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Division III Wrestling Cultural Exchange - Moscow, Russia

May 29     Depart from Chicago 

May 30     Arrive in Amsterdam - tour the city

May 31     Arrive in Moscow - first training session

Leaving the country for the first time was very exciting for me. The 8-hour flight to Amsterdam was long, but still enjoyable. The movies and the food kept me entertained.

Our layover in Amsterdam was a lot more fun than I expected. We got to just go out and explore the city and see the culture. We took a boat ride through the canals, a walk through the Red Light District and some of us even got a little lost in Amsterdam, but eventually found our way.

After another short flight, we landed in Moscow around 3 a.m. Running on little sleep and having a workout coming up in a few short hours, I couldn't wait to get to a bed. We all stuffed into a van and headed to the facility we're staying at. The rooms are pretty nice; 4 beds, a bathroom, a small kitchen and a balcony.

Our first workout here was interesting. It was structured very similar to ours back home, but it was hard trying to figure out exactly what we were doing because the coach spoke very little English. Once things got rolling, it was a little easier though.

We get fed three meals a day here at the facility and they're very good meals. Most contain chicken in some way, but I'm not complaining. I'll probably return to the states a couple pounds heavier than when I left.

I'm looking forward to going into the city of Moscow and seeing what the culture is like. Very enjoyable trip so far.


June 1      2 trainings

Coach Fader:

Really interesting 24 hours.  We had a split session yesterday with lighter guys going at 10 and heavier guys at 11:30.   There was a little more live wrestling and it was great to see the guys adapt to a different style of practice.  In the afternoon we did a traditional Russian sauna.  The sauna was wood fired and extremely hot...the top row cleared out after a couple ladles of water!  The experience was complete with wool hats and birch branches that open up the skin pores.  After three fifteen minute sessions you soak in an extremely cold pool and drink tea.   It was so different but everyone enjoyed it as something extremely Russian! 

We went to a large mall for the evening dinner.  Several of the guys were happy to see McDonald's.   I went to a large supermarket with Coach Gibbs and True and we had a blast pointing out hot foods to try and eat.  There was very good all the way to very bad. (Cold liver sausage was very bad).  Guys relaxed and traded a lot of wrestling gear with the Russian wrestlers. The sleep schedule is still a struggle.  Our room all woke up at 3:30 and stayed awake most of the morning....we are eight hours ahead of Eau Claire time!

This morning was breakfast and some technique...then a couple live matches with some of the new Russians that are here.  We will do two practices today and tomorrow and then competition on Saturday. Justin and Robby are picking up things fast and both had better sessions today than they did yesterday.That is exactly how I hope to see them and the rest of the team continue.    Great experience so far!! 


June 2      Morning training - afternoon trip to Moscow city

June 3      2 trainings

Robert Rocole: After a pair of trainings and dinner, us Americans and some of the Russians were all hanging out, trading clothes and listening to music. They all seem to like the same popular American music we like and can actually sing the words pretty decently. One Russian in particular was a big fan of Eminem and Snoop Dogg.

The clothes trading is some serious business around here. They like Under Armour brand and things with the American flag on it. If they don't like something, they're not afraid to tell you. I've acquired a couple Russian wrestling shirts and a pair of pants so far, but looking to do some more swapping later on.

This morning we woke up and enjoyed a nice breakfast consisting of oatmeal, eggs and this cheesecake-bread type thing that was pretty delicious. After breakfast I went back to bed for an hour or so before our first training session.

The training today was similar to the first couple we had, pretty intense but more technique based. Later on we have another training session, but I think we'll be off the mat and do something a little more relaxing before our competition tomorrow. 

June 4      Morning training - afternoon competition

Coach Fader: This weekend was very full.  On Saturday, we had two competitions with the Russians at the training center.  They set it up very well and we were not very competitive in the morning round.  The difference between freestyle and folkstyle is very evident as we give up so many points after we give up a takedown.  Often one takedown would mean a tech fall as we'd get turned quickly.   We went back and had lunch and rested before wrestling again at 5.  We had some closer competitive matches. It's a great learning experience and certainly gives a lot of things to teach in the remaining practices.

Robby and Justin both wrestled several times.  Justin got a chance to wrestle against the Venezuelan Olympian at 97 KG, Jose Diaz.   He also had to matches against Russian big men and lost a 9-7 bout that was one of the best of the day.  Both Robby and Justin will tell you that the experience was important.

After the competitions, we had a Russian picnic out on by a group of Tjurgistan men...delicious!  Several types of barbequed meats and a rice and vegetable dish served from an enormous metal bowl.  The amount of trading and gifts exchanged between the two sides is fun...most of the American wrestlers will be coming home in complete Russian outfits!

June 5      Sanduninskaya Bania (Russian bath/sauna/lunch)  sightsee and dinner in Moscow city

Justin Karkula: On Sunday, we had a day off of training so we went to Moscow city as a group with George who runs the exchange and one of the Russian wrestlers. We started with a bus tour of the city where we made several stops over a 3-hour span including a lookout spot over Moscow near Moscow University. Then we went to one of the very large cathedrals around Moscow and the adjoining park where President Bush's wife had given the city a group of bronze duck statues. 

The final stop was the Kremlin and Red Square where we were dropped off and had two hours to explore the surrounding area for food, pictures and shopping. There was an underground mall just outside Red Square where we got food and shopped for an hour. Next, we headed back to Red Square where there was Russian book festival happening so there were sales and stages for plays and story tellers. When we were leaving we knew we had to get back to the spot we started with the tour bus so we went down to the Moscow subway which was an adventure of following George and making sure we got off at the right stops with a group of 30. 

In conclusion, it was a very eye-opening day just seeing the culture outside of wrestling and also my first time in the subway was in a foreign country with very little English. 


June 6      2 trainings

June 7      Morning sightsee - afternoon competition

June 8      Guided tour of Moscow 

June 9      Travel home