What percent of wrestling would you say is mental?
I firmly believe that wrestling is at least 70% mental. Everyone out there has trained their bodies and gotten in the best shape possible. Everyone else knows almost the same exact technique. The mentality of the sport is the game-changer.
What is your Mental Edge or what sets your mindset apart from others?
My mental edge is that I am constantly trying to score points. Whether there’s 3 seconds left in the period, we are on the edge of the mat, or I’m up by 8 points, I always try to get another takedown.
How do you mentally approach the sport? Is there anything specific you do- pre match routine, writing anything down, pre plan how you'll handle pressure, visualization, etc?
I visualize my matches in practice. I pretend I am in the NCAA semifinals, or some other huge tournament coming up. The more I practiced that environment, the easier it was when it was a reality. Also, before matches I would like to hear the crowd all around me during the matches before me so I could soak up that environment.
What mentally prepared you most/ improved your confidence/ relaxed you?
I always liked to watch videos of a very successful match of mine before my competitions. Watching myself flow well, execute, and have my timing perfect allowed me to raise my confidence to that peak level.
Which coaches/ people influenced your mindset most? Why?
One of my old roommates and former VT All-American Peter Yates influenced my mindset the most. He always knew how to relax and treat wrestling like what it was—a sport, a game. He made me remember that it was just me trying to score takedowns on another guy, with nothing but us two out there. He was so good at relaxing mentally, and he passed that down to me.
What mental mistakes did you make early in your career? What would you do differently?
Earlier in my career, I was too complacent. When I was younger wrestling older guys, I was somewhat happy to just keep matches close with them. Therefore, I didn’t pull the trigger as much, and didn’t necessarily try to take the match from them. If I could go back and talk to freshman Devin Carter, I would tell him that he’s better than those guys he was taking a back seat to.
What mental mistakes are most common even at the highest level?
One of the most common mental mistakes, especially at the college level, is thinking that college wrestlers are so good that all the matches are going to be close, so winning by a point is sufficient. This is what stops guys from going out and putting a bunch of points on the board—they think it is the standard. It’s wrestling, you’re supposed to go out and outscore your opponent by as much as possible. And if you go out there trying to do that, and win by a point, then you can be satisfied that you laid it all out there.
What are your favorite motivational quotes, movies, songs, etc?
“You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” –Wayne Gretzky
“Takedowns win matches.” –My father
What are your key philosophies for consistently high performance?
1. Routine is key. Don’t put any adversity on your body or mind if you don’t have to. Find what works and stick to it.
2. Open up. You are only going to be out there for 7 (or 6) minutes. You won’t regret being aggressive and forcing offense. You WILL regret taking a loss while not attacking.
3. Never slow down. Both individual wins and losses may slow down your training, your motivation, or your momentum. Shake off the results, and focus on the process towards the next results. (short-term memory)
What other wrestlers have a great mindset and why?
Jordan Burroughs, Alex Dieringer, Isaiah Martinez. Yes, they’re all highly skilled and a step above the rest, but their mindset makes them dominate, never winning by a point.
I was a Redshirt Junior in college (UPenn) wrestling at 174 lbs. Our team wrestled Hofstra and I was wrestling the #2 ranked wrestler in the country at the time.
Things I was thinking before the match:
- My opponent was ranked #2 in the NCAA.
- He won the Southern Scuffle a few weeks before
- He beat my teammate the year before who was an All American
- He is very fast and very strong
I started the match very hesitantly, which was very uncharacteristic of me. Soon after I gave up the only takedown of the match. After the takedown, I opened up and wrestled more like myself being much more aggressive. It was too late. I lost 4-3 to a great wrestler who I "could have" beat.
1. Think about your strengths and advantages before the match. The more you think about your opponent the greater the chance you wrestle too hesitant and conservative. You need to learn strategies to make sure you are concentrating on yourself before the match and not on your opponent (his record, ranking, past wins, titles, etc.).
2. Confidence needs constant maintenance and reinforcement. It can come and go if it is not a part of your regular training. Bad practices and past losses could leave you zapped of confidence before you step on the mat at the worst possible moments. Like you drill your best takedown you need to take DAILY steps to improve confidence.
I was an undersized 103 lber my sophomore year weighing a whopping 98 lbs. I was 15 years old never before entering the New Jersey state tournament, even the kids state tournament. These were my initial thoughts going into the tournament. Suffice it to say, I did not have the ideal mindset to start with.
Then after winning the regions the state brackets were released.
I was set to face an undefeated wrestler who had pinned me in the past (although it was over a year ago). In my mind all I thought about was- the kid is strong, aggressive, undefeated and seeded higher than me. I remember reading articles about him dominating his competition in the shore conference. In other words, I made my opponent into a monster.
During the match with "the monster" I wrestled tentatively (not my style) and was taken down immediately to my back. He racked up a ton of early points. As the match progressed I began to "just wrestle" instead of wrestling my opponents name and past successes. I fought back scoring 6 points late in the match. It was too little too late. I vividly remember thinking during the match "I could of beat this kid if I didn't give him so much respect."
(1) Stop thinking about your negatives and start focusing on your positives. I focused too much on being small for the weight and being young for my grade. It would have benefited me to think about the positives of my situation- I didn't have to cut any weight, I was quicker, and better conditioned).
(2) Focus on what YOU do well not on what your opponent does well. I focused on my opponent being strong, aggressive, and all of his accolades. Focus instead on your strengths. I was aggressive too and very technical but I was too busy focusing on my opponent to use that to my advantage.
(3) Never wrestle a name or ranking. The higher ranked wrestler doesn't get spotted points and can't bring his medals on the mat with him. When I started to "just wrestle" I gave myself the best chance to compete well.
(4) Never give an opponent too much respect. I directly violated Mental Mistake #4 (www.wrestlingmindset.com/blog--news/top-10-mental-mistakes-wrestlers-make-corrections). No one is unbeatable! Always begin with the premise that the guy across from you can and will be beaten.
After I lost in the state finals as a senior it was a bitter 4 months. I always thought that winning a state title would change my life. What I didn't realize at the time is that wrestling already changed my life.
One message I wish I could get across to every wrestler is that one match or one tournament does NOT define you as a person. It's tough to see the big picture when you are still painting. What really defines you is the choices you make on a daily basis, the lifestyle you live, and the way you train and compete.
If you live the right lifestyle, make good choices, train and compete with a full a effort and positive attitude you have changed your life for the better regardless of outcome.
Don't mistake what I am about or what our program is about. We ARE about winning. Our program is about giving you the best chance to win on and off the mat. The win however is not what defines you as a person. Winning a state, national, or Olympic title will never change you as much as the way you play the game, the way you train and way you live your life.
One of the best interviews I have ever seen is on this topic by the great J Robinson (This Sport Changes You- http://www.flowrestling.org/coverage/240483-Cliff-Keen-Classic-Coaches/video/620373-JRob-This-Sport-Changes-You)
He talks about how the sport changes you regardless of whether or not you achieve your ultimate goals on the mat. The TRAINING makes you who you are. You gain skills and learn valuable lessons by making the right choices on the mat- Discipline, Dedication, Sacrifice, Hard Work, Responsibility and Accountability.
Looking back on my career I can honestly say that I learned these skills from wrestling. Whether I won or not, whether you win or lose wrestling changes you. When you live the right lifestyle and make the right choices you earn the right to succeed. Earning the right to succeed changes us. That does not guarantee that we achieve of our ultimate goals, but it is a perspective that I want every wrestler to have.
This perspective will help you wrestle more fearlessly and enjoy competing. It is key to your optimal wrestling mindset.
One match or competition does not define you. The things you do on a daily basis to get there will!
Wrestling Mindset (WM): You enter the NCAAs as the #13 seed, whats going on in your mind and how do you deal with that effectively?
Cody Brewer (CB): In my mind I’m just trying to focus on one match at a time and going out there and believing what I’m good at.
WM: What percent of the sport is mental is at this level?
CB: I think it is about 90% mental and 10 percent physical.
WM: What is your Mental Edge or what sets your mindset apart from others?
CB: Just deep down knowing that the preparation I did got me ready for each moment I face.
WM: How do you mentally approach the sport? Is there anything specific you do- pre match routine, writing anything down, pre plan how you'll handle pressure, visualization, etc?
CB: Before my match I just see my self out there winning and seeing the match the way I want it go. And pre match I sing to myself sometimes to calm myself down. The song is a white snake song here I go again.
WM: What mental mistakes did you make early in your career? What would you do differently?
CB: Just being afraid to lose and letting the pressure get to me to much. And what I have done different is now have fun with the sport to take off the pressure.
WM: What mental mistakes are most common even at the NCAA tournament?
CB: Just letting you getting to nervous and seeing other outside distractions.
WM: Do you have any favorite motivational quotes, movies, songs, etc?
CB: From the movie Lawless “It is not the violence that sets men apart, it is the distance that he is prepared to go.”
WM: What are your key philosophies for consistently high performance?
CB: Preparation. And having a positive mindset about everything no matter what happens.
WM: Which coaches/ people influenced your mindset most? Why?
CB: My coaches telling me to always keep my head in the game. Which means be focus and positive.
WM: What other wrestlers have a great mindset and why?
CB: I would say Andrew Howe one of our coaches he is in one of the toughest weight classes in the world and still trains hard and knows he can beat anyone in the country.
WM: What is your mindset going into next season?
CB: To just relax and have fun with the sport and it being my last year to give it everything I got.
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