Watching the Cadet World Championships this week has had me thinking about developing champion-level wrestlers. Having had four former Best Trained wrestlers compete on world teams the last 2 years, it’s interesting to note how they all have really different wrestling styles and body styles. One thing they all have in common, though, is solid, strong fundamental positioning.
That’s really what good wrestling comes down to – fundamentals. Every olympic champion, National Champion, and state champion had to at some point, master basic positioning on their feet in neutral position. If a wrestler maintains perfect position on his/her feet, they are really hard to score on, and they open up more scoring opportunities.
This makes it ever more important for young wrestlers to drill on the basic fundamentals –
stance, motion, level change, penetration, sprawl, downblock/crossblock, back arch, backstep and handfighting. And I’m not talking occasionally, they need to be drilled over and over….and over and over. From age 5 to Olympic level, these should be worked on in some way during every practice. It is one of those areas where you don’t practice until you get it right, you practice it until you CAN’T get it WRONG.
In both the Best Trained Elite and Youth Programs, we focus on and take pride in ensuring our wrestlers master these fundamentals. With a strong foundation, they can then move on to higher level techniques and moves more quickly and efficiently – regardless of athleticism level.
I frequently get questions from parents about what they can do to help their wrestler advance, and there’s nothing more important they can do than instill in them the importance of these fundamentals. With younger kids, or kids who may not be ready to get into the wrestling room yet, I recommend basic tumbling and gymnastics to help develop balance, core strength and body position awareness.
Above all, my best advice to parents of young wrestlers is – be patient and make sure the basics and fundamentals are a core part of their practice routine. Learning that killer move that Jared Frayer executed in the Olympic trials on his way to the 2012 Olympic team is a great ambition, but without proper stance and positioning, they are likely to end up getting scored on instead of the other way around.