I will start by saying- They all can be beat. It’s not an opinion it’s a fact. Let’s start from that premise. No one is unbeatable, no one is without flaws.

If you don’t believe this, you are not one of the people who will pull off a huge upset. I really believe that what prevents more BIG time upsets from happening is the Mindset of a wrestler not their Physical ability. There are a plethora of Mental Barriers you must overcome to beat a guy like Logan Steiber. (I am in no way putting down Logan Steiber because he is a guy who has pulled off plenty of these upsets, beating senior level guys while still in HS, as well as a win over #1 ranked Opan Sat a few months back).

How did Zain Retherford beat him them?

I will never discount the importance of physical preparedness. He is a solid wrestler with great technique, strength, and conditioning. In fact, I spoke with his strength coach at Penn State while attending the PA Coaches Convention and he said that Zain is an absolute beast and works his tail off. This dogged work ethic is absolutely necessary but there has to be more or we would see many more upsets.

Here are 3 of the mental constructs necessary to pull off big upsets:

CONFIDENCE- To pull off a big upset you need to be confident that you can and will beat your “unbeatable” opponent. Easier said that done against a Logan Steiber! To truly be confident that you will get your hand raised against a wrestler of that caliber you likely need to do active work on your Mindset in order to build a higher level of Confidence. So few wrestlers actively work their Mindset to improve confidence. Thus, these upsets are seen very infrequently. Perhaps, Zain Retherford was the only one in the gym to believe he was going to win. One person is enough, as long as you truly believe it. Rest assure- Zain planned on winning that match.

CALM/RELAXED-  In Cael’s interview after the match he said that great wrestlers are Calm, Relaxed, and Confident. Often times in “BIG” matches, wrestlers will get overly fired up, emotional, or will change their approach. The wrestlers who pull off these upsets remain calm and level in their approach to these matches. They don’t make these matches “special”. When we make a competition special, we tend to add more pressure and perform poorly (refer to Gene’s thesis on anxiety & perfectionism for more info). In Zain’s interview, he talks about staying calm even in the third period with an upset looming. An overanxious wrestler or a wrestler who freezes up in the situation, will not pull off the big upset.

FOCUS- It is imperative to focus on the right things to pull off a big upset. Most people go wrong at this point. When most wrestlers compete against a highly ranked opponent they shift their focus onto what their opponent does. Probably all of us were guilty of that at some point. Its easy to get caught up in Logan Steiber’s bar series or David Taylor’s ankle pick and cradles. Zain said it best in his interview (if you haven’t watched it check it out now) after the match. You need to be AWARE of what your opponent does, but still focus on your own attacks. Everyone has tendencies, but you cannot become overwhelmed with your opponent’s technique. Wrestlers who pull off big upsets are able to focus on their technique and strategy despite wrestling a dominant opponent.

Key Takeaways:

No one is unbeatable!
Physical preparedness is a prerequisite for the big upset.
Lack of Mental Training prevents many big upsets.
Confidence, Relaxing Under Pressure, & Focus are necessary mental tools for upsets.

Jeff Zannetti