Monday, September 24, 2012

A New Season

I haven't posted to this blog for a long time.  I have been spending most of my time on my website  I haven't forgotten about wrestling.  I haven't forgotten about strength and conditioning either.  September will soon be over and wrestling season is fast approaching.  I hope you have been staying in condition and not simply waiting for the season to begin to get yourself in shape.

I have been reading a lot lately about the importance of the aerobic system as it pertains to combat sports.  The aerobic system is involved to a much higher degree than early research lead people to believe.  Read some artilces by Joel Jamieson at to learn more.

Essentially, a wrestler needs to make sure they do some aerobic conditioning.  Eevn though wrestling is a very explosive sport at times, a wrestler also needs the endurance to wrestle the entire six minutes.  There is a tradeoff between power and endurance.  Sprints and high-instensity interval training (HIIT) can be effective too if not done in excessive amounts.  And, you don't need to do a high volume of aerobic work (e.g. 100 miles a week) at a slow pace.  Doing some longer runs of 30-60 minutes two or three times a week at a fairly good clip can be beneficial.  A balance of aerobic and anaerobic work is best.  You really need to read some of Joel Jamieson's articles regarding energy systems and especially the aerobic system.

I have also been watching a lot of videos lately.  Here are some moves I'm interested in lately:
  • Shrug to Inside Trip by Will Rowe
  • The Superduck or Super Duck Takedown
  • Sweep Singles
  • Russian or 2-on-1 Tie
  • Bow and Arrow Wrestling Move
  • Radman Ride by Granby School of Wrestling
  • Inside Bar Series (Granby School of Wrestling) or Hammerlock
  • Spiral Ride
  • Granby Roll
  • Peterson Roll
I'm looking forward to the season starting.  In addition to your conditioning check out my website, read some of Joel Jamieson's articles, and watch some videos.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Off Season and Summer Training

The high school folkstyle wrestling season is over. What do you do now? Do you throw your wrestling shoes in the back of the closet and not look at them again until next November? Do you forget about weight training and conditioning until next November as well? Do you spend the entire summer drinking soda pop, eating ice cream, and hanging out at the beach? I hope that you answered no to all of these questions. If you want to excel in the sport of wrestling, you need to train year round.

Training Year Round

Very few high school state champions or NCAA champions wrestle only during the regular scholastic season. Most elite wrestlers do not simply wrestle three or four months out of the year. Do you think Dan Gable or John Smith only wrestled during the high school folkstyle season or collegiate season? No. They wrestled year round. They wrestled freestyle and as well as folkstyle.


Periodization is simply the planning of your training for a specific period of time. Different types of periodization exist including linear, undulating, concurrent, and conjugate. Periodization consists primarily of three phases: the preparatory, competitive, and transition phases.

After the folkstyle season ends, you may wrestle in some postseason takedown tournaments. In addition, you may begin wrestling in the spring freestyle season. Wrestling in a few spring freestyle tournaments can give you many opportunities to work on your takedown skills. The freestyle season may be a time that seems a bit more relaxed. Freestyle offers a slight change of pace from folkstyle and you may not be as concerned about maintaining a certain weight.

You don't want to get burned out on wrestling. You also don't want to overwork your body. Taking a week or two off after the folkstyle season to let your body rest is a good idea. Try to take a week or two off in your training at some point. Rest is an important component of periodization. You may decide not to wrestle freestyle. Perhaps you'd rather just take a few weeks off and then begin lifting weights and doing some running. Maybe your local school has open mat times when you can go in and drill some moves. Freestyle isn't a favorite of everyone.

Summer Camps

Summer camps make winter champs. Perhaps you've heard that phrase before. Attending camps and clinics can definitely help your wrestling to keep improving. My high wrestling coach encouraged attending a wrestling camp during the summer. He thought that a wrestler became too detached from wrestling he if completely forgot about it until the following fall. I attended camps the summers after my sophomore and junior years of high school. I learned new moves and met some talented college wrestlers. I even got to hear Dan gable speak and meet him in person.

John Fritz (an NCAA champion and former coach for Penn State) used a quote on his summer camp brochure that said, "There will come a time when winter will ask what you were doing all summer." If you don't spend some time wrestling during the summer or at least working on your conditioning it will almost surely have an effect on your wrestling success the following season.

If freestyle wrestling or camps aren't your thing or don't fit into your schedule, you might consider buying some technique videos to study over the summer. You could perhaps do some shadow wrestling at home. Try doing some stand up drills and takedown drills. Visualize and practice moves even if you aren't at a camp or working out with a wrestling partner. Some coaches have stated that your best training partner is yourself.

Summer can be a good time to work on weaknesses as well. If you spent the season being out muscled by your opponents, perhaps you need to focus on strength training over the summer. If you ran out of "gas" in a lot of your matches during the season, perhaps you need to really focus on improving your conditioning over the summer. Do some running, wind sprints, and circuit training. Build up your work capacity and your GPP (general physical preparedness). Conditioning expert Matt Wiggins likes to talk about building a bigger "gas tank" so you can go longer and do more work over a longer period of time. You may want to research work capacity and GPP. You may also want to research wrestling conditioning.

10, 000 Hour Rule

Success in wrestling or any other endeavor in life may not have as much to do with talent as you think. Two books, The Talent Code and Outliers: The Story of Success, both discuss something called the 10,000 hour rule. It takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieve greatness or mastery in a certain area of expertise. These books express the idea that even people society deem as "talented" actually practiced a lot to achieve their levels of greatness. Practice it seems is more important than innate talent. Even the famous composer Mozart put in years of practice to become an expert in his field of expertise.

Six-time world and Olympic wrestling champion John Smith has stated, "I think we throw the word talent around a lot. People say I was talented or this or that. I probably hit a million low single legs in my lifetime. I probably drilled a leg lace 40 or 50 times a day. I earned the right to be able to hit sharp techniques. It had nothing to do with talent."

Basketball legend Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player that the sport of basketball has ever seen. However, Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity team during his sophomore year of high school. He hadn't quite honed his talent yet at that point in his life. He dedicated himself to practicing diligently to improve his basketball skills. That extra work and dedication obviously paid off.

Are you willing to put in thousands of hours of practice to achieve your wrestling goals? Off season and summer training is essential if you want to become a champion in the sport of wrestling.

I'm not trying to imply that you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice to become a state champion or even an NCAA champion wrestler. I'm simply stating that the more you practice, the better you will be. Just make sure your technique is correct to begin with and then drill it religiously.

I've seen many elite athletes state that they didn't have that much innate talent. They weren't special or gifted. But, they put in several hours of dedicated practice to excel in their chosen sport. Therefore, if you spend your spring and summer wrestling and practicing moves, you will have put in many more hours of practice compared to some other wrestlers.

Dan Gable continued to wrestle during the summer two or three times per week while he was in high school to keep the sport close. Even though he worked summer jobs, he still found some time for wrestling. Masahiko Kimura, one of the greatest judoka of all time, sometimes practiced up to nine hours a day. Dan Gable worked out seven hours a day, seven days a week while preparing for the Olympics. Boxing legend Rocky Marciano was known to train year round. Rocky Marciano is considered by many to be the best conditioned boxer the sport of boxing has ever seen.. But, it wasn't always that way. In an early amateur fight against a former Golden Gloves champion he became exhausted early in the fight. He was eventually disqualified. He vowed to never be out of condition for a fight again. He retired undefeated.

I mainly wrestled four months out of the year except for attending a week of wrestling camp during the summer. I always did some conditioning during the summer months such as running and lifting weights. I was a conference champion and a state qualifier during my senior year. That's not too bad considering the amount of effort I put in. However, I could have been so much better if I had been more committed to off season training. Make sure to spend some time on your wrestling and conditioning year round. You can excel in wrestling if you don't neglect off season training.

Building a Strong Foundation

I grew up on a farm in the Midwest. I engaged in a large volume of physical labor over the years. I lifted and carried thousands of hay and straw bales. I carried pails of corn and water. I carried bags of lime and feed. I dug fence post holes. I pounded metal fence posts into the ground. I pushed wheel barrows and swung sledgehammers occasionally. I carried rocks and chunks of wood. I pushed brooms and shoveled out bunks. I climbed an 80 foot silo occasionally. I walked all over our property. All of this activity helped me build a strong base of physical fitness. I was never "out of shape."

When you are in the process of designing your wrestling conditioning program, you should keep the concept of general physical preparedness (GPP) in mind. GPP provides basic all-around conditioning in areas such as endurance, strength, speed, agility, coordination, and flexibility. GPP often involves using compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups. GPP can be weighted or non-weighted. General physical preparedness increases your ability to do more work. Therefore, the concept of work capacity is closely related to GPP.

According to conditioning expert Matt Wiggins, the use of GPP will increase your work capacity. With greater work capacity, one can do a greater volume of conditioning. Having greater work capacity is like having a bigger "gas tank." If you have great work capacity, then you won't "gas out" toward the end of a wrestling match.

A wrestler will absolutely benefit from improved work capacity. He will be prepared for intense work and will be able to recover more quickly. For instance, if you are wrestling three matches in one day at a tournament then work capacity and recovery are extremely important.

A wrestler must be prepared to wrestle hard for six to seven minutes. Improving work capacity allows a wrestler to train harder and more often. Remember to build a bigger "gas tank."

Weighted GPP Examples:

Sled Dragging

Sandbag Lifting

Sledgehammer Swinging

Medicine Ball Throws

Tire Flipping

Non-Weighted GPP Examples:

Jumping Jacks

Mountain Climbers


Push Ups

Pull Ups

Athletes and Hard Work

Dan Gable spent summers during high school working for a construction company and a lumber yard. He enjoyed unloading trucks of cement bags and lumber. He lifted cinder blocks at the construction site. He got up at five a.m. so he could run four miles to the job site.

Boxers used to saw wood and split it with an axe as part of their training. They also used to do construction work that involved lifting, digging, sawing, and hammering. Boxing legend Rocky Marciano did all of that and more. He used to stand down in a pit and throw stones up out of it.

Another boxing legend, James J. Braddock, used to walk miles each day looking for work after his boxing career had stalled. Sometimes he would work on the docks unloading railroad ties. Braddock was no stranger to hard manual labor. When he had a chance to box again he went on to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.

Finnish powerlifters are known for their skill in the deadlift. Most of them had a background of hard labor, like lumberjacks, construction workers, farmers or something similar. They carried, lifted and dragged for their living. Similarly, legendary strongman Bill Kazmaier was an oil rigger and a lumberjack in his youth.

What I'm implying here is that hard manual labor is basically a GPP workout. As you can see, many great athletes have a background of hard manual labor. Does this mean that you have to work on a farm or on a construction site? No. Just find a good GPP program and work on building up your work capacity. You can lift sandbags instead of cement bags. You can do sledgehammer training instead of chopping wood with an axe. You can carry around dumbbells instead of pails of corn. Improving your work capacity will allow you to train harder and more often. Spend some time researching GPP and work capacity.

Working on your GPP and work capacity will help you build a strong foundation. As you enter your competitive season, you can start doing training that is more specifically designed for wrestling. Remember that wrestling is primarily an anaerobic (i.e. with oxygen) sport. The anaerobic system is what will primarily need to be worked after your season begins. Your most specific training will simply involve wrestling itself. If you have done a sufficient amount of GPP and built up your work capacity then the training to follow will be that much more effective.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Seven Basic Skills

Although wrestling has many moves and techniques, USA Wrestling considers the sport to have seven basic skills.

The seven basic skills are:

• Stance

• Motion

• Level Change

• Penetration

• Lifting

• Back Step

• Back Arch

While in the neutral (standing) position, some wrestlers prefer a square stance while others prefer a staggered stance. Either stance can work equally well. Make sure you have most of your weight on the balls of your feet as opposed to your heels. You should never be standing straight up and leaving yourself open to a takedown from your opponent. You should utilize a comfortable but effective stance. You need a stance that allows you to attack as well as defend.

Wrestling involves a tremendous amount of motion. You may circle your opponent. You may attack your opponent with a takedown attempt. You may snap your opponent to the mat and spin around behind him. You may sprawl to defend against a takedown. You need to learn to move fluidly and quickly. You don't want to be clumsy or sloppy. You need to execute moves explosively and crisply.

Level Change
Before a wrestler shoots a takedown, he must lower his level. This is accomplished by lowering his hips. When a wrestler sprawls to counter a takedown he is also using level change. In addition, a wrestler may lower and raise his level to force a reaction from his opponent. A wrestler needs to be able to maintain good posture while changing levels. For instance, you don't want to get overextended when shooting a takedown because you forgot to lower your level first. Always bend at the knees, not at the waist.

Obviously, when you shoot for a takedown on your opponent, you don't merely reach for his legs or dive wildly for his legs. Instead, you make sure you are close enough to your opponent and then take a deep penetration step keeping your back straight and your head up. You lower your level and penetrate deeply being sure to keep your hips forward and beneath your shoulders while you drive through your opponent.

A wrestler often lifts his opponent off the mat when executing a takedown. He may also lift an opponent who has performed a stand up from the bottom position. He lifts his opponent and returns him to the mat. The legs and hips are most important when lifting. For instance, when you shoot a double leg, you don't lift with your back. You get your hips squarely beneath you and then use your leg and hip strength to lift your opponent off the mat. When a wrestler has been lifted off the mat, he is in a very vulnerable position lacking support and balance.

Back Step
A back step is most often seen when a wrestler executes a throw.

Back Arch
When a wrestler attempts a throw, he often pops his hips under his opponent while arching his back.

Other Skills
Other important basic skills include setting up takedowns, pummeling, wrist control, and hand fighting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Postville Pirate Athletic Hall of Fame

On Saturday, October 16, the 1984-85 Postville High School Wrestling Team was inducted into the Postville Pirate Athletic Hall of Fame. During that season, I wrestled 105 lbs. on the varsity team.

A banquet was held that evening for all of the Postville Pirate Hall of Fame inductees, family members, friends, committee members, and other guests.

The first two inductees gave very nice speeches about Postville athletics, family, and community.

Before the wrestling team walked up front by the podium, our coach from that season said a few words. He was particularly happy that we had defeated Decorah High School that season. They were a larger non-conference school that we wrestled every year. We hadn't beaten them in 17 years, but we beat them that season. He spoke about how demanding the sport of wrestling can be for an athlete. He said we had over 30 guys on the team the season. He mentioned that we had so much talent on the team that a lot of guys who would probably have wrestled varsity at other schools had to wrestle JV. Fortunately, these guys loved wrestling enough to stay on the team even if they didn't get to wrestle varsity.

Some of our team's accomplishments that season included:

• Conference Champions

• Sectional Champions

• Only one dual meet loss

• Qualified three wrestlers for the state tournament

• Two wrestlers placed 2nd in the state tournament

• Defeated Decorah High School for the first time in 17 years

After the wrestlers were gathered up front, the presenters asked if anyone wanted to say anything. It looked as though no one was going to talk so I asked if I could say something. I approached the podium and said something like this:

"I started wrestling in 5th grade. I didn't find success right away but I knew deep down that if I stuck with it I would get better. I wasn't a pee wee champion. But, by the time I got to high school I was beating guys who had beaten me back in my pee wee days. I have many good memories of wrestling and a lot of that has to do with Coach Bucknell. He was a great coach. My mom and dad were always there supporting me. And, my older sister was there cheering me on. It's nice to be back in this area. I know I don't get home as often as I should. But, I just want to say that I will always be a Pirate in my heart."

I wasn't really prepared to give a speech. If I had prepared I would have said something like this:

"When I was growing up on our farm, my dad stored his high school letter jacket in the closet in my bedroom. I used to try it on sometimes and admire the medals sewn onto his letter. I didn't know much about my dad's wrestling career except that he had been a good wrestler. And, from a young age I knew that I wanted to be a wrestler some day. I started wrestling in 5th grade. I didn't find success right away but I knew deep down that if I stuck with it I would get better. I did improve but unfortunately I always seemed to wrestle the eventual champion in the first round. I had to settle for a green 5th place ribbon. I really wanted to win a trophy or a medal. I didn't really care if it was for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place as long as I got a trophy or a medal. Of course, ideally I wanted to win 1st place. I wanted to get the bracket sheet showing everyone in my bracket and the opponents I had defeated. But, I never was a pee wee champion.

In seventh grade, I started wrestling for the school team and my wrestling really improved. My coach in 7th grade was Don Luck and my 8th coach and high school coach was Mr. Bucknell. By the time I got to high school, I was beating guys who had beaten me back in my pee wee days.

I have many good memories of wrestling and a lot of that has to do with Coach Bucknell. He was a great coach. He would give me positive feedback when I did a move well. I remember him shaking my hand before each match. I remember him squirming in his chair while watching his team wrestle as though he were out there wrestling himself.

The wrestling team from 1984-85 was very special. I remember Randy Lenth wrestling with one arm in a sling. He was my idol. Brad Porterfield was always fun to watch wrestle as well. We really had a lot of talent on the team that season. Even though I didn't qualify for the state tournament my self I was very proud when we had two wrestler place second in the tournament in DesMoines.

My mom and dad were always there supporting me. And, my older sister was there cheering me on. My younger sister was there to cheer me ontoo even though I don't think wrestling was that fun for her to watch. It's nice to be back in this area. I know I don't get home as often as I should. But, I just want to say that I will always be a Pirate in my heart."

After I gave my little speech a couple of other wrestlers stepped forward and said a few words. Kevin, the heavyweight from that season talked about getting thrown around his freshamn year and about how the win over Decorah came down to his match. Randy Lenth said that Bucknell had taken a lump of coal (Randy) and turned it into a diamond.

Lastly, our assistant coach from that season said a few words. It had been Virgil's first coaching job that season. He said he was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such a talented team and to have a great mentor like Coach Bucknell.

Overall, the evening was very enjoyable. It was great to be home in Pirate territory again. I think we were all reminded of the importance that athletics, family, and community play in our lives. And, I meant it when I said that I would always be a Pirate in my heart.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Three Wrestling Musketeers

A few of my high school wrestling teammates were also my neighbors. We all grew up near a little town called Frankville. Three of them were close friends kind of like The Three Musketeers. I will refer to them as Randy #1, Randy #2, and Eugene. They were one year ahead of me in school. When I was a freshman, they would sometimes give me a ride home after wrestling practice.

Randy #1 is the most memorable of the three. He was blond, athletic, and a bit cocky. He drove a Monte Carlo that I loved. He let me drive it once. He was popular and a good all around athlete. He excelled most at football and wrestling.

Randy injured his shoulder during his senior season of football. He didn't get it operated on, however, because that would have meant missing wrestling season. So, he wrestled that season with his arm in some kind of sling that allowed him limited mobility of the arm. He had a great season despite his shoulder and placed second in the state tournament at 155 pounds.

On one occasion after losing a match I should have won, I met Randy in the hallway. He didn't give me the standard line of, "Nice try," or "Good match." He knew I was hurting. He simply said, "That was a tough one, bud." He knew enough not to try to cheer me up. Randy was a cool guy.

I seem to remember a story about Randy wrestling near the edge of the mat once during a meet and talking to the cheerleaders nearby at the same time. Perhaps Randy just made that story up himself, but I could imagine him doing it.

Randy # 2 was also popular and a good athlete. He had brown hair and a very solid build. I went along with him and another wrestler to wrestling camp one summer. I believe he drove a Pontiac Fiero in high school. Actually, I think he just worked on it a lot and finally drove it for the fist time to his senior prom. He was a good wrestler at 138 pounds. He had the misfortune of having the two top ranked wrestlers in the state in his bracket at the district tournament. If our team had wrestled in a different district, he certainly might have qualified for the state tournament.

Eugene was not as athletically gifted as Randy #1 and Randy # 2 and probably wasn't found attractive by as many of the girls and yet he was very popular. He was Homecoming King during his senior year. He was good at conversation and giving speeches. Eugene was on the wrestling team all through high school even though he didn't get to wrestle many varsity matches. I admire that about him. He liked wrestling enough and was dedicated enough that he stuck with it. I seem to recall Eugene wrestling a varsity match in which he wrestled up about three weight classes. I think he wrestled at 185 one night for some reason. He went out, wrestled like a wild man, and actually won the match.

I was at Eugene's house once for some reason and he was looking in the glove box of his car. When he opened his glove box, I saw a huge box of condoms. I was shocked. I couldn't imagine any high school guy having that much sex. But, he did have a steady girlfriend at the time. I was accustomed to guys carrying one condom in their wallet, but this was something else entirely.

I went along with The Three Musketeers on a couple of occasions when they went to a motel that had a sauna and a hot tub. We would go there to try to sweat off some water weight the night before a competition weigh in.

One evening as we were leaving the motel, I think Randy #1 saw a poster on the wall of the entryway near the door and thought we should take it. So, the poster was quickly taken down and off we went. I don't remember what was on the poster. Randy #1 had a bit of a wild streak to be sure.

The Three Musketeers were all farm boys or had done farm work on occasion. So, if you want to build some functional strength for wrestling you might want to consider throwing around a few hay bales and carrying a few pails of corn. It worked these strapping lads. They were doing Dinosaur training or strongman training you might say.

The Three Musketeers all went on to be successful members of society. I won't forget them. They a were and are three great guys.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How to Condition for Wrestling

By Steve Preston

"One of the most effective ways for wrestlers to get into great shape for the season is through Metabolic Conditioning".

Metabolic Conditioning is getting both the aerobic system and the anaerobic system in shape. It is done by creating a workout to condition both systems. When you get into great Metabolic shape, you will be strong and energetic on the mat. It is done in the off-season... in an effort to arrive at practice the first day in great shape.

Here are a few tips to improve your Metabolic Conditioning:

---------- 1. Give Yourself 12-16 Weeks ----------

12-16 weeks is the amount of time required to get into great Metabolic Condition. This is accomplished by starting at the beginning of the summer and working on it the entire summer. This will get you into tip-top condition for the upcoming season.

---------- 2. Begin By Jogging One Day Per Week ----------

Jogging really doesn't serve much of a purpose for high-performance wrestling. Jogging doesn't meet the anaerobic (without oxygen) needs of a wrestler. But... getting into 'aerobic' condition is a great way to get into the best 'anaerobic' condition for wrestling. The aerobic conditioning lays the groundwork for reaching a higher-level of anaerobic conditioning. Therefore, we have wrestlers do one day per week of jogging at the beginning of their Metabolic Conditioning Program. This will be maintained throughout the entire program. Just don't use jogging by itself to cut weight or for 'getting into shape'. It is merely a tool for improving your anaerobic condition.

---------- 3. Add Interval Sprinting ----------

Interval sprinting is basically sprinting fast for a pre-determined distance, followed by a walk or slow pace for a pre-determined distance to let the heart rate slow down. If you think about it, it really does mimic the activity on the wrestling mat. You are constantly going all-out, followed by short rest periods. Adding interval sprints will get you into anaerobic condition fast!

---------- 4. Add High-Intensity Sprinting ----------

One day per week, we have wrestlers do nothing but sprints. This differs from Interval Sprinting where the wrestler is doing sprints, followed by slow periods to allow the heart rate to come down before sprinting again. High-Intensity Sprint Workouts are done by sprinting for a predetermined distance. When completed, you rest until your heart rate is normal before sprinting again. This is done for distances from 10 meters up to 150 meters. We are not trying to get the wrestler tired by doing these. We are concentrating on short, powerful bursts of speed.

---------- 5. HIT Circuits ----------

I'm a huge believer in the value of High Intensity Training (HIT) for wrestlers. It is strength training that requires brief, intense, infrequent workouts. Each set is taken to momentary muscular failure ie. the point at which you can no longer perform another perfect repetition. A HIT circuit for wrestlers is done by completing the exercises for the workout in HIT fashion, with minimal rest between exercises.

It is brutal, yet effective. In fact, it can be just as effective or MORE effective than any running program when trying to get into wrestling condition.

Steve Preston is a nationally-recognized strength and conditioning coach for wrestlers. For your FREE copy of his '63 Strength, Conditioning and Nutrition Tips for Wrestlers' e-book go to:

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