Organizing Wrestling Practice

I’ll attempt to give coaches who are faced with the problem of small or inadequate facilities some useful ideas on the better use of time and what facilities they do have.

One of the essential items in the development of any wrestling team is adequate mat space. Adequate mat space allows a maximum number of wrestlers to do what is most important in their personal development—actual wrestling.

NOTE: When a coach is bound by lack of either space or mats—or both—he must organize his practice sessions with these restrictions in mind.

I was one coach who found himself with less than outstanding facilities: one mat and one small room with unpadded walls. After much experimentation, I now use the “circuit theory” as the basis for our practice sessions.

Organising wrestling practice


The circuit theory is probably used to some extent in almost all well-organized wrestling programs, but in ours it is the basic structure of all our practices.

With our facilities, we cannot possibly have more than 12 wrestlers working safely at any one time. Although we can place more than 12 on the mats in warm-ups and controlled skill-learning periods, it is not in the best interest of the athlete to overcrowd the mats during wrestling drills and competitive situations. Our team roster of 60 complicates the problem.

The circuit theory gives each athlete as much mat time as possible, and gets maximum use out of the available mat space, by rotating the athletes among various workout stations. In that way, everyone can be kept busy without overcrowding the mat, and there won’t be a long line of wrestlers waiting for a chance to get on the mat.


The daily workout schedule is concerned with the three basic elements of any sport: activity, conditioning, and strength.

Activity, in this case wrestling, is the single most important item in the workout, consisting of skill development, situation wrestling, and competitive wrestling.

Conditioning deals with the athlete’s cardio-vascular development and includes distance running, sprints, and endurance wrestling.

Strength is aimed at development of the large muscles, which is best brought about by the “overload” principle, weight training, and isometric exercises.


In planning practice organization, you must determine your priorities—those areas you feel must be developed to get your wrestlers ready, not only for league and dual-meet competition, but also for league tournaments, sectionals, and, perhaps, state competition.

Much of our planning is determined by the pre-season conditioning and strength aspects of our program, and our notes on how closely the athletes are following pre-season workout schedules help to determine the early phases of the seasonal practice schedule.

NOTE: We encourage increased work on conditioning and strength early in the fall semester, but it is really a year-round activity.

The degree of conditioning and strength and the skill-level of our returning veterans, will also help set the stage for early practice.


Chart I is an example of a typical practice session with a time limit of approximately two and one-half hours. Many variations of this schedule are used during the season and it can be altered according to the needs of the team or the individual concerns of the wrestlers.

NOTE: We believe new wrestlers can learn from watching, as well as competing with, experienced wrestlers, so we make an effort to give our varsity competitors the toughest competition available.


2:45 — Team meeting.

2:50 — Explain goals of session; break up into Groups A, B, and C according to weight class: Group A — 95 to 120 lbs., lightweights

Group B — 127 to 145 lbs., middleweights

Group C — 154 lbs. And up, heavyweights

2:55 A 45-minute session; each group rotates every 15 minutes to the next station until all groups have been at all stations; the stations are set up in the wrestling room, weight room, field, and parking lot. The starting set-up is: Group A — Warm-up, skill drills, situation wrestling.

Group B — Distance running, exercises.

Group C — Weight training, exercises.

3:45 — A 45-minute session; rotation every 15 minutes. Group A — Skill development (mat room). Group B — Rope climb, flexibility exercise. Group C — Sprints.

4:30 — A 30-minute session; groups rotate every 5 minutes for 2 repetitions.

Group A — Situations, competitive wrestling. Group B — Stretching exercises and run. Group C — Isometrics and partner drills.

5:00 — Special drills, team meetings, conditioning, warm-down.

The coach should be creative in his approach to the workouts. Tape recorders and development games can be used to make the practices run smoothly and provide variations that make them enjoyable, as well as helping to achieve the goals set for maximum team development.


One helpful aid in using the circuit theory of practice organization and team development is the preparation of a wrestling handbook to explain the procedures and outline workout schedules. Other helpful contents include pre-season conditioning ideas, workout areas, wrestling clinics, lists of AAU wrestling meets, and wrestling camp information. The coach should distribute the handbook in mid-Spring and take time for a team meeting to answer questions and explain the theory to his wrestlers.


Repetition by the coaches is one of the problems created by the circuit theory. Sometimes coaches have to repeat a presentation as many as four times, depending on the number and type of stations used.

This can lead to boredom and loss of interest on the part of the head coach or his assistants. In my experience, however, I have found it as much a learning process for me as a problem. It allows me to evaluate the various methods and approaches I use, and, I hope, to do a better job of presenting my material. This is one of the reasons why good assistant coaches are invaluable in creating effective practice sessions and workouts.

Good team leaders of the various groups are also essential, since it is of primary importance that the athletes be willing to complete the circuit as prescribed by the coach. If the athletes do not accept the need to complete the entire circuit and do all the required work, then all the planning and presentations by the coaches are wasted.

NOTE: Some of the more highly skilled athletes will probably have to spend additional time working with each other after the regular practice sessions have been completed, but this is not necessarily a problem. In our case, they are and have been very receptive to this need. In any case, it will depend on how hard they work and how much they accomplish during each session.


I am sold on the circuit theory as a way to organize wrestling workouts. Not only has it been successful, but it places a great deal of responsibility on the individual athletes—a very positive thing to learn from any athletic program. At the same time, it allows them to get extensive wrestling experience despite limited facilities.

Also of note, the circuit theory approach, by making the utmost use of our facilities, has allowed us to continue a “no-cut” policy in our program. That is, it has allowed any boy to become a member of our team, so long as he meets the minimal demand that he be at every practice both mentally and physically.

Just remember—it is essential that the coach be sold on his approach to practice organization. Use your creative abilities and enjoy the results—your athletes may gain a new insight into the once dreary chore of practice.

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