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High School Wrestling: My 10 Favorite Moves
I’ve never used throws in my wrestling career. Throws just weren’t my thing. High amplitude throws look cool and can quickly score a wrestler 5 points and maybe even lead to a pin. But throws are also high-risk moves. Rolls are high risk, high reward moves. Investing in commodities is also a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. I’d rather put my money in a savings account or CD with a safe rate of return on my investment.
Similarly, in the sport of wrestling, I would rather spend my practice time on double leg, single leg, and straight leg drills. In the sport of football, you see a lot of tackles and short passes. You don’t often see trick plays or really long passes (ie the bomb). Often a team will kick a field goal instead of trying for a touchdown because a field goal is safer. I think you see what I’m getting at. It is good to learn throws and counters to throws. However, the fundamentals usually win in wrestling matches. This is probably a message you’ve heard before. Ninety percent of the time you’ll probably use the same moves. You can use a different version of the move or set it up differently, but still use the same basic move.
I had a teammate in high school who liked to grab the head of everyone he wrestled with. That worked in middle school, but stopped working in high school. If you are good at throws, go for it. But most NCAA and Olympic freestyle champions are not throwers. Watch a tape of John Smith or Tom Brands and see how often they throw. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single wrestler throw in competition.
Most of the following moves can easily be found online or in books. Several are featured in online videos. I’m sure you know all these moves. Those are the basic moves. But fundamental moves win matches which is why everyone uses them. The key is to find the proper techniques to apply these moves. Keep in mind the importance of setting up your moves, not just wildly shooting attacks. Be aware of your position at all times. Don’t try to imitate other wrestlers or do moves just because your trainer thinks they’re good. Find out what works for you. Take the time to learn your craft (ie wrestling). Don’t be lured by fancy moves or instant gratification. Practice and practice the basic movements religiously. Don’t waste your practice or competition time performing moves that are likely to succeed only two percent of the time. So here are my ten favorite moves.
1. Double leg takedown
The double leg is one of the first moves I learned. The double leg is one of the first moves most wrestlers learn. Sport judo has a similar technique known as morotegari (two-handed harvest or double leg grab). What could be simpler than grabbing someone by both legs? Kids probably do it all the time. Of course, it’s a little more difficult than that. Appropriate technique is required. You don’t want to overdo it. Your opponent could knock you down and turn you around or put you in a front headlock. Therefore, make sure you take a deep penetration step while keeping your hips under you. Some wrestlers like to power through their opponents and some like to lift their opponent off the ground to finish a double leg. In high school we were always told, “On a double leg, you keep your head on the outside. On a single leg, you keep your head on the inside.” Sometimes you can lock your arms while doing a double leg and then use your head as a grapple to take your opponent down. I had a high school teammate who used a double leg takedown 99% of the time when he was on his feet. He placed third in the state tournament during his senior year. Sometimes you can get away with doing the same move multiple times when you’re really good at it. You can often switch to a double leg after performing a high crotch. The double leg is a fairly low risk move. If you don’t finish it, you often just get back on your feet. Former UFC champion Matt Hughes often performed double legs in matches and slammed his opponents to the canvas. Mixed martial artists often learn how to perform a double leg. Of course, in folk wrestling you can’t hit your opponent. But the double leg takedown is a great move. The double leg is a high percentage move (ie it works often).
2. Removal of one leg
One leg is another basic takedown. In high school I primarily used single leg takedowns. There are many ways to place and finish one leg. One leg is also a high percentage of movement. Push and pull your opponent so that he brings the leg you want to attack forward. Make it “heavy” on the foot you want to attack. Drop the level and shoot with your hips under you as a strong foundation. Keep your head in and lean into his side. Or, don’t tie up and just make sure you’re close enough to land your shot without overextending yourself. I think it’s pretty easy to shoot in one leg. I think the real secret is getting it done. You may have to turn around and grab his far ankle. You may need to place your ankle on his knee to help you lift his leg. You may need to raise the tripod and then do a “speed”. Spend a lot of time working on your ties, adjustments and finishes for individual legs and other takedowns.
3. High crotch removal
A high crotch is a type of single leg. It is also similar to the duck below. You can adjust the high crotch from the foot, two-to-one ties or many other ways. I like to hit a high crotch and then finish it off with a double leg.
If someone shoots for a takedown, you can pull out, whistle, and face them. I consider Visor to be a basic and effective move to counter kick attacks. The visor includes a deep overlap on your opponent’s near hand when he is deep in a takedown attempt. The pressure of the visor on your opponent’s hand is often enough to deflect his attack. Sometimes in a viszer situation, you can wrap your free arm around his neck and take him to the mat in a half nelson. Other times you end up on your feet while the visor is still secure and you can try to throw the opponent with a hook. The visor is an important feature and should be pierced often.
This is the most standard move to escape from the bottom position. Hold your elbows, stand up explosively, break your opponent’s grip and turn towards him. Hand and wrist control is important. You will need to be good at hand to hand combat. After you break his grip, you can try to take his trapped hand and place it in your “back pocket” before quickly turning towards him. Stand-ups are great for a 1-point escape. Make sure you aggressively seek a takedown right after you’ve escaped.
I love the switch. The switch is the most basic reversal technique in wrestling. It includes a hip abduction motion. Sometimes it helps to push back into your opponent before turning and bringing your hips out to hit the switch. I really enjoyed doing the “standing switch” in high school. I would get up from the bottom position. If he pulled me back to the mat, I would immediately hit the switch. You should know how to make a stop switch.
This is another fundamental move from the bottom position. After achieving a seated position, you can often perform a hip abduction and escape. In addition, if the opponent puts his head over your shoulder, you can grab it, rotate it strongly in the opposite direction and put him on his back. Sit-ups are basic and you should know how to do them.
8. Driving the legs over the body
A body drive is performed from the top position and involves placing one or both legs inside the legs of your opponent. We used to call it a “cowboy ride” if the wrestler put both feet. I liked to use the body drive when I was having trouble keeping my opponent down. I did turks and guillotines from the cross position. Sometimes I just used the ride to crush opponents. I was once ridden for the entire period by an opponent who put both feet and used half nelson force. That was not fun. A transverse body can be more risky. You have to keep your back arched and don’t allow yourself to go too far forward on your opponent’s back. Still, I think it’s an effective move. Olympic champion Ben Peterson was good at leg riding.
9. Arm bar (aka chicken wing)
The arm bar was my favorite move to pin. I often used single and double bars. I liked to attach one bar to an arm and then swing my leg over my opponent’s head and use it as a grappling hook. This usually caused my opponent to roll onto his back. Dan Gable was outstanding on arm bars.
10. Forequarter Nelson
The forequarter nelson is a great move after you’ve spread out and stopped the opponent’s shot. Place one hand on the back of your head while you slide your other hand behind his near arm. Then place the hand you’ve slipped behind his close hand on the top of your hand at the back of your head. You press down, lifting his nearby arm and forcing his head onto the mat. You can often turn him on his back this way. I used a front quarter nelson, got the opponent to move in one direction, then arm-drag him or punch him while spinning to the back for a takedown.
Other favorite moves
- Granby roll
- Hunting singles
- Choice for the ankle
- Inside trip (called ouchi-gari in judo)
- Arm dear
- Paula Nelson
Remember, fundamentals win wrestling matches. Work out hard and practice your moves religiously. I hope some of my favorite moves are your favorites too.
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