The Wrestling Mindset of Foxcatcher: 10 Lessons from Mark Schultz’s book Foxcatcher

My coach Donn Ernst always told me, “you have to study the best in the world.” Mark Schultz is, without a doubt, one of the greatest wrestlers and competitors of all time. The same can be said of his brother Dave, whose status is nothing less than legendary.

Mark Schultz’s book Foxcatcher (the story that inspired the movie) has many Wrestling Mindset gems. Here are some I found:

1.  Mark focused on things that gave him a competitive edge over his opponents. For him, this included gymnastics, extra workouts, emotionally detaching himself, and his willingness to subject himself to a hellish training schedule.

What are some of your competitive edges over your competition?

2.  Mark had a Higher Purpose. “I didn’t get into wrestling to win medals…the sport provided the way for me to become a great fighter. I wanted to fight and defeat the best wrestlers in the world.” That is a powerful WHY.”

What is your purpose for wrestling (your Why)?

3.  Mark was ALL IN. “I committed to train as hard as I could, even if it killed me. That’s no exaggeration.”

What would you have to do to be all in?

4.  Mark knew how to flip the switch. “I wore that sweatshirt every day, and pulling it over my head was like flipping a switch that transformed me into the person I was trying to become: confident and at ease with myself.”

How will you flip your switch?

5.  Mark viewed cutting weight differently than others. He believed cutting weight can, “grates on you mentally…can ruin the sport for you.” He believed to determine his ideal weight class he, “worked out hard and then dropped to the next lowest weight.”

Are you cutting too much weight?

6.  Mark had clarity with his technique. He wrote down moves he would use in each position he could be in inside his “wrestling notebook.” He, “re-read his notebook until I memorized every note on the page. I would decide how to finish before I shot so there would be no hesitation.”

Are you clear on your technique or do you second guess yourself?

7.  Mark made himself mentally tough. “I would never be the first to say ‘I’m done’…I’d secretly get one extra workout in every day.”

What are you physically doing on a regular basis to make yourself mentally tough?

8.  Mark emotionally detached himself from others during competition. During the Olympics, he “ignored much of what was going on around him.” When his brother Dave got upset in the NCAA finals right before his match, Mark told himself that he, “couldn’t let the shock of Dave’s loss get to me.” He didn’t add pressure to himself by thinking about the team score- “It was me against my opponent. That’s all I cared about.”

Are you adding pressure to yourself by thinking too much about the team score?

9.  Mark focused on one match at a time. “I focused solely on my first match, not even taking a look beyond that match on my bracket sheet. For as long as I kept advancing through the tournament, I would continue to look only to my next opponent, That’s a trick I used throughout my career to help keep me completely in the present.”

Do you look ahead in your brackets?

10. Mark focused on living totally in the present moment. He learned,” dying to the past every began anew every second.” This helped him get through hard training.

Are you dead to the past?

These quotes are taken from the book Foxcatcher and used by the permission of the man himself- Mark Schultz. A very special thank you to him from providing all of us with insight into the Wrestling Mindset of a Champion!

Note- Mark’s book is far more than this list. It is a well told, emotionally gripping story. This book provides much more information and accuracy than the movie. I strongly recommend you do both- watch the movie and right now buy Mark Schultz book Foxcatcher here: