The biggest Mindset mistake I saw this weekend while attending the Beast of the East was that guys were shutting down their Offense way too early.
The wrestlers who I watched make this mistake were not out of shape, they were controlling the pace of the match; however with one or two point leads going into the third period they shut down their Offense. Not surprisingly they were taken down or hit with stalling and lost. This is not a physical or technical problem, it is completely Mindset related.
In a 6 minute match, 4 minutes in is way too early to switch to Defense mode. With 1/3 of the match left, it is simply unacceptable to stop focusing on scoring points. This goes back to one of our Top 10 Biggest Mental Mistakes- Wrestling not to Lose. It is imperative to Focus on Scoring Points/Winning Positions rather than winning the match.
The wrestlers who focused on scoring more points, regardless of the score were the most successful. Nick Suriano and Johnny Sebastian of Bergen Catholic were on the constant attack scoring double digit points in most matches. David Taylor, St. John, Tony Ramos, and most of the Penn State team kept scoring points in the third period despite holding leads. This is the Mindset you need to be the very best and ultimately WIN. At some point wrestling NOT to Lose will cost you.
I am not a big statistics person. but we conducted the study on points needed to win, in order to get our wrestlers to Focus on scoring points instead of wins and losses. Score 2 points you have 58% chance of winning. If you score 5 points you have an 80% chance of winning. Put up 10 points and you have a 97% chance to win. Much better odds!
When you focus just on the win, you become complacent and stop scoring points later in the match once you hold a lead. This is a recipe for disaster. When you focus on scoring points and winning positions, the wins will come.
Tips for Wrestlers-
1. Keep scoring points in the 3rd period if you have a lead, always focus on your offense.
2. Don't leave it in the hands of the ref or your opponent.
3. Impose YOUR will on your opponent. Your Offense!
Tip for Coaches-
1. Recognize/applaud wrestlers who continue their offensive attacks after gaining leads.
2. Don't make it ALL about the Win. If a wrestler Wins a match but holds onto a lead for a considerable time, let them know that they wrestled NOT to lose and this is unacceptable.
3. Ditch the "A win is a win" Mentality. It will hurt them more than it helps them.
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.
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.
We recently conducted a statistical study on points scored in a wrestling match. Our aim was to find out what your percentage of winning is based on how many points you score. Our study analyzed 500 matches at the 2008 Midlands Championships.
Check out the numbers below (no surprises, the more points you score the greater your chances of winning):
Winning Percentage (based on how many points you score in that match)
10+ points: 97%
9 points: 85%
8 points: 85%
7 points: 71%
6 points: 65%
5 points: 51%
4 points: 46%
3 points: 33%
2 points: 10%
1 point: 2%
Lesson: Focus on scoring points instead of wins/losses! Don't just try to outscore your opponent, look to put up as many points as possible. The more points you score, the better your chances of winning.
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