UPI Wrestling

The Biggest Mistake Coaching Wrestling

I have been fortunate enough to have been around some high level wrestlers but high level coaches as well. Proximity is Power. Coaching Wrestling is an art and unfortunately the more I am around the sport the more I see coaches completely missing the boat. Hell I was missing this understanding as a competitor…

I was blessed with the opportunity to not only get coaching at West Virginia from but be in the same room while guys like Danny Felix and Cary Kolat were training for the Olympics/World Team. I am fortunate to have friends within my inner circle like Terry Allison who coach high level wrestling clubs. For instance Terry just had 2 kids this weekend win Super 32 Nationals…

Actually a conversation with him is what really got my wheels spinning more about coaching wrestling.

The conversation was about how oftentimes coaches are teaching in terms of “moves” instead of “positions”. Hmmm at the surface there seemed to be a lot of truth to this but I wanted to dive a little deeper. 

I wanted to take a step back and think about the times I was coaching wrestling my best. When kids were fully engaged and dominating matches. It was time to think back to when I was in college and why I was successful in certain areas and unsuccessful in other areas as a wrestler.

On top of that remembering what my coaches were preaching and replaying videos in my mind about how they trained to compete on the world’s largest stage.

Position Wins

I can vividly remember Kolat screaming to a bunch of campers at the WVU wrestling camp the summer before my freshman year about position. He said, “if you stay in perfect position for an entire match you would win 85% of your matches”…

Sadly, I heard him but I didn’t truly understand that statement. I was not yet a student of wrestling. At the timeI was a student in terms of wanting to learn and drill moves but failed to grasp the importance of positional wrestling…

I remember Danny warming up before practice by himself completely focusing on his position. Tracking and noticing where his head, hands and feet were going while he moved. Watching him hitting knee slides pretending to be in on his shots all over the mat room. I remember drilling with him and thinking how smooth he hit setups to his shots…

I could not figure out how he was so methodical. Honestly at the time I thought it was only about repetitions…

While reps are important it seemed almost meaningless as I began working to complete at the college level. It did not matter how “perfect” my standup was if I couldn’t clear a wrist and shut off wrist attacks with my elbows…

My leg attacks became less efficient if I did not actually understand and create angles and shot finishes became difficult if I could not find body position on my shots.

Coaching Wrestling

After I graduated and began coaching wrestling I found myself naturally fixing and focusing on kids positions. I was not fully aware of what I was teaching and coaching until that conversation with Terry a couple years ago. Again proximity is power and I knew Terry was having success developing wrestlers so I wanted to reach out…

I asked him what makes his philosophy a hair different from everyone else…

He said it’s simple and very few do it on purpose. He told me Ryan, forget teaching all the moves and teach positions. If kids understand just how to better their position non stop they will consistently score points and in turn win matches. 

I thought about it for a second and it hit me how true it was. Kids want to get private coaching on the mat and they typically ask the question “I am struggling when I get here, what move can I do to score”.

While maybe a move is appropriate it’s usually a position that will lead to points. It makes me think back to all those times watching guys like Danny warm up or drill. It was less about the moves than it was about position…

Once they understood the position and could naturally put their body in the right spot then came the intensity…

Interesting thought, these extremely high level wrestlers and now coaches had a focus on positions and intensity…

They almost looked at you funny if you asked questions about technique. Because I will never forget being in the room drilling while Greg Jones was coaching me. I was asking a million questions about my Hi-C and you could tell me was annoyed. He finally just yelled at me “just hit it hard, your intensity will make up for the lack of technique”

I had been so concerned all my life about hitting the “perfect shot” but there was no “perfect shot”. It was hands, feet, angles, setups that lead to a shot and off the shot you were in search of the right position to score.

High Level Wrestlers 

The more I have become a student of the sport and student towards coaching wrestling the more this stands out to me.

Also the beauty is I have found kids seem to have more success, whatever that means to them, thinking this way instead of knowing which move to hit when. You start to listen and understand where your body should be. Then it becomes natural because it makes it easier to score points.

It probably goes without saying that there are much deeper levels to this, but at the most basic level, understanding positions in wrestling is the one of the most critical aspects towards becoming a high level competitor. Most of us can jump on YouTube to check out some sweet technique but if we do not understand the positions that move is going to be pretty tough to hit in a live match.

Lastly, I can not thank my man Coach Felix throughout my years at WVU not only taking the time with me on the mat but off the mat through conversations. Then practicing what you preach throughout your training and now successful club coaching career.

Terry, appreciate you more than you know. Always on standby when I need thoughts and direction on training and more importantly direction within my coaching. Super helpful to have your input.

Grateful to have you guys as wrestling mentors! Maybe one day we can write something together to dive deeper and help more coaches and wrestlers understand the importance of positional wrestling!

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1 thought on “The Biggest Mistake Coaching Wrestling”

  1. Welcome to North Texas, Coach Ryan! As a wrestling mom is this area for over 12 years I have seen my boys work so hard but definitely never fully grasping this important concept. Even though Cullen hasn’t got to train with you for very long, I am very grateful for your time and coaching. Keep up the good work! We are very glad to have you join our community and be a part of Texas wrestling!

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