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Should you attack an opponent’s injury?

Way back in high school, aka the dark ages, I remember facing an opponent who had his shoulder bandaged up, and people told me:  

Attack his injured side!

Personally, ethical or not, I’ve never really seen the advantage of doing so.  

 Fast forward to college, and I’m wrestling in the All-American round. 

 The opponent was – you guessed it.  A wrestler who was similarly all bandaged up.

This was the biggest match of my career….

and the thought of attacking his injury never crossed my mind.

By then, I was so deep into imposing my systematic will over my opponent..

  • Regardless of record…
  • regardless of seed.  Regardless of rank….
  • regardless of physical advantages, or in his case, disadvantages

that I wasn’t about to alter my highly successful, attacking system of wrestling, for any reason.   

My system, the same one I train athletes to embrace to this day, was already propelling me to all-new heights – forcing every opponent onto defense and effectively keeping them there…resulting in me imposing my will with relative ease.   

I applied that same system in the All-American match, and the 3 subsequent matches after that – winning each of them and snagging my 3rd place spot on the podium.

While there are advantages to knowing your opponents strengths and weaknesses… 

there are MORE advantages to internalizing your OWN strengths and IMPOSING your will on every opponent you face off with.

Spring is around the corner – hop onto the brand new Priority List now to get the most out of your training.


The best Valentines gift a wrestling mom can get

This is a personal message to all the wrestlers out there….

Do you really think your mom wants flowers and candy this Valentines?  Then you haven’t been paying attention.  

Have you noticed, young wrestler, that:

  • She frets when you can’t eat because you are overweight?
  • Faithfully attends every match?
  • Gets so nervous before you wrestle that she nearly throws up?
  • Hangs on every minute of every match while you put her through horrible suspense and fear?
  • Worries when your shoulder gets torqued out of place by a mean opponent (and sometimes offers to storm the mat and kick his butt for you)?
  • Is drenched in sweat throughout your match?
  • And drenched in tears when you lose?

Your mom sacrifices so much during a wrestling season – all because of you.

And after all that…

Do you really think she just wants some candy and flowers?

If that’s what you think, you haven’t been paying attention.

Here’s what she really wants…

  • You don’t starve yourself to make weight.
  • You win more matches with more ease
  • You shut down those leg riders immediately (and preserve your shoulder as a result)
  • You start surpassing rivals

Right now, through this Saturday, I am offering a special 3 week blast to address the above, and give your mom exactly what she really wants for Valentines Day.

Look for the link in the email (or join the list to get the link).

A clarification comes flying in

Well I stirred up a hornets nest.

Within minutes of posting my recent blog, I received a tweet and an email from Keith Carter, the fine USA Wrestling Coaches Council director.

“This is simply not true.  Team selection process hasn’t been finalized.”

The meeting notes that I referenced are unclear.  This was the source of my article and here’s what they say:

2021 Fargo team selection – each state will decide on which athletes to send to Fargo (6 athletes/ weight class).  Regionals will change.  No wrestler will automatically qualify for Fargo for 2021.

I understand that Keith and members of USA Wrestling-Ohio are working on updating the minutes now to clarify things.


PS  In a perfect world, every spot on the national team would be earned through the State and the Regionals with no wildcards and no petitions.  Of course, our world is far from perfect.

A disappointing direction

***NOTE:  Within minutes of me posting this controversial blog, I received messages from USA Wrestling, clarifying their position.


Be sure to read the followup blog to see USA Wrestling’s response and clarification of their notes.

Recently I read the meeting notes for USA Wrestling-Ohio, the main governing body for freestyle/greco wrestling in Ohio – an organization that I respect and have partaken in for many years.

One prominent detail left me disappointed.

According to the meeting notes, This year there will be No automatic qualifiers for the Cadet (U16) and Junior nationals that take place in Fargo, ND in July.

Instead, the organization will select the 6 participants to represent Ohio in Fargo in each weight class this summer.

In the past, wrestlers could qualify by winning (or placing high in) the state freestyle/greco championships.  

Athletes could also qualify through the Central Regionals.

Many wrestlers through the years – guys who were “no-names” – have trained hard in my building, developed critical skills, and defeated top level athletes, earning their way onto the Ohio National team.

How do I tell hard-working wrestlers that they can not longer “earn their way” onto the team this year?

That the fate of their Fargo dreams lies in a selection committee’s hands?

Wrestling has always been the unique sport where you EARN your way.  

  • You earn your spot in the starting lineup by winning your wrestle-off (no matter who the coach thinks is better).
  • You earn your spot in districts by winning matches and placing in the top 4 in sectionals.
  • You earn your spot in state by winning matches and placing in the top 4 in districts (no matter what the rankings say).
  • And you earn your spot on the podium by winning matches and placing in the top 8 in state.

Any other method just doesn’t seem right.

This goes against the nature of our unique sport.

And it opens the possibility of kids who earned their spot, having it taken away by someone else’s decision.

I realize the pandemic has changed a lot of things, and undoubtedly has led to the capping of 6 wrestlers per weight class per state.  However, those 6 spots should be earned on the mat.

I hope this fine organization will change their approach and adopt a method for letting the wrestlers punch their ticket to this prestigious event the old fashioned way.

Bad shoulder? Bad knee? Here’s how Branch adapted and won big.

I sometimes refer to it as the Mark Branch strategy.

Branch wrestled for Oklahoma State back in the days of the horse and the buggy – ala 1998.

His freshman year, he went an uninspiring 8-9 during the season…

Only to turn the tables and win the NCAA Championship.

As far as I know, he's still the only wrestler with a losing record to ever snag the top step.

The story gets even more intriguing though….

Branch placed his sophomore and junior years (2nd as a junior) – but badly injured his knee in the finals as a junior.

He came back his senior year, hobbled by a bad knee…

Ran the table going completely undefeated, capped off by another national title.

In a post-match interview, he explained that he had to completely revamp his style due to his injury.

Imagine wrestling your best while in the worst physical health.

I thought back to the numerous times I’ve had to help an injured wrestler adapt to a new way of wrestling.  Its always a challenge and takes an extra level of detail to put all the pieces together.

I've assembled a guide to adapting to the two most common injuries to overcome:  shoulder injuries and knee injuries.

Keep in mind that some of these recommendations will change (or become moot) depending on which shoulder, or which knee (attacking side or support side). 

Okay, alibis in place, we're ready to go.

Shoulder Injury

Handfighting to attacks on your feet, as opposed to open attacks, which are more likely to leave you vulnerable to getting your arm stretched).
Adjustment to your standup so that the bad wing can’t be attacked.
Top:  the injured arm becomes your support arm (perhaps you capture the opponent’s wrist with that one, as opposed to running your half or bar with it, where they can impose counter pressure).  Stopping the first move so they can't force a scramble will be critical.

Knee injury

Eliminate scrambles that could cause a knee to get torqued awkwardly
Finish quickly and cleanly.
Take a methodical approach on the feet – controlling ties, slowing down the opponent by taking away his space, which limits his speed advantage
On top:  shutting down your opponent’s explosive movements by gaining control early (i.e., tie up wrists, block his hips first, etc.
A lumbering, grinding style on top to wear out the opponent and control his movement.
On bottom:  the quick standup off the whistle is likely not happening.  The handfight standup may be your best option (we teach it in our room, it is an incredible advanced standup for shutting down leg riders and riding beasts).  The handfight standup is more deliberate but much more controlling by nature.  Its also the best standup to use when facing top level opponents.

Those are just a few of the adjustments you can make.  For a complete gameplan, I recommend scheduling a personal session or giving our small group training a try this week.


What would you do for $125 Million?

I had a weird dream recently – and while I usually keep these to myself, this one struck me a little differently.

The dream went like this:

My daughter was offered a contract for $125 Million for 4 years – to play professional soccer at a major league level. 

For perspective, she did play soccer for many years, but she played for just one year in high school, on JV –  and then gave up the sport for her true passion.

Here’s the best part of the dream, though, and the whole reason for me sharing it…

She considered this offer a  dilemma. 

She didn’t know what to do, and was on the verge of tears over this decision.  

All the while, in the background, I’m saying, “Heck yes I know what you’re going to do!  Now let’s find those old cleats and get to work!”

When I awoke, I stumbled upon a different perspective:  what if we turned the tables?  

What if someone offered me $125M to work at the worst job possible, something I would truly hate, for 4 years?  (For me, something like working in a sewer with rats crawling around all over me).

What would I do?

What would you do?

(Of course, if you already hate your job, that certainly changes your perspective on this question.)

Now let’s ask an expert….

….what would Bob Dylan do?

Bob Dylan, “the poet”, once was asked, how do you know when you are wealthy

His response:  If you wake up in the morning, and go to sleep at night, and in between, do exactly as you please, you are wealthy.”

Who’s wealthier?

The guy who is following his passion, waking up every day doing exactly as he pleases?

Or the guy who just took $125 Million to work at a terrible job for the next 4 years?

Well, for the next several years anyway, guy #1 is.

If you make it past those 4 years and pocket that $125 million in the bank, then I guess you can do exactly what you please, so there is that.

And right about now, I'll bet you are deep in thought, pondering this:

What does this have to do with wrestling?

I thought you’d never ask.

Wrestling is the ultimate sport of creativity, and of developing a style that fits the individual, a style he or she is passionate about.

And a lot of what I do is help wrestlers find their passionate path and excel at it.

If you are a leg rider, and you just love throwing those boots, for instance, you want to do that every match, every chance you get, developing hard-to-defend methods of getting them in, and ever harder to defend turns.

If you love the fireman’s carry, you want to be able to execute that move multiple ways, and excel at finishing the shot to near fall points and pins.

If you love the single leg takedown, you want to be able to hit your signature move, that single leg, on everyone (like the great John Smith – winning two Olympic titles with his single leg, even when the best in the world knew it was coming, and the world’s best coaches were plotting and scheming to stop it.)

If you need help excelling from your favorite position…

Or are being tormented by certain moves and positions (just like the guy working in the sewer with rats crawling all over him)….

I can help.  Check it out here.


The 4 tenets of Leg ride countering

Leg riders – both feared and admired – are successful, in great part, because their opponents make their jobs a lot easier by not following a few basic principles.

If you apply the 4 tenets of leg ride countering, you can shut down every leg ride in wrestling.

What are those 4 principles?  I’m glad you asked.

#1:  Its always easier to KEEP them out than GET them out.   A few key movements can prevent the opponent from getting the legs in to begin with.

#2:  Position over moves.  Any counter that involves giving up position – such as a switch, a sit-out, a roll – avoid at all costs against quality leg riders.

#3:  He who hesitates gets tortured.  Shut them down immediately or you are likely to suffer the painful consequences.

#4:  Your near leg (the one he’s attacking) and your far arm are crucial.  If he controls those, he controls you – and you’re in for a rough ride.

Here’s a bonus one for whenever you are facing advanced leg riders….

If you mule kick first, stop doing that Advanced leg riders will counter it every time by lifting their foot up your middle.  Once they do, it will be even harder to get the leg out.

Start with the 4 tenets of leg ride countering first, and your success rate will go up.

I’ve spent 30 years training athletes to counter legs, and devised a few quick counters that can be learned in a matter of minutes.  Many wrestlers through the years have applied these and enjoyed immediate success.

If you really need to counter legs, and it has been a thorn in your pride for way too long – or you struggle in another area that you really need to fix fast….

This may be for you.  It only takes 30 minutes of your time and you can get help immediately.