Push It

Ben Askren - Push It

This week choosing just one topic was a hard thing to do. Big tournaments bring deficiencies front and center and require analysis. Hundreds of ideas and questions ran through my head and with only three wrestlers entered in the tournament I had plenty of free time. I decided on writing about a dilemma I had when choosing what order to teach… What should be taught first? What is essential? Though I never reached a conclusion, it lead me to reframed my schema for pushing the pace in matches. Condition is one of the greatest tools that you can possess as a wrestler, but it seems too often the ability to use it escapes us.

Lying on my rug where I take breaks to daydream and think, I wandered back to my formative years and the mental groundwork set then. A common philosophy harbored by coaches at many levels, is that you keep a high tempo being skilled and tenacious on your feet. Watching wrestling it would seem blatantly obvious. Average matches are wrestled on the feet about 75% of the time. (I’m just giving a number, I don’t know how much, but it’s definitely the majority of the time.) I think this was the underlying concept of our high school and we had much success. On a more grandiose example one can consider Iowa. Iowa has been one of the most successful programs with this style, it can’t be denied. It’s a major reason a whole nation of coaches emulate their style. It’s the American way, work the hardest for the longest and you will come out on top.

So anyway, my breakthrough… Or I guess probably what many coaches have come to realize and I am slowly trying to catch up. Most coaches and therefore wrestlers are missing a key. An obstruction disrupts their ability. During the big matches lots of these wrestlers come up short. Their inability to push the pace leaves their endurance counting for nil. See I understand most matches are wrestled on their feet, but I know most big matches are won, or lost on the mat.

If you can’t escape from bottom, this puts you at an enormous disadvantage. In big matches either you must sacrifice a free point by choosing neutral or your ability to push the pace by choosing bottom. This is a vital ingredient that I see from the successful Iowa wresters and one which many ignore. They might not be great at bottom, but they can get out. If you can’t get out from bottom, you chance your ability to maintain a high tempo. That’s how these guys that are superior on their feet lose. This is a main component that our wrestlers are missing. They are not satisfactory on bottom and the longer they choose to ignore the problem, the bigger the problem it becomes. It’s a position that no one wants to work and one seldom understood. It’s also one of the most essential positions.

We need to take the time to develop ourselves on bottom. Being such a difficult position, the longer you wait to develop it, the more daunting the task. The reward of winning in the tight matches and being able to use all of your tools is something too vital to be passed up. This is the real key to being able to push the pace at all times. Get good on bottom, then get good in neutral and put all of your tools to work.

In the big matches mat wrestling is such a huge part of coming out on top. If you want to take your wrestling to the next level it’s essential that you learn to escape. Spend half the time on bottom as on your feet, working on the basics like sealing out and breaking cross wrists and you’ll be up to par in no time. If you truly want to make the most of your endurance, endure the frustration of being stuck on bottom until you start to understand it. There isn’t much mystery in becoming better on bottom. Spend the time and effort in the area. If there is any chance you can get taken down, an opportunity arises for you to be stuck on bottom and thus lose your ability to maintain a high tempo. It seems backwards, but only because I feel I was facing the wrong direction. Skills in bottom, not neutral allow for one to open the throttle freely and use their endurance as a weapon. Push the pace; learn the art of escape.

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