The oldest “saw” in wrestling is for a coach to ask a nationally known wrestling figure—”What must a good wrestler have?”
The answer will be equally as old as the question—”A wrestler must have balance, strength and speed.”
NOTE: This is all very enlightening, but what in effect the nationally known wrestling figure is saying is—”Coach, your boy has to have talent.”
That talent is needed for the champion is understood—but what about Joe Average Coach who has to field a team of twelve wrestlers, ten of whom need agility drills before they can tie their shoes?
The situation: All coaches are aware that poor wrestlers never seem able to escape, but most coaches seem unwilling to face the facts as to why. They rely on magic holds and a belief that super-speed can be taught even though the boy was born slow. What do many coaches say as they watch their untalented boy being ground into a permanent part of the mat? Generally their remarks from the bench go something like this: “Move you clod—move faster—oh no! You’re going on your back—no! No!”
NOTE: After a few years of experience and an acceptance that fate does not deal man a perfect hand every time, that the cards must be played as they are—the coach will yell: “Get up, any way you can; just get out from under there.”
Natural abilities: In short, the coach comes to depend upon a boy’s natural abilities. In the first instance above, the coach has probably recognized that his boy has little strength—but he failed to recognize that he has no balance or speed either. The boy is unskilled and the middle of an important match is hardly the time to be practicing. In the second instance, the coach has realized the boy’s shortcomings and is keeping these shortcomings from being exploited—as the boy is working hard to maintain his balance thereby utilizing the ability he has. As we shall see, the first boy doesn’t have a chance but the second boy just might win.
A look at escapes: Let’s take a close look at escapes. All escapes have the same flaw in common which keeps the untalented from getting out, but which doesn’t bother the talented as they can skilfully manoeuvre beyond this flaw.
In order to move at all from the bottom a wrestler must lift one knee or the other which automatically tilts his hips and throws him off balance. To make matters even worse, the wrestler at this stage, whether it be a sit-out, a stand-up, or a switch, is balanced only on one leg. Only amazing dexterity can get him past this point and to the next. The man on top merely pushes or pulls and down goes the bottom man.
EXPERIMENT: As an experiment, lift your outside knee as if you were going to do a sit-out. Have somebody pull your outside hip at that time. Down you go. With a poor wrestler—there he stays.
This is the same on an outside leg stand-up or a switch. The talented wrestler is not plagued at this point because he has the agility to regain his balance by either getting both feet under him—or by sitting firmly on his buttocks where it will take tremendous force to dislodge him.
NOTE: Even if the maneuver is blocked, the agile wrestler can easily chain wrestle to another; however, the poor wrestler is ground into the mat with no possibility of executing any portion of the chain.
Natural balance: How can the poor wrestler be taught to get out if his opening move will cause him so much trouble? He can learn how to utilize his natural balance during this initial move by not moving too rapidly. This should be self-ex-planatory—but somehow wrestling coaches as a group insist that speed can win over all other courses of action. This is a fallacy because nobody can do anything successful at a speed beyond his skill.
Try any motor action which requires skill, such as golfing or baseball. Hit the ball smoothly. Now double your speed and watch the comic-farce. The skilled wrestler can move reasonably fast from the bottom because of his increased skill—but the unskilled will fall flat.
The unskilled wrestler on the bottom must therefore be able to lift his knee and hold his balance at the same time while moving through the maneuver to reach his buttocks or feet never faster than his agility will permit.
TIP: If the hold begins with an outside knee lift, it’s difficult for the poor wrestler to keep from being gut-wrenched. If the hold begins with an inside knee lift, the poor wrestler must make sure that all his weight is leaning away from the inside knee—or else the good wrestler will pull him onto the inside knee, forcing the outside knee up, and down he goes.
Outside vs. inside knee: While raising the outside knee, the poor wrestler must concentrate on getting the inside arm free thereby giving him a chance. This lessens the effectiveness of the gut-wrench. The outside knee is probably a superior move in producing wrestlers because of the greater options from it—such as switch, sit-out and stand-up, while the inside limits most wrestlers to just a stand-up.
However, if your area is a gut-wrench area, the inside knee is probably the only way your poorer wrestlers can escape. Again, it must be pointed out that the wrestler must sag away from the gut-wrench and struggle to his feet, holding his balance.
If your area is an ankle-grabbing one, the poor wrestler will do better raising the outside knee and holding his balance while completing the maneuver. Again, stress balance and the need to reach both feet or both buttocks—otherwise the ankle-grabber will tilt the boy on one leg or one hip and down he goes.
General tips: The good wrestler can get mighty excited when the novice just plain refuses to fall over. The skilled wrestler can do some awfully stupid things against somebody who stubbornly refuses to roll over and play dead, and who keeps chugging away at a basic hold.
Conditioning can now be a factor—and agility dies with an out-of-shape boy. This could prove to be the equalizer or the clincher in the final period; thus, keep your poor wrestler moving steadily, but with balance.
With balance the score doesn’t get out of hand—and most of all your poor wrestler doesn’t get pinned. A 3-0 match score doesn’t make a hopeless situation during the last period. Even if the boy loses against a top-flight wrestler, his ego hasn’t been smashed—therefore, watch him go next week against an average wrestler.
Wrestling drills: Here are some drills especially effective for the unskilled wrestler:
1. On whistle have top man use any set first move—such as ankle-grab, gut-wrench, chin-hook, etc. Then after a one-second delay have the bottom man move smoothly and powerfully to both buttocks or his feet. Bottom man must not permit himself to be driven to mat.
2. On whistle have bottom man practice freeing an inside arm or either ankle before initiating his first move, then proceed to base.
3. Have bottom wrestler lift outside knee and balance on that foot and inside arm. Top wrestler now tries to drive bottom man to the deck—but bottom man must gain balance on both buttocks or his feet.
NOTE: This we call the “balancing act” drill—and it’s a difficult but effective one.
4. Bottom man leans hips away from top wrestler, partially raising inside knee; as top man pulls bottom wrestler toward him, bottom pulls away and gets inside foot on mat until force of top man pulls bottom man on inside foot and to his feet.
5. All and any agility drills are most helpful—particularly those in which bottom man starts on hands and knees (sit-out, turn-over, etc.).