We get this question from wrestlers, parents and coaches constantly. Wrestling anxiety can be a significant hurdle for many wrestlers, hindering their performance and enjoyment of the sport. Whether it’s pre-match jitters, fear of failure, or performance pressure, wrestling anxiety can undermine confidence and hinder optimal performance. However, by understanding the nature of wrestling anxiety and implementing effective strategies, wrestlers can overcome these challenges and perform their best on the mat. In this blog, we will explore practical techniques and tips to help wrestlers overcome wrestling anxiety and unlock their full potential.

  1. Understand the Source of Anxiety:

The first step in overcoming wrestling anxiety is to identify the source of anxiety. Everyone is different but there are many patterns we have identified. It usually stems from fear of losing or looking bad, pressure from coaches or parents, fear of injury, or performance expectations. Once these factors are identified you can develop a plan to overcome them.

  1. Develop a Pre-Match Routine:

Establishing a pre-match routine can help wrestlers manage anxiety and create a sense of familiarity and control. A good pre-match routine quiets the mind and prepares a wrestler physically for the demands of a wrestling match. The routine should include deep breathing, dynamic stretching, positive self-talk, hands on drilling, and something to remind the wrestler to have fun and enjoy competition. Consistently following a pre-match routine can help calm nerves and enhance focus before stepping onto the mat.

  1. Work with a Mindset Coach:

Although there are many similarities and patterns in wrestlers who deal with excessive nerves, each wrestler is unique in their struggles, strengths and weaknesses. Working one-on-one with a mindset coach, sport psychologist or performance expert is the quickest way for a wrestler to overcome wrestling anxiety and compete at their potential. A well-trained mindset coach can provide strategies to reduce nerves, build confidence and mental resilience. Wrestling Mindset is wrestling’s leading authority on mental performance.

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  1. Make Matches More Similar to Practice and Vice Versa:

Many parents come to us telling us about their kid being a “practice room wrestler.” In other words, they wrestle better in practices than matches. Usually what we find is causing the lack of consistency is the fact that the wrestler is talking to themselves very differently before live wrestling in practice versus in a real match. In practice the wrestler wants to win, but isn’t afraid of losing or underperforming. Typically, athletes are focusing on wrestling hard and looking to score points. Wrestlers often benefit from making matches more similar to practice, by keeping their self-talk consistent, drilling right before matches, and focusing on being giving a full effort/being aggressive rather than winning. Wrestlers also often benefit from making practice more like a match, by wearing their headgear and singlet to practice, having a coach or teammate ref their match and visualizing that they are wrestling in front of a bigger crowd.

  1. Reframe Negative Thoughts:

Negative thoughts and self-doubt often contribute to wrestling anxiety. Wrestlers can learn to challenge and reframe these negative thoughts into more positive and constructive ones. Developing a plan to combat negative thoughts can be very effective. For example, I heard a story about how Cael Sanderson would deal with negative thoughts. Any time, he had a negative thought before a match (i.e. this guy is too strong, maybe I’m not ready, what if I lose) he would respond in his head “Nope, I’m ready now.” Simple but effective. Everyone will have negative thoughts before matches but having a plan to reframe these thoughts can be very effective.

  1. Focus on the Process rather than the Outcome:

Focusing too much on winning and losing is often a surefire way to increase wrestling anxiety and increase performance pressure. It is best to focus on the things a wrestler can control versus things they cannot control. Wrestlers cannot control the outcome, wins or losses. Otherwise, every wrestler would be undefeated with all pins or tech falls. To reduce anxiety, it is usually helpful to focus on effort, attitude and aggressiveness. Focus on giving a full effort, every second of every match. Maintain a positive attitude and composure, winning or losing. Be aggressive and look to score points in all positions; top, bottom, neutral, offensively and defensively.

Wrestling anxiety is a common challenge for many wrestlers, but it doesn’t have to hinder performance and enjoyment of the sport. It’s important to remember that managing anxiety is an ongoing process that requires practice and patience. With dedication and the right strategies, wrestlers can conquer their anxiety, boost their confidence, and perform at their best on the mat.

Learn how Wrestling Mindset can help you overcome wrestling anxiety and compete at your potential.