A Progression Drill Program for Wrestling

We are faced with the same problem that many wrestling coaches throughout the country have: a turnout of inexperienced, but eager wrestling hopefuls. We have to turn each boy’s potential talent into actual talent. And we have to do it fast. Our approach to this problem has been to devise a system whereby we can “mass produce” wrestlers by developing a maximum of “wrestling sense” in a minimum of time. To do this most effectively with a large number of inexperienced boys, we concentrate during early season practices on our three phase progression drill program. It is divided into continuity, series and situation drills. Here is what we do.

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DEMONSTRATIONS: Before we can use our continuity drills, we must first teach the basic maneuvers which will later be adapted to these drills. It is important for the new wrestler to know what end result he is attempting to achieve in a drill. For this reason, we have two of our most experienced wrestlers demonstrate a move at full speed. This shows the beginners what they will be trying for. Then, we have them demonstrate the same move in slow motion so that the inexperienced eye can see the different parts of the maneuver more easily.

After demonstrations, we break a maneuver down into its component parts and number each in sequence. We then drill “by the numbers” until the basic moves are learned. Following is an example of our count off technique used for the sit-out, turn-in, go-behind drill.

On command of: “ONE”—The defensive wrestler grasps opponent’s wrist and tripods outside leg. “TWO”—Defensive wrestler thrusts his inside leg in front of him. “THREE”—He snaps over, coming to his knees. “FOUR”—He moves quickly behind opponent and gains control.

EFFECT: The count off method of teaching fundamental moves has proven to be most effective for me. It is the quickest way that I know of to teach a basic knowledge of moves to a beginner. Once they have this, they can progress to the first phase of our progression program.


Although we call these drills “ten-second” drills, they may last longer. Their purpose is to allow each wrestler to repeat a certain maneuver a maximum number of times in a minimum amount of time, until the move comes naturally to him. The drills can be used or adapted to any wrestling maneuver that results in a reversal of advantage position. Resistance, of course, must be passive.

Sit-out, turn-in, go-behind: In this drill, the bottom wrestler completes the sit-out, turn-in and go-behind maneuver and, just as he gains control, his partner does the same maneuver. They continue this for ten seconds. As the boys become more proficient at the moves, they should be able to do them more rapidly and increase the number of repetitions in the allotted time.

Over-drag, reverse run-around counter: After the athletes are thoroughly familiar with the above drill, we coach them in this move. As the bottom man sits out and snaps over, the top wrestler hooks his hand under his partner’s arm and quickly moves behind to regain control. The bottom wrestler then immediately starts a sit-out and turn-in from the opposite side. The top man continues to counter in the same way.

Switch and reswitch: The switch is probably the most readily adaptable move to a continuity type drill. Speed and form in execution, so necessary to all phases of wrestling, will rapidly improve through the daily use of this type of drill.

To adapt the switch and reswitch to a continuity drill, we do not allow the defensive wrestler to break the offensive wrestler completely to the mat. Instead, the defensive wrestler uses his leverage to swing up and behind to gain control while his opponent remains in position to execute a switch as soon as the defensive man gains control. As this move is mastered, we add the reswitch as a drill for countering the switch.


Once our wrestlers become proficient in the continuity moves, we begin to put continuity moves together so that they make sense in a wrestling context. There is no end to the number of combinations a coach can work out to adapt to this type of drill. Here is how we put some of ours together. Again, as in the continuity drills, resistance is passive.

Sit-out switch: The defensive man sits out and as he turns in, the top man counters with a chest spin and goes behind. The defensive man then immediately snaps into a switch in one continuous motion and gains control. Opponent then quickly repeats the same maneuver. They continue this for about ten seconds and then change positions to repeat the drill working from the opposite side.

Switch, reswitch, sit-out, over-drag and reverse runaround: The bottom wrestler begins to execute a switch and the top man counters with a reswitch. Bottom man then goes immediately into a sit-out and offensive wrestler counters with an over-drag and reverse run-around. Bottom man then quickly reacts going for a switch from the opposite side to start the whole series over again.


Our situation drills are the final logical step in preparing new boys for competition. The continuity and series drills have provided the boys with a thorough knowledge of the basic wrestling moves and combinations. All that remains is to familiarize the wrestlers with the actual situations that they will face in competition. Here is how we do it.

Situation: We tell wrestlers, “You are tied with your opponent. There are ten seconds left in the match and you need an escape to win.”

Drill: The boys are on the mat, one on offense and another on defense. On the whistle, they are told to wrestle. After ten seconds, we stop them and ask for a show of hands from the boys who were successful in gaining an escape.

Situation: Bottom wrestler is on his stomach and the offensive wrestler is allowed to get any breakdown or riding hold he wishes (they are not allowed to tie up both arms or legs).

Drill: On the whistle, they start to wrestle. The defensive man is given ten seconds to come up to a stable defensive position.

Situation: Defensive wrestler takes position on his back while offensive wrestler applies either a half or reverse nelson.

Drill: Defensive wrestler has ten seconds to get to his stomach. He must be especially careful to make sure that he does not allow both shoulders to be in contact with the mat for more than two seconds.

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