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How a simple off the radar farm boy brought the nations top wrestler to tears

Here's what happened when we took a farm boy off the farm and threw him onto the national stage…

This farm boy in my room – we’ll call him “A” to protect the guilty – started out as a raw, green kid who lacked even a sniff about how to execute a great single.  He rapidly progressed to a competitive level.  

Still unknown on the national scene, he was ready to make his mark.

He drew the #1 ranked wrestler in the nation at the Central Regionals.

This dynamic athlete with a rich resume full of high accolades and accomplishments, was mowing them down left and right….  Completely dominating A’s weight class.

While I was coaching another wrestler in my club, A sidled up to me and said, “My match is coming up.  Got any advice?”

I had taken a brief look at video of the stud’s match and had planned a deep analysis before we faced him.

So I responded:  Just off the top of my head, this is what I’d do – and I blueprinted our strategy.

Well, the detailed video analysis never happened.

Moments after our conversation, A was called to the mat to wrestle The Match.

As he was taking the mat, I reiterated our blueprint for the match.

Out to the center he went…

shook hands and the battle began!

“A” followed the blueprint to near perfection.  Went right after this monstrous adversary, got in his face and executed the plan!

The result was a barnburner of a match decided in the closing seconds – a match so fierce, so intense, that this stud wrestler was still shaking and sobbing a full hour after the match.

A year later, that same stud handily won the US Nationals in Fargo.

The centerpiece of our blueprint is a core skill we teach, and wrestlers internalize, every spring.

It has shifted many a lopsided match and flipped the odds in many a lesser athlete’s favor through my 30+ years of training wrestlers.

A quick warning:  it isn’t enough to know what the technique is.  Without the directed training to internalize it, its just another move, and it won’t move your needle one inch.

In fact, unless you know exactly how to execute it, and are willing to put the effort into making it second nature, you might as well not even know the move exists.

During spring club, we never show anything just once.

We never drill anything just once.

If its important enough to show, then its important enough to learn, internalize and develop to Phase 5 (match level proficiency).

That eliminates all clinic moves.

There are none shown in spring training – or in summer camps.

I have designed my entire attack system to win from the core positions that wrestlers end up in most often – relentlessly breaking the opponents' position and attacking them constantly.

Just like A did to the future National Champ.

There is a tendency in most training programs to engage in a “show and tell” format (especially in spring because there are so many flashy moves in freestyle and greco wrestling), then, next session, move on to the next shiny object.

I refuse to run any of my trainings this way,.

If I had, A would never have been able to utilize his skills to lock down one of the nation’s most dynamic wrestlers and leave him shaken and sobbing.

This IS the WAY you beat top level wrestlers.

go here to join us this spring and beyond


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.