Wrestling History, Wrestling Future: Caring Makes It Matter


December 8, 2009 by David Gillaspie


One competitor is a football player molded from steel, a physique produced from years in the weight room.  The other is a soft, pudgy kid.  The strongman is a senior in high school; the other kid a sophomore waiting for his body to catch up with his ambitions. 

They go to the center of the mat and shake hands at a novice meet.  That’s when the whupping begins.  The rolly polly kid beats the older guy.  He pins him. 

Wrestling History says the one with the most mat time wins over the first timer.

Wrestling Future says the older kid will remember this season the rest of his life.  He got beat by a weaker athlete, a slower athlete, a kid he would never even talk to in the school hallway.  But he got beat by a better wrestler.

Can a kid with superior strength clamp a two on one, post it to his opponent’s knee, then drive him down with a form tackle?  He could if he knew how to do it.  But the muscled up kid didn’t grab anything.  As aggressive as he was on the football field, he was timid on the mat.  Apparently his coach didn’t mention the idea of making an opponent wrestle with one arm.

This may be the problem with Wrestling Future. 

If a senior in high school has enough gumption to come out and wrestle, why not adapt his attack to the skills he already has.  He’s tough, he’s fast, he’s strong.  Why bother teaching him to look for openings a more seasoned wrestler might find.  Instead, turn him loose.  Grab an arm, then a leg.  Pressure opponents off the mat.  Stay busy.

A first year wrestler in the last year of high school turns out because he wants to get in on the fun.  It’s not fun if you show him five variations of a technical takedown.  He’s not going to learn it.  He’s going to quit if he can’t figure it out himself.  And he shouldn’t quit.  He’s not a quitter, but he’s not going to take the humiliation of wrestling’s learning curve without progress.

Wrestling Past says you school a kid to look out for himself.  You start him at novice meets, then bring him along to junior varsity competition, and when he’s ready you turn him loose on the best opposition available.  After that it’s all about refining their attack.

A senior out for the first time doesn’t fit that development schedule.  They don’t have time.  Maybe they shouldn’t bother showing up, but they are in the room.  Will they be a state champion?  Probably not.  A district champ?  No.  Will they win a match?  That’s all they’re asking for.  But they can’t win if they don’t believe in what they’re learning.

Take a senior and give him four things to do: a two on one, a stand-up from the bottom, and a tight waist and crossface on top.  Condition him up so he can do these four things all day long.  Keep him moving in and out, changing elevation, and when he feels the time is right, hit the afterburners.  This is a kid who will talk wrestling the rest of his life, whose own kids will wrestle.  He will grow the sport.  He is Wrestling’s Future.

Wrestling Past is a closed club with state champions, national champions, world and Olympic champions.  Guys with wrestling pedigrees belong to the club.  They find people like themselves and turn them into the fiercest competitors in any sport, the standard bearers we read about in the news when there is any news coverage for wrestling. 

Do the greats understand that wrestling is part of human nature?  Maybe, but they know its part of them and they’ll do their best to give it to their students.  Only a few will be able to grasp the knowledge.  It’s an exercise in frustration and narrows the field of contenders.  Not everyone grows up and goes to Iowa, no matter how much they want it.

Wrestling Future belongs to the late bloomer, the kid who wants to give it a shot knowing he’s tardy for the party.  There’s room for him.  If not, then make room.  If a he-man can get pinned by a butterball and come out and do it again and again and again, then he’s a gamer.  He will eventually avoid the pin, and that’s his progress.  He’ll eventually graduate to getting beat on points, then winning on points, then pinning.  Even if he doesn’t, he’s better for trying.

Ask yourself if you know this guy.  Is there one of them on your team?  Is the Homecoming King from football season getting himself scrubbed around the mats in your practice room?  If he is, then he’s worth celebrating. 

He doesn’t have to be there, but he doesn’t want to miss out on the chance to see just how tough he can be.  This is his chance.  Crush him on the mat, but care for his spirit.  He has the spirit of wrestling, and it’s contagious. 

If the spirit of wrestling spreads out of control, channel it with Greg Strobel Wrestling Books.  You’ll be reading quite a while.  And you’ll be able to do something with what you learn.  How often does that happen?

6 thoughts on “Wrestling History, Wrestling Future: Caring Makes It Matter

  1. David Gillaspie says:

    Thanks for stopping in. Once you start writing a blog it takes on a life of it’s own and a look you don’t expect. Then the work starts with a re-launch.

  2. David Gillaspie says:

    Thanks for the kind words. I try to write posts that use a beginning, middle, and end. I’ve been doing it for six months. You’re doing some good work and it looks very nice.

  3. Annette says:

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe!🙂. I’ll go and read some more!

    • David Gillaspie says:

      I’m glad to have readers who subscribe. I write about wrestling to try to expand on the subject. Thanks, Annette.

  4. David Gillaspie says:

    A game winning home run is exciting. So is a three pointer at the buzzer and a long touchdown run in overtime, but the surprise win in wrestling is life affirming.

    Your senior wrestler saw people winning all year and he joined them after the biggest match of his life. He was a part of winning, and by association a part of what makes wrestling special on the inside.

    Most of the time wrestling is a word someone hears and repeats; you know you don’t football with a problem, or basketball with an issue. You wrestle with a problem or an issue, but getting a kid to actually step into the room and put on the headgear makes them a better person.

    Whether they wrestle four years in high school and four years in college and ten years after that, or quit after one practice, or a week, or a month, wrestling demands that you be a better person. It makes you demand it of yourself.

  5. ifiver says:

    One of my greatest memories in HS is watching a first year senior pinning a rival schools #1 at a district meet. He had only won 3 or 4 matches all season but kept with it. In the end, he lost his next 2 matches that day, but still talks about that win as his greatest sports memory even after playing 4 seasons of football at OSU. Great advice!

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