I’ve always been a big proponent of off season wrestling and I wanted to share some thoughts I have about it’s importance. I also linked a USA Wrestling article below that inspired me to write this.
Why Spring wrestling is essential
My general belief is this. The more you wrestle, the better you get. And so spring wrestling is a primary way to continue wrestling and improve after the high school season. Some wrestlers worry about the different style and it’s potential to mess up wrestling style. Tom Brands, a 3x NCAA Champion and current University of Iowa coach said this, “The more skills you master in any style of wrestling, the better wrestler you can become.”
Freestyle and Greco wrestling teach you important aspects of leverage, hip position, and body control that are essential in folkstyle. Teague Moore, a NCAA Champion from Oklahoma State and head coach at American University said this, “My freestyle experience and exposure are the only reasons why I succeeded in folkstyle. Without freestyle, I would have been mediocre at best.”
I can same the same about myself. I never would have been a high school state champion without freestyle and greco. I was never overly gifted naturally. Everything I learned, came over hours and hours of practice. Freestyle gave me a reason to practice and improve. I also competed regionally and nationally in the spring and summer. I wrestled against good wrestlers around the country. Those moments gave me confidence. When I wrestled at a big high school tournament, I knew I had already been on a big stage and so my nerves were calmer and I was able to focus better.
I see wrestlers, who are really good, get put into stressful situations, and crumble, because they aren’t accustomed to stressful situations. They haven’t been on the big stage enough, and so the nerves get to them.
Match count is important. I probably had about 250 folkystle matches through my youth and high school (10 to 18 years old). But I probably had over 300 matches of freestyle and greco. That’s more than double the matches, double the experience, double the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. How much more coaching did I get? How many times did I overcome a large deficit to win a close match? How many times did I lose a close match? All of those moments prepared me for my Double Overtime Utah State Finals match.
I asked Craig Lamont about how many matches his sons have had through high school. Craig is the father of accomplished wrestlers Taylor and Grant Lamont. He said, “I know Taylor had close to 220 just in the last 12 months alone. I really haven’t ever added them all up, but formal matches with an official involved is pretty high. Full folkstyle seasons, dual teams, spring season with 12-24 matches per weekend, wrestle till you drop matches, Cadet, junior duals, fargo, west regional. It adds up fast. Taylor and Grant both under the old vertical system of pairing would end up with sweet 20 = 25 matches alone at western regionals each year. Grant started at age 5. Taylor started at age 3. I would think that Taylor is somewhere between 1600 and 1800 matches since he started. Grant probably about 1300 to 1500.
Now I understand why these two boys turned out to be such good wrestlers! They had so many matches! Now I don’t expect everyone’s situation to be the same as theirs, but it’s pretty amazing.
Tom Brands said this in the article, “Training and competing in freestyle wrestling puts you in positions and in experiences you are not in during the folkstyle season,” Brands explains. “It helps you deal with different kinds of pressures. It helps develop a new set of skills that maybe your opponent doesn’t have. And if he does, it will teach you how to counter different skills that opponent may be using. This is the time of year to work on something new. Freestyle is a great way to advance as a wrestler, become a more complete wrestler.”
Risk of Injury
Some people worry about the risk of injury in Freestyle and Greco. I say there is risk in everything. Wrestling is inherently risky and it’s not a matter of if you will get injured, but a matter of when. So to assume you may get hurt because you wrestle more matches. You are correct. But to me…..the risk of injury is WELL worth the reward of becoming a better wrestler. If you don’t wrestle because you risk getting hurt, then you won’t get hurt. But you won’t get better either.