World-class female wrestler coaching at NU

When Norwich University hired a new member of the wrestling coaching staff this season, it got someone ranked number two in the country at 63 kilograms.

For Women’s Freestyle Wrestling. That’s right, Norwich’s new wrestling coach is a female, Erin Clodgo, a Richmond, Vt. native, and a Northern Michigan University alum.

She has spent the last 13 years of her life training out of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Co. Having been a U.S. World Team member since 2007, Clodgo has decided to give coaching a try, and decided to start helping the Norwich University wrestling team.

“It has been awesome having coach Erin around. She really pushes us hard in training, and we’re all pretty dang sore the next day after she comes in. Whenever she says ‘I hope you ate your Wheaties this morning,’ we know it’s going to be a tough day,” said Brendan Desfosses, who wrestles at 157 lbs. and is a 19-year-old sophomore international studies major, from Methuen, Mass.

“Having Erin in the room helping out has been great. Coach Keating has traveled the world competing, and training in Russia, and he has seen a lot of different styles, but not nearly to the same degree as Erin has. She is bringing in a whole new style and background to us,” said Alex Whitney, head wrestling coach for Norwich University.

Assistant coach Connor Keating has spent quite a few years competing at the world level as well, having trained with U.S. and Russian national team members as well as coaches. He comes from a very similar wrestling background as Whitney. They have been teammates in college, thus giving them an extremely similar approach to wrestling, having been under the same coaching staff together.

“Clodgo has had a completely different upbringing in the sport, having been under different coaches. She brings an entirely new set of experiences and approaches to Norwich with her,” Whitney said.

Clodgo bringing in this new set of experiences and backgrounds has been immediately acknowledged and appreciated by the coaches and wrestlers alike.

“Having Coach Erin has been a wonderful learning experience for me. She has helped me open up more as a wrestler, and gave me new ways of hitting certain attacks, that I wasn’t quite getting with either of coaches before,” said Jack Schultz, 157 lbs., a 19-year-old freshman psychology major, from Cedar Grove, N.J. “She helped me a lot with building on my fireman’s carry (a type of leg attack in wrestling), specifically being able to use enough of my opponent’s pressure against him to hit this move quicker and smoother than before.”

Schultz has seen a lot of improvements on the minute details of certain techniques, and attributes this all to Clodgo.

“She is extremely nitpicky about the smallest things, and this has proven to be the difference maker in whether or not I score in my matches,” Schultz said.

Schultz isn’t the only wrestler who appreciates Clodgo’s nitpicking on technique. Senior captain Jonathan Graziane was also subject to Clodgo’s precise teaching on technique.

On Clodgo’s first day helping out the cadets she was training primarily with Graziane. “I had no idea who she was, why she was here, or any of her accolades. I was just told to wrestle with her,” said Jonathan Graziane, who wrestles at 141 lbs. and is a senior and captain. “I didn’t know she was going to be a coach, nobody introduced her, coach Whitney just brought her in to bang heads with us and teach us a little lesson in wrestling,” said Graziane, 22, an environmental science major, from Plattsburg, N.Y.

“Not even five minutes into wrestling with her, she had already corrected my form on my double legs drastically.”

Clodgo has helped build on technique at a rapid pace, according to Whitney. “Normally when we teach a technique, it will take months to see that technique used in a match. I don’t know why, but that has been the way it is in all my years coaching. With coach Erin it has been different. Guys are making these changes in their arsenal a lot more rapidly,” Whitney said.

Graziane and Schultz are just two of quite a few examples of the wrestlers making these quick alterations in adapting their many moves.

“Since coach Erin came in and started helping us, I started attacking more in matches. At the Roger Williams Invitational tournament, I was down by six points in my second match. It was the third and final period, and I needed to push the tempo of the match. What I was trying earlier in the match wasn’t working, so I said screw it,” Graziane said. “I hit two double legs and that lead to me getting back points and I ended up winning the match.”

Graziane attributed that win to Clodgo helping him gain confidence in his double leg takedowns. “My cardio was there well before coach Erin came along. My mental toughness grew through having coach Whitney and coach Keating, but as far as technique goes, I wouldn’t have gone for that specific move before coach Erin came and helped me,” Graziane said.

PJ Testino, a 141 lb wrestler and 20-yearold junior in construction management major from Dingmans Ferry, Pa., Clodgo’s coaching style is an “intensified variation on coach Keating’s style,” Testino said. “Coach Keating is pretty intense and I kind of see coach Whitney as the more laid-back coach, but now it’s like coach K is the happy middle for us.”

“Like coach Keating, she is hard-nosed in her approach. She is fast-paced, and really pushes us harder than we’’e been pushed before. It’s awesome having somebody as decorated as her in here with us day in and day out,” said Testino.

Calling Clodgo a highly decorated wrestler is an understatement. “In 2007 she joined the U.S. Junior World team, and in ‘08, she placed third in the world team trials. In ‘09 alone she took second in the Sunkist Kids International Open, Third in the U.S. World Team Trials, and sixth in the U.S. Nationals,” Whitney said.

“In 2010, she took third in the Hargobind International, second in the Sunkist Kids International Open, third in the Canada Cup, second in the U.S. World Team Trials, and was the U.S. Open champion. That was just in 2010,” Whitney said. “In 2011 she took second in the Pan American Championships, second in the U.S. Open, fourth at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. I can keep going on and on.”

On and on Whitney went. “In 2012, she was second in the U.S. World Team Wrestle-Off, second in the Hari Ram Grand Prix in India, third in the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden, third in the Dave Schultz Memorial International, third in the Ivan Yarygin Memorial in Russia, and third in the U.S. Open. I’ll just skip forward to 2016 and on,” Whitney said. “In 2016, she took fifth in the Open Cup in Russia, second in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, she won the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier, placed third in the Olympic Test Event in Brazil, and took third in the U.S. Open,” Whitney continued.

In this year alone Clodgo also “won the U.S. Open, and on Nov. 2, 2017, had won the Dave Schultz Memorial International tournament.” Whitney finished up with this: “When USA Wrestling was interviewing her, she had even said she’s been going up to Norwich University in Vermont and helping coach there and wrestling there. It has been an honor to work with them and for me to read that was an amazing thing to hear.”

Clodgo winning the Dave Schultz Memorial International tournament was big news not only for the U.S. women’s national team, and for Clodgo herself, but big news for Norwich as well. Clodgo training with and helping coach Norwich’s team brings on the plethora of experiences she has had, from herself, and the learning experiences from every match. Norwich wrestlers are now able to further their own knowledge through training with Clodgo, and this is hoped to help grow the wrestling program.

It is also very new to the sport of wrestling having a female coach, on the men’s wrestling team. For every wrestler interviewed, only one wrestler has ever experienced a female coach.

Schultz, the New Jersey native, has never had a female coach, but quite a few programs in his area whom he competed against had female coaches.

“I never had a female coach, but in New Jersey there were also enough women in wrestling to constitute having women’s wrestling teams,” Schultz said. “These women’s wrestling teams usually had at least one female coach.”

Whitney has seen females in the wrestling world more often as the sport of wrestling continues to grow. “Coach Keating and myself were down in Florida for the National Wrestling Coaches Association convention in August, and there were a good number of female coaches there. There were definitely more women there than in the past. There were roughly ten female coaches there of the hundreds of coaches in attendance,” Whitney said.

“In this day in wrestling, women’s wrestling is becoming an emerging and growing sport, and it actually just became a Division I sport,” Whitney elaborated.

What is next for Clodgo, and Norwich wrestling? “I really hope she stays around for the long run,” Desfosses said.

Clodgo, while still competing, will still be helping out with coaching and for Norwich, this means having an extremely accomplished World Team member in the wrestling room helping shape the Norwich wrestling program.

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