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High School Wrestling: My 10 Favorite Moves
I have never used a throw in my wrestling career. Throwing was not my thing. High amplitude throws look great and wrestlers can quickly score 5 points and maybe even get pinned. But, throwing is also a high-risk activity. Throws are high-risk, high-reward moves. Investing in commodities is also a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. I would rather put my money in a savings account or a CD with a guaranteed return on my investments.
Similarly, in wrestling I spend my practice time on double legs, single legs and stand-up drilling. In the game of football, you see a lot of hand-offs and short passes. You don’t often see trick plays or really long passes (ie bombs). Often a team kicks a field goal instead of attempting a touchdown because a field goal is a sure thing. I think you see what I’m getting at. It is good to learn throw and counter to throw. However, fundamentals usually win 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 junior high who liked to headlock everyone he wrestled with. He worked in junior high, but stopped working in high school. If you are good at throwing, go for it. But, most NCAA champions and freestyle Olympic champions are not throwers. Watch a video of John Smith or Tom Brands and see how many times they throw. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wrestler throw in competition.
Most of the tricks below can be easily found online or in books. Featured in many online videos. I am sure you know all these moves. Those are basic moves. But, basic moves win matches so everyone uses them. The key is to find the right techniques to implement these movements. Remember the importance of setting up your movements and not just shooting in turns. Be aware of your position at all times. Don’t try to imitate other wrestlers or do moves because your coach thinks they’re good. Find what works for you. Take the time to learn your art (i.e. wrestling). Don’t be tempted by fancy moves or instant gratification. Practice and drill basic movements religiously. Don’t waste time practicing or competing with moves that will only work two percent of the time. Now, here are my ten favorite moves.
1. Double leg takedown
Double leg is one of the first moves I learned. The double leg is the first move most wrestlers learn. The sport of judo has a similar technique called morotegari (two-handed chop or double leg grab). What could be more fundamental than confronting someone by holding them by both feet? Kids probably do this all the time. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that. Proper technique is essential. You don’t want to overextend yourself. Your opponent can take you down and spin or put you in a front headlock. So, make sure you take a deep entry step while keeping your hips under you. Some wrestlers like to hit their opponent and some like to lift their opponent off the floor to complete a double leg. In junior high 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 pre 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. In his senior year, he placed third in the state tournament. Sometimes you can get away with doing the same movement over and over when you get really good at it. You can often switch to a double leg after doing a high crouch. A double leg is a low risk move. If you don’t make it, you often find yourself back on your feet. Former UFC champion Matt Hughes often double-legs during matches and slams his opponents to the canvas. Mixed martial artists often learn how to execute a double leg. Of course, in folk style wrestling you can’t knock your opponent out. But, the double leg takedown is a great move. The double leg is a high percentage move (meaning it works most of the time).
2. Single leg takedown
The single leg is another basic takedown. I mainly used single leg takedowns in high school. There are many ways to set up and complete a leg. Single leg is a high percentage move. Push and pull your opponent to bring forward the leg you want to attack. Make it “heavy” on the base you want to attack. Lower your level and shoot with your hips as a strong base. Put your head in and close an angle to its side. Or, don’t buckle up and make sure you’re close enough to make your shot without overextending yourself. I think it’s very easy to hit one leg. I think the real secret is being able to accomplish that. You have to go around and grab his ankle. You have to place his ankle on your knee to lift his leg. You have to tripod up and then “boot scoot”. Spend a lot of time perfecting your ties, set-ups and single legs and other takedowns.
3. High crotch removal
A high crotch is one type of leg. It’s the same under the duck. You can set up a high crotch with an underhook, two-on-one tie, or many other ways. I like to hit a high crotch and then switch off to a double leg to finish it off.
If someone shoots for a takedown, you can spread him, visor, and crossface him. I consider Visor to be a basic and effective move to counter foot attacks. The visor involves a deep overhook on your opponent’s near arm while he is deep in a takedown attempt. The pressure of the visor on your opponent’s arm is enough to block his attack. Sometimes in Visor’s situation, you can wrap your free arm around his neck and drive him to the mat in a half nelson. Other times you stay on your feet with a visor and you can try to hip toss your opponent. The visor is an important movement and should be drilled frequently.
5. Stand up
This is the most standard move to get out of a down position. Keep your elbows in, stand up explosively, break your opponent’s grip and face him. Control of the hand and wrist is important. You need to be good at hand to hand combat. After you break his hold, you can try to take his grasping hand and place it in your “back pocket” before quickly turning towards him. Stand-ups are great for getting 1-point escapes. Make sure you aggressively try to remove it after getting rid of it.
I love the switch. The switch is the most basic reversal technique in wrestling. It has a hip lift type of movement. Sometimes it helps to push your opponent back and you thrust your hips out to hit the switch. I really enjoyed doing the “standing switch” in high school. I will stand up from a low position. I would immediately hit the switch when he pulled me back to the mat. You must know how to do the standing switch.
7. Sit out
This is another basic move from the bottom position. After you achieve the sit-out position, you can often execute a hip lift and escape. Additionally, if your opponent puts his head on your shoulder, you can grab him, twist him hard in the opposite direction, and put him on his back. The sit-out is basic and you should know how to perform it.
8. Cross-body leg ride
A cross-body ride is performed from the top position and involves placing one or both of your legs inside your opponent’s legs. If a wrestler puts both his feet in, we call it a “cowboy ride.” I like to use the cross-body ride when I’m having trouble keeping my opponent down. I used to do Turks and guillotines from a cross-body position. Sometimes I just used the ride to smash opponents. I once rode for an entire period with an opponent who kept both feet in and used a half nelson. It wasn’t fun. Cross-body can be high-risk. You have to keep your back arched and don’t let your opponent’s back go too far. Still, I think it’s an impressive move. Olympic champion Ben Peterson was good at leg riding.
9. Arm Bar (aka Chicken Wing)
My favorite pinning move was the arm bar. I often used single and double arm bars. I liked to secure a single arm bar and then swing my leg over my opponent’s head and use it. This usually got my opponent to turn his back. Dan Gable was exceptional in the arm bar.
10. Front Quarter Nelson
This is a great move after the front quarter nelson hits and stops the opponent. You place one hand on the back of his head and thread the other behind his nearest arm. You then place the threaded hand behind his nearest hand over the back of his head. You apply pressure, raise his nearest arm and force his head to the mat. You can often turn him onto his back this way. I would apply a front quarter nelson, get my opponent to move in one direction, and then arm drag or push him while turning back for a takedown.
Other favorite activities
- Granby Roll
- Less single
- Ankle lift
- Inside trip (in Judo this is called Ochi-gari)
- Arm drag
- Half Nelson
Remember, fundamentals win wrestling matches. Practice hard and drill your moves religiously. I hope you enjoy some of my favorite moves too.
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