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Snapdowns to Takedowns

By Ted Witulski | Oct. 03, 2001, 12 a.m. (ET)

Getting to watch elite wrestlers practice every day at the Olympic Training Center really reinforces the physical nature of the sport. When high school wrestlers and coaches come to view a practice, frequently their eyes are open to how powerful and even violent a confrontation of wrestling can be. A tie-up is locked in place with a bone-crushing grip. A fake to the head or head tap, really resembles a Muhammad Ali punch, that points to the reason why elite wrestlers more often than not sport cauliflower ears. And, finally a head snap is done with a sledge hammer intent that removes an opponent from his feet for the lightning fast go-behind. Nothing is done halfway, every set-up or tie-up is exploded through. The intensity of the athletes flow through every shot and counter. More than once coaches taking in an afternoon practice will similarly comment, "man, I wish I could get my kids to see how intense they could be with their tie-ups and set-ups. If the kids would hit their moves this hard I'd have a room full of state champions!" Of course getting wrestlers to recognize the force and fury that can be put behind their moves takes time and exposure to the concept. But, for the coach that wants to gather more intensity into his team's competitors the place to start certainly should be serious focus on snapdown wrestling. Commonly coaches teach wrestlers the essence of a snapdown. Usually, done with a head tie, coaches teach athletes to fake at the legs and quickly follow the leg fake with a snapping motion on the head-tie. The goal of course is to off-balance the opponent, break his stance, and set-up an easy takedown. This type of technique is probably the simplest way of teaching a snapdown. However, wrestlers should learn that there are many more applications and ways that a snapdown can be used to score takedowns. "Heavy Hands", is the common phrase used by coaches to spark a wrestler to really battle and move an opponent's head. But before a wrestler really can be dominant with snapdowns, he has to learn to fully commit to that set-up as a scoring maneuver. To teach a wrestler to commit to making his hands heavy on his opponent coaches might want to teach a second type of snapdown. The sprawling snapdown teaches a wrestler how important it is to put all of their weight behind the attack. In a sense, the sprawling snapdown is a full commitment to the attack. A head-tie is secured, the attacker drives the opponent backwards with the forearm from the head-tie driven to the defender's chest. The defender will react to the pressure and drive back into his opponent, the simplest reaction of the pushing and pulling at the core of the sport. When the defender drives forward again, the attacker will hit a full sprawl, pulling the opponent's head down to the mat. To keep himself from hitting the mat, the attacker posts with his free hand and springs back to his feet for the quick go-behind. (See World Team Member Stephen Abas hit a sprawling snapdown against his opponent: angle one.) (See Kerry Boumans hit a sprawling snapdown in the World Team Trials: angle two.) In these examples Boumans and Abas fully commit to their attack, the snap of the head is not just the set-up but really the attack in itself. The full weight of their body is thrown on to the pressure of the head snap, and if missed the attacker can quickly return to a sound stance with minimum risk. Getting wrestlers to fully believe in the concept of heavy hands can really open the door to power and explosiveness in tie-ups and set-ups. A second version of the snapping technique opens an attacker's go-behind to the opposite side. In the previous snapdown the attacker spins towards the head-tie. However, to enlarge a wrestler's snapping ability he should be able to off-balance an opponent using his off-side hand. Commonly, wrestlers hit snaps out of a head-tie. The natural reaction of an opponent to a strong grasp of a head-tie will be to focus energy and balance to that side of his body. To take advantage of the focus on the head-tie a wrestler should learn how to snap with pressure away from the head-tie. A defender will usually try to maintain balance by posting, grasping or tying with the hand away from the head tie. The extended reach opens up the snap and spin to that side. To hit a snapdown away from the head-tie the attacker needs to use a set-up known as a chop. The chop is executed by making solid contact with the forearm downward on the opponent's contact point. The chop downward applied with the snap on the head-tie will usually force the opponent to the mat and require him to post his hand to the mat. Instead of spinning towards the head-tie the attacker can perform a go-behind to the side of the arm chop. (See a an arm chop snapdown to a go-behind.) Once a wrestler feels comfortable to actively score to both sides, then it is important for a coach to present the wrestler with a variety of situations where snapdowns-to-takedowns can be practiced. For example, coaches should open athlete's eyes to chopping both of an opponent's arms at the same time. Wrestlers often can be hit with this set-up and attack when they reach with bent arms to tie-up a wrestler. (See Dominic Black hit a double arm chop for a snapdown to a takedown.) (See Lincoln McIlravy double arm chop an opponent as a snapdown.) Another way to work on committing to a snapdown can occur when a wrestler gains a front headlock but the opponent still maintains his balance on his feet. Often times, the defender will pull his arms back tightly to his sides to avoid giving up arm control. (See Chris Bono, 2001 World Team member at 69 kgs work a snapdown with little arm control.) A wrestler that circles his opponent hard and snaps down from this position will have an even better reason to work hard for the front headlock position. Wrestlers will also be in position to re-snap an opponent's head after an opponent counters a shot. Often one wrestler will wind up on his knees and hands, while the attacker is left with a head-tie and elbow control. (See Bono attack from this position on the edge of the mat.) Practicing heavy hands from this position will help a wrestler learn to stretch an opponent farther out of position. If a coach adds in the dimension of having to score on the edge with this drill wrestlers will have to focus on keeping their toes in as well. Wrestlers can also wind up in a face-off position where the ability to snap an opponent forward while returning to a stance can lead to easy scores. (See a snapdown from a face-off position.) According to Kevin Jackson, National Freestyle Coach for USA Wrestling, that a failing Americans have is letting up on pressure from this position. Jackson says, "I like to reinforce in wrestler's minds that they need to keep weight on their opponent's head and hands to score." Wrestlers should also be prepared to re-snap an opponent when they wind up in a front headlock where the defender is tightly controlling one or both of their elbows. The defender latches on to the elbows to slow the attack and look for counters such as a kelly or hip dump. (See a wrestler re-snapping his opponent to clear the elbow control of the defender.) Often wrestlers at the elite level refer to the snap at the low-level as bouncing their opponent. The bounce is a tongue in cheek reference to the opponent's head hitting the mat; the reaction to the bounce causes the defender to release the elbow control opening up the go-behind for the attacker. All coaches want to see their wrestler