By Zeke Jones | April 20, 2011, 8:35 a.m. (ET)
Winter International Training and Competition
Russia, United States, Cuba, Iran, Belarus Tournaments
Quarterly Report
Zeke Jones
March 10, 2011

After extensive training and competition in Russia, Cuba, Iran, and Belarus we've been able to evaluate the American wrestlers as well as the top foreign competitors in the optimal training and competition environments. In these last six weeks, we've been able to understand at a deeper level what the top wrestlers in the world are doing, how they train, what their strategies are, and what tactics they employ. As American wrestlers and coaches, we must keep an open mind to the differences in techniques and tactics and to understand what it takes to compete against top foreign freestyle wrestlers. Because of this, some American wrestling coaches, wrestlers, and fans will find some of the skills below as unusual or odd. Keep an open mind"¦these are the cutting edge freestyle strategies that win world and Olympic gold medals.

I know this is a lot of information. Take your time and go thru it carefully. We need you to intensely focus and make improvement in these areas. Your gold medal is on the line and the key to it is in the information below.

For American wrestlers it all starts with our stance. Start with your head in a blocking position and your hands relaxed down in your lap. Don't reach. Currently most American wrestlers are in an upright stance with their faces up reaching or lunging towards the opponents head or shoulders often extending themselves. We must retrain ourselves to start with a low stance making contact first with our head and then reach across to control his wrists or to finger first. Once you've started with his hands work your way up his arms first starting with the elbows, biceps, or the collar position. When you're in your stance think about making your stance as small as possible and keep your arms and neck short. Don't get extended in your stance. Also keep your body in a threatening position by giving your opponent short fast fakes that keep him on the defense reacting to you. Also, eliminate or drastically reduce the amount of times you come out of your stance to bounce around and shake it out or have a mental reset. Eliminate resets and stay in your stance at all times.

Your opponent must know you are a threat to attack him at all times. Threaten him with a body, head, or foot fake or even hiss. This let's him know that you might attack at anytime. When threatening your opponent, stay low and down in your stance and keep him reacting to you. Think"¦ aim small-shoot small. After threatening him with a fake don't come out of your stance"¦this will lessen your effectiveness. He must know that you are going to attack at any moment. Threat, threat, attack, threat, attack, etc.

America must practice defense not just counter offense. Americans are losing too many matches because we were not concentrating on superior shut down defense techniques and tactics. America has focused on being dominant"¦this is good. The most dominant wrestlers in the world BOTH score points and are so stingy on defense they are never are scored on. It is ok to switch from counter offense to defense when there is little to no time on the clock. To have the highest level defense, stay down in your stance with hands relaxed in the pocket and hold your ground. Do not run away from your opponent but circling is good to stay mobile.

When your opponent shoots, block the shot with your head and either drop to your knees or sprawl. When you're in a good defensive position, take control of the tie up and control the center of the mat at all times. This will keep you away from the edge of the mat where most points are scored. Once you know you've defended him and he cannot score on you, then counter attack him. This is where most points are scored in a short time lead situation. Also, understand that the best defenses in freestyle move forward not backwards. Learn to step over and slip your foot out of a high crotch or single leg or if he gets to your leg pressure in with your hips and slide off his body when you sprawl. Don't retreat to defend unless you know you have a lot of mat behind you.

Finally, remember the two most important mentalities of defense. The first mind set is, "I dare you to score on me, I dare you. There's no way you can score on me." Two, stay intense but relax"¦especially your arms. Just because he's going hard at you doesn't mean you need to panic. Stay relaxed and swat away his attempts at taking you down. Remember, he can't take you down"¦you're the best in the world.

Americans want to hand fight so hard that they come out of their stance and reach for the head. This is a mistake. Start with head position and then fighting your opponents fingers. Develop set up routines from the finger locked position.

American wrestlers must develop a set up routine that no one can stop. Just handfighting to set up your attack is only half of a good set up routine. A set up routine is creating a combination of set ups in a pattern that leads you into a position to score. Ex. I try set up A if it's open I attack if not I go to set up B if its there I attack if not I'm all ready on to set up C to attack and score. Or I create set up A to lead to set up B or I use a set up to put my opponent where he has to give me either A or B. This set up routine is created in a pattern that lays a trap for your opponent and gives him no way out.

Freestyle has evolved to the point where Greco Roman is an important part of the sport. Areas of concentration to developing are set ups, attacks, and finishes from the underhook, double underhook, overhook, double overhook, whizzer, bear hug, side bear hug, and seat belt. When practicing these positions, focus on developing set up routines that lead to Greco roman attacks to freestyle finishes. Always be sure to finish all the way to the mat when drilling or wrestling live.

In practice, hand fighting doesn't just mean to keep your hands moving. Handfighting doesn't just mean having busy, heavy, strong, effective hands. You must be able to take control of your opponent's wrists, elbows, arms, underhooks, and the collar and then hold and move your opponent to a position of advantage. Positions of advantage are breaking your opponent's stance to set him up for attack or move him to the edge of the mat to put him at a disadvantage. In addition, controlling the tie up will make your opponent want to flee the position leaving him vulnerable to attack. With everything equal, the wrestler who can control the tie up will beat the guy who has busy active hands.

Finishes are the number one technical difference in freestyle from folkstyle except for the edge of the mat and clinch. Because the edge of the mat is such a large factor you must develop finishes that bring the edge of mat into the equation. First thing when finishing, get up and thru your opponent. Control the leg when attacking isn't as important as standing up with the leg and running him thru the zone. Even if you don't take him off the mat when you run him towards the edge you will force him to circle back on the mat making him vulnerable to a knocking down finish or a spin behind score. When standing up with the leg keep your head up and hips in so he can't chestlock throw, pull his knee in close to your body, and hike the knee up high in the air while moving him to the edge of the mat. Also know that being slightly bent over on a single or double leg can give you an optimal angle for running him off the mat. Also, when you are in a high crotch crackdown, fireman's carry, or double leg stand up with it. Yes, stand up with it. Most guys are defending by draping their bodies over the top of you creating dead weight so go ahead and stand up with them. Once you stand up with them go for the 3 or 5 point move. Also develop finishes that attack the core of his body. Use underhook, double underhook and seat belt to control your opponent and move him to the edge of the mat or pick him up or sag him to the ground to finish. Always finish these skills to the mat in practice.

See finishes.

Single leg defense is essential to having the top defense in the world since the number one takedown in the world is single leg. First thing is to keep him off of your leg by head blocking his shot. If he gets past your head then foot or leg slip or kick out of his shot. Remember to move either forward when you defend or retreat if you have room behind you. If your opponent gets in on the single leg first priority is to get your hips in and square up with feet back. Sprawl. To do this be sure to use your hands by anchoring your arms on his body to get maximal force to press your hips in on his shot. Take the butt drag, chest lock, front head lock, or tight waist and ankle position and then press your hips in and slide off your opponent. Once you've slid off and stopped his shot then keep your hips pressed in and walk around your opponent. Be heavy and focus on tearing off his shoulders. If he still holds on to your leg hook his ankle and take the cradle position to finish.

Reshots are essential because it allows you to create multiple attacks instead of a one dimensional attack and keeps your opponent leery of attempting to attack you knowing you will launch a counter attack.

The open set up is the number one set up area in the world. Open set ups are fake and go, level change and go, and touch and go. These set ups are most effective because they either get you to the leg to finish or give you a running start that takes him to the edge of the mat.


Having a balanced set up routine of open set ups and set ups from the tie up is most effective routine you can have. If you control the tie up effectively, then your opponent will want to clear out of the tie up and wrestle you from the open. Once in the open you now set him up from the open. Once he realizes you are setting him up from the open then he wants to tie you up. Once he ties you up then set him up from the tie up. Now he knows, you can set him up from the tie up or the open leaving him no place to go.

Since the edge of the mat keeps wrestlers moving forward, you must drill and spar with pressure in practice everyday. Take strong head position and get in a rugby scrub position. Push him to the edge, when he pushes back, snap, attack, or get angles that leave him vulnerable to attack and score.

Too often we cooperate with our partner in practice. In practice, once technique is over and when you start to drill hard, spar, or live wrestle make it difficult for your partner or have him make it difficult for you to execute the move. Fight the position. Also, Russians, Iranians, and Cubans will grab your singlet, pull your hair, or flat out just block you from doing something in a match or practice. Don't complain or say he's cheating. In Russia, they often say if you're not grabbing the singlet you're not trying hard enough. I say don't give in to him, get in his face, and wrestle with him with a tough, no prisoners attitude.

If you score early in the period you must continue to build on your lead but also recognize that your opponent will start to pick up the pace since he's losing. This requires that you have good counter offense and defense. This is the point where you are still scoring but also employing solid defensive techniques and tactics. If the period is still 0-0 with less than 30 seconds in the period sprint on him to see if he is vulnerable. Pick up the wrestling pace, hand fight harder, and start to use set up and attack combinations. Also, recognize your opponent could use the same strategy. Often top wrestlers will wait to the end of the period to score so if he does score he doesn't have to defend his lead for long. They also wait to score late in a period if he doesn't believe in his conditioning.

Since wrestling is a series of two minute matches you must be able to put multiple combinations of set ups, attacks, and finishes together. One set up, one attack, and one score is almost impossible against the best in the world. You must build patterns of set ups and attacks in a row that lead to a finish. In practice drilling is not nearly as effective as sparring because it teaches you to executer multiple set ups, attacks, and finishes The highest performing wrestlers attack in combination and have patterns of multiple attacks that lead to scrambles of up to 30-45 seconds.

Same as above. Freestyle is a series of two minute matches. Because of the short periods you must be able to put multiple set ups and attacks together. Do you have a routine of 4-6 set ups and attacks that you can put together in a row to score? Sparring is the most effective way to develop these patterns and the over, under, and around drill is perfect for develop multiple attack patterns. Drilling is good for warm up but sparring is where most learning is done. Remember drilling a high crotch to a double leg finish drills well but is often ineffective since the world's best wrestlers have world class defense. Your playing chess not checkers.