The Weighs – And Means – of Making the Tigers Stronger and Fitter Than Ever
BY JAY GREENBERG
Granted, all this grunting coming out of the weight room in December and January still will leave the Tigers still red-faced come fall, should they not run, pass, block and tackle at levels near their 2016 Ivy League champions.
But they wouldn’t be building bodies and camaraderie under Princeton Stadium without the belief that there is a correlation between strength of body and strength of character.
“It speaks to their dedication,” says Terry Joria, the strength and conditioning coach. “If a guy knows he wants to play or start, he will be committed to this.
“Buying into the process also means not staying out late partying, and eating junk food all day. I don’t want him to think that getting stronger in here will necessarily make him a better football player. But all this stuff, just like watching extra film, will help.
“I love to keep the numbers, don’t get me wrong, but I would rather have a good culture of guys who want to work harder than some freakishly athletic guys.”
Joria has the old job of Jason Gallucci, who has become Princeton athletics’ first Director of Performance, overseeing all men’s and women’s programs.
“Fortunately, I have been able to communicate with people at the NFL level, where sports science in the weight room is taking precedence,” said Head Coach Bob Surace, a former assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals. “Under the umbrella of strength and conditioning is a performance aspect that takes care of everything from nutrition to psychology to motivation to sleep. I made it a mission last summer that I was going to learn more.
“We had an NFL teams sports science director come to meet with us and Jason knew every bit as much as the expert. We have been implementing a lot of things; I have to be full force with it.
“Last year at practice, we had about half the members of our team wired with straps around their chests. We measure everything from workload to distance run, to acceleration, to heart rate and after every practice I get a printout. If we worked Dorian Williams too hard, we backed off so he could play better on Saturday. Or, if Charlie Volker, who usually runs at 21 miles an hour max velocity, is not at that speed coming off an injury, it told me he is not ready.
“(Athletic Director) Mollie Marcoux’s background was in facilities and performance at Chelsea Piers (in New York City). She made it an initiative to get this new position approved.”
The old position will not suffer any loss of continuity. Joria joined Princeton from Illinois State University in 2014.
“Terry has an impressive tactical mind, has shown the ability to use a variety of techniques and modalities to challenge athletes,” said Gallucci. “He has tremendous floor presence, the type of coach who gains instant credibility and respect based not only on how he carries himself but communicates.”
Surace saw that immediately when Joria arrived. “Some guys feel their way into things when they are new, others have an immediate commanding presence,” said the coach. “Terry had a way about him from Day One to push these guys without being so overbearing he pushes them away.
“There is never a negative. He’s not a screamer or cursor, more has a way of motivating them with enthusiasm and passion, like Jason that way.
“One of the things (Bengals coach) Marvin Lewis told me is that even before you think about coordinators, strength and training staff are your most important hires. I am out on the road recruiting in December and January, away in May at alumni events and not allowed to be around the players for 2 1/2 months of the summer. So almost half the year I am not with the team day to day, why those positions are so important.”
Fatigue and time factors limit weight training in season to pretty much maintenance levels. The gains have to be made this time of year, and they have been measured in tests on December 17 and January 9, with a final pending at a yet-undetermined date, perhaps after spring practice. The score reflect the combined maximum weight an athlete lifts in the bench press, squat and clean.
“We have 12 guys over 1100,” said Joria. “Last year at this point we had two.
“We have 32 over 1000 right now and another three four within a couple pounds of that. Last year we had 40. But we kind of assume a drop at this point of the year because we lost a lot of strong seniors like Brannon Jones and Henry Schlossberg.
“Compared to our first test, the second was pretty good. For whatever reason–maybe they had a bad test day or whatever–some guys didn’t make the jumps we wanted, but by and large we saw improvement.
“Freshmen come here from high school programs where they may not have learned proper technique in the clean and the squat. We have to re-teach them, then they make big jumps.”
“Our sophomores need to develop. Guys like Stefan Ivanisevic, Graham Adomitis, George Attea and Chris Ryan, are all guys that need to step up a little. They work hard in here; I’m confident they will.”
The program does not currently have an outlier like Greg Sotereanos ’14, who reached a peak of 1338. The strongest of the 2017 Tigers is sophomore Cody Smith at 1176–just 17 pounds fewer than 2016 leader Jones –followed by Mark Fossati at 1172. Jake Strain at 1147, Tyler Desire at 1146 and Erik Ramirez at 1141.
The guys at the top are always objects of curiosity – and deserve recognition for their work – but the weights on the bar are relative to the weight of the players, of course. Tiger Bech, who weighs 172 pounds, lifted a remarkable 1012 and 195-pound T.J. Floyd scored 994. “Pound for pound they are the strongest players on the team,” said Joria.
Ultimately, the program has to be lifted from the bottom up.
“I would rather have 80 guys in the 1000 club than four guys in the 1300-pound club and 40 in the 1000-pound club,” said Surace. “ We have some guys who are going to be phenomenal football players that aren’t strong yet, still in the 800-pound range, so if they can get to 950 imagine how good they are going to be. They may not get to 1100 this year but we look at their progress more than their results.
“A guy like Sam Huffman improved every year. By the time he got strong enough as a senior, he was a terrific player for us.”
Internal competition helped make Huffman a starter on one of the program’s best-ever defenses. Just like in the huddle, voices have to be heard in the weight room, too, above the clanging of the metal.
“We lost a lot of leaders,” said Joria. “But Fossati, Desire, John Lovett and Kurt Holuba are all pretty vocal and, as seniors, will be even more so.
“Can’t get complacent.”