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Difference Between Good and Great Wrestlers — 32 Comments

  1. Great wrestlers maintain fitness year round but peak for the important competitions. Great wrestlers remain vigilant with their diet and practice gradual weight loss methods.

  2. I respectfully disagree. I beleive what the article lists as qualities in “great” wrestlers is what is typically found in “good” wrestlers. There are many good wrestlers that do all of the above, but simply do not have the genetics to be great. What makes a wrestler great is all of those qualities plus genetics.

      • I used to believe this statement from personal experience, but through watching and coaching my brothers, I have come to see that this is not true. Hard work over a sustained period of time will make a young wrestler conquer the mental woes that may have plagued them early in their career. Genetics may help a wrestler conquer these obstacles quicker, but every hard working kid (so long as they love it) can achieve elite wrestling status.

    • I think greg has pointed out the elephant in the room. Every time someone posts an article about how we can be better at x or y by conquering our own behavior and mindset, I am reminded that it sounds great, but science is only beginning to scratch the surface of human behavior and how much our genes play a role in the way we think and act. No matter how much you want it, you will not be a David Taylor or Kyle Dake or Logan Stieber because there is something inherently different in them. And that’s the thing… That is what makes those talents special. Celebrate them, work hard, do all of the things this article mentions and then hold your head high. But genetics still determines the truly elite when all the other factors are even.

      • you don’t think David Taylor, Kyle Dake, and Logan Stieber haven’t spent thousand of hours becoming better wrestlers? I’m willing to bet you will find a lot of these guys who weren’t very successful little league wrestlers.

        When Kyle Dake beat David Taylor, are you saying that genetics helped Kyle win?

        I think wrestlers like this have a gift that they have honed. I see a lot of talented kids that never do anything with what God gave them and I’ve see a lot of athletically challenged kids that have done some amazing things in wrestling.

        I still say hard work can overcome anything. Dan Gable was considered an elite wrestler when Larry Owings beat him for a national title.

        There were numerous upsets in this years NCAA’s. I still think that hard work will over come anything.

        • It takes time to develop in to a good wrestler Logan stieber had 4 other good wrestlers not including himself on his team when he was in highschool and of those 4 I believe only 1 of them has a chance of becoming great. ( hunter) they have the brains to keep their nose clean and head clear. A great wrestler wouldn’t quite the team. A great wrestler wouldn’t go out drinking or do drugs. A great wrestler loves the sport. You don’t have to be the most physical guy . its the technique that makes you great. To have hit one move 5 times and it works because you hit it 5000 times and strive to hit it wit perfect technique. I guess I’m trying to say is that it is not about size but how knowledgeable you at about the wrestling. I grew up watch so really good wrestlers from the firlands And to see that only 2 of them are still out there in D1 wrestling is sad to see.

      • Well u mentioned those guys what bout Ravaughn & JavaughnPerkins,Kenny Martin READY RP prospects they’re jus as tough as those guys if not better but I think they’re tough don’t get me wrong

      • Cael Sanderson is the perfect contradiction. Look at him and his body when he won each of his titles. Then look at everybody else in the ncaa’s those years at those weights. Cael clearly does not have superior genetics compared to those other guys. They are all ripped. Same with David Taylor. He destroys guys who look like machines. It’s clearly hard work and lots of reps that made both of those two great. John smith was the same.

  3. Great read from inside The Wrestling Insider group. I think another trait is being able to move past a loss. Most elite wrestlers can have long winning streaks and that becomes the focus for many media and fans. But when an Elite wrestler has their streak abruptly end and usually by a wrestler that isn’t near their national rank, they do not let them affect them for their next competition. I’m not saying they take a loss well personally but they do not let it affect their next competition. In fact quite the opposite, many great wrestlers that have earlier season losses usually hit on all cylinders by NCAA–when it really counts.

    • Thanks for commenting Mike. I would agree with that statement. I’ve known quite a few elite wrestlers that seem to become extremely focused on improving after a tough loss. Definitely a trait of a great wrestler. Fantastic feedback Mike!

  4. Great article! I agree with your analysis on what it takes to be a great wrestler. I am a parent of an eight year old and was just wondering, when should a wrestler start doing all these things? I’m sure it is different for everyone but I really want him to love the sport and not hate it because he is constantly at practice and tournaments. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Every wrestler is different, but In my opinion, you should foster a love of the sport at 8 years old. A wrestler will make huge improvements as they continue wrestling. You can do age appropriate strength training and focus on the basics, but I would not put a huge focus on winning for a youth wrestler. If your kid loves the sport, the rest will follow.

  5. There is no amount of work or coaching that can make up for a lack of genetics. likewise, there is also no amount of genetics that can make up for a lack of work ethic and character. You really do need both to be great. As stated before all those other qualities will definitely get you above average.

    • Greg:

      I really enjoy the feedback.

      in other sports like football, soccer, basketball, etc.. I would agree that genetics play a huge role. This is because those sports depend on things like speed, size, and height. Wrestling doesn’t depend on any of that.

      Size is not a factor, because you wrestle an opponent in the same weight class.

      Speed is a factor, but a wrestler can overcome his opponents speed with strategies that are designed to slow an opponent down. That is when you use ties from neutral position or counters from the top position.

      Height is not a factor, because a tall wrestler will have a different style than a shorter wrestler.

      Strength is a factor, but you can overcome that in the weight room.

      What genetics are you referring to that will make a wrestler elite?

      • Speed, strength, flexibility, and cardio are all factors in wrestling. Yes you can overcome some hurdles to an extent, but at the end of the day some people are simply meant to be stronger, faster, etc. As you mentioned, the cool thing about wrestling is that it does not discriminate. You can be tall, short, one legged or two and still make it work for you. You do not have to be supremely talented in all areas, but you need enough athletic talent to reach the elite. John Smith was not the strongest guy by any measure, but he was fast and flexible, much more than the average bear, and he made that work for him by putting in the hard work. Take away his gifts and the hard work might get him a state place, but probably not Olympic gold.

        • Take away his hard work and he doesn’t place in state even with good genetics. A lazy person with good genetics will never be elite, however poor genetics can always be overcome by hard work. The poorer the genetics, the more hard work required, but hard work always has the potential to overcome genetics. Superior genetics has no chance at ever getting more superior however. Only hard work will improve superior genetics.

  6. Having been with a high school wrestling team for 25 years I really believe that a wrestler has to win a match psychologically or “win it in his head” before he can win it on the mat. Having said that I also believe wrestling is the sport that prepares you best for “life”. It is a solo sport and
    I have seen this sport completely turn a kids life around. It can make a winner out of a loser in life and in school. I really feel ours is not a team it is a “brotherhood”. Our ex wrestlers come back to visit at matches as well as practice. They also communicate with us on-line and many coach wrestling here or wherever they
    live and their kids quite often wrestle in our or other youth programs. That in itself is a compliment to wrestling and our program and coaching staff especially. Wrestling is “alive and well” in this town.

  7. A great wrestler will just shake hands and walk of with humility, unless ur name is Brands! When he lost NCAA finals, he kicked the chair, pushed gable and stormed off. Yeah, real humble. Lol

  8. Rulon Gardner didn’t have the genetics that the admittedly past his prime karelin did. But he won. Through determination and hard work. Gable had the complete package. Genetics. Freakish work ethic. Will to win. Hatred of losing. And uncompromising approach to the Sport.

  9. It’s all in your head. What makes a wrestler great as opposed to good is not about genetics, nor is it about hard work. Those things contribute, but really it’s something else altogether. I contemplated this question for years, asking myself, “Why is my record so different from my team mate, Kirk?” We started wrestling at the same time. We were of nearly identical size and strength. Kirk was more athletic than I. Yet, Kirk would only win about half of his matches and I was almost incapable of losing. I found out the secret when I was in college. I had been given a scholarship by a division 1 college, and was improving rapidly, but I didn’t find the answer to the question in wrestling practice. I found it in fencing class. I had an elective that I could take, so for the fun of it I took fencing, a sport with all the intensity of wrestling, but not nearly as exhausting. Early on our instructor pointed out that fencing matches are things of extreme precision and speed with no time at all to think about what to do next. From each start to each “touch” the fencer only has about 1 second, so the fencer needs something to give him an edge so that he never has to think. Then he explained to us what he called a self-hypnotism method that would create the necessary “muscle memory” so that the fencer would do the movements automatically without thinking. He explained that as we lay in bed at night just before going to sleep that we should visualize ourselves over and over performing the movements as if in a match. I realized at that moment that I had been using his technique for years without knowing it was a “technique.” Due to my obsession with the art of wrestling I had always done exactly what the fencing teacher explained. Laying there in bed before I went to sleep visualizing myself over and over hitting that double leg, or firemans, or arm spin, and always the next day in practice I was always able to do any new move as though I had done it for years. That’s why I never had to think of what to do next in a match, and not having to think gave me all the advantage I needed to nearly always win.

  10. Great coaching is an important aspect of becoming a great wrestler. Many wrestlers have all of the qualities listed above, but they have wrestled for average or less than average coaches. There are many reasons why certain programs, in high school and in college, consistently produce great wrestlers. If you combine the qualities listed above with a superior coach, then you are more likely to develop great wrestlers.

  11. I think people here are making excuses as to why they or their kid didn’t do well by blaming it on a predetermined genetic makeup. There is not one thing that makes a great wrestler and genetics is sure as heck not a limiting factor. Everyone may have an idea of what makes a great(perfect) wrestler but if you look at every factor suggested above and beyond this article and then look at the permutations of those factors. This would suggest that there are many combinations that exist and allow many wrestlers to be great. In my opinion, there are many outside factors that create great wrestlers such as parenting or mentorship and when coaching you have to consider that not everyones path to be great is the same and you have to cater to each individual. There are many ways to skin a cat and anyone can be a great wrestler if they find the right combination of wrestling values. If there is a will there is a way!

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