Better drilling by controlling the tempo

By Ted Witulski | Nov. 28, 2001, 12 a.m. (ET)
At the start of every tournament the teams take the mats, and begin the process of warming up. After the jogging and stretching the wrestlers pair off and begin going through the familiar tasks of drilling the techniques, which will be used in their matches. Even before the matches are wrestled coaches and fans in the stands can probably conjecture as to which wrestlers are the studs in the tournament, just by viewing their drilling habits. Some wrestlers have it together firing off shots and counters with speed and finesse. Other less advanced wrestlers appear cumbersome as they try to imitate the techniques they'll need to win. Drilling is a means to an end-the goal, of course, is to be a champion. Coaching wrestlers on how to drill successfully is as important as showing a sprawl or a single-leg. Beyond the moves, successfully drilling will help wrestlers better learn the basic skills associated with the techniques of wrestling. Wrestlers and coaches should concentrate on outstanding drilling to take strides forward in their wrestling skills. The purpose of drilling is varied. In some instances drilling serves as practice for a brand new move. At other times, drilling is part of a cardiovascular workout associated with conditioning. And, in other cases coaches are looking to perfect basic skills such as a precise level change or a speedier penetration step. To be able to coach wrestling successfully coaches need to teach their athletes how to drill at different speeds. USA Wrestling's National Coaches Education Program notes that wrestlers should be able to establish three different speeds of drilling. Each speed acts as another gear for wrestlers to move in when focusing on the varied areas that drilling involves. Coaches may choose to name the drill speeds differently, but the establishment of these varied gears in drilling is important to help wrestlers learn the art of drilling. Three suggested speeds of drilling for wrestlers on the youth and high school level are "ICE" drilling, "Working Pace" drilling, and "Match Realistic" drilling. ICE drilling acts as the slowest speed for wrestlers to drill. ICE stands as an acronym for Intense-Controlled-Energy. When coaches want kids drilling slowly the message to the wrestlers shouldn't be take a breather. Instead, coaches are looking for focused intensity, controlled movements, and energy spent on deep concentration for learning. Generally in moves drilled, a coach should be able to see the setup, the attack or penetration, and the precise finish. ICE drilling should get the wrestlers to focus on all three parts for a slow count of one-two. When wrestlers use the ICE method all parts should be readily apparent to the coach. In a typical double leg takedown, a wrestler might head shuck, penetrate, and then finish with a turk step. If a coach asks his team to drill this move at ICE speed, then the wrestlers should slow down immensely. The wrestlers footwork as he moves to the head shuck should be slower. While grasping the head the wrestler pulls it tightly to his chest and then push it across his stance. Think of a slow thousand one-thousand two count. As the second count is reached for the setup, the wrestler should have preset his feet to penetrate after the setup. (Visualize a shuck of the head with the right hand pushing the opponent's head across the stance to the left. The attacking wrestler to ready for an inside step double would have placed his left leg in a lead leg stance.) With the head shucked into place and lead leg set, the opponent is open for attack. Still in a slow one-two count, the offensive wrestler will deeply change levels, count one. At count two, wrestlers should penetrate in a clean continuous but slow motion. Don't get wrestlers to pound their knee to the center of the opponent's stance and stop. Successful penetration is not viewed as reaching an opponent's stance, but rather penetrating through it. On the second when a wrestler's knee hits the mat his trail leg should be moving to cut the angle, so that the attacker can come off of his planted knee. Having slowly moved the level change step and trail leg movement of penetration, then wrestlers should enact a slow finish. In this case wrestlers on the slow count would change levels up and through their opponent. On the second count wrestlers would hit a slow controlled lift and turk step through the split legs of the opposition. Drilling a move at such a slow speed serves the purpose of teaching wrestlers the importance of each part of a move. It is hard to say what is most important the setup, the attack, or the finish. But the ICE drilling procedure gives the coach ample opportunity to check over the wrestlers hand position, footwork, level change and other aspects of the takedown, by not allowing the wrestlers to hide flaws with speed. If a coach has noticed that his wrestlers are not looking across the back on their double leg lift, then he can cue his athletes into this simply by saying, "lets drill ICE-Doubles and I'm looking to see that your eyes are looking up and across your opponent's back." By mentioning the precision of looking across the back wrestlers will have a mental cue and plenty of time to focus correctly on the cue while they hit the technique. Coaches will find many uses for ICE drilling once their athletes learn the procedure. The goal should not be for the coach to count one-two as the wrestlers work through the setup, attack and finish. Rather, wrestlers should feel the power to control the speed and slowly advance through the technique. Again, precision is the key. Every movement should be intense, controlled, energy easily viewed and evaluated by the coach. Once wrestlers have learned ICE drilling, then they should be comfortable in drilling at a working pace. Working pace drilling does not require athletes to slow the speed of a technique to a large degree as opposed to the ICE drilling method. Rather, the focus should be on a smooth speed with one focused explosion after the level change. Wrestlers will not be going all out in the working pace, accept in one part of the setup-penetrate-finish model. When wrestlers go at a faster pace they need to learn to be explosive with their attack. In the working pace model wrestlers will level change loading their hips into a strong attack position. Once they have level changed precisely, they should flip the switch and explosively penetrate through the opponent. Instead of focusing on a slow methodical penetration athletes should tune in on quick movement into the attack. The contact from attacker to the opponent should be solid. An attacker's head or shoulder, depending on the shot, should strike powerfully into the defender. Some coaches indicate to wrestlers in this form of drilling that a good "shot" can be heard as well as seen. After coiling up tightly and loading his hips into a striking position, the attacker's knee pads and shoes will make a sweeping sound across the mat. But the real sound that a coach should hear is the hard contact of the attacker into the torso of the opponent. A little forced exhale from the defender is a good sign the attacker is penetrating solidly into the opposing wrestler. Once the wrestler has penetrated as quickly through his opponent as possible, then he should perfect the finish. The pace of the drill does not need to slow dramatically. Instead, the momentum from the explosion into the defender should be used to carry the attacker through the finish. The "working pace" should tell wrestlers to get reset quickly. Wrestlers should build speed, and power in their attack by consistently practicing loading their hips. Another way that working pace drilling can be enhanced is to require the attacker to repeat his setup before changing levels and exploding through the attack. If a wrestler is working on hitting single legs with a "Russian" (two-on-one) setup, then the wrestler will be required to hit a Russian release it and as the defender reaches