BY JOHN GARTISER
Over the years I feel it has been harder and harder to get our (I mean “our” in terms of NYS wrestlers, though it could be noted across the nation as well) top end wrestlers competing in Freestyle and Greco Roman. In my opinion, these two styles, the International Styles, are extremely important for athletes to reach their full potential in the sport of wrestling. I will cover some of the basic points on why the International Styles are so beneficial to young wrestlers. My hope is to grab the attention of the local athletes and other NYS wrestlers to increase their knowledge and outlook on Freestyle and Greco Roman participation. I will list the benefits of these styles below.
1. Exciting style of wrestling
With the new rule changes, more than ever, Freestyle and Greco Roman promote scoring but also make an easier transition for an American Folkstyle wrestler. What is the most exciting point (no pun intended) in a match? It’s usually when a wrestler is scoring or when there is a long scramble where two wrestlers are trying to score. That’s what makes the sport exciting! Excitement is what our sport needs in order to thrive on a grand scale like other major sports. Freestyle and Greco Roman reward the aggressive wrestler and the competitor who is looking to score points and there are more opportunities to score. That is a good formula for participant and, maybe more importantly, fan excitement.
2. Sharpens your technique
One of the biggest advantages I see to wrestling Freestyle and Greco Roman is the ability to expose your weaknesses from the neutral position. I commonly tell my athletes that in Freestyle if you are not scoring there’s a good chance you are being scored on. Your inability and weaknesses on finishing your shots are demonstrated. If you are in on a leg attack and don’t finish effectively, your opponent will be in position to score on you and off your attack.
In Freestyle, the wrestler does not need complete control in order to score. From a defensive position, it is very common to expose an offensive wrestler’s back 90 degrees for a 2 or 3-point move. Knowing this, you MUST work on your set ups and finishes for all your offensive leg attacks.
In Folkstyle, the ability to get to a single leg attack and grapple to a stalemate does not negatively reinforce a wrestler enough to make him truly focus on a technical deficiency on leg attack finishes. Furthermore, you can actually see wrestlers USE this stalemate position to BURN time off a clock to eke out a close match. In a Freestyle competition, your ability to “eke” out that victory can become counterproductive very quickly. A Freestyle mindset emphasizes what makes wrestling exciting, a scoring style of wrestling! This type of attitude should be brought to the mat every time you step out there to practice or compete.
Another aspect of technique to be sharpened through Freestyle and Greco Roman relates to the Par Terre position (wrestling on the mat). I will use Greco Roman wrestling as an example here. A lot of the scoring from the top position we see in high school and college wrestling today has roots in the International Styles. I feel a lot of the tilts that are popular today can be linked to and have correlations to gut wrenches in Freestyle, and more prominently, in Greco Roman wrestling. Being able to roll across your own back to secure future back points is not always the easiest thing for a new wrestler to comprehend and be able to perform in a match situation. In Greco Roman, this is one of the main ways you can score points. You have to conquer this fear and master the positioning of hips and leverage in order to score from the top position. This in turn (again, no pun intended), gives a wrestler a huge advantage over top competition nationwide. These moves allow wrestlers to learn how to use proper leverage and momentum in order to expose their opponent.
I think the most common counter argument people pose to the so-called negatives of Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling technique is seen from the bottom position. One of the more frequently used bottom techniques in both International Styles is the “big bird” position — in laymen’s terms, flattening your body out and moving your hips so you don’t get turned. (It’s actually a much more in-depth technique to learn than it sounds). If a wrestler were to do this in Folkstyle, they would be warned/called for stalling. But the “big bird” position can help improve a wrestler’s bottom wrestling in Folkstyle because in reality, it teaches wrestlers to adjust based on the momentum and leverage the top wrestler is trying to use to turn them and expose their backs.
Another one of the more important aspects that the International Styles promote is a break from Folkstyle training. It’s a good pressure release and allows good Folkstyle wrestlers to open up their minds and start to learn and get used to new or different positions. I’ve seen terrible wrestlers on bottom in Folkstyle actually get better by not constantly practicing it. Sometimes in order to see the proper gains, your mind needs a break and needs to gear things in a different direction. Sometimes it actually is better to not beat a dead horse.
3. The Right Mindset
Freestyle and Greco Roman offer our wrestlers an opportunity to participate on the largest stage possible – the world levels. Only in Freestyle and Greco Roman do we have an opportunity to compete internationally. Too many of our athletes look at section and state titles as the pinnacle of high school wrestling when, indeed, they should be shooting for much more.
The largest tournament (numbers wise) in the world today, on any level, is the ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota. The tournament is better known as “Fargo”. I will touch more on this event in my last point of interest. Fargo is the #1 recruiting ground for college coaches and it has the nation’s top competitors battle it out over 2 to 3 days of grueling action. The grind mimics many college tournaments, such as the NCAA Division 1 Championships.
Only the country’s top wrestlers will rise to the occasion and come out on top at Fargo. It now makes sense why this tournament is a college coach’s ideal setting for finding future champions. The Freestyle and Greco Roman Nationals seem to be the best indicator of future success for young athletes. Don’t believe me? Ironically enough, this video was recently posted on Flowresting.com with Zack Esposito (see here).
For the top wrestlers in the United States, national titles are seen as a stepping-stone to compete at the world level. I’m almost positive if we asked the majority of our wrestlers locally and even nationwide what the FILA Cadet event is, the majority would not know. (It is a national tournament held to determine who will represent the United States in the FILA Cadet World Championships).
FILA is the worldwide governing body of wrestling. The FILA Cadets saw a 14-year absence but began again in 2011. Through Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling, our athletes now have the opportunity to compete for a world title! I believe the fact that the great majority of young wrestlers don’t know this is a major problem. I feel it is extremely important for every athlete to shoot for the pinnacle in any sport they participate in, as well as in life.
4. The Numbers Don’t Lie
July 13, 2013 — Fargo, ND. This is home of high school wrestling’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. Nowhere else are you going to have 120+ wrestlers in a single weight class, 3,000 competitors under the same roof (dome is more appropriate here) battling it out for the convenient “Stop Sign”. According to Flowrestling.com if you look at the Top 5 wrestlers in each weight class nationally (70 wrestlers), 50 are scheduled to compete. If those numbers aren’t staggering enough, let’s say Folkstyle is your favorite style of wrestling. Let’s say Division 1 All-American and National Champion are the goals you wrote down all those years ago. Here’s a statistic that will put your odds of achieving that goal much higher: Qualify for Fargo and compete in the ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships. Why you ask? Because 83% of all U.S.-born NCAA Division 1 All-Americans from 2006-2013 took the mat in Fargo (68% of them were Freestyle and/or Greco All Americans) and produced 75% of the NCAA National champions.
(Credit Willie Saylor from Flowrestling.com for some of these statistics and figures)