The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die. – Steve Prefontaine
There is something to be said about the athlete with an unrelenting pressure. When talking about pace, the conversation tends to shift toward more physical properties, like cardio. However, establishing a high pace can be described as a mental disposition and can even be described as a dare. You are daring someone to try to match your pace, and if they can’t, they’re in for a long match. Setting a high pace is also a mental agreement with yourself that you are going to continually push until the other person quits. This sort of aggression could be seen in this past weekend’s match with David Taylor and Nick Reenan.
For those familiar with David Taylor’s previous matches, this style of wrestling is common for Taylor. He is constantly attacking, and for the person he is wrestling, it is clearly overwhelming. Taylor is unique in the fact that he is constantly working towards scoring. He never stops to reset. He is constantly working to set up his takedowns and his turns, and the other person just has to focus on defending.
However, it is important to note that setting a pace is not dependent on whether you are winning or losing. It is easy to be constantly attacking while you are winning, but getting scored on can cause to get overly defensive and stop working your offense. Nick Reenan scored early in the first match with Taylor, but that did not prevent Taylor from dictating the pace and working his offense. As soon as they were set back to neutral, Taylor was right in Reenan’s face and setting up his takedowns. He went on to win over Nick Reenan in both matches by technical fall in the first period. This corresponds with a key mental principle. Constantly be looking to work your offense rather than worrying about your opponents. Set a pace, and dare your opponent to try to match it.
I keep the white-belt mentality that I can learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime
– Georges St-Pierre
There is an important principle in training known as white-belt mentality. The white belt is the lowest rank for martial artists and represents a time where someone is among the least knowledgeable martial artists in the room. A white belt is essentially a novice. Being the least experienced or least knowledgeable person in the room is a humbling experience, and those looking to improve past that point will likely seek knowledge from everybody. A major part of being a white belt includes the fact that everybody has knowledge and experience to offer. However, along the line, people tend to lose that mentality. As someone gets better at something, it can be easier to allow his or her pride to keep him or her from seeking other people’s advice.
Two of the headlining match ups from this past weekend’s Final X event in Lincoln, Nebraska involved Daton Fix and Jordan Burroughs. In a video posted by Flo wrestling, Jordan Burroughs was getting Daton Fix to show him how Fix hits his trap arm gut wrench. Burroughs is a four-time world champion along with being an Olympic gold medalist. If anyone would have the kind of resume to avoid the counsel of other wrestlers, it would be Jordan Burroughs. But, part of what allows him to constantly improve despite an immense amount of success is his willingness to surround himself with talented wrestlers, like Daton Fix, that are able to teach him new techniques.
The important thing to note about the white-belt mentality is that the mentality is not conditional to your level of experience. The mentality should remain the same despite your degree of knowledge. Everyone has a unique approach to things as well as unique experiences that allows them to have a unique body of knowledge that they can share with others. The fact is, if you aren’t learning new things, you’re going to remain stagnant. If you are only seeking knowledge from a select group of people, then you are severely limiting the amount of knowledge that you can gain. Approach your craft with the mentality of someone with a white-belt. Everybody has something they can teach you!
American soccer star and standout, Abby Wambach, recently delivered the commencement speech to the graduating class at Barnard college, and gave a simple instruction to those in attendance: fail. Failure is something that is never truly appreciated in our society. In fact, it is condemned. In Patton’s famous speech to his fifth army, he assured his troops that America was going to win the war because Americans love winners. People always will favor the champions and those who succeed. Our society glorifies success and belittles failure, so it is understandable that people, especially athletes, choose to stay within their comfort zones, to stay in local tournaments that he or she is guaranteed to win, or never take a chance when it counts. However, refusing to fail guarantees mediocrity.
The problem with failure is a total misconception of what a failure is and its implications in a person’s life. Nobody likes to lose, but when someone fails, they often get too caught up in the present. A loss is something that is painful in the present, and that is why it is the source of fear. People are simply afraid of feeling that pain that accompanies a loss. While the sting of failure is likely unavoidable, it can serve as a source of motivation, purpose, and self-knowledge for one’s future if one chooses to change the way that he or she views failure. After failing thousands of times in pursuit of inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The difference is perception. You cannot view failure solely as a source of pain that should be avoided at all costs; failure must be seen as an opportunity for future growth.
If you were guaranteed from birth to be the greatest of all time at a given sport or craft, then why would you ever spend any time working on that given sport or craft? Losses and mistakes only bring your shortcomings to light and serve as a platform for future growth. If you lose, don’t get wrapped up in the loss; use it as a source for growth. Someone on top of the mountain has no reason to keep climbing, and you should always be more scared of the hungry lion rather than one that just ate. Failure is not pain; failure is a platform for growth. Push yourself until you fail. Then keep going!
I dislike defensive wrestling. I have always been a fan of wrestlers who attack no matter what the score of the match is.
US Open runner up, Nashon Garrett, is a great example of the kind of wrestler that I like to watch. He is fast, explosive and constantly attacking. He scored a total of 31 points in just his last two matches at the Open! That’s crazy!
Then on the other side of the bracket there was Joe Colon. I am embarrassed to say, I haven’t watched him wrestle much before going back and watching this year’s US Open. Joe Colon won the whole tournament with most of his scoring coming off of other peoples’ shots!
This is the exact style of wrestling that I dislike!
But as I watched Colon more, I realized that he doesn’t give a rip what I think about his wrestling style. Or what anyone else thinks for that matter. He wrestles the way he wrestles because it works for him. And Nashon wrestlers the way he wrestles because it works for him. And both guys score a ton of points! 110 points combined in the tournament to be exact. (56 for Nashon and 54 for Colon)
Here are a few things we can learn from these two very different, but both absolute studs of competitors at this year’s US Open.
1. Stick to What You Do Best
Throughout the entire tournament, both of these wrestlers were in some incredibly competitive matches against some of the best wrestlers in the country (and the world, for that matter). But despite being down in matches on various occasions, they both continued to wrestle their style. Colon kept scoring with his chest wrap defense and Nashon with his double leg takedown.
When I say this, it feels like I am stating the obvious. But, the reality is, when most people give up a big move or get down in a match, they abandon their game plan. They let the score affect their wrestling. As a coach I see it all the time. A wrestler might get thrown in the first period and the rest of the match they are trying to hit moves they NEVER hit to try and get back into the match. They stop trusting in their training and what they know they are good at, just because they are losing. Instead, they should be even more committed to their game plan, because they know it works.
A great example of this was when Colon was down 10-4 to Garrett in the first period, but instead of panicking and doing stuff he wasn’t good at, he waiting for Nashon to shoot a double and scored 4 points off a headlock as he they were going out of bounds.
And even though it didn’t work out for him, that same situation was also an example of how Nashon kept attacking with his double. A lot of wrestlers would have been content to play it safe and be defensive the rest of the match. But not Nashon. He continued to do what he does, which is attack no matter what the score is.
2. Don’t Worry About How The Match is Called
If there is one thing we know about freestyle, it’s that we don’t really know anything about freestyle...
Sometimes the same situation could be 4 for one guy or 4 for the other guy depending on the ref.
When Joe Colon was down 5-4, with just over a minute left in the first period and got tripped on the edge and the ref originally called 2 for Nashon. Then his coaches challenged and instead of 2 Nashon they changed it to 4 for Nashon plus 1 for losing the challenge!
So now Colon was down 10-4 instead of 7-4. But instead of getting flustered and throwing up his arms like a lot of guys do, Joe Colon just kept on wrestling. He looked like he didn’t even care. He was clearly confident in his ability to get back in the match no matter what the ref called.
These kind of situations happen all the time, and sometimes it does make a difference in the match. But the bottom line is, you can’t control what the call on the mat is. You can only control your effort and your attitude in the match. Everything else you worry about is just wasted energy.
So no matter what the score is or what the ref calls, the best way to give yourself the best possible chance of winning is to just keep wrestling and let the score take care of itself.
3. Sometimes The Outcome of The Match has Nothing to do With How You Wrestled
We’ve all probably heard the quote from former Cowboys Coach, Bill Parcells - “You are what your record says you are”.
While this is true in many respects, I think people have gotten carried away with this way of thinking. Especially in sports.
If you win, you are a winner. If you lose, you are a loser.
However, when I watch Nashon Garrett’s loss to Joe Colon in the US Open finals, I don’t see a “loser”. I see one heck of a wrestler wrestling his butt off and coming up short on the scoreboard. Even when he gave up big points he was close to scoring big points of his own.
As a fan of the sport, I would much rather watch high scoring, attack style wrestling than guys stalling and trying to hold onto a lead. And that is what Nashon gave us all tournament long.
As a coach I have learned to ask my guys how they wrestled after a match. Sometimes they will answer, “Well, I won 8-2” or “I lost 5-3”. So I correct them and say “I didn’t ask what the score was, I want to know how you wrestled”. Did you get off bottom? Did you continue to attack the whole match? Did you stick to what you do best? Did you get frustrated or stay focused?
These are the questions that coaches need to ask. Too often, the way that we respond to our wrestlers after a match has WAY more to do with what the outcome of the match then HOW they wrestled. We get so caught up in winning that let it affect how we treat our wrestlers.
I could go on this rant for a while, so I’ll try to wrap it up now. But the gist of it is this: We equate winning with wrestling well, and losing with wrestling poorly. And a lot of times there is no correlation at all. Outcomes are just that - outcomes. Nothing more nothing less.
1.) Know your PURPOSE:
Unfortunately, many of today’s wrestlers are participating in the sport to satisfy others. It is absolutely essential for all wrestlers to completely understand that they are in wrestling because they want to be and that they truly love the sport for reasons other than just winning. Kyle Snyder stated that “Winning isn’t guaranteed because if it was I would only have gold medals.” Therefore, it is absolutely essential to emphasize focusing on the process and performance measures in order to maximize the overall enjoyment and retention rate of your wrestlers. Encourage your wrestlers to participate in the sport by finding enjoyment in their progression, performance measures, building friendships and simply having fun. When your wrestlers participate because they want to be there and they are enjoying it you will automatically see much greater results on and off of the mat.
It is important for wrestlers to understand that the positions they struggled with most this past season are most likely going to be the positions they struggle with next season if they don’t spend time training them. A common misconception from most wrestlers is that they need to be great at so many different moves. The reality is that in order to be successful you must have and know your power offense. The power offense is comprised of your best 2-3 moves in neutral, top and bottom. Some of the best wrestlers in our country have had tremendous success at the highest levels of competition with this strategy. Jordan Burroughs has taken down hundreds of opponents with his double leg, Cael Sanderson’s ankle pick, John Smith’s low single and the list goes on and on. Bruce Lee once stated that “I don’t fear the man who knows 10,000 different kicks, I fear the man who has performed one kick 10,000 different times.” The ultimate goal is to master your best moves not to develop perfection in a wide variety of techniques.
3.) Strength & Conditioning:
Strength and Conditioning is absolutely essential to any wrestler’s overall development. However, it is not the most important aspect in the overall development or measure of performance during competition. It is important to remember that it is a wrestling match when the whistle blows, not a powerlifting or bodybuilding competition. Reach out to a certified strength and conditioning coach in your area to assist you in developing a plan specifically focused to improve your wrestler’s performance in the most common positions on the mat. It’s not about how much time we spend training in the summer. It’s about how we are spending our time training.
Running, biking, swimming, etc. are great ways to boost overall conditioning by incorporating various cross training methods. However, once again the best form of conditioning for wrestling is simply wrestling. Encourage your wrestlers to attend weekly open mats, wrestling clubs, tournaments, camps, clinics, etc. as this will offer them the most specific form of training to increase their overall conditioning for wrestling.
Many wrestlers make the mistake of consuming unhealthy foods throughout the summer months because they aren’t competing as often as the regular season. It is important to understand that a wrestler’s performance while training is directly dependent on the energy that the body has to offer. Treat your body as if it were your dream car and put the highest quality gasoline in it to enable peak performance and quality training. Dave Schultz once stated that he would always train at 90-95% of his competition weight 365 days a year. If wrestlers maintain healthy eating habits throughout the entire year then they can stay focused on only becoming a better wrestler when the regular season approaches and not on cutting weight when November arrives.
Wrestler Nutrition is a great resource to offer your wrestlers when helping them develop healthy food choices during all periods throughout the year.
As you may have guessed it and last but definitely not least is the importance of training your mind during the summer months. Most wrestlers, coaches and parents agree that wrestling is 80-90% mental. However, most choose not to train their mind at all and just spend their time developing their strength and technique during the summer months. If your wrestlers struggled with one of the most common Mindset Red Flags this past season, they are most likely going to experience the same difficulties this next season. This process symbolizes the definition of insanity, which is doing something over and over again and expecting different results. Wrestling Mindset is the only proven wrestling specific systematic training system designed to train the brain and achieve the wrestler’s best version of themselves in wrestling, school and life. We often refer to Wrestling Mindset as strength training for the brain. If you want to get stronger you simply get in the weight room and perform the specific exercises and repetitions. The brain works in very similar ways. So if your wrestler’s mindset is the number one component holding them back from competing at their maximum potential then it is essential to perform specific mental repetitions in order to overcome this common performance barrier.
Are your wrestlers currently experiencing any of the most common Mindset Red Flags?
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