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High School Wrestling: Off Season and Summer Training
The high school folk style wrestling season is over. What are you doing now? Throwing your wrestling shoes in the back of the closet and not looking at them again until next November? Are you also forgetting about strength training and fitness until next November? Do you spend all summer sipping lemonade, eating ice cream and hanging out on the beach? I hope you answered no to all these questions. If you want to excel in the sport of wrestling, you have to train all year round.
Very few high school state or NCAA champions wrestle only during the regular school season. Most elite wrestlers simply don’t wrestle three or four months out of the year. Do you think Dan Gable or John Smith only wrestled during their high school folkstyle season or college season? No. They wrestled all year. It was fought in free and folk style.
Periodization is simply planning your training for a specific period of time. There are different types of periodization including linear, wavy, concurrent, and conjugate. Periodization mainly consists of three phases: preparation, competition and transition phase.
After the folkstyle season ends, you can wrestle in some post-season takedown tournaments. In addition, you can start wrestling in the spring freestyle season. Competing in several spring freestyle tournaments can give you many opportunities to work on your takedown skills. Freestyle season can be a time that seems a little more relaxed. Freestyle offers a slight change of pace from the folkstyle and you don’t have to worry so much about maintaining a certain weight.
You don’t want to get burned wrestling. You also don’t want to overload your body. Taking a week or two off after the folk style season to let your body rest is a good idea. Try to take a week or two off at some point. Rest is an important part of periodization. You can choose not to wrestle freestyle. Maybe you’d better take a few weeks off and then start lifting weights and running. Maybe your local school has open mat times where you can go in and practice some moves. Freestyle is not popular with everyone.
Summer camps make winter champions. You may have heard this phrase before. Attending camps and clinics can definitely help your wrestling continue to improve. My senior wrestling coach encouraged me to attend a wrestling camp during the summer. He thought the wrestler had become too detached from the match and if he had completely forgotten about it until the next fall. I attended camps the summer after my sophomore and junior year of high school. I learned new moves and met some talented college wrestlers. I even heard Dan Gable speak and met him in person.
John Fritz (NCAA champion and former Penn State coach) used a quote in his summer camp brochure that said, “There will come a time when winter will ask what you did all summer.” If you don’t devote some time to wrestling or at least working on your conditioning over the summer, it will almost certainly affect your wrestling success the following season.
If freestyle wrestling or camps aren’t your thing or don’t fit into your schedule, you might want to consider purchasing technique videos to study over the summer. Maybe you could do some shadow wrestling at home. Try doing some stand-up exercises and takedown exercises. Visualize and practice moves even when you’re not at camp or training with a match partner. Some trainers have said that your best training partner is yourself.
Summer can be a good time to work on your weaknesses as well. If you spent the season in the muscles of your opponents, you may need to focus on weight training over the summer. If you ran out of ‘gas’ in a lot of games during the season, you may need to really focus on improving your fitness over the summer. Do jogging, wind sprints and circuit training. Build your work capacity and GPP (General Physical Readiness). Conditioning expert Matt Wiggins likes to talk about building a bigger “gas tank” so you can go longer and do more work for longer. You may want to look into working capacity and GPP. You may also want to look into match fitness.
The 10,000 hour rule
Success in wrestling or any other endeavor in life may not have as much to do with talent as you think. two books The Talent Code and Outliers: A success story, both discuss something called the 10,000 hour rule. It takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieve perfection or mastery in a particular area of expertise. These books express the idea that even people who society considers “talented” have actually practiced a lot to reach their level of greatness. Practice seems to be more important than innate talent. Even the famous composer Mozart gave years of practice to become an expert in his field.
Six-time world and Olympic wrestling champion John Smith said: “I think we use the word talent a lot. People say I was talented or this or that. I probably hit a million low legs in my life. I probably practiced lacing 40 or 50 times a day . I earned the right to be able to hit sharp techniques. It had nothing to do with talent.”
Basketball legend Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player the sport of basketball has ever seen. However, Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity team during his sophomore year of high school. At that point in his life he had not yet fully honed his talent. He practiced diligently to improve his basketball skills. The extra work and dedication clearly paid off.
Are you willing to put in thousands of hours of training to achieve your wrestling goals? Off-season and summer training is essential if you want to become a champion in the sport of wrestling.
I’m not trying to suggest that you need 10,000 hours of training to become a state champion or even an NCAA wrestler. I am simply saying that the more you practice, the better you will be. Just make sure your technique is right in the beginning and then drill it religiously.
I’ve seen many elite athletes state that they didn’t have that much natural talent. They weren’t special or gifted. But they put in hours of dedicated training to excel in their chosen sport. So if you spend the spring and summer wrestling and practicing your moves, you’ll have a lot more hours of training than some other wrestlers.
Dan Gable continued to wrestle two or three times a week during the summer while in high school to keep the sport close. Even while working summer jobs, he still found time to wrestle. Masahiko Kimura, one of the greatest judokas of all time, sometimes practiced for up to nine hours a day. Dan Gable trained seven hours a day, seven days a week in preparation for the Olympics. Boxing legend Rocky Marciano was known to train year-round. Rocky Marciano is considered by many to be the most fit boxer the sport of boxing has ever seen. But it wasn’t always like that. In an early amateur fight against a former Golden Gloves champion, he was exhausted early in the fight. He was eventually disqualified. He swore he would never again be out of shape for a fight. He left undefeated.
I mainly wrestled four months out of the year, except for a week long wrestling camp in the summer. During the summer months I always did some form of fitness like running and lifting weights. During my senior year I was a conference winner and a state qualifier. That’s not bad considering the amount of effort I put in. However, I could have been much better if I had dedicated myself more to off-season training. Make sure you dedicate some time to wrestling and conditioning throughout the year. You can excel in wrestling if you don’t neglect your off-season training.
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