As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend – Proverbs 27:17
Wrestling is a dichotomy. On one hand, it is an individual sport. This individuality is what draws many people to wrestling. Unlike sports such as basketball, football, or baseball, the errors of a teammate cannot cause you to lose a match, nor can the outstanding performances of a teammate cause you to win a match. In that sense, wrestling is individual, and to a degree, you can improve or hinder your likelihood of success with the effort that you put into training and preparation for matches or tournaments. However, when you look at programs that have consistent success, it is undeniable that wrestling has a team aspect of the sport that is vital to being able to perform and compete at the highest level.
First, while it is true that no one else is on the mat to help you, your success on the mat comes from the hours of preparation that you put in prior to the actual match. An important principle in mindset training is the concept of accountability. When you have teammates and solid drill partners that share a common goal, you will be able to go further and experience more success than you ever would on your own. It is so easy to compromise on any goals that have when you do not have someone holding you accountable for your actions. There are countless things that can come up in life that can distract you from being able to reach your goal. When you have teammates that share a common objective, those teammates will be able to push you even when you do not want to be pushed. Moreover, you will be able to push your teammates even when they don’t want to be pushed. As legendary entrepreneur Henry Ford stated, “if everyone is moving together, then success takes care of itself.”
Furthermore, there is undoubtedly a force of momentum that goes along with watching your teammates win. As a team, you are all working and striving towards the same objective. When you see your teammates win, you know the hard work and dedication that came together to make that win possible, and this sparks a sort of energy and momentum. It is evident especially in dual team matches. When a team starts to win a couple matches back to back, you can look at the bench and see an energy starting to accumulate as the entire team gets invested into the match. As one person wins it is as if the entire team wins. While it is true that there is definitely a large individual component to wrestling, there is an undeniable team aspect of the sport that is vital for success!
Wrestling is a sport that can quickly reveal any shortcomings that you may have.
If you are out of shape, your opponents will be able to easily set a pace that you cannot match. If you are sloppy, then your opponents will be able to work their counter offense with ease.
Unfortunately, if your abilities as a wrestler are not constantly improved upon, then those abilities will quickly decline. Just because you are in shape today does not mean that you will inherently be in shape a month from today. Think about the last time that you went into the room after having a long time off. You probably felt slow, stiff, and maybe even some of the wrestlers that you were able to beat easily were able to close the gap. What’s worse, it happens so quickly. You have to train consistently if you want to have lasting success. That is why you see Olympic champions continuing to train despite being the best in the world. They continue to work and improve because without continued training, they would not have continued success. There is always going to be someone who is working and training even if you are not.
However, what many people overlook is the fact that mental training has to be just as consistent as your physical training. When it comes to physical training, the evidence that you have been neglecting your conditioning, weight training, wrestling, etc. is much more readily apparent. Maybe your shots aren’t as consistent, you are not able to put up as much weight as you could during the season, or you’re even starting to not look as in shape as you once did. But, just because something is not as readily apparent does not mean that it is not there. Your mindset training has to be given the same level of importance as your physical training, because like your physical attributes, your mindset as a wrestler can lose its ability. While you once were confident, aggressive, and focused, you may now be slightly more timid and distracted. This change in your mindset could ultimately prevent you from accomplishing your goal. You would not take weeks, months, or even years off from training your physical abilities. Do not take, weeks, months or years off from training your wrestling mindset. Consistency is essential for your success as a wrestler.
A lot of my intensity in wrestling was due to mental preparation before the matches. I got myself into a different world. – Dan Gable
It is ironic that a tournament or match that is completely focused on wrestling could have so many distractions that have little or nothing to do with you actually wrestling. Think about it. You are there to wrestle, but there are so many outside factors competing for your attention that could distract you from preparing from your match. Maybe your parents are there, you have a test the next day, or you had a tough weight cut and just want to rehydrate. That is why it is crucial that you are able to get in a good warm-up prior to your matches. There are multiple benefits that come from establishing a good warm up routine:
Being physically ready to go: This is probably the most obvious benefit given through a good warm-up routine, but it is also one of the most important. Especially after travelling or having a hard weight cut, you can feel sluggish, slow, or stiff. It is important that you don’t feel that way going into your first match. Having a good warm up and pre-match routine can help to ensure that you are as physically ready as possible for your match.
Confidence: This falls in line with being physically ready to go for a match. If you go into that match feeling sluggish, stiff, or even overly bloated from rehydrating, it can cause you to feel unprepared to wrestle. Having a good warm-up and pre-match routine can help you to feel confident that you are ready to wrestle, and therefore more confident in your abilities.
Clarity: As we have discussed before, there are so many things that you could be focused on before a match that have nothing to do with wrestling. Warm-ups and pre-match routines give you the time you need to focus your attention on the match rather than any of the external factors competing for your attention.
Consistency: Each tournament is unique in its own way. Having a set pre-match routine and warm up allows you to have some sort of consistency in your tournaments and matches. This consistency can help ease some of the nerves that go along with competing.
Imagine, as a student, that one day you walk into class and find out that it is now your job to teach the class. It would be uncomfortable, right? However, provided you don’t quit going to that class altogether, it would progressively grow more normal to be teaching the class. This is an example of expanding your comfort zone. You took something that was familiar to you, being a student, and did something that was new and uncomfortable, teaching, until it became common and comfortable. Now, you are comfortable with both teaching and being a student. This concept of expanding your comfort zone can be used as a means of improving your mental toughness in wrestling.
Personally, I started out high school one of the bigger guys in the smallest weight class. It was rare that I wrested people bigger than me, but when I hit a growth spurt and bumped up a few weight classes, I started to wrestle lots of people bigger and stronger than me. Wrestling people bigger and stronger than myself became a mental block for me, and it took time to acclimate myself before feeling comfortable in the weight class.
Think about when you first started learning to scramble. When you are drilling, everything is perfect. It isn’t until you start wrestling live in practice or in matches that you encountered those awkward positions. But, the more that you put yourself in those awkward positions, those same positions become more commonplace and less awkward. Watch great scramblers when they wrestle. Wrestlers like Yianni Diakomihalis, Frank Chamizo, Jordan Burroughs, and Seth Gross never look uncomfortable in any position no matter how awkward the position may seem. This comfort with the uncomfortable is because they have expanded their comfort zones by being willing to put themselves in awkward positions.
Expanding your comfort zone is a key component for helping you develop confidence in your wrestling. Without doing this, it would be easy to develop a mental block anytime you encounter any circumstance that is less than perfect. Unfortunately, it is rare that you ever have a perfect situation. You will have to wrestle people that are good scramblers and will put you in weird positions. You will wrestle people that are bigger, stronger, faster, or more experienced than yourself. There will even be unavoidable situations that will prevent you from being ready to wrestle. For example, you may have to go to the bathroom and are unable to do your full pre-match routine. If you have been able to expand your comfort zone by putting yourself in potentially uncomfortable situations in practice, workouts, and everyday life you can have confidence going into matches even though the circumstances are not perfect!
We spend a lot of time focusing on knowing yourself as a wrestler. It is vital for you to understand where you are strong and where you feel comfortable.
For example, what ties do you feel comfortable in, what are your go to shots in the third period, what is your favorite setup, what are your go to moves on top, and the list goes on.
Knowing yourself as a wrestler allows you to feel more confident going into matches as well as allowing yourself to focus on what you are going to do rather than what your opponent is going to do.
The concept of self-knowledge is closely related to the concept of a predator-prey mindset. If you recall, predators are focused on what they do while the prey is focused on everyone and everything else.
As it applies to wrestling, the predator wrestler is focused on what he or she does best, and the prey wrestler is focused on what other wrestlers are going to do. Without adequate knowledge of yourself, it is impossible to have a predator mindset.
How can you focus on your offense, your shots, and your setups if you don’t know your best offense, shots, and ties? Without proper knowledge of yourself you are forced to have the prey mindset and focus on what other wrestlers are doing.
In our podcast with Dan Dennis, Dennis talked about that no matter who in the world he was wrestling, no matter how good they were, he was comfortable in a two on one tie. That is the benefit of self-knowledge.
We place an emphasis on self-knowledge because when you understand your best positions, you can have confidence in your abilities and your capacity to beat anyone.
When you understand the areas where you are strong you can focus on getting to your best positions rather than worrying about your opponent’s best positions, and you can wrestle YOUR match!
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