d want him on the Olympic team. Of course, I’m not the coach.
Honestly, there weren’t any guys who didn’t compete well. Take someone like Jake Varner. He lost some matches, but he still wrestled pretty well. He lost to some World finalists. I still think he’s good enough to do very well in London. The Olympics are different than the World Cup. I have several friends who never won anything until they put it together and won the Olympics.
What do you think of the freestyle wrestling you saw at the tournament?
The rules just keep changing. I know I learned a lot because things are different than when I wrestled freestyle. To me, it’s getting so much more tactical. In folkstyle, it’s all about intensity; guys going all out the whole match. In freestyle now, it isn’t like that. A lot of it is getting one pushout or taking one shot or grabbing the right ball out of a bag. I don’t like that. Just go to overtime and see who scores to get the real winner. There also seems to be a lot more questionable calls. But we all know the rules. There are no excuses. We need to train for those rules and those types of matches.
You had a New York wrestler on the team in Cornell’s Kyle Dake. He didn’t compete in the dual competition, but how did he look in training?
Kyle was there to be the training partner for Jordan Burroughs and to possibly give Burroughs a rest if we could during the tournament. That didn’t wind up happening.
But even though he wasn’t in the tournament, I saw Kyle wrestle a lot. Each practice, I was in his corner, watching him. He’s really good and getting better and better in freestyle. The best thing is that he listens. You say something to him and he appreciates it and makes the changes. He was impressive. People would be surprised how good he looked and how he looks against Burroughs.
We also had matches before the tournament where he was wrestling the guys from places like Azerbaijan and Russia. He did very well against them. I definitely think Kyle will make the next Olympics. He’s really progressing in freestyle. He will be a big surprise for everybody in the next Olympic cycle.
What’s next for you?
I will be working with the kids in my club [Vougars Honors Wrestling in Syosset] on freestyle to prepare for Fargo.
Then, we’ll see. The USA coaches invited me to come with the team to the Olympics. It was really hard for me to leave my family for the two weeks for the World Cup, so it would be hard to go for a longer time to London. I missed home. I missed my wrestlers and my club. My son Vitali won the NY Freestyle States while I was away. That’s one of the reasons the decision to go to Baku was so hard – I knew I would have to miss that and the other New York States for Cadets and Juniors. I’m probably 50/50 right now on going to London. I am honored that I was asked and it would be an honor to be there and help and give back to America.
Either way, I wish everyone luck. I’m hoping for some Olympic championships. We definitely have several guys who have shown that they are good enough to do it.