Matside Coaching Practices

matsidecoachingFor you guys who coach youth or high school wrestling, USA Wrestling had an article on the “Six Best Practices for Matside Coaching.”

The last point about staying positive can be a challenge in the heat of a match.  “Words should always encourage, be positive and instructive,” says Tom Kuisle, Mat Officials Director for Minnesota USA Wrestling. “Scolding and reprimanding when the athlete is working hard will flip the listening switch to the off position.”

The other points are also worth considering.

1. Best coaching happens in practice

The best wrestling coaches do their best coaching during practice, in the practice room. Not matside during the heat of a match.

“Practice is for developing strategy, skills, and planning efficient communication between coaches and athletes,” says Mike Clayton, Director of the National Coaches Education Program for USA Wrestling. “Matches are good for testing the practice philosophy, not for teaching new skills.”

Clayton helped create this Corner Coaching Tips & Strategy document for USA Wrestling.

2. Know your athlete’s limits

Competition is not the time to ask or instruct wrestlers to try something new that they haven’t practiced, notes Clayton. “If I haven’t taught it to a wrestler before the match, it’s almost certain the athlete won’t learn it in the six minutes of a competition,” he says.

However, there are situations—like a gym with a loud, boisterous crowd—where the coach must raise their voice to be heard, says August Manz, a coach with the COBRA Optimists Wrestling Club of Council Bluffs (IA). But coaches should remember that even though they are raising their voice, the wrestler may not be able to hear or acknowledge it—so don’t just yell louder. Voice, body language, and facial expressions all make an impact.

3. One athlete competing = one coach talking

At many youth tournaments, it’s not uncommon for coaches, teammates, and family members to stand in the corner of their wrestler. While many do so for moral support, too many voices can become a major distraction, says Tom Kuisle, Mat Officials Director for Minnesota USA Wrestling and the 2012 USA Wrestling Officials Association Official of the Year

“Assign one coach to speak and talk from the corner,” says Kuisle. “If there is a second coach, that coach should offer advice through the assigned coach. That way, when the athlete hears that familiar voice he or she knows it is meant for them. They don’t have to spend the mental focus needed to deal with their opponent filtering out all the other noise to find the voice of the coach.”

4. To help your wrestler keep his or her composure, keep yours too

Manz points out that many kids are nervous when they step out on the mat, especially those not used to competing in front of a crowd. So, coaches who remain calm and in control will help the wrestler follow suit.

“If you have a child in an environment and their coach or parent is sitting in their corner yelling at them or pounding on the mat to do a certain move, what kind of emotions will the child be feeling?” Manz explains. “The answer is scared or intimidated.”

5. Working the refs doesn’t work

Coaches need to focus on coaching the athlete, not the official.

“When a coach is talking to or at the referee, the athlete is missing the assistance that they may need,” Kuisle says. “Yelling complaints like ‘What’s the other guy doing?’ Or ‘Call it both ways!’ won’t change the call and instead leaves you offering nothing to the athlete as a coach.

What’s more, Clayton notes that there is a shortage of wrestling officials in our country and one reason is that because officials often get yelled at or worse. “Let the official off the hook, and if a call doesn’t go your way, get used to it. It won’t always go your way.”

Instead, use that experience as a teachable moment. Remind your athlete that referees are human. Occasionally, the calls they will make won’t seem fair. “This will allow your athlete to start building resiliency,” says Clayton. “This will serve them well as their matches start to mean more.”

6. Stay focused and positive

Kuisle says the best matside coaches develop a coaching vocabulary that is tailored to each individual wrestler. These have been discussed and put in place at practice, well before competition takes place. These key words or hand signals can relay short precise instructions that help the athlete focus on the match. “Words should always encourage, be positive and instructive,” says Kuisle. “Scolding and reprimanding when the athlete is working hard will flip the listening switch to the off position.”

Wrestling Moves Demonstrated


While Previewroaming around the Internet this morning, I came across The Wrestling Site, which offers a variety of videos illustrating basic wrestling moves.

The site is produced by Les Anderson, “The Champions Coach,” and features videos on basic technique as well as one demonstrating neutral, defensive and offensive wrestling moves.

Unfortunately, you only get to see a short preview of each clip. Viewing the videos costs $0.99 per video, downloading them costs $1.99, and there is an option for a $9.99 per month subscription.

Other than that, it looks like a great site to see wrestling moves demonstrated.


Conditioning Drills

Wrestling is an intense sport that taxes the mind, body and spirit.

In addition to practicing individual moves and live wrestling with a partner, condition drills are essential to build up endurance for a match.

That National Federation of State High School Associations has a nice run down of conditioning drills.

The Double Leg – This carry involves having a partner face you and then lifting him up by his upper legs and then draping him over a shoulder. He is then carried to the opposite end and set down on his feet again. Then after jogging back to the starting point, he does the same thing to you. This is the case for each of the five total body carries.
The Fireman’s Carry – This carry is also very specific to wrestlers because it involves the technique of a popular wrestling move, the fireman’s carry. One wrestler grips his partner’s tricep and then puts his partner on his back while putting his other arm through the partner’s legs so that partner can hang behind the carrier’s neck on his upper back.
The Piggy Back Ride – This carry simply involves having one wrestler hop on the back of the other. The rider can lock his hands loosely around the carrier’s neck while the carriers can reach back and hold his legs.
The Bridal Carry – This carry is a reference to a groom carrying a bride over the threshold. The rider locks his hands behind the carrier’s neck and then hops in his arms.
The Wheelbarrow – Another classic carry where one wrestler holds his partner’s legs at the knees while the other uses his hands to “walk” to the other end.

Read the whole article for more drills.

MAWA in March


Fauquier High School in Warrenton, Va., will once again host the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Association’s South Region District Tournament on March 12 and 13.

Matches start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 12, for Bantam, Midget, Junior and Intermediate level wrestlers. Open competition for wrestlers over the age of  18 begins at 11:30 a.m.

Advanced and elite level wrestlers compete at 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., March 12 and 7 to 8 a.m., Sunday, March 13.

Weigh-is at FHS must be in a singlet. Wrestlers must wear a singlet in competition as no T-shirts or striped socks are allowed

For more information, contact Tournament Director Jack Raines at 540-341-4622 (home) or 540-229-1400 (cell), or by email at

Visit the MAWA website for more information. Download the tournament entry form here: MAWA2016

Wrestling Styles

2006 usa nationals_0096The three main styles of wrestling practiced in the United States are folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Among youth, high school and college wrestlers primarily follow folkstyle rules. According to the Reactor Wrestling Club in West Richland, Wash,

One feature that makes collegiate-style wrestling different from freestyle is that a wrestler must hold the opponent’s shoulders to the mat for one second to earn a fall. Collegiate-style wrestling rewards wrestlers with “near falls,” worth two or three points, for holding an opponent close to his or her back. Collegiate wrestlers earn credit for “riding time,” or time during which they control their opponent on the mat. “Riding time” points are unique to college wrestling and do not play a factor in the high school sport.

Greco-Roman wrestling is popular in Europe. Greco-Roman  differs from in that wrestlers may only use holds above the waist. They may not use legs in scoring or defense.

Tripping, tackling, and using the legs to secure a hold are not permitted. Greco-Roman wrestlers begin their bout in a standing position, and attempt to either throw their opponent to the mat or to use holds to drop them to the mat.

Freestyle is the most popular style of wrestling in the world. Freestyle allows wrestlers to use their entire body during a match.

Holds below the waist and the use of the legs are permitted. In the 1990s, the United States became one of the leading freestyle wrestling nations in the world, winning its first-ever team title at the 1993 Freestyle World Championships.

Once Northern Virginia Wrestling practice begin, it will be interesting to see which style of wrestling most guys will pursue. Most likely either folk- or freestyle will dominate.

Wrestling for Grownups