Push the pace. Set the tone. Force your style. Don’t hesitate….. All things a wrestler should think as he approaches the center of the mat before each match. Cast doubt and indecisiveness aside. Demonstrate confidence and aggression and take the win from your opponent. Don’t wait for it to be handed to you. This is a winner’s mentality. Great wrestlers don’t wait to take advantage of their opponent’s’ mistakes. They force mistakes by their opponent by demonstrating an attacking unforgiving style and pace onto them. Great wrestlers don’t ask permission to score. They score quickly and often and dominate their opponent in every way.
There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. The greats walk that line and can stray one side to the other but ultimately always find the middle of the road. Many Champions, even the “humble” ones, have a little swagger. You have to believe you are the best for others to believe it, including your opponents. Self-doubt is as obvious to an opponent as any technical flaw they can see on tape. Demonstrating and projecting confidence is just as important as demonstrating excellent conditioning, strength or superior technical skills.
I tell my wrestlers constantly, if you’re backing up you’re losing. I’m not talking about taking a back step or using your opponent’s pressure to set up a takedown. By backing up I mean retreating, fleeing the hold, moving back under attack. I show my wrestlers through a visual example and then put my hands on them to have them feel exactly what I am talking about. I grab each wrestler and start walking towards them in a tie up with deliberate and constant forward pressure. I don’t attempt to score or improve my position. Then I tell them when they are ready to hit any attack they would like. 99 % of the time their “attack” resembles an off balance and awkward shot. They end up over extended on their drop step and usually leaning to one side. I do this to demonstrate that the best defense is a good offense. Simply pressuring forward will result in a difficult and sloppy attack and finish most time by the retreating wrestler. A wrestler can minimize greatly the number of shots they need to defend each match simply by using constant steady forward pressure with a quality tie up or hand position. Who wouldn’t want to have to defend 30-50% less attacks simply by moving forward, with no other changes to style, stance, or strategy?
Hand fighting and forward pressure seem to be key words used a lot in the wrestling room, but few coaches actively train and teach these techniques. There is technique involved for sure. Your wrestler can’t simply push with unrelenting pressure if the technique resembles that of a charging bull or Frankenstein, standing tall and straight armed. The forward pressure needs to be developed using small choppy steps, keep the wrestlers feet under their shoulders and utilizing proper hand position. My favorite is inside ties, or an inside tie and a wrist. I feel these hand positions give an attacking wrestler more options when initiating their offense and a greater ability to adjust quickly to a counter attack. Stance and level is critical in developing a forward attacking style as well. Stance needs to be lower than normal and arm position needs to be tight. Any movements with the wrestler’s hands should be short and powerful. Getting too extended or creating big sweeping movements will only lead to more counter attacks. These slower, bigger movements create more timely openings for an opponent to see and opening and attempt an attack of their open.
This attacking style of wrestling also allows the dominant wrestler to control the pace and tempo of the match. Sometimes an opponent is much faster on their feet, has faster foot and hand movements, level changes, and/or fakes…Instead of lagging behind and making a mistake due to the speed difference, why not use hand fighting and attacking pressure to neutralize this advantage. A good hand fighter can slow the tempo of the match and an opponent by gaining positions of dominance such as single or double wrist control, under hook or over hook position or a 2 on 1. These positions close the gap on your opponent and allow the hand fighting wrestler to regain control of the match.
Quicker, faster opponents usually are more comfortable wrestling from an open tie up position where minimal or no tie ups are utilized to set up their attacks. Being able to grasp and control the tie up will lead to a slower pace where speed is not as big of an advantage and technique and strength can be utilized by the hand fighting wrestler. Also, the attacking wrestler will be the victim of less stalling calls. The referee will be much less inclined to hit a wrestler with stalling who is constantly attacking and moving forward. The biggest signal a referee looks for when determining stalling is backing up or straying away from contact. This is the exact opposite of what they will see from a wrestling using constant forward pressure. Even if zero legitimate attacks are attempted, it’s far less common to see as stalling call made against a wrestler who is moving forward and controlling mat position.
No matter what your body type, age, or experience…this mentality...”if you’re backing up, you’re losing”, will apply to any wrestler at any level. I can’t guarantee 100% success with every technique I or another coach demonstrates, but this one comes as close as any. There is literally minimal downside to this style of wrestling. I have never once heard a coach say to a wrestler, you were too dominating, your technique was too relentless, you scored too many points. In a world of people, even athletes, that are complacent to have a wait and see mentality. This attacking style and thought process will undoubtedly lead to many benefits in match situations. Benefits such as scoring more points, creating more potential opportunities to score points, less attacks from opponents and less stalling calls.
What coach or wrestler wouldn’t want that! Quit backing up and start dominating!
More from John Burke: Why Not Me?
More from John Burke: Why Not Me?