Wrestling For Dummies
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Whether you're an experienced wrestler looking for a resource for secrets about the finer aspects of technique or you're a beginning wrestler searching for a one-stop source that gives you everything you need to understand the sport, you've come to the right place. Here, you find out about the different wrestling moves you can use on the mat, the ins and outs of scoring, and both the physical and mental aspects of the sport.

The fundamentals of wrestling

Your success in wrestling is a direct result of your expertise in the fundamentals. After you master the following basic aspects of the sport, you can build on them to expand your wrestling repertoire:

  • Stance: Your body position and posture on the mat; can be parallel or staggered

  • Penetration step: The first offensive movement that puts you in a position to score

  • Level change: The act of raising and lowering your hips to set up or execute an attack or to counter the moves of your opponent

  • Neutral position: The starting position in which you stand face to face and with your shoulders square to your opponent in the wrestling area

  • Referee’s position: The starting position in which one wrestler is in the top position and the other is on the bottom

  • Takedown: A move during which you take your opponent down to the mat and gain control from the neutral position

  • Reversal: A move during which you quickly turn the tables and go from being in a position of defense to being in a position of control as the offensive wrestler

  • Escape: A move you use from the bottom of the referee’s position to escape, or get away from your opponent

  • Breakdown: A move you use when you’re in the top of the referee’s position to try to get your opponent off balance and down to the mat

  • Finish: The act of pinning your opponent with special techniques that lead to a fall, meaning that the back of your opponent’s shoulders are on the mat for at least two seconds

How a wrestling match is scored

The objective in a wrestling match is to beat your opponent. If a pin occurs, the match is over and whoever scored the pin wins. But if neither wrestler scores a pin, the score at the end of three two-minute periods determines the winner. You earn points for the different moves you successfully execute during a match, and your opponent earns points for any infractions you commit:

  • Pin or fall: Victory; end of match

  • Takedown: 2 points

  • Escape: 1 point

  • Reversal: 2 points

  • Near fall: 2 points if you hold your opponent for two seconds; 3 points if you hold your opponent for five seconds or more

  • Illegal hold: 1 point for your opponent

  • Unsportsmanlike conduct: 1 point for your opponent

  • Unnecessary roughness: 1 point for your opponent

  • Stalling: 1 point for your opponent after you receive one warning; disqualification on the fifth stalling violation

Get your body fit for wrestling

Getting and keeping your body in the best condition possible can help you reach your full potential as a wrestler. If you’re in shape and physically fit, you can better handle moves your opponent may try on you during a match. Here are some fundamental aspects of fitness and wellness that can help you stay fit during your wrestling season:

  • Rest: Getting plenty of good-quality rest is critical to your success on the mat. Take at least one day off a week during the season, and get 8 hours of sleep every night. Practices and training shouldn’t last more than 150 minutes during the season.

  • Disease prevention: Closely check your skin every day for discoloration, swelling, areas of tenderness, and changes in texture. Scrub your body with antibacterial soap and wash your practice gear daily. Never share shirts, shorts, towels, or headgear with teammates. Impetigo, herpes, and ringworm are just a few of the skin diseases common to wrestlers that you can prevent by following these simple steps.

  • Endurance: All wrestlers need to build their endurance if they want to be successful; in other words, you need to build your heart’s capacity for maintaining intense levels of exercise over time. To be ready for competition, you need to be able to run or ride an exercise bike continuously at moderate intensity for 40 minutes.

  • Strength training: You and your coach need to develop training programs that increase the maximum amount of force your muscles can exert against resistance. Your muscles get stronger when you experience momentary muscular failure (the point at which you can’t accomplish any more repetitions of an exercise). The point of momentary muscular failure should occur on the 11th or 12th repetition of an exercise in the 2nd and 3rd set of a 3-set/12-repetition strength building plan. Some great fundamental strength training exercises include the bench press, shoulder press, triceps extensions, upright rows, pull-ups, leg extensions, leg curls, and arm curls.

  • Flexibility: To become an agile wrestler with quick feet, you need to increase the ability of your muscles and joints to move through their full range of motion. You can develop your flexibility by doing light dynamic loosening exercises followed by stretching exercises before and after each practice. Dynamic loosening exercises include lunges, walking toe touches, high-knee jogging, lateral jogging, carioca jogging, and arm circles. As for stretching, focus on stretching the main muscle groups (hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back, shoulders, gluteal muscles, and neck); hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

  • Nutrition: You need to understand how carbohydrates, proteins, and fats affect your wrestling ability and training during exercise, after exercise, and before exercise. While the dietary needs of each athlete depend on a variety of factors, including age and gender, a good rule of thumb is to try to eat a diet consisting of 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 20 percent fats.

  • Hydration: Approximately 75 percent of your body is water. Because of the weight classifications in wrestling, you need to make sure you get the right amount of fluids before, during, and after exercise. Drink 2 to 3 cups of water four hours prior to exercise, 2 cups two hours before exercise, 2 cups 30 minutes before exercise and 1/2 cup of water every 15 minutes during exercise. After exercise, drink 2 cups of water for each pound lost during exercise.

  • Concussion: A head injury is a brain injury. So make sure to have a medical professional check you out right away after you suffer any type of head injury. Your doctor must also clear you before you can take to the mat again.

Keeping your head in the match: The mental part of wrestling

Because of the one-on-one nature of wrestling and the relatively brief length of a match, the mental approach to competition and the commitment you need to succeed are unique. The following list provides some keys to winning the mental game as a wrestler:

  • Inspiration: External motivation and rewards can take you only so far; to be a great wrestler, you need to be truly inspired.

  • Positive attitude: Successful wrestlers must be in the right positive mindset to win a match on any given day.

  • Strength in the fundamentals: Great wrestlers understand the importance of the fundamental moves and work to improve them every day.

  • Style: You need to develop a style that fits your skills, strengths, and abilities. Each wrestler’s style is different, so you need to develop yours with confidence and then pay attention to the styles of your opponents so you can beat them.

  • Competition: Develop a desire for competition by competing all the time, even at practice. Maintain consistent intensity in everything you do both on and off the mat and stay focused on the task at hand.

  • Mental toughness: Understand that concentration, confidence, self-control, and goal-setting are all mental drills that wrestlers have to master to gain a mental edge.

About This Article

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Henry Cejudo won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In so doing, he became the youngest American — at the age of 20 — to ever win a gold medal in wrestling.

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