Looking to ask a question? Head over to the Contact page and fill out the form and check back soon.
General Questions (184)
I think it is helpful but not necessary. I do think it’s important that kids are involved in sports developing strength, agility and coordination at an early age. It’s important that kids develop a love of exercise and develop a healthy love of competition. That depends on the parents bringing the correct perspective. I believe wrestling should be recreational in nature to young beginners. As they advance, slowly put them into more competition. I wouldn’t be afraid that your kid is falling behind or anything like that if they are going to as many tournaments as other young wrestlers. It is much better to error in the way of
waiting too long to put your kid in tough competition than to put them in too early. All kids are different. Some can handle heavy competition at an early age, most can’t. Think long term. Many great wrestlers have started late in their careers (late Jr High and high school.) The important thing is the wrestler’s
attitude. Not many of the youth that dominate the national kid’s tournaments end up dominating at the college level. A few have, but most have been pushed too hard and without a foundation of love for sport they fizzle or rebel. Make it fun.
One common but major mistake in coaching is telling kids what they are doing wrong instead of focusing on what they are doing right. At least 90% of coaches believe their job is to point out mistakes. This is
partially true, but anyone can see a mistake. Most fans in the stands can see a mistake, especially after the fact. The trick is to focus on what the athlete is doing well. Think about yourself, if someone tells you are doing something poorly, it is deflating. If someone tells you are doing something well, you light up inside and you’re motivated to do an even better job. There is a time and place for criticism but it needs to be rare and presented properly. As a parent, focus on what your young wrestler is doing well and secretly have them working on their weaknesses. That doesn’t mean you can’t help your young athlete fix a mistake, just do it delicately and out of love for them.
question: Hi Cael I was wondering about some advice you would have for a program that just wont grow. I am the Head coach for Park City High School and have had problems with recruiting and with keeping kids out for the sport. Also I have tried to get the community to support and yes I have been a head coach for only 2 years, so I cannot expect overnight success but This school has so much potential. Please help me with pointers on this problem. I will be holding a youth camp this summer but I have no Idea of what else to do?
Hi Coach Brenan,
Thanks for what you are doing! Don’t get discouraged. I assume you are talking about Park City, Utah? Just over the mountain from Heber City? Awesome. When I was in high school Park City started their wrestling team. I’ve heard the program has come a long way since then.
My advice would be to stay positive and be patient. I really believe the only way to build a championship high school team is to start with the youth program. Four years is just not enough time for the average student to learn how to wrestle. You have start them young. If I were you I would go track down my dad and ask him how he set up his kid’s program. When my dad first got to Heber City he wasn’t getting the results he wanted. He started a youth program and 10 years later, his teams were dominating the state. It’s certainly not an overnight project, and Wasatch had a solid tradition already. So keep things in perspective. You are coaching a team that has only existed for 15 years or so. I won’t get into the details of the youth program here but go track my dad down. He’ll help you. All the best.
question: A kid that I wrestle in practice won’t let me tie up with him. I beat him but how do i get a hold on him when he always circles out when I try to tie up with him.
Stalk him. As he retreats out of your tie ups you stay right with him. Take small steps. If he keeps backing up he will quickly be off the mat. After you push him off the mat a few times the referee should get involved and warn the wrestler with stalling and eventually points.
When you get to tie ups do a lot of the work with your feet. Sort of like dancing. He takes two steps back, you take two forward. Actually you would probably take 5-6 small steps to his 2 fleeing steps. You’ll be in better position. If he is blocking you off and planting a back leg to drive off of, snap him to the side of his back leg. That’s going to force a huge step and keep him off balance.
Ultimately you just have to be determined and keep moving forward. Don’t get frustrated. Keep trying new things and getting better at what you already do. The way to learn what to do is to get in that position and keep plugging away. People that wrestle hard in real matches, wrestle hard in practice. People that control the tie up in matches, control the tie up in practice. You figure things out in practice. Don’t worry about making mistakes or giving up a takedown in practice. Attack your agenda relentlessly and you will eventually figure it out.
question: Cael, I never wrestled but our boys now do, I played football and basketball and have coached many sports. I love to analyze and over the last three years have watched many matches. Everyone around here almost automatically defers when they win the choice to start the second period. I believe that is counter-productive and want my boys to take bottom every time. This way they have a known plan, can score first in a scoreless match, and can get ahead, which I believe is better than trying to catch up. What do you think?
Generally speaking it doesn’t matter whether you have your choice in the second or third period. There’s nothing wrong with just choosing bottom every time you get the option. There can be some strategy involved in deferring the call but ultimately it comes down to who wants to win the worst and goes out and scores points. For the most part if you are confident that you can escape from your opponent choosing down right away is great. I agree with you that having “a known plan” does bring confidence and getting the first point on the board can be inspiring.
The strategy of deferring the choice is more common in more competitive matches where one wrestler isn’t 100% certain what position they are going to choose. Deferring the call gives them a chance to get even more into the match before they have to make the decision. It buys them some more time. Maybe it gives them a couple extra minutes to get a takedown so they don’t have to choose bottom if their opponent is really good on top. Maybe wearing their opponent down for two more minutes will give them better chance to escape. There are some really great top position wrestlers out there and it is best if you have the option to just choose neutral. In a case like that, deferring is good. My pride and stubbornness makes it difficult to have a wrestler choose neutral but sometimes it’s the wise choice.
Early in my coaching days I thought it was best to always have a kid choose bottom, even if they weren’t strong in that position. My mindset was that they need to learn how to get off the bottom and there is no better time to practice then in competition. I quickly learned that that was not correct. Kids need to have success in matches. A match is not the best time to work on areas of weakness. That’s what the practice room is for. Confidence comes from success. The old school coaching mentality is that it’s the coach’s job to point out mistakes and that’s how kids learn. Kid’s rarely learn from mistakes in my opinion. They learn from success. That’s the “be positive” perspective. Whatever you can do help the kid feel like he/she is having success is going to motivate them more than anything else.
question: I have two boys who love to wrestle, what do you think is the best way to bring them up the ranks, without “burning them out”? And what would be some good motivational ideas? Thankyou!
If I were you I would make sure that you treat wrestling as a reward. Only let them go to practice or a tournament if they are doing well in school or something like that. I wouldn’t worry about them falling behind if you aren’t pushing them hard enough. That’s a common mistake among parents.
It’s a marathon and the kids who end up finishing and finishing strong are the ones who love the sport. If you need a way to punish your kids, do it by not letting them participate in wrestling. It’s the old reverse-psychology trick. If your kids think they are wrestling because there dad wants them to, it will be more difficult for them to learn to love the sport.
Be creative. My dad wrote a great answer to a similar question that is somewhere in the archives on my site. It’s at least a few years old but you should be able to find it. Also I just posted an excellent interview from Neil Alton and how he raised his boys in wrestling.
Nico Megaludis, a really tough senior in high school that just signed with us, was raised in the sport like I’m suggesting. Nico loves to train and compete. Why? Nico’s dad, Dan, told me that he used to treat the sport as a reward. If Nico didn’t earn the reward of being able to participate in wrestling, he didn’t let him participate. I believe Dan even said he would punish Nico by not letting him do his push-ups before bed and things like that. That’s pretty funny but effective. He said Nico caught on after several years but it was too late. Nico was hooked and loved wrestling and training. Now Nico just needs to work on his air hockey skills, they are suspect and so is his score keeping.
It’s important to remember that all kids are different and one method might work with one kid but not work with the other. Be flexible, patient, positive and supportive. Make sure your kids are having fun. Put them in several sports. Don’t get too excited when they win or upset when they lose. Let it be their sport and their career. Good luck.
question: I have watched videos of you in college where you put your head to the mat. Are you gaining an advantage by using your head on the mat?
Chad, I would not suggest that you put your head on the mat or coach your kids to do that. I did quite a bit the last few years of my college career but I was setting an unorthodox style of escape up. I would elevate their hips with my leg to set up a roll or an escape. I would also elevate their leg to take their pressure off if they were trying the chop and drive breakdown.
The technique is solid when used correctly but it is difficult to teach. I put my head on the mat to have another post on the mat and gain more power with my elevator. It’s same idea as hooking a wench to a tree. The problem is that putting your head down incorrectly can make it look like you are stalling and if not done correctly you are vulnerable to a half. Your elevator needs to be between your opponent’s legs. If you don’t have that position you pressure in and circle into your opponent to get your leg between theirs. You pressure into them inch by inch. When you elevate them you do it with more of your hip strength and not so much leg. That takes practice and feel. Good luck with it. I will post some more full length matches on my site so you can see more examples of the technique.
question: I notice the style of defense in high school and college is different meaning in high school they teach you to sprawl your hips out when the guy gets in on a shot but in college I see a lot of guys on the backs of the offensive wrestler for instance when you wrestled in 1999 for your first NCAA title I noticed when you shot in your opponent’s head was posted on the mat his legs were in your face can you explain why college wrestlers defense is so different?
Curt, this is a good question. Shot defense has changed over time. College wrestlers aren’t consistently defending shots with basic, fundamental defense. Instead of sprawling they are jumping up over their opponent and trying to grab ankles, roll around and score in an orthodox fashion. I can’t say that it’s a terrible thing because I did it myself and so did my brothers in college wrestling. We were actually pretty good at scoring off our opponent’s shots. It is just positioning, technique and a few tricks. A few key points to creating and winning scrambles would be to keep your hips up, capture and keep the far ankle of your opponent, keep your knees wide and attack.
To get good at scrambling you have to spend a lot of time playing and experimenting in those positions. I would discourage stalemates in practice unless the wrestlers are in bad position and risk injury. You want wrestlers to find ways to score points. Just because you don’t score off your initial shot doesn’t mean you can’t find another way to score from the position. The best wrestlers keep moving and find a way to score when others hope for a stalemate. The only way to learn something is to try it and play with it.
If I were you I would keep teaching fundamental defense. We work on fundamental shot defense almost every day. It is very important. Two days probably don’t go by in a row that we don’t have our guys rehearse baseline D (legs back, hips low, hips in, stuff the head down or away, fight hands etc . We make sure our guys know how to win scrambles but we want them to sprawl first. The best wrestlers will finish their shots on a wrestler with bad fundamental defense. It is very difficult to defend a shot with a good set up and quick finish.
These habits and tactics aren’t helping our post-college international wrestling. Baseline defense is very important in freestyle wrestling. The solution to wrestlers who don’t sprawl correctly is to get your head up, get and keep weight on your feet and drive through them. You have to get your head up quickly and keep your hips under you.
Unorthadox defense, scrambling, diving under to catch ankles should only be used as a last resort. Baseline defense should always be the initial focus of the defensive wrestler.
question: There are some parents and wrestlers who believe that the individual is more important than the team in wrestling. What is your philosophy regarding Team v. Individual in the sport of wrestling and how do you communicate this philosophy?
The team is more important than the individual. All great athletes know that, at least they should. The team first mentality is also an essential part of an individual getting the most out of their own career. I would guess that the players considered the greatest in history (in all sports) were big time team players. An individual who has an attitude that they are bigger than the team severely limits their own potential. That is just the way it is. I can’t fully express in words that idea well but it is the truth. An athlete should be loyal to the team, the team mission and the coach. I talked about gratitude being the base of greatness in a recent blog. Gratitude and putting the team first go hand in hand. If there is an issue where the coach and athlete aren’t on the same page it needs to be addressed directly. Ultimately both parties want the same thing. I think 98% of the time with the right attitude on the coaches part, the kids and kid’s parents will come around. If not, no program should put the needs of one individual ahead of the team. That will not work for long term success. I think it all comes down to the attitude of both the coach and the athlete. I think a coach needs to be flexible with the student-athletes as well. Rules and order need to be enforced. But it’s important to understand that every kid is a little different and be willing to make small adjustments to accommodate the individuals on the team. The difficult part of running a team is that each individual is on a different level and needs different things to progress. I think a little humility and creativity will solve the problem. Open communication with the parents and wrestlers and each party (coach and athlete/parent) seeing the other’s perspective is critical. If the student-athlete has the right attitude and understands the importance of the team, you can be more flexible with them. It is all attitude and not a power thing. Everyone on the team needs to be held to the same standard but adjustments can be made without compromising that.
question: What causes passivity? How can we overcome it?
There are several factors that can cause passivity. Without getting too crazy into the subject I think there are three main reasons why wrestlers choose to be passive. 1- people are afraid to mistakes. 2- people are afraid to get tired. 3- they feel their best chance to beat a superior opponent is to slow down the pace, neutralize the match and eliminate action.
How can we overcome this? Great but tough question. I don’t like the stalling call. History would show that stalling is difficult to call accurately. I think a lot of wrestlers have won and lost huge matches because of poor stalling calls. For example one wrestler is the aggressor for 5-6 minutes of the match but the wrestler losing is trying to score at the end and takes numerous shots in a row. The wrestler losing at the end shoots 3 times in a row and they award the stalling call. I think there is a big difference between stalling and defending a shot. Also, a loud crowd can affect the call. I don’t like subjective calls. Think about the riding point in college wrestling. It is considered stalling if the top wrestler is not trying to turn the opponent. So why do we award a riding time point. You could call that a stalling time point. I am being sarcastic but you get the point. Turning an opponent and getting back points should be enough incentive for a wrestler to try to turn and pin a wrestler. Then the overtime ride-out procedures are also incentive to stall ride an opponent. So it doesn’t all make sense to me. So if you eliminated the riding time point that might eliminate some stalling.
I don’t think it works to punish one wrestler with a subjective stalling call. I think we need to award the aggressive wrestler. The question is how do we do that? One option would be to add the push-out rule. However I really like the way we use the edge of the mat with scrambles and clutch takedowns where a wrestler drags one foot. The one foot in was a great idea. If we did implement a push-out rule, the push-out on the feet would be worth one point and a takedown still worth two points. That’s just a thought. No way should a push-out be worth the same as a takedown like it is in freestyle.
In my opinion, stalling is backing up, blocking in the throat, and wrestling on the edge type of the mat. The push-out rule would eliminate the edge of the mat stalling but would also eliminate the exciting action on the edge as well.
Actually the more I think about it the less I like the idea of the push-out. I don’t like the idea of wrestling becoming more like sumo wrestling.
What if we eliminated the escape point and the riding time point? That would put the emphasis more on takedowns. People could still ride and turn and get the big back points and falls. Eliminating the escape point there would take away the incentive to ride unless you are actually trying to turn your opponent. Or perhaps your opponent is better on their feet and you would ride them to avoid that position. There will always be exceptions like that.
Eliminating the riding and escape point would probably encourage more action than anything else we could do.
Anyone else have any thoughts? If you send in your thoughts I will post them.
question: Cael, if you eliminate the escape point, that would make the action more intense and make a match more agressive, thus more interesting. But what happens in the case of a tech fall. You would then have to double the point it takes for a tech fall because the lack points awarded for escapes. In the case of a takedown/let up game plan. Just a thought
question: Cael, I have wrestled since I was four years old. I graduated 2 years ago and recently got a coaching job coaching my old middle school team. What is some advice you could give me to help me get moves across to my team without skipping important details?
Wrestling is a tough sport to coach because there are so many different moves and so many different ways to do each move. I would suggest that you figure out what fundamentals you want your team to work on and work on those all most every day. When I say fundamentals, I mean penetration step, tie ups, set ups, holding base on bottom, escapes, breakdowns, shot finishes, shot defense etc. but Less than 10 things. Kids aren’t going to learn more than a couple things a day. If your team can get a good feel and understanding of the fundamentals that will be a great foundation for them. Then I would slowly introduce new techniques and add to that foundation. Because you are going to have different levels of athletes on your team I would suggest working with individuals on more advanced or unique technique. It takes time to learn technique and a ton of repetition. Wrestlers need the foundation of fundamentals.
As far as teaching specific technique I would just try to figure out what the key points in the technique are. What makes the move work? Most of the time attitude and determination is the most important ingredient. That’s important to teach.
Teaching takes patience. Learning new moves takes time. Some wrestlers learn faster than others. Teaching takes humility. You can show a kid a move hundred times and they might not quite “get’ the move until they do it in a match and then they think they made the move up. Every kid is different and every kid learns differently. The teaching attitude needs to be focused on the positive instead of on what the kids aren’t doing or what they are doing wrong. That is difficult to do but is the best way to create a healthy learning environment. The difficult part of coaching is that you have to move at the pace of the individuals on the team, not the pace you would necessarily like to go.
I think it helps to understand that coaching is a job of service. I didn’t realize that until I started coaching. You are there to help kids learn how to be the best they can be. Some are highly motivated, most are not. You are going to want most kids to win even more then they want to win themselves. No two kids are the same. No two teams are the same. You will never stop learning as a coach. Also I would think back about what your coaches did that worked well and maybe what didn’t. I would look around and learn from other coaches as well, even if they are your competition. Also no two coahes are the same. No two coaches think the same or will do things exactly the same either.
Have fun and allow the kids to have fun.
question: Cael, I was wondering why I feel exhausted about 30 seconds or less into an official match. I can go 3+ periods in practice all the time but in a official match I can’t. Does this have to do with nerves or something? Thank you.
I would guess it is your nerves. Uncontrolled nerves and worry can steal your conditioning quickly. Excess worrying can also make it difficult to sleep. And not getting enough sleep can affect your conditioning as well. Being nervous is a good thing, it is only when it become excessive that it becomes a problem. You should be nervous before a match or when you think about an upcoming match. That just means it’s important to you and you’re ready to go. Nerves are a gift from God. You will be a little faster, stronger, and more alert. You just have to use the power correctly. I have written several blogs and answered a number of questions on how to think correctly so you can check those out.
I want to hit on three common mistakes that people make when it comes to focus and nerves. Hopefully you can identify with one of these ideas and then make progress in what you are doing.
The first is to make sure you are focusing on effort instead of results. You need to focus on what you can control and be willing to accept that you can’t control much. You can control your actions and thoughts. You can control your effort. You cannot control the outcome, or how someone else will feel about the outcome, like a girlfriend, a parent, the media, or a coach. You only have so much energy and it is a huge and very common mistake for people to use that energy to worry about things they can’t control.
“You are responsible for everything you thing, everything you say, everything you do, and everything you feel. You are not responsible for how what you do or say makes other people feel. “ -Bonnie Epstein. I butchered that quote but you get the point.
If you are doing something to please someone else, that is difficult. People that really care about you want to see you do your best and they are going to very proud of that effort. If a loved one is focused on your wins and losses instead of your effort, that is their flaw not yours. You will get your best results if you focus on effort.
The second trick is to accept that being nervous is ok. The worst thing you can do is fight being nervous. That just makes it worse. The more you try to not think about something, the more you are going to think about it. Trying to not be nervous will consume energy. Like I said above, being nervous is a gift and it is part of life. Knowing and accepting that is the key. It’s good to be nervous. Just accept that you are nervous and you will be much better off. I wrote a blog on this topic Feb 12, 2009 called “Pink Elephants and White Bears.” Check it out.
The third trick is to not entertain negative thoughts. When you have negative thoughts, acknowledge the thought and replace it. Sport Psychologist Marty Martinez said that we cannot control the first thought that pops in our head but we can control the second. So after a negative thought pops in your head, replace it. Be prepared with an answer to replace that negative thought with. Brainwash yourself. Remind yourself why you can be successful. Your mind can only think about one thing at a time. Don’t feed the beast of negativity. Identify and replace negative thoughts immediately.
question: what stance do you suggest a staggered or square? how do you get in that stance and im usually in a staggered stance but i have problems with movement from side to side and am extremely uncomfortable in my stance.
It’s important to be able to wrestle in both a staggered and square stance. It is also important to be able to switch back and forth from a square to a staggered and vice versa. The trick is always take small steps. I am talking inches per step. The bigger the step the longer you are out of position. If you aren’t ever out of position you are going to be tough to beat. Keep your knees and ankles the same distance apart as you circle and move.
question: What do you think are the 5 aspects of a good wrestler and how much do you make your wrestlers shadow wrestle?
I’ll answer the easy question first. Yes, our team shadow wrestles every day. I think shadow wrestling is very useful. It’s great for conditioning, visualization, footwork, speed, technique etc)
As far as 5 aspects of a good wrestler, these will be broad answers. These characteristics are all intertwined. You can’t have one without the other.
1)attitude (lifestyle, priorities in order, loves to compete, positive, strong belief in one’s self etc)
2) physical ability (speed, strength, strength of hips, etc)
3) mental toughness (doesn’t worry too much about things that can’t be controlled, fights hard, poise, understands that effort is true success, not consumed by a fear of making mistakes or failure)
4) work ethic (hustles, loves to train, willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, consistent hard worker)
5) conditioning (a result of work ethic, discipline, physical ability, and mental toughness, ability to relax before matches and trust in their best effort, ability to keep breathing in matches)
6) coachable/ technique (willing to listen and learn, will try new things, learns from mistakes and other’s mistakes
question: I had a chance to view your DVD “Cael’s Final Matches”. Thanks. I’d like to know who influenced you with replacing the lead foot with the opposite knee and pulling your opponent to you? During your freshman year it seems this style wasn’t developed yet. It was a lot more John Smith type. (thanks for the tip on his dvd it really answered a lot of questions I had regarding shooting & finishing low singles and your fake shot technique) However, sophomore year against Jones you where totally different.
I know you are a student of the sport and that is cool to see. Coming out of high school I did shoot from the outside and backed up to set my shots up. At Iowa State under Coach Douglas we did a lot of hand fighting and shooting from the tie up. That’s where I learned how to control and shoot from the tie up. Coach Thom Ortiz taught me an inside hand shot from a square stance my redshirt year. Inside, meaning I smacked with my right hand and shot with my left hand across to my opponents left leg and would bring my right hand down and swing around attacking the far ankle to score the points. I show this technique on the video part of the site. It’s called ‘single leg takedown by Cael Sanderson”. That inside single shot is about the only shot I could even touch the leg of some of my workout partners like Barry Weldon. Then after a lot of drilling hand fighting I learned how to shoot that single from the collar tie. It took a few years to develop. Coach Chris Bono also helped me a lot with my collar tie. But that shot enabled me to shoot the ankle pick and inside single off the collar tie. You can see the ankle pick technique also on my video section.
I did shoot the inside single in my freshman year occasionally but it was more of a smack and shoot as opposed to what I did later which was collar tie control, push/pull and shoot. I actually hit the shot a couple times in my redshirt year but I didn’t know what I did. I was overthinking the situation and confused how to wrestle just because I had wrestled from the outside for 13 years but was transitioning to a more effective style.
I actually just watched my freshman year’s NCAA tourney matches for the first time since probably my sophomore year in college and saw that shot a few more times. I didn’t do it in the finals like you said. Hopefully I can get those matches up on the site for you so you can study the development a little. It all took time and just developed out of trial and error. When I teach it I show the Ortiz single which is a smack and go from a square stance. Then after kids get the hang of shooting with the inside hand I move on to switching their footwork up. That’s how I learned it. Hope that helps.
In closing I would say, just don’t be afraid to try it. Try new things in practice and in live matches. You don’t want to be focused on not making mistakes. There is a front over the arms body lock pitch mover that Ortiz showed me. I know I gave up some points in college trying the move. I did in my second round at NCAA tournament position that I learned in practice
question: Straight to the point, How do i stop a scrambler, I’m a short and stocky kid, I get deep in on shots but the kid i wrestle is a good scrambler and seems to get the edge. whats your advice on maybe moves or certain techniques to stop his scrambling?
Good question. Kids are getting better and better at scrambling and it is getting really common. There are a lot of ways to beat scrambling and hopefully I can be clear through writing. You need to drive through scramblers to beat them and drive through their hips when you can. You want to get their knees together. A lot of wrestlers try to spin opponents down in a tight circle (maybe because it feels like it is easier) and that give the scrambler a chance to grab their ankles and create a scramble situation. It’s ok to spin someone down on a shot but you need to put them down at least a few feet away from you. So as you are spinning them down you need to also drive into them take them powerfully into the mat. One of the biggest keys is to keep weight on your feet. If you don’t have weight on your feet a scrambler can pull your foot off the mat and create a scramble. If your feet are on the mat and you have weight on your feet, you’ll be able to drive through your opponent and also leave nothing for your opponent to grab onto. A lot of scrambles are created because a wrestler doesn’t have weight on their feet and also leave one of their legs behind in a trailing type of fashion that an opponent can grab onto. Drilling correctly is the only way to be able to create those habits of keeping your feet on the mat and blowing through people. Also when you bring your opponent down to the mat you drive their hips into the mat. You want to pin a scramblers hips into the mat. Free hips are dangerous in scrambles.
If you are in on a swing single or in a crack-down position you want to get your opponents feet off the mat. A scrambler needs to have his feet on the mat so he can drive off them. Just like you need your feet on the mat to finish correctly, you want to take that away from your opponent. Get their feet off the mat.
When you go around a person you want to attack their far ankle. A good scrambler wants you to come to their waste so they can roll. If you attack the far ankle it eliminates the scramble. This was something Coach Douglas preached daily and I do now also. It is very important. Catching and keeping the far ankle wins scrambles.
Good solid technique is the key. I consider grabbing the far ankle on a takedown a fundamental of the folkstyle wrestling. Quick finishes will beat scrambling as well. Quick, not meaning rushed, but quick to superior positioning. Like getting your head up and hips in. Getting their knees together and/ or getting their feet off the mat.
I hope that helps. Just play with it. Look at what a scrambler is trying to do and what they need to be successful and take that away from them.
question: What aspect of wrestling is the most important? As in technique or strength.
Strength helps but technique is the most important. Technique will beat strength. The better your technique is the stronger you will feel. Strength in addition to good technique is obviously the best. You will develop a lot of strength thru wrestling. In wrestling you are pulling, pushing, squatting, squeezing, twisting, being explosive and doing all kinds of power and lifting exercises. Lifting weights is more about working on the tip of the ice berg in my opinion. If you are wrestling and drilling correctly you are getting “wrestling” strong. Wrestling strong is grip, back, neck, and hips. I am a big believer in body weight exercises like pull ups, rope climbs, push ups, wall sits, squat jumps, and stance and motion. If you are going to put extra time in I would spend that time working on wrestling technique.
question: Hi, Cael -
One thing that has bothered me for a long time is the fact that many of the home dual meets are scheduled to begin at 1:00 PM on Sunday afternoons. Clearfield is about a 50 minute drive from Rec Hall and in order to be there on time, it is necessary to either forego or leave church early. Because God and our church is more important to us than wrestling, my husband and I do not come to the Sunday meets. I have no particular objection to the meets being on Sunday but have wondered for years why the time could not be set at 2:00 PM in order that fans living at a distance could attend both their church services and the wrestling matches. In reading your blog, I know that you are a very spiritual man – interested in doing God’s will first and foremost. I am wondering if you have any influence on the timing of the meets and would you consider utilizing your position as head coach to adjust the time so that we and others in our position can get there on time without missing our church services? I posted this question on the Penn State wrestling forum last year and was excoriated by some posters who basically told me that I was an idiot for being concerned. Thanks for considering my question and I hope to hear from you. Best of luck this season – we look forward to watching Brad in this his last year of wrestling! Peggy
Peggy, I think you’ll be happy to see that our Sunday duals this season are scheduled for 2p. Coach Cody does our scheduling and he did a great job securing the 2p slot. Hopefully you guys will be able to make it to church and then to the matches.
I don’t like having dual meets on Sundays period but we don’t really have a choice.
I think the main reason teams often schedule 1p Sunday duals is so the opposing team can get back home that same night so they student-athletes can get to class on Monday. Thanks for the support and see you in Rec Hall soon.
question: Cael, now that you are dad will you join me in promote the wearing head gear at all levels to avoid cauliflower ears? Thanks. Randy, Omaha, NE
Hello Randy, I think you have a valid argument. We have senior level, NCAA champions, that wear headgear every day at practice to avoid cauliflower ear. We also have wrestlers that don’t care to wear headgear. Wrestling is a tough sport and cauliflower ear is clear evidence of that. If you wrestle long enough you are most likely going to end up with cauliflower ears. I have heard the argument that cauliflower ear has kept a lot of parents from putting their kids in wrestling. That is a concern.
But right now, if someone wants to wear headgear they can. There is nothing preventing someone from wearing headgear every second they are on the wrestling mat. I’m not for setting a rule that forces kids (or anyone else) to wear headgear. Promoting the use of headgear wouldn’t be a bad thing I value the ability that everyone has to make that choice for themselves, or for their own children.
question: WHAT’S A GOOD WORKOUT TO DO BY YOURSELF AND HOW CAN I SPEED UP MY SHOT?
I believe the best workout you can do on your own is to shadow wrestle. Set the clock like an actual match and go. Stay in a good stance and visualize wrestling. Hit shots, quick finishes, down blocks, reshots, and the whole works. Keep moving. To mix things up a little throw a set of push-ups, and pull ups in the go. Shadow wrestling is easy on your body and can be great for conditioning.
You can increase your speed by improving your penetration step. Instead of lowering your level and then shooting, shooting in a straight line to the leg. A straight line is always the quickest way to get from point A to point B, wrestling is no exception. Plus a well-trained athlete knows that you are going to shoot when you lower your level by dropping straight down. If you throw your hands to the leg and pull yourself into the finish, you can improve speed as well. Be explosive. Do exercises that increase your explosiveness.
Probably the best way to improve the effectiveness of your shots is to improve your set ups. Attack at angles. Use motion and fakes to get your opponent off balance before you attack. Control the tie up and use your hands to get your opponent out of position before you attack.
name: Nick Ziegler
question: Hi Cael, I met you back in December of 2003 when my high school team dueled Heber City Wasatch at the Clash in Rochester, MN; I was searching for you in the crowd and I know you were trying to stay hidden, but I had to get my shoes signed and I also told you I thought you were going to be an Olympic Champ and I never needed to eat Crow, so that’s cool! ha ha Anyways, I was wondering what your thoughts are on our current situation with the US Freestyle team and not bringing home any medals from the worlds? What do we need to do and is college wrestling and MMA to blame? When will we see you at the OTC training world and Olympic teams? The wrestlers need you! You’re the man Cael
Thanks for the email. This was a rough year for our freestyle team. I read something along the line that this is the first time since 1975 that we didn’t win any medals.
I think there are a lot of reasons we are not as competitive as we were years ago. The main reason is that every time the rules change for freestyle they move further and further away from our beloved folkstyle. Freestyle is more technical of a sport and less conditioning based then it has ever been. Folkstyle is more of a “hustle” sport. Our wrestlers have to make that adjustment. We have to train differently than we are used to. We have to be able to score points and defend in clutch situations. We Americans spend 70-90% of our youth, high school, and college thinking and focusing on folkstyle wrestling. I love folkstyle wrestling and so do the majority of American wrestling fans. But folkstyle doesn’t help our international wrestling and actually creates bad habits that must be corrected. If the situation was reversed where all the other countries wrestled freestyle as they now do, but had to change after the university age to folkstyle for the world and Olympic championships, the United States would be the dominate country. That’s what we are dealing with now and we just have to get better tactically and technically. It is going to take a narrow focus to win in freestyle.
There are a few other reasons that hurt as well. In most other countries, the best wrestlers don’t retire until they get beat off the team. that’s just not the case here. It is difficult to make a comfortable living, start a family, etc, as a competitor in the United States. USA Wrestling is doing a great job of changing that now by providing large bonuses to world medalists in the “Living the Dream” campaign. In other countries, the wrestlers are compensated more like professional athletes. I am not complaining about that, it is just the reality. If enough people followed our sport I’m sure it would be similar here, but it’s not. How can we make wrestling bigger in the U.S.? I wish I knew the answer.
MMA has taken away some of our wrestlers but I don’t think it has a negative effect on wrestling. I think the contrary. Wrestlers have done extremely well in MMA and that can only promote our sport. Some wrestlers have left wrestling early to enter MMA but I believe the ones who really think they can win a gold medal will try. The Olymics are every wrestler’s ultimate dream. Winning a gold medal would only increase your paycheck for a MMA fight and I would assume move you up the ladder quicker.
Bottom-line, our freestyle guys have to improve technically. We have to be able to score points and improve our fundamental positioning, tie ups, and hand fighting skills. They need experience and a “refuse to fail” attitude.
question: Youth wrestling, how much is TOO MUCH?? I am a Youth wrestling coach in Ohio (K-6TH Grade). As I’m sure you know, the wrestling programs in OH,PA & NJ are solid and currently produce a majority of the nation’s top ranked high school wrestlers. This is mainly due to the level of intensity, support and enrollment at the youth level. It is common to see kids start wrestling at Kindergarten and 1st grade, as a result the competition by 3rd&4th grade is fierce (9 yr. olds w/4-5 yrs. experience). My question is, at what age do you feel is good for a kid to start attending wrestling camps? We all want our team to do well but in my opinion youth wrestling is more about laying the foundation for high school and college. It’s great to have our young kids make it to state,(camps would help them get there) but I’m concerned about ‘burning them out’ by wrestling 5 months then hitting summer camps.
You are correct in that youth wrestling should be more recreational and preparing kids for high school and college wrestling. I think it depends on the individual kid just how much you push them. As long as the kid is having fun and doing it because he or she wants to, they will have much better chance for long term success. As a coach or parent if you can at least help the young athlete think it is their idea, that will help. I do think it is an advantage for a kid to start participating in sports early in their lives. It just has to be in under the correct mind set.
I didn’t go to more than one tournament a summer until I reached the 15-16 yr. old Cadet level. Before that my dad took my brothers and I to one tournament each summer called the Western Regionals. The Western Regionals included the 11 western states. It was a big tournament. We trained hard for it and did one week of wrestling camp to prepare us. I played baseball, swimming, football, and soccer in the off-season until I got into high school. In high school, I only played football and wrestling. I couldn’t play baseball with all of the Spring freestyle wrestling tournaments.
The opportunities today for kids are much different. There are national tournaments every month it seems. Kids can watch elite level wrestling and technique online. That is all great and I hope this all results in a group of better technicians so we can compete better internationally. They wrestle better competition more consistently. My best move probably until I was 5-6th grade was a chin whip, not the pinnacle of technique. I know my dad taught defense first to his young wrestlers and I think that is the way to go. However like you suggest, without the right attitude, these younger technicians won’t make it to the international level. It doesn’t matter how technically superior someone is if they don’t love the sport and love competing. That is a point I try to get across to our team is that attitude comes before technique. A lot times wrestlers get frustrated and blame technique when what really beat them was them was their lack of attitude. Attitude is 1, and technique is 2.
So back to the point, I have referenced this study before on Olympic athletes.
“A LANDMARK STUDY – THE PATH TO EXCELLENCE”
By Tim Gibbons, Researcher and Tammie Forster, USOC Athlete Development
• Most Olympians reported a 12 to 13 year period of talent development from an introduction to a sport until making their first Olympic team. In addition, medalists were younger in age during the first five stages of athletic development than non-medalists, and it is likely that medalists were receiving motor skill development and training at an earlier age. This suggests that physical activity and motor skill development during childhood and early adolescence may be an important part of an Olympian’s overall development. There are individuals who transcend the average developmental period; however, the data suggests that a long period of training, education, and nurturing are needed to develop Olympic-level talent in most American athletes. These findings are supported by other research, specifically, Ericsson et al (1993) and Bloom (1985), that suggests a minimum of 10 years of intense preparation and deliberate practice is needed to become an expert performer within a talent field.
• Many coaches and parents grapple with the idea of having their children specialize in a sport at a young age; however, encouraging findings from the questionnaire indicated some Olympians participated in as many as four sports during their childhood and teenage years. During the teenage years, the time Olympians were involved in multiple sport activities, is when they were becoming competitive at the junior and senior national level. This dispels the myth that early specialization is necessary to be successful.
question: Nebraska will enter the Big 10 next year. Does that improve Big 10 wrestling? Why or why not? Thanks.
Hello Mark, Nebraska is a very good team. There addition to the conference just adds one more of the nation’s top teams to an already tough conference. Adding one more team shouldn’t make too much of a difference. My main concern with Nebraska joining the Big 10 didn’t have anything to do with the Big 10, my concern was where that would leave the Big 12. With only 5 teams with wrestling, and now dropping to four that is kind of scary. I don’t know how that will be addressed, but it certainly isn’t good for Big 12 Wrestling. The Big 10 would be fine either way. At one time I was hearing that Missouri and Nebraska would be joining the Big 10. I’m glad that didn’t happen because it would have probably been the end of Big 12 Wrestling and that would be a terrible thing. As far as the Big 10 goes, the only concern with adding more teams to an already large conference tournament is that it just adds to the wear and tear of our conference’s student-athletes a week and a half before the NCAA tournament. That’s the only negative that I can potentially see. The conference tournament is important and everyone takes a lot of pride in trying to be the best team but ultimately, everyone’s goal should be to win the NCAA championship.
question: Cael, thanks very much for all your videos, I feel that it would be an honour to be trained by you and I really connect with how you train and describe things in your videos (some other videos either go to fast, or simply list a set of options, without giving an understanding or apprecitation of the general themes or things you should be thinking about). I was trying to view all of your past ISU videos but I can only see one up on the net on YouTube. Do you know where I can access all of them, or would you please ask someone to put them up again? Thanks Cael, Walter
Hey Walter, thanks for the email. Also, thanks for watching the technique videos. We put the videos up to promote and advertise our camps. After I took the job at Penn State and our camp website changed, we needed to take them down. Also, ISU’s new camp webpage is different then the one we were advertising and I don’t want to confuse anyone. I will try to continue to add more technique videos as time permits. I’m sure you have seen but there are several technique videos on this site as well and I’ll continue to add more. Thanks Cael
question: Do you do private lessons? and how much do you charge if so?
Hey Carlos, I don’t do private lesson myself but there are a lot of opportunities to get excellent coaching. We have several NCAA champions, All-americans, and Olympic Hopefuls training in State College that might be interested in giving private lessons. We have the NLWC that I am a part of and all of our staff as well. That might be a good bet. And then there are our summer camps that the campers get a lot of 1-on-1 attention. Hope that helps. Best of luck
name: Dillon Hilton
question: I am only in intermediate and am very small. What do you think is a good move that I can use to my advantage?
Whatever techniques you feel more comfortable with are the ones you should probably spend extra time to develop. One way to figure that out is by looking at what techniques you tend to attack with when you wrestle live.
The cool thing about wrestling is everybody will wrestle a little different. There is not one style that works for everyone, or one move either. The important thing is that you work hard on the fundamentals and essential positions, such as: good stance, stance motion, penetration step, shot defense and sprawling, set ups to shots, break downs, shot finishes, holding position and escaping from bottom, etc.
Work with your coach to further develop those essential areas. As you do that, you will develop the specific moves that you do for each of those positions. Your moves should have a fundamental aspect of positioning and technique, but you will naturally put your own spin on the moves depending on your body type and strengths.
Question from Brent Sawyer: Cael, first off I want to say how much of an inspiration you were for me when I was wrestling in high school. Although I was a HWT and I couldn’t do the things you could I still tried to model my movements after yours. My coach at the time was/is a die hard Hawkeye fan but said that you were the one Cyclone that we could learn from LOL. Once you started your undefeated streak at ISU you became kind of an icon and role model for young wrestlers in high school as well at middle and elementary school. My question is, was there a wrestler that you looked up to and were inspired by when you were coming up in your wrestling career and if so who?
Thanks for the question. It’s funny, earlier this week I did a clinic for a couple of former hawkeyes, Jody Strittmater and Eric Juergens. Those two do a fantastic job running some very tough youth clubs in PA and Iowa. After spending the day with those guys, it opened my eyes that maybe there are some good Hawkeyes out there! haha
My favorite wrestler was definitely John Smith. John Smith was the man. I had his shoes, and wore them with pride. Smith came and did a clinic in Utah when I was younger and I followed him around all day. He treated me really well and that was a big deal. The U.S. Nationals were in Vegas and my dad took my brothers and I to watch the tournament a few times. We cheered like crazy for John. I remember one match in particular when John’s had a lot of fans cheering against him. It was just because he was the multi-time reigning world champ and people like to cheer for the underdog. Smith’s opponent somehow managed to get a 2-0 lead and held it for maybe 30 seconds before Smith got a takedown, laced him and quickly ended the match in a tech fall. My brothers and I were arguing with the opposing fans. I am sure it wasn’t that bad, after all, we were in elementary school. But we were avid John Smith fans.
John Smith was the best in the world. He is easily the best freestyle wrestler the United States, and maybe even the world, has ever seen. So he was certainly a hero but at that time we didn’t see much video, if any, and he was more of a legendary figure if that makes sense. I looked at my older brothers as my role models. I followed them in their work ethic and attitude. I was inspired my brothers, my dad, and our local high school wrestlers. We didn’t see much college wrestling at all.
My favorite sports heroes were Mike Singletary, Walter Payton, William “The Fridge” Perry, Andre Dawson, Michael Jordan and Gale Sayers. I liked the Chicago sports teams.
Question from Zaremski: Hey Cael. I have problems with getting nervous in my matches. I’m not nervous until the ref blows the whistle. at that moment I freeze up and forget everything. what can I do to prevent that?
Find something to focus on that will help you get into “the zone” and away from thinking your way through the match. Competition time is the time to act, not think. If you are thinking, you will be a step or two too slow. When I say you shouldn’t be thinking, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a plan and that you aren’t aware of your surroundings. “Being in the Zone” is where you are flowing through the technique and action in an auto-pilot type of fashion. To get into that “zone” you need to have some kind of controlled action that will get you there. For me, I would focus on moving my feet. And I would tell my coaches to tell me to move my feet and pull them down when I looked over at them during the match. Once my feet started moving my mind would slide into auto-pilot and into “the zone”. So figure out what controlled action you can focus on that will trigger the auto-pilot feel. The action has to be a simple action that doesn’t depend on anything other than effort on your part. If you are telling yourself that you have to score, that is too vague and not 100% effort based. The question is how do you score? Think about the process and not the end result. Once you figure out what you need to do to score, break it down to the simplest form and focus on that.
Don’t be afraid to get nervous. You should be nervous. Being nervous is a gift. You will be sharper mentally, quicker, and stronger. The problem is when people try to fight being nervous because they think it is a bad thing. It’s not. The phenomenon is that the more you try to contain and suppress a thought, the worse it becomes and the more you think of it. So the trick is to just accept that you are nervous and be ok with it. Don’t try and change it. I used to tell myself when I was nervous, “I am ready.” I did that thousands of times. The more you say the more you believe it. You train your mind. As soon as you accept that you are nervous and don’t fight it, being nervous will be a good thing.
Practice, practice, practice.
Question from Brian: It’s an honor. I wrestle and my question is regarding your limited edition cael sanderson shoes, and was wondering if the laser etched image comes off quickly. Thanks
Brian, I don’t think the laser etching will come off at all. I don’t actually have a pair but with the print being high quality and also around the ankle, I think it will be fine. I believe the only place you can get that shoe is from Worldwide Sport Supply. Thanks and good luck. The shoe should be worth an takedown per match-haha.
question: Hey, I was wondering if you are going to have a new shoe coming out for the 2010-2011 season, if so is there going to be a big change in the shoe or are you going to keep it somewhat the same?
Asics comes out with a new model of the “Cael” shoe every two years. So next year will be the same model. Asics will most likely add a few new colors of shoes on the second year. I believe those new colors will be available in July. In a year I think the shoe will have some big changes. Asics likes to stay on the cutting-edge and keep bringing new models of shoes to the table.
question: hey, I have been looking for a pair of your red, white, and blue wrestling shoes, the unisole with the lace cover. I can’t find them anywhere. do you have any left your willing to sell, or have any idea where I could maybe find a pair? thanks.
Hey Tim, I get this question about the original Asics “Cael” frequently and unfortunately the answer is no I don’t know how to help you. That model was really nice and very popular. Maybe someday Asics will bring the model back but as for right now, I don’t know where you can find it. There might be some retailers that have the model but I doubt they have any of the more common sizes. It was a great shoe! I believe it is the #1 selling wrestling shoe of all time (for the success it had in the two years it was on the market.) sorry, hopefully they bring the model back someday.
Question from Shannon: Hi Cael, Is it necessary for youth wrestlers to compete for a regional or national title? Could it help them for high school or college recruitment? Which tournaments would you recommend for the biggest bang for the buck? Did your father send you or your brothers to regional and/or national youth USA Wrestling Tournaments? If so, how often and where did you compete? Thank you very much.
I don’t think it is necessary for youth wrestlers for compete for regional or national titles. I wouldn’t feel any pressure as a coach or parent or put any pressure on your young wrestlers to compete at those levels. Each kid will develop differently. The important thing for youth wrestlers is to develop a love of competition and the sport. That will take them much farther than a youth national championship will. Challenge them and make sure they are getting tested but with a positive attitude. Focus on effort, having fun and doing their best.
Personally if I had a young wrestler I would put them in several other sports as well. Play baseball, soccer, football, gymnastics etc to keep them busy. Spend more time in wrestling but don’t only wrestle. Once your kids get to high school then consider only wrestling or playing one or two sports, but not in their youth. I played football in high school and ran track in the Spring even though I didn’t compete. My dad had my bros and I do that.
Growing up my dad took my brothers and I to one regional tournament a year, The Western Regional’s. It consisted of the 11 western states and was a solid tournament. We wrestled the folkstyle season and also freestyle season and then hit the Western Regional’s in the summer. We were also playing several sports at the same time.
We started going to national tournaments when we were in 8th/ 9th grade when we reached the Cadet Level for 15-16 year olds. I was young for my class in school so I didn’t start going to national tournaments until I was a freshman in high school. All of the freestyle/ Greco tournaments we went to were USA Wrestling events.
I don’t think many college coaches follow wrestlers before they get into high school. They may have a list of prospects to watch, and some connections to young wrestlers but that’s about it. High school is what’s important. Youth tournaments obviously prepare you for high school but it’s all preparation and should be treated as such. The attitude and love developed in youth like I said is the important thing.
As far as getting recruited, some state tournaments get recruited harder than others. There are some states that if you win, you will have a great chance to wrestle in college (as long as the wrestler is a good student too.) Some states aren’t the same. I grew up in Utah and we have had some excellent wrestlers come out of the state but there aren’t many college coaches at the state tournament. There are some but they would be there to recruit someone they probably saw wrestle at the regional or national level in the off season.
College coaches recruit pretty much all of the high school national tournaments in all styles. Fargo is a huge tournament for recruiting. Pretty much every college program is represented there, if they aren’t they should be. The folkstyle national tournaments are followed very closely as well. College coaches like to see prospects who want to compete. Winning is great but probably not the top factor a coach is looking for. Attitude is the most important thing to me. Success in high school doesn’t always translate into success in college. Each coach has their own qualities they look for but the trick is to get out there and compete and give the coaches a chance to watch you. You can also send video or contact a program you are interested in. There are so many state champions and state place winners out there that it’s difficult to follow high school as closely as we’d like. I wouldn’t wait around and hope to be seen. And I wouldn’t be offended if you don’t get a phone call. Be aggressive and show college programs that you want to be there. We want kids that want to be at Penn State, I would guess all colleges are similar.
Question from Brian Brodnik: Cael, I’ve watched over 500 hrs of video on you especially your footwork. It’s what I do at the age of 44. I learn and then teach my son. We know all your moves and practice them 5x a week. I have a really technical question regarding style. Since the beginning of wrestling, as we know it, it’s always been the CONVENTIONAL single – hi crotch.. I’ve never taught that to my son because I feel you’re the first person in history to show there is a different way. I try to explain it to people but they think I’m crazy. Is this something you did since youth or was it taught to you. I’m talking about defending one leg and shooting with the other. Also, you always have the opponents wrist. Is this something you drill or just acquired in the practice rooms all these years. From college to the Olympics I believe you improved. What did you realize you couldn’t do anymore against better completion besides get off your knees quicker. You know now as a coach you learn more while coaching. It’s fact. Have you ever broken yourself down to familiarize yourself with your own technique? It’s awesome. Especially your drop step. This was the final piece of the puzzle for me. I couldn’t understand how you loaded your opponents weight so well. Then I was watchin a clinic video you did somewhere. I learned of the trap but that still didn’t solve the issue. Then I got it. Your feet both step slightly backward to pull the opponent forward loading his weight on his feet. No one ever talks about that nor do I see anyone ever wrestling like that. I train your moves for cardio to stay in shape but mostly so I can get inside your head to be able to teach better. I’ll meet you someday when my son is old enough to attend your camp. Keep up the good work.
Hey Brian, wow, thanks for the email. I hope you enjoy the technique videos that we’ve been putting up. I will keep them coming. You asked several great questions so I am going to separate them to keep some order.
Since the beginning of wrestling, as we know it, it’s always been the CONVENTIONAL single – hi crotch.. I’ve never taught that to my son because I feel you’re the first person in history to show there is a different way. I try to explain it to people but they think I’m crazy. Is this something you did since youth or was it taught to you. I’m talking about defending one leg and shooting with the other. Also, you always have the opponents wrist. Is this something you drill or just acquired in the practice rooms all these years.
Yes, you are right. I believe there is a better way than the conventional single- hi crotch. But few people recognize it. Teach your son this different way and it will be a huge advantage. I will show this combo more clearly on video when I get a chance. I show the combo in clinics all the time and the coaches/ and athletes don’t know how valuable what I’m showing them is. It’s difficult to change I guess but the sport has evolved and it will continue to evolve. If you watch the world championships and Olympics, the guys that win consistently usually aren’t shooting hi-c and swing singles. They are doing more of what we are talking about.
I shot a lot off of the wrist and collar so I spent as much time controlling the wrist in matches as I could. It’s important to drill the entire shot, getting to tie-up, sets ups with hands and foot motion, shot, driving through opponent and finishing with back points when possible. To develop those instincts and habits we must drill it. So I did drill controlling the wrist. Coach Douglas had us spend a lot of time handfighting and shooting from tie up.
From college to the Olympics I believe you improved. What did you realize you couldn’t do anymore against better completion besides get off your knees quicker.
Yes, exactly I had to finish my shots quicker and get my head up right away. In college I could scramble and find a way to score from my knees and I developed some bad habits. I had to fix that.
I couldn’t understand how you loaded your opponents weight so well. Then I was watching a clinic video you did somewhere. I learned of the trap but that still didn’t solve the issue. Then I got it. Your feet both step slightly backward to pull the opponent forward loading his weight on his feet. No one ever talks about that nor do I see anyone ever wrestling like that.
Not many people study technique like you are doing. Studying the details is the key. Great job! It’s the little things that make difference. Most people know and are doing the big things. Everyone knows a hi-c, double, swing single, etc so why are some people better at the shots than others? It’s the details, the attitude to make it work, the determination to find a way to keep improving as your opponents keep improving their defense.
Yes I started to break down my technique once I started coaching. Two other points to realize is that my position is slightly lower than my opponent’s. That is tricky because you have to pull and move and circle while keep your head below their head. It is all technique and effort. You whip your leg around and let your hips do the work. The same footwork that pulls your opponent into your setups is also putting your feet in attack position. It all works together.
The other important point is my lead knee replaces where my lead foot is on the ground when I am pulling an opponent into a shot. Just watch the film I’d bet you have already picked up on that.
Thanks and good luck.
Question from Jaime: Is it bad to go all out in practice the day before a match/tourament?
No it is not bad to wrestle live the day before a match or tournament. I prefer to go live the day before and I believe most people do. Our team wrestles live the day before a match. it is good to get your rate up and blow out your lungs. The tricky part is how much. As you get closer to competition, the amount of live wrestling and drilling should decrease but the intensity needs to be high. Generally we do a match or two of live wrestling the day before. It depends on the individual. Some guys do more for their weight management.
Wrestle live but be controlled. Don’t take wild risks or put yourself or your partner in dangerous positions. Most injuries could be avoided with discipline to stay out of vulnerable positions.
Learn as you go. The practice a day before a match as well as the warm up immediately before a match are important. Experiment and learn each time until you get down what is going to help you be your very best for competition. Practice is not just for drilling moves, it is for figuring out what’s going to help you get the best results in all aspects. A few other things thats you should use practice to learn is what, how much and how long before practice you should eat it, what to think, what you should do for your warm up for matches etc. So experiment, learn and make progress in all areas.
Question from J. Bolduc: I’ve progressed so much in the past few years I’ve been wrestling. I’m comfortable on my feet and feel great on bottom. But I need something that will make me solid on top, should I learn to ride legs? What are some tips that will make me solid on top?
Cael: If it feels natural to you then absolutely learn to ride legs. I don’t teach kids to ride legs but if they do ride legs we help them get better. I would guess there are plenty of videos on line and information out there to teach leg riding. Leg riding is about flexibility, hip strength and technique.
Two main tips to success on top are 1) keep pressure forward and 2) stay behind your opponents arms.
You keep pressure forward by driving off your toes and committing your hips to riding your opponent. The best riders are committed to riding. They aren’t just hoping to ride, they attack. Space generally in wrestling is weakness so keep those hips tight. Drive off your toes to keep the pressure forward. You want to make your opponent carry your weight. If you are on your knees, you are probably carrying your own weight. When you keep pressure forward it forces your opponent’s weight on their hands and that keeps them on the mat. Also to ride well you must control your opponents hips. If your opponent can’t clear his hips to create some action, they will have a tough time escaping. I would suggest a chop/ flank ride.
Staying behind your opponents arms is self explanatory but critically important. It is a great advantage to be able to float back and forth between different rides as well. For example, you start with a chop/flank and if you can’t break them down to their belly you switch to a spiral ride then back to the chop/flank etc. there are a lot of option but if you can keep a lot of forward pressure and keep all the weight on your opponents hands and stay behind his arms it will be difficult for your opponent to escape. After you learn to ride and break an opponent down, then you start learning tilts and turns.
Question from Scott Adams: Obviously, a big part of a coach’s job is recruiting talented, confident, smart kids with a strong desire to work and to succeed. Often, many kids who dominated throughout their high school years have a hard time adjusting to the grind of more of their matches being tough hard fought battles. This can be a strain on a kid mentally and physically. How do you prepare a kid for success at the college level.
Cael: Scott you are right on. There are a lot of qualities that a kid needs to have to be successful in college. The first is to have a love of competing (not just winning) and a love of the process of training hard and being committed. The majority of that comes from home but a coach can motivate and lead the kids in the right direction. You do that by focusing on effort instead of the winning and losing. Teach them to expect obstacles and setbacks and to work right through them. Obstacles don’t clear themselves out of the way. They are part of what makes winning so exciting. Because you have to overcome. Obstacles are just tests to see how badly you want to reach you goals. So how do you teach the determination, focus, and character needed to be the absolute best you can be? I don’t know…I would guess just start small. Teach the fighting spirit and set the standard of what you expect and hold kids accountable in practice. Challenge them and help them through to success. Find tough competition and win or lose help your kid to have the right attitude.
It’s important to challenge them with the best competition you can find. Also challenge them with the best workout partners you can find. Be creative and/or aggressive to find workout partners that can test your kids as often as possible. Steel sharpens steel. Take them to tournaments that they will be tested. Part of preparing for adversity is facing adversity.
Wrestle in the off-season. I like to see kids who train and compete in the summer because that’s what we do in college. When I see a kid who doesn’t compete in the offseason I wonder why they don’t. Is it because they don’t love the sport enough? Or they don’t want to work hard in the summer? or is it just because they are playing another sport? There are a lot of potential questions and answers there. As a college coach I would expect to see a high school kid wrestling in the summer simply because they want to be the best. They want to take every advantage to make progress and they simply just love wrestling too much to do only during the regular high school season.
Make sure your kids are doing their best in school. To be a great college wrestler, you have to be a good student. That attitude is developed long before they get to college. If grades are always an issue, it will certaintly affect their wrestling performance. The best thing wrestling can do is get a kid a degree. Academics must be a priority.
One issue kids have when they get to college is they think they need to party and party hard frequently. If you as his father or high school coach can set the example that drinking is not a cool thing to do, it will have an impact on your wrestler. Kids almost think they are expected from their peers to drink and party hard in college. If they aren’t taught differently at home or even from coaches they are vulnerable. Bottomline, they are going to follow someone, so make sure it is you. Alcohol and partying is more devastating to the college careers of student-athletes than anything. Part of a total commitment is not drinking alcohol.
Those are a few ideas. I hope that helps. Good luck.
Raymond from NY: Im having a tough decision to keep wrestling, but i wasnt good in all 3 years of wrestling so far and it got me angry. I was wondering if I should keep training and go to wrestling camps like John Smith and see if i can amount to my full potential?
Cael: Hey Raymond,
Absolutely keep wrestling.
A quick quote for you from Thomas A. Edison “Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress.”
It’s ok to be frustrated, the important thing is what you do with that frustration. If you were not having success and you were content, then that would be a problem. Success will be a byproduct of your effort, commitment, and attitude.
You are at a crossroads where you need to make a decision. Do you say, “aw, shucks, I’m no good and just quit.” Or do you say “forget this losing stuff, I’m going to double down and totally commit to what I’m doing and get better!” Do the latter. You will be grateful down the road if you commit yourself to getting better and attacking that cause.
Don’t just “don’t quit” where you have really quit in your mind and you just go through the motions. Commit in all areas. Look for ways in your life to be more committed, to work harder, smarter, and sacrifice things that could be holding you back. If you need more experience, get it. Whether through camps, tournaments, traveling to where ever you need to practice, watching video online, etc but do it.
If you can’t get to a Penn State Camp, then I’d consider going to a John Smith camp-jk.
Don’t worry about what you aren’t doing in your career, worry about what you can do!
Question from Wertz: What are the first thing a young wrestler should be developing, beside having a good time? I have two young son, which may wrestle, they are under four. I will not allow them to wrestle for any reason but themselves, however, which areas would you recommend for a young wrestler to focus on?
Teach defense first.
My dad ran a very successful youth program and I’ve had this conversation with him several times. He tells me, and I agree, that young wresters should learn defense first. Teach them how to sprawl, keep their hands and head down in their stance, and then have some ways to score points after they stop the shot. Most young wrestlers come out shooting whether they know how or not. If you can teach your young wrestler to sprawl and run around behind he will most likely have success. Success is easy to build off of. Then advance from there. I think the first move my brothers and I learned was a quarter-nelson. After you stop the shot you throw the quarter-nelson on and put them on their back. This sounds kind of mean haha, but I’ve heard my dad say it many times, that young kids don’t have very strong necks so they are vulnerable to the quarter nelson. The half-nelson is probably the same. Again you teach the kids what works and build off of success. The fundamentals win even though they are not always the most fun thing to work on.
Offensively I would teach them how to do a proper penetration step and how to keep crawling on their knees after they shot to find a way to finish. Getting and keeping their head up is a huge key in that. Simple set ups like
Also, I would teach the young wrestler the shot and finish together as one move. Most kids learn the shot and then later learn the finish so they develop the habit of shooting and stopping instead of the finish being part of the original motion. Getting wrestlers to drill the set up, shot, finish (and backpoints if there) would be a huge advantage as well. I have a technique clip on how to drill that will give you a better idea on what I’m talking about.
Also, when I get a chance I will shoot a another penetration shot that we learned from a camp in Jr. high from Coach Bobby Douglas. This is a great penetration shot for young wrestlers.
Question from Kevin: Hi Cael on your penetration step video you don’t say much about a level change,some videos i have been watching lately teach a deep level change stagger and an almost dipping to lead knee.I was always taught more of a step like your to cover ground,could you possibly expand on the difference in philosophy here.Thanks Kevin
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Instead of dropping and then shooting it’s faster to descend in a straight line to the leg. Being in a good stance and moving your feet into the attack position without coming out of your stance is important. Being able to move your opponent, or set them up for an attack and staying in an attack stance is a big advantage.
When you watch the technique video look how I shoot my lead leg up as far as I can and my knee doesn’t go down until it absolutely has to. When you knee hits the ground, your penetration stops. So I want to cover a lot of ground and get my lead leg knee as close to my opponent’s hips as possible. Then my trail leg is sort of being dragged until my lead leg knee goes down and then I swing my back leg up for balance and so I can drive off it, and drive through my opponent’s hips for the takedown. It’s common to see kids trying to rush bringing the back leg up and they come up off balance.
There are shots that you drop to your knees but it’s important to get your head up and to run on your knees to get your hips in to finish the shot.
Also if you note how I shoot my hands to the leg, that’s a trick to increase your speed. When you shoot your hands to the leg you can pull yourself into the shot to be more effective.
If a kid is taught to shoot a penetration shot by first lowering their level, it is easy to defend. As soon as your opponent sees or feels you trying to lower your level so you can shoot, they know your shot is coming. Lowering you level indicates that a shot is coming. An opponent with good defense will know the shot is coming and it will be tough to score.
I hope those quick thoughts help.
I do think a good penetration step is one of the first things a kid should learn. It’s tough to correct once they get to college.
Question from John Legler: Did you ever go swimming and float in the Great Salt Lake?
No actually I never have been swimming in the Great Salt Lake and that is sad since I grew up less than an hour from it. It is supposed to be a cool experience. The salt concentration is so high, that like you mentioned, you do actually float. I also grew up in the heart of skiing country too and have never been skiing. Heber City is in-between park City and Sundance so some of the best snow in the world is right there. Skiing wasn’t even a consideration for me and my brothers. I guess that was because of the risk of injury and that ski season is the same time as wrestling season. My parents did loosen up a little with my younger brother haha because he spent some time snowboarding growing up.
Question from Nathaniel Harper III: how did you stay motivated to go undefeated your college career……..p.s. your my favorite wrestler of all time i try to do everything like you from wearing your shoes to trying to perfecting the ankle pick….your my idol!
Thanks for the note.
I stayed motivated because I had goals that I wanted to accomplish. I knew what I planned on doing and I did everything I could to ensure that I would. My advice to you would to be easily motivated. Set goals and then work diligently towards them. Think about your goals every day. Remember your goals. Write them down so you can see them every day. Your goals should be all the motivation you need.
On the competition side..my goal going into freshman year of college wasn’t to go undefeated. My goal was to get better every match so I could win the NCAA tournament in March. I competed as hard as I could so my opponents wouldn’t want to wrestle me again. I remember Coach Douglas and my coach and mentor Barry Weldon telling me that the more scramble positions I could force my opponent into the better. They told me if I gave up a takedown or two that was fine as long as made my opponent scramble and wrestle hard the whole time. I had no fear of making mistakes out there. If I made a mistake and gave up a takedown, no big deal, I would keep wrestling and use the action to wear down my opponents.
There is nothing wrong with making a mistake or giving up a takedown in a match. You have seven minutes to make up for it. But the important thing is to be commited to your offense. You are “all in” with your tie ups, sets ups, shots and finishes. That’s what we coach at Penn State. That will get you your best results in the long term.
So back to your question, I wasn’t trying to go undefeated. I was trying to do the best that I could. I was trying to score as many points as possible. I was having fun and competing hard. I was trying to score as many team points as possible for my team. I was trying to beat my opponents worse every time we wrestled. I was not focused on not losing and not making mistakes. I wouldn’t have made the necessary progress and most assuredly wouldn’t have gone undefeated if I had been.
Thanks for wearing my shoes. Asics make a great product and care about the sport of wrestling.
Question from Erik: Do you have any tips on cutting weight? i weigh around 190-200 but iv been forced to wrestle at 171 throughout high school and i usually just dont eat very much so i lose my muscle. is there a better way to cut the weight off and still be strong?
I am not a fan or promoter of losing a lot of weight. After you start eating healthy, and training hard, your weight should be close to wrestling weight. Sometimes the team needs you to or you need to to make the team. There isn’t an easy way to manage weight, it’s tough. It’s tough, but it might be part of the process to reach your goal.
The best way to manage weight is to work it off. Put your sweats on after practice, get a partner, and wrestle. That way you burn extra calories, sweat, and get better at wrestling. It is common to see kids put their sweats on after practice and jog or get on a bike or whatever piece of equipment is available. That’s better than not doing anything after practice but doesn’t compare to the opportunity you have to become a better wrestle during the process.
Not eating is not a good way to manage weight. If you don’t eat much you are going to feel terrible and the result will be bad practices. It’s much better to eat, have some energy and work harder in practice. When you work harder, you become a better wrestler and you lose more weight.
Eat healthy and avoid junk food. By just switching to water instead of juices and sodas you will lose 2-5 lbs quickly. Eat smaller meals and eat something every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism firing. After a weigh-in for a match or tournament, don’t allow your weight to balloon up and down so you have to lose large amounts of weight each week. That’s just discipline. Discipline and hard work is the answer. That’s what it takes to burn fat and minimize muscle loss. Continue to do strength exercises. Pull ups and push ups are great. If you lift weights, hit the core lifts each week.
name: Erik White
question: Cael, I want to wrestle in college but im not an outstanding wrestler. wrestling has been more of a hobby then a lifestyle to me but i want to make it a bigger part of my life. i actively lift weights and run so conditioning isnt a problem of mine, its my technique that i have a problem with. any advice that i should know to help me get into a college program?
Most colleges have tryouts but you are probably going to have to earn your spot on the roster. To earn a spot on the team during the tryout process (and for the rest of your time on the team,) work hard, be hungry to learn, and be committed. Most programs only have so many spots on their roster. Every wrestler the staff puts on the team costs thousands of dollars over the years, takes up space in the room and so on. So show the coaches that you really want it, and make that commitment.
Show that you love the sport.
Coaches are always looking for hard working, committed kids. Be a wrestler that is pulling the team forward. There are a lot of ways to do that too. It’s not all about who can win matches, teams need the great students, they need leaders, people who live the lifestyle morally, etc. Be an asset.
If you don’t want to make that commitment, then consider joining the university club team and/or wrestle in intramurals. If your school doesn’t have those programs then get some people together and get them started. The club programs around the country are growing. I think Penn State has a club team that practices a couple times a week. That’s more of a hobby type of situation but there are some good wrestlers on the club teams.
If you are going to try and join a college team I would email the coaches and even stop by and see them. I would guess most coaches don’t advertise that students can try out for the team. Coaches don’t have to have tryouts and I don’t think many do. What they do is allow the kids that ask and pursue that they can tryout. So if you want a shot, don’t wait around for it. Let the right people know what your intentions are. Find out what you can do, and then do everything in your power to make it happen.
question: Dear Cael, Wrestling has done wonders for me for the past four years. I started as a freshman then, as a sophomore, made it to the state finals but lost. This was one of the greatest moments of my life. All I wanted to do was get a title, so I worked hard, ran many miles, attended intense camp and off-season tournaments, and weight lifted. Junior year rolls around and during the state tournament, I dislocated and broke my left elbow in two different places. It was heartbreaking to have my season ended short. For the next 12 weeks I had to undergo intense physical therapy to rehabilitate my arm. It was hard to get back on the mat after such a terrible injury. Senior year rolls around and everything is looking great for states. I was undefeated and ranked very high. Right about district time, I dislocated my right elbow during another match… End of season and career. I wanted to wrestle in college extremely bad but the chances of reinjury and seriously damaging either one of my previously broken arms is staggering. It has been really hard to deal with falling short of your goals. I believe that everything has a reason and that God has a plan, but it is very hard to see that now. I want to be dedicated to a sport, like I was to wrestling, but I don’t know what. What do wrestlers do when they can’t wrestle anymore?
I don’t think you ever stop “wrestling.”
Wrestling is competing, working hard, pushing yourself, never being satisfied, and just simply refusing to be anything but the very best you can be. Attack your next goal and all the other aspects of your life with that same wrestler’s mentality and you will be fine.
You have faced some difficult adversity, no question. The test and real important thing is how you deal with it. Winning is fun and that’s the plan but it’s not the most important thing. Keeping your head up is more important. Never giving up is more important.
If you really want to go on and continue to wrestle, you can and you will. You might hurt your arm again that’s true. There is usually risk in everything we do. But, just think how much you gained from your four years of high school wrestling.
It is very clear that you know how valuable wrestling has been to you in your life. Looking back, and knowing what you know now, that you would have injuries and frustrations, would you have still wrestled? I bet you would. You are still very grateful for the experience you had as a wrestler, right? You know that you are a stronger person because of your wrestling experience.
As you look forward to the next phase of your career, you can’t avoid all adversity of injuries. I wouldn’t let the fear of an injury keep you from doing what you want to do. If you think high school wrestling was good for you, you won’t believe how great college wrestling will be for you. The commitment of college wrestling is very exciting. Nothing can teach you what college wrestling can teach you. If you are determined and smart in how you train, and disciplined to stay out of risky situations with your arm, you can do it.
You can wrestle in college if you really want to.
It is obviously up to you, I’m just looking at it from a different perspective. Maybe you can’t wrestle at the next level, or maybe you just decide it’s not worth it. That’s fine, it’s your decision. You know what is best for you. I just wouldn’t give up on something if you truly want to do it. Anything is possible.
question: Cael, I recently stumbled across your blog and was completely blown away by the Positive Perfectionist. As a mother I think I am completely guilty of shaping my kid into a “Head Case” He had early success as an 8 year old and we came to expect that and even though I say to my son it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, just wrestle your best and that is always good enough for us. I think he feels my actions when I am visibly more excited when he wins and find myself saying things like if you had not made that mistake in the 2nd round you would have had him. Then I try to cover it up by saying it’s ok that’s how you learn and grow. I guess what I really have is a thank you.
Thanks for the email. My blogs are from a coaches/ athlete’s perspective so it is much easier to look from the outside in. Being a parent is tough. It is easily the toughest thing in the world imo. I have a young son and I have a difficult time even thinking about him stubbing a toe.
I’m sure you are doing a fine job. What’s great is that you realize that you could tweak what you are doing to better help your son. The quality of being coachable is a huge deal. Regardless of where we are in life, being coachable is huge, whether we are a coach, athlete or parent.
The truth is that we put our kids in sports to have fun, exercise, and learn life lessons. It’s not to beat Billy down the street, even though that is pretty fun. Competition is fun but not why we put are kids in sports.
When we remember this and it’s in our hearts, it is much easier to help our kids. Kids are very perceptive and really smart; they pick on the smallest clues. They will figure it out if you are concerned about the results more then the effort. We won’t be able to hide or cover up those feelings. Our kids will know our true intent.
So the first goal I would think would be for the parents to know that they put their kids in wrestling for right reasons. You put them in the sport to learn the life lessons. Of course you want them to win, but you want them to win because you want them to be happy and to see results for their hard work. But you don’t want them to win for you. It is their career and as parents we are just here to help them. You help them by being positive, and encouraging them. As a parent or coach it is our job to find the positives and to exploit them. Coach Cunningham talks about exploiting our kids positives. It is a big deal to do that.
You should expect a lot out of them too, but what you expect is hard work and a great effort. That’s the goal. I could go on and on here so I will write a blog soon. Best wishes and keep up the great work. It’s all about making progress.
Dear Coach Sanderson
Congratulations on your great season . You have done a great job at PSU. I plan on attending the NCCA finals in Omaha, I hope I can get the opportunity to meet you in person. I sent the following email to my 16 year old grandson (Parker Moses) who lives in Austin Texas .This was his first year of wrestling, as his family lived outside of the country until this year. I did lots of tele, and internet email coaching with him. It paid off well. He made the varsity his first year, had a 20 and 5 record, had the most pins, and most first period pins. On a point system he was the first one to earn his wrestling letter. this year. I am hoping that he and some of his wrestling friends, can attend your camp this summer. I would love your comments and or any suggestions in regards to what I said in the email, as I would like to send the email to other youth wrestlers that i know. Feel free to post my email on your ask Cael. blog. Keep up the good work for all of wrestling.
Sincerely, DONNIE SPANGLER, THE OLD HUSKER
KEEP YOUR HEAD(MIND) ON THE MAT!
As the youth and high school wrestling season winds, I thought I might share some thoughts and ideas for those wrestlers who want to successfully wrestle in the off season or get ready to prepare for next season. It is perfectly fine to take a break from a sport now and then, but if you want to really excel in this sport of wrestling, you need to keep your mind and thinking on the mat on a regular basis. ALWAYS do it in a FUN and positive way. The following are some ideas that I think that work very well.
1. In the off season do some conditioning training alone or with some friends .I.E sprints and long distance running, biking, exercises I.E. push ups , pull ups, sit ups ect.
2. Get some wrestling friends together, maybe once a week, say on a weekend night and practice some moves and drills on the carpet or on the grass in the yard. then watch a movie together eat some pizza and talk about girls.
3. With your wrestling buddies, watch and analyze wrestling videos of your self and your friends wrestling in previous matches. Look for things in the videos that you think you can improve on.
4. Go to at least 1 wrestling camp during the off season either folk style or free style .
5. Enter some wrestling tournaments with your friends. Make it a fun time and positive experience. MORE MATCHES MEANS MORE EXPERIENCE, MORE EXPERIENCE MEANS YOU WILL BECOME A BETTER WRESTLER.
6. Watch wrestling videos on the internet often. I.E. flowrestling , youtube, Cael Sandersons site ect.
7. SET SEASON GOALS !!! Without goals you have no direction. make goals like I will win districts or I will win state and be a state champion, or I will win at least half of matches by first period pins. Write these goals down and place them where you can read them often. I.E. bathroom mirror, dash of the car, car sun visor, refrigerator , ceiling of your bedroom directly above your bed.. Then say them out loud often and to who ever will listen to you like your friends, relatives, coaches and every body else you know also.
8. Devise a written plan on how to achieve YOUR goals. I.E. I will run__ miles each week. I will do ___pull ups each day . I will improve my technique I.E. improve my take downs by doing __ shadow drills each day with my bedroom door mirror, or practice on my mom and dad. I will sign up for at least ___ tournament on or before _____date. I will sign up for a summer camp on or before _____. I will contact other area wrestlers about my same weight, and see if they would like to practice with me, at some place, either on a mat, carpet, or grass.
9. Seek council and advice from my coach and other knowledgeable wrestlers about my goals and planning strategies. They will be honored and be glad to help you. So humble your self, and get some good free advice.
10. Read a good motivational book over the off season I.E WRESTLING TOUGH by Mike Chapman, or Rulon Gardners book NEVER STOP PUSHING.
THE BOTTOM LINE! If you have a passion for wrestling, and for excellence and you focus on being a Champion, you can be the CHAMPION that God wants you to be. Pursue your goals , and live your dream, always in a fun way, it will make your life exciting!
(By DONNIE SPANGLER, THE OLD HUSKER)
name: Raymond from NY
question: My question is im a 3 year wrestler about to be 4 years and i want to strength train and try to wrestler during the offseason but my technique is fine at 171 but i get overpower should i strength train more or wrestle more in the offseason 3 times a week?
Raymond, Do both. Wrestle and strength train. Wrestling would be my first choice if you had to choose between wrestling and strength training. Wrestling is a form of strength training. Nothing gets you wrestling strength like wrestling. Also, I know you said your technique is fine but don’t be satisfied. The better your technique becomes the stronger you will be.
If you are small for the weight make sure you are eating well. Eat good, nutritious foods. The key to putting on weight is eating. You can lift all day but if you aren’t eating correctly you won’t gain weight. Wrestle as much as can and lift a couple times a week. I am not a big promoter of heavy lifting for high school aged kids but find a good coach/ plan and attack it.
question: Cael. Let me first start by saying that I think that you are the best wrestlers that I have ever had the privelage of watching. My question is this, I’m in my 40′s, and I still compete in senior tournaments. Do you have any training tips for an old fart like me?
Hey Terrence, thanks for the email. That’s great that you are still competing. The main thing that I would say would be to make sure you give yourself plenty of rest time. Train hard and prepare for your toughest competitions but rest well between cycles. Train, recover, train, recover. Recovery is key.
Nutrition is real important. What you put into your body will make a huge difference in how you feel and perform. Make sure you are hydrated!
Train with higher intensity and shorter goes to eliminate wear and tear on your body. Also, be creative to find different ways to get in shape and maintain shape. Do shadow matches and bike matches. I would make sure I get a good warm up before practices. Strong warm ups and solid cool downs will make a difference. And then go out there and thrown people down and pin them. Good luck.
question: Hey Cael I gave a question, I’m having a really hard time in wrestling. My coach ( and father) says that you should pick one move and master it, i’ve alot of your videos and I know that yours is the ankle pick but I am having trouble finding out about mine. On top of that I have always shot with my head down instead of up! I dont know how to break this bad habit! if you have any advice please respond. I know your busy with Penn State but if you could answer this question it will really help my wrestling career.
I think your coach is correct in that it is better to be great at a few moves then to be good at many. The only thing is that I wouldn’t overthink the issue. Do what feels natural. If you don’t have one big “go to” type of move that’s ok. Figure out what your best chance of success in matches is and work on that strategy. Some kids are better with counter offense. If that’s the case you should work hard at putting pressure on your opponent and forcing them to take bad shots, etc.
The beauty with wrestling is that everyone is different. So figure out what you do well and work there. Don’t try and force something. That makes it really tough to learn. Just train hard and then compete hard. Focus on what you do well and then work hard to spend as much time as you possibly can in that(or those) position(s).
It is not as important to keep your head up on your shots as it is to get your head up immediately after your shots. Get your head up after your shot and keep moving into your finish. If you are getting to the leg with your head down that is fine, just get your head into position asap.
name: DONNIE SPANGLER, THE OLD OLD HUSKER
question: TAKEDOWNS AND WINNING
I have a ? that I have pondered for about 50 years. It is in regards to takedowns and winning the match. have you or any one else out there in wrestling land ever seen any % or statistics on the probability of winning the match if you get the first take down? I have allways beleived that the wrestler who gets the first take down, will probably win the match, because 1. he or she is better prepared than their opponent in all of theirwrestling moves especially take downs. 2. is more aggressive with an attack attitude, not only with take downs, but also in their other moves I.E. pinning. but it all starts the #1 basic move a well executd take down. As you know practice does,nt make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect! To make and execute great and perfect moves, you start with perfect practice. short cuts , half h!
earted and sloppy moves will only give you half hearted and sloppy results.you won,t be the winner! I look forward to hearing your ideas and comments, and tour other readers. THANKS AGAIN FOR ALL YOUR EFFORTS AND GOOD WORKS. GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. Sincerly donnie spangler the old old HUSKER. p.s. Did you ever use, or do you coach an outside, or inside leg trip from a tie up? I love your technique videos.
Thank you Donnie, thanks for this great insight. This is an older email but I dug it back up. I just want to share this email with people. I don’t have any statistics but I think you are right on target. The person that gets the first takedown wins the great majority of the time.
question: Youth wrestling, how much is TOO MUCH?? I am a Youth wrestling coach in Ohio (K-6TH Grade). As Im sure you know, the wrestling programs in OH,PA & NJ are solid and currently produce a majority of the nations top ranked highschool wrestlers. This is mainly due to the level of intensity,support and enrollment at the youth level. It is common to see kids start wrestling at Kindergarten and 1st grade, as a result the competetion by 3rd&4th grade is fierce (9 yr olds w/4-5 yrs eperiance). My question is, at what age do you feel is good for a kid to start attending wrestling camps? We all want our team to do well but in my opinion youth wrestling is more about laying the foundation for highschool and college. Its great to have our young kids make it to state,(camps would help them get there) but Im concernd about ‘burning them out’ by wrestling 5 months then hitting summer camps.
I think you have to look at each individual to decide how much is too much for a young wrestler. You hit the nail on the head when you say youth wrestling should be about laying the foundation for high school and college. I agree completely. Kids need to have fun. Wrestling should start as a recreational sport just like any other sport. Then as kids become more competitive, you find higher level competition for them. I think kids should start participating in sports at a young age to have fun, develop coordination, and help them develop a love of exercise, competition and hard work. The emphasis needs to be on fun though. That is the key.
Wrestling is no different.
Youth wrestling is getting more and more competitive. They have more national championships and huge tournaments then ever before. It is probably tough not to get caught up in all that but I wouldn’t. in the big picture it really doesn’t matter who the best 3rd grade wrestler in the country is. At least it shouldn’t if the goal is long term success. Sure it is nice to see that a kid has a good feel for the sport and can compete at a young age but the attitude in which they are raised and coached is far more important. A lot of the best young wrestlers in the country don’t last very long because they aren’t having fun.
I would make sure my young athletes are playing several sports as well. I played every sport growing up. My parents were really busy chasing us around town but I am very grateful for their sacrifice and willingness to do that. Doing that should help with “burnout.” Also, by switching up practices and keeping kids on their toes will help too. Routine is boring and as a coach it is easy to fall into routines.
I don’t know what your schedule is, but it probably would be a good thing to give the kids some time off during that 5 month stretch. Even if it is just for a week or two. That would probably refresh their minds and keep them hungry for more. It also depends on how many days a week you are practicing when you are looking at giving them breaks. it’s amazing how much an energetic, fresh mind will improve the quality of workouts and even technique.
When it comes to summer camp I think it depends on the individual. When a wrestlers is willing to give up one of their summer weeks to go to wrestling camp it says a lot about their commitment. Plus, camp is supposed to be fun! It changes up the wrestlers training environment and training partners, builds confidence, and sharpens technique. It is a healthy change of pace.
With young kids I think it is important to pick the right camp. I would think a technique camp would be great. A lot of the intensive camps around the country focus a lot on running and exercises outside of wrestling. That can be good for mental toughness but I figure a kid can run at home for free. Young kids probably don’t need to be running long distances anyways. As a young kid at camp I know I screwed around more then I didn’t, but I did get better at them.
Ultimately I think if you make your kid’s think it is their idea to go to camp, they will get more out of it. If kids think going to camp is a novelty (which it is) they should enjoy it and get more out of it.
T.J. it sounds like you know what you’re doing. We need more coaches like you.
name: Hayden From small town holly,co
question: Hey Cael i am a long time fan and its amazing you did what u did i wish i could meet u someday. i hope this is really you and not one of those stupid things where someone answer your mail. but ok srry im takin your time its just im a junior starter for 3 years now im tryin to make changes to get on track i pray everyday and i have a firm belief with god anything is possible but sometimes it seems as if i am not winning the matches i should i was good in junior high but i lost my touch and got dissapointed my freshmen year and have never got back on track pleaase answer back cael.
Yes this is me and you can probably tell by how infrequent responses and blogs are.
If you pray for guidance i know you will get it, so you are doing the most important thing in having faith in God. the second thing is to go to work. Keep working and work hard. Hard work will solve most problems.
Another thought that came to my mind when I read your question is a quote from Bonnie Epstein.
“Don’t Should on Yourself.” Bonnie Epstein
That means, don’t focus or worry about what you “should” have done. “Should” is a negative perspective and usually just serves as an opportunity for you to beat yourself up over something that happened in the past. That doesn’t help. It is important to recognize mistakes but don’t dwell on them. Recognize what they are and go to work to correct them.
Also I don’t like the perspective when looking to the future when people think or say, “I should beat this guy” or I “should” do this or “should” do that. “Should” is a negative view that creates expectations for you. It is a “counting the chicken before they are hatched” perspective in my opinion. It changes an opportunity into a pressure filled “don’t lose situation.”
As an athlete and now as a coach I am careful not to use the “should” word.
Focus on what you are doing well. Focus on what you can do, not what you “should” do.
It is amazing how changing or eliminating a word or two in our thinking process completely changes our attitude.
Have fun, compete hard and see what you can do!
“Everyone can be discontented if he ignores his blessings and looks only at his burdens.” Thomas S. Monson
Count your blessings if you ever need a boost.
question: It’s my senior year, I was a three sport varsity athlete. i quit baseball and football. During last spring during a baseball practice I couldnt stop thinking about wrestling. It’s all I wanted to do. I said to myself “I’m a state champion, I’m gonna do it” that very day I quit. I hit the room for hours in the summer anything and everything to do with wrestling I did. I made a commitment to myself to not be satisfied to strive, give everything. I’ve beat top ranked guys in the state all summer… its season now and I fell a little off track mentally for awhile but I know I’m mentally there again. States are in a months and for me to continue wrestling (in college) i have to win states bottom line, I don’t feel the confidence I felt this summer though, I knew I could beat anyone who stepped out on the mat with me, now I’ve began to question my ability as a wrestler even though I know im that good. Everyone has doubts, even you had to, what did you do with your doubts… how did you mentally put yourself above them? Honestly I don’t feel at my best right now, and im scared… ill never tell anyone but states are in a month and i felt better when it was just summer wrestling. How do I get my head right?
Doubts are common and everyone has them. The question is what do you do with them? Do you recycle those negative, doubtful thoughts again and again in your mind? Or, do recognize that doubts are just garbage and you put them where garbage belongs, in the trash.
Sport Psychologist Marty Martinez said it best, he said something like, “you aren’t always in control of the first thought that pops into your mind, but you are in control of the second thought.” That means YOU decide what to do with your negative thought. It is your choice.
It helps to have a programmed answer ready for the negative thoughts. I used to tell myself, “I am ready.” So every time a negative thought crept into my mind I quickly replaced it with my programmed response.
That is a game and a battle you fight until you are done competing.
Consider these facts. You are better now then you have ever been. You are more experienced now then you have ever been. You are more prepared then you ever have been.
With those facts, have fun and attack your goals.
Here are a couple good quotes for you:
“Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt.”
- William Shakespeare
“He who worries about calamities suffers them twice over.”
question: Hey Cael, your one of my heroes and me and my dad have really enjoyed watching you over the years. We expect great things from Penn State. It’s my senior year and honestly I’m getting really burnt out. I took fifth last year at state and I have high hopes to win state this year but I’m just lacking motivation on a daily basis. This lack of motivation and cutting weight is starting to show in my matches and I don’t know how to get out of this rut I’m stuck in. I was doing well at 119s and then I dropped to 112s and I’m not sure if i should go back up because then maybe I would have more energy and I would be happier. Do you have any tips on how I can stay focused on my goals and pick up my motivation to finish out these last several weeks of my career on a good note. Thanks…
Thanks for the email. Make sure you are focused on the right things. What you choose to focus on is what you are going to get. If you focus on trying to accomplish something great and being the very best you can be, then that is what you are going to get. If you focus on your lack of motivation, and cutting weight is, then that is what you are going to get. Cutting weight is tough.
What weight you should go is something you and your coach need to talk about.
Remember your goals. Visualize yourself reaching your goals. That should respark your fire. Remember YOUR desire to be successful. These are your goals and an opportunity to do something great.
Remember you aren’t cutting weight because you hate food. You are cutting weight because you have goals to accomplish!
Like I said before, don’t focus on your obstacles or that’s what you will get. Focus on your goals. Expect and accept that there will be obstacles. If you expect obstacles, it is not that big of a deal when they pop up. The only certainty is that there will be obstacles. Questioning your motivation is an obstacle. One of the keys to winning is to expect obstacles. Those obstacles are part of what makes what you are trying to accomplish special. If it were easy, everyone would do it right?
I was taught that obstacles are nothing more then life testing to see how badly you want to reach your goal.
A great quote is “judge a man’s strength but the amount of adversity it takes to slow him down.”
At the toughest time in my career I had very similar thoughts. The best advice I received was “you are responsible for everything you think, everything you say, everything you feel and everything you do.”
That is the truth. You can think and feel positively or you can be negative with yourself.
It is all your choice. Obstacles like the ones you are facing are only as powerful as you allow them to be. Remember your goals. Remember why you are working and making sacrifices. You are doing all of things for yourself, so you can make a run at a goal.
M. Ali said it well, “suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
name: DONNIE SPANGLER, THE OLD OLD HUSKER
question: Dear Cael. I saw an accronym that you may have seen or heard P.U.S.H. “PRAY UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS.” In wrestling we can say “PUSH UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS.
That is good stuff. I especially like your version of “pushing until something happens.” We all know that we are supposed to pray and give thanks for our many, many blessings, and also pray for help and guidance. I do believe praying is just a step in the process. I believe God expects us to pray, live his commandments as well as we can, and then to get up off our rear ends and go to work. It’s the same thing in wrestling. We won’t get very far sitting on our butts hoping and waiting for things to work out. Like you said Donnie, “Push until something happens.” Create opportunities.
If anyone has inspirational stories or something good you would like me to share on this website, just send it in and I will post it.
question: I’m a 46 year old assistant high school wrestling coach in morgan county georgia my question is how do i keep in shape to keep up with these young wrestlers do you have any tips on diet and excercising and maybe some tips on how to restart my metabolism to shed some extra pounds. thanks so much, and good luck on a your upcomming season!! I’m a Huge Penn state fan thanks, Neil
I work with Cael here at Penn State and once in a while he has me answer a question so that is why I am responding to you now. I do not claim to be an expert on nutrition but because it is an important part of our sport I try to pay attention to it. As far as diet and exercise goes you just have to be consistent. The big mistake people make is to not eat often enough. You should try to be eating 5 or 6 small meals a day to speed up your metabolism. If you eat only once or twice a day your body will try to hold onto everything you put in it. Usually when I have people start eating more often and drinking more water their body weight goes up a little bit because you body is still in storage mode. Once your body adapts and knows it will be getting food again soon it will start using and shedding the excess. Usually takes a couple of weeks but if you stay disciplined with the types of food you eat and eating more often you will shed the pounds. As far as staying in shape just start slow and build from there. I try to do most everything the guys on our team do so that I do not get behind conditioning wise. I may not do it as fast but I try to at least do what they are doing. If you have not consistently done this then start with a few days a week and work your way up starting with smaller guys for a while even just drilling with them and move on from there. They benefit from being able to work out with you and you are getting in shape. Not sure if this helps but good luck with your team and have fun.
question: I’m a new coach at a fairly new wrestling school. The team does not yet have a routine practice, and needs tons of work as far as technique. What would you suggest as far as what technique to stress drilling on and how an ideal two hour practice should be planned?
Technique to work on:
1-Stance and stance motion
2-Penetration step (video on this site)
3-Baseline defense (head position, down blocking, sprawling, and stuffing head down and away, square hips etc.)
4-Scoring and defending front headlock position
5-Getting to tie ups (hands down, stalking and putting your head on opponent before grabbing, or blocking the forehead or shoulder with one hand and collar tie with other hand)
6-Move opponent with tie up (Weldon drill, I have video on this site)
7-Hard set ups (club, fakes, snaps, combinations of these)
8-Quick finishes on shots (head up and hips in, keep feet moving)
1-Pressure back into escapes, stand ups and sit outs and combinations
2-Chop and flank on top. Teach kids to chop wrist across body to a two-on-one ride)
Those are some of the basics for all levels of wrestling.
As far as practice, it will vary with the time of year and what you have coming up. Our practices are different everyday. We probably don’t have two practices that are exactly the same all year. The closer you get to competition the shorter and sharper you want practice to be. Here is an idea of a general practice.
15-20 minute intense warm up (running, sprints, push ups, pull ups, stretches, buddy neck exercises, cartwheels, forward and backward rolls, shadow wrestling, etc) Sometimes if we have technique to work on we jump right into teaching and use that to warm them up instead of getting a hard warm up and then jumping back into a slower, learning session that they cool back off during.
30 minute new technique (Start with teaching new technique but I wouldn’t try to teach more then 2-3 things a day. I would rather spend a lot of time on mastering a few things rather then a little time on many things.)
20-30 minutes hard drilling. Rehearsing shots, drills, situations, with good intensity. Both wrestlers are giving good effort and giving their partner a realistic feel but not trying to stop each other. Kids drilling are always in good stance and when being taken down, opponent always lands like a cat to develop good habits. Person drilling always drills sets ups, shots and quick finishes every shot. Most people drill by just shooting a shot and stopping before finishing shot. That drives me crazy, it doesn’t do much good to develop habits of stopping on a shot before you finish.
20-30 minutes live wrestling. Change this up daily. Sometimes go long matches, sometimes 30 second goes, do live situations, do 3 men in a group occasionally if space is limited, do full matches, etc. but change it up regularly.
10-15 min hard conditioning. If you can do conditioning that helps your kids get better that is ideal. Shadow matches are great for conditioning. Hard Drills, mixed with sprints, push ups, pull ups etc work well too.
That is a long practice there so I would switch it up every day. I prefer shorter, more intense practices to longer less intense ones. A lot depends on what your team’s needs are. If you need more work on technique then spend more time there. There are days that we spend a lot of time on technique. I think one thing to avoid is warming them up real hard with drilling and then jumping back into a slower leaning portion and then jumping back to intense drilling etc.
If your kids aren’t wrestling live the way you want them to then have them do drill matches instead doing exactly what you want to see. Often in practice kids get so worried about winning and losing in practice that they don’t work in areas they need to work in. They go right back to prevent mode and avoid mistakes at all costs. That is bad mindset for practice and competition and a challenge for coaches to get them past that.
name: don spangler
question: CAEL I AM A 64 YEAR OLD HUSKER, WHO IS COACHING HIS HIGHSCHOOL GRANDSON. DO YOU THINK IT IS GOOD TO RIDE FROM BOTH THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT SIDES IN THE REFEREES POSITION? KINDA LIKE BEING A SWITCH HITTER IN BASEBALL. I FOUND AS A WRESTLER IN MY YOUTH. THAT IF I RODE FROM THE TOP FROM THE OPPISITE SIDE THAT MY OPONENT WAS USED TO , IT WOULD THROW HIM OFF WHILE TRYING TO EXECUTE HIS ESCAPES OR REVERSALS. WHAT DO YOU THINK? THANKS
Coach Spangler, thank you for both emails. Thanks for following my website. Yes, I agree. It is a great thing to be able to ride both sides, both in the starting position and during the riding process. You are absolutely correct that some wrestlers do struggle escaping from bottom if the top man doesn’t line up and ride, on their preferred side. Teaching your grandson to ride both sides will be an advantage. I used to switch back and forth all the time. The best riders switch back and forth while riding and can start from either side. That was a great comment/ question. Good luck.
name: don spangler
question: HI AGAIN; I AM THE 64 YEAR OLD COACH WHO ASKED ABOUT RIDING LEFT OR RIGHT FROM THE REFEREES POSITION. BUT I AM WRITING YOU , BECAUSE OF THE GREAT BLOG YOU WROTE ( COURAGE TO DEVELOPE OUR TALENTS) THAT WAS A GREAT ARTICLE, AND VERY INSPIRATIONAL, AND MOTOVATING. I TOOK THE LIBERT TO COPY IT , AND HAVE BEEN GIVING COPIES TO YOUNG WRESTLERS AND COACHES. GOD HAS GIVEN YOU THE OPPORTUITY TO REACH THE WORLD WITH THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST. AS PAUL SAID ( FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT) WE ARE TO THRIVE, AND NOT JUST SURVIVE.. WE ARE TO BE VICTORS AND JUST NOT PARTICIPENTS. I AM GOING TO SEND YOU A LETTER BY SNAIL MAIL,THAT TALKS ABOUT A MINISTRY WE CAN ALL ENJOY AND DO. GOD BLEES YOU QAND EVERY THING THAT YOU PUT YOUR HAND AND MIND TO. SINCERLY DONNIE SPANGLER FORT COLLINS COLO.
question: Will you be holding wrestling camps for Summer 2010 in Heber/Midway, Utah? If so, what dates will they be held and how can I sign up my sons? Thank you!
Yes, the camp will be in Heber City, Utah at Wasatch High School on July 5-9. The camp is my dad’s camp so it is not listed on the Penn State Camp site. However, members of our PSU coaching staff and team will work the camp for my dad. I will be there. I will get a camp schedule up with a link on how to sign up on this site soon. Thanks for asking and good luck.
Nittany Lion Wrestlers Ranked No. 15 in NWCA Coaches Poll
Five Nittany Lions ranked in Intermat rankings, three in the top six
STATE COLLEGE, Pa.; December 1, 2009 – Five members of the Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team continue to hold rankings in the latest individual rankings released by Intermat and viewable at www.intermatwrestle.com. Head coach Cael Sanderson’s squad is also ranked No. 15 in the latest NWCA Coaches Poll after is 3-0 day at the Sprawl and Brawl Duals.
Senior Cyler Sanderson (Heber City, Utah) remains Penn State’s highest ranked individual with his No. 4 ranking at 157. Sanderson is 4-1 on the year and was the Nov. 17 Big Ten Wrestler of the Week. Junior Brad Pataky (Clearfield, Pa.) stays at No. 6 at 125 with his perfect 5-0 record and was Big Ten Wrestler of the Week last back on Nov. 24.
Sophomore Frank Molinaro (Barnegat, N.J,) moved up one spot to No. 6 at 149. Molinaro, like Pataky, is undefeated with a 5-0 mark including three majors. Senior Dan Vallimont (Lake Hopatcong, N.J.) stays at No. 9 at 165 with a 4-1 record. Sophomore Cameron Wade (Twinsburg, Ohio) also moved up a spot to No. 11 at heavyweight. Wade is 3-2 with both his losses coming to top-ranked foes.
The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 15 in the latest NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll. The Nittany Lions are one of seven Big Ten teams in the rankings. Iowa is No. 1, Ohio State No. 4, Minnesota No. 5, Indiana No. 13, Penn State No. 15, Wisconsin No. 18 and Illinois No. 20. Purdue is also receiving votes.
Penn State is now 4-1 on the year and winners of four straight. The Nittany Lions return to action on Sunday, Dec. 6, when they will take part in the Nittany Lion Open at Rec Hall. The open tournament, which will feature many of Penn State’s red-shirts, begins at 8:30 a.m. in Rec Hall and runs all day. Penn State’s next home dual is set for Jan. 22 when it hosts Illinois at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall. Single event tickets will cost $8 for adults and $6 for youth. Group sales are available once again for groups of 15 people or more. Group prices are $4 in advance and $5 walk-up. Fans can purchase tickets by calling 1.800.NITTANY between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. All Penn State events will once again air live on Forever Broadcasting’s WRSC?(1390 AM) or 3WZ (95.3 FM) and on www.GoPSUsports.com as well. The 2009-10 Penn State Wrestling season is presented by The Family Clothesline.
question: I am currently a senior at spencer high school and i wrestlered during all 4 of my years. I worked very hard and its like i’m not getting any better, no matter what i do. Please i’m desperate. How do i get better
I would just a close look at what you are doing to get better. Hard work is only part of the solution. You need to make sure you are working hard on the correct things to make progress. Talk with your coach, parents, work out partners and anyone else that you trust. Ask you coach what you need to do make progess. Listen and be coachable.
This is a blog I wrote a long time ago about not confusing hard work with accomplishment.
Jon Bytheway tells an awesome story in his book “When Times Are Tough.” It goes…
I remember hearing a story as a child that made quite an impression on me. A scientist conducted an experiment with what are called “processionary caterpillars.” Processionary caterpillars follow one another in a kind of follow-the-leader fashion as they look for food. The scientist somehow succeeded in arranging these creatures around the rim of a flowerpot. They followed each other in circles for several days until they eventually died of starvation. Food was only inches away, in the center of the flowerpot, but they all died while appearing very busy. I remember well the lesson: They died because they confused activity with accomplishment. Again, the goal isn’t just to be busy, but to be busy doing something worthwhile.
I have told that story probably a hundred times. It is so important to understand the importance of working smart. Hard work is an essential key to reaching your great potential. However, hard work will only take you so far. It takes working smart to separate yourself from the other hard workers. Working smart is listening to your coaches. Working smart is taking a realistic look at how you can do things more effectively. Work smart! Get the most out of your hard work.
name: Forest Gump
question: Cael, I am a highschool wrestling coach and I had an athlete of mine give up at practice. I know he has potential which is why I harp on him however he lacks the mental toughness. How would you handle a situation where your athlete quits or won’t fight in practice-you know it will carry over to competition or become a cancer to others within the program. Please answer, curious to know your stance.
As you said, if a kid gives up in practice, they will most certainly give up in competition. As coaches, we know that there are seldom surprises in competition, whether good or bad. Through training and pushing our student-athletes through challenges we should know how every kid is going to act in about every situation in competition. You know that your athlete quits and you know he will quit in competition. If we have a kid blatantly quit in practice we send them home. If they quit in competition I wouldn’t put them out on the mat again until I felt like they were going to fight. In my mind, quitting is unacceptable.
Each individual has their own unique circumstances and if the kid knows that you care about him/her and want to help them, you should be able to make progress. I do think that you have to be very strict in letting them know that quitting is unacceptable. I would much rather have a kid wrestle that fights, even if he gets pounded, then throw someone out on the mat that will give up in critical moments. Quitting is contagious.
My experience with kids that quit is that they are usually the kids that feel a lot of pressure from home. There is no greater pressure that a kid can feel then the pressure that if he loses his parents, the most important people in the world to him, will be disappointed in him if he loses. This is such a common issue in sports. The problem with that type of pressure is that it is too much for kids to handle. When times get tough and they need to fight to score a point to win, they crumble and quit. When I say “kids” I mean high school, Jr. High and college age. So with kids like this I try to help them realize that they actually do love wrestling themselves. Really what is more fun then wrestling? Not much. Also, I try to help them realize that they actually do love to compete. I try to convey that the higher the stakes the more fun it should be to compete. Kids who are raised to focus on the wins and losses have a very difficult time thinking that way. Most of those kids quit early. That’s the challenge, to help them overcome the mentality that they were raised on. It is very, very difficult to do. Getting those kids to focus on effort instead of the end result is very difficult. Kids that were raised feeling a lot of pressure to win are the first to make excuses and blame something else for their losses as well. That is another challenge in itself because you can’t make progress if you don’t accept responsibility.
Coach, if the kid sincerely wants to find a way to improve and overcome their issue of “quitting” then I would work side by side with them. If the kid doesn’t want to work through the issue then I wouldn’t waste the time on them. You could be spending that time with someone that wants to be there and wants help. I believe in tough love. Sometimes, kicking a kid off the team is the best thing for them. If they really want to play and wrestle again, they will do whatever is necessary to make that happen. They will realize that they do want to wrestle and it should help them in the long run. If they are looking for an excuse to quit, well you give them that excuse by getting rid of them. It really depends on the individual and his/her circumstances.
If a kid is mentally weak, I believe they are most likely focusing on the wrong the thing. If they are focusing on how difficult something is then it will only become more difficult. I have written a few blogs on focus that you can check out. But, if that is the case then it sounds like the athlete needs help with his focus plan. Unfortunately nothing is easy and focus is a difficult thing to help kids with. But, with the right attitude it is possible. Being able to keep things simple and focus is a talent just like speed or flexibility. A kid’s focus is also a result of how they are raised. If they are raised to focus on winning, instead of the process, that is a challenge to overcome. Focus can be enhanced and improved with hard work and discipline.
Now, if a kid is a cancer I wouldn’t risk the team on that kid. As a coach, I think we are responsible for the kids on our team and if we know that someone on our team could lead the others down the wrong path then that can’t be tolerated. It all comes back to the circumstances of the team and individual that you are helping. If you are helping a kid get back on the right track and you know that the other kids on the team aren’t going to follow the kid’s example then that is different decision. But again, it depends on the individual and their attitude. If they are trying to do better, then I would work with them. If not, I wouldn’t play games with them. If a kid thinks he is bigger then the team and above the team rules, that is a real problem and needs to be squashed immediately. There have to consistent and unemotional consequences for wrong decisions and actions. Everyone has to be held to the same standard.
Coaching is a difficult job-haha. But, that’s my two cents.
name: Jim Halpert
question: Question: What kind of bear is best?
Jim: [dressed like Dwight] Question: What kind of bear is best?
Dwight: That’s a ridiculous question…
Jim: False. Black bear.
Dwight: That’s debatable, there are basically two schools of thought…
Jim: Fact: Bears eat beets. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.
Dwight: Bears do not…what is going on?!? What are you doing?!?
question: What are some things that could prepare someone for D1 college wrestling?
Josh, one of the things I love about college wrestling is that the most important thing is your attitude. If you love training hard, are totally committed to being the absolute best you can be, are coachable and eager to learn, you will do well. Student-athletes are leaving home for the first time and are ultimately responsible for themselves for the first time in their lives. With that freedom come choices. You will get what you choose. If you choose to make progress and get the most out of your career both athletically and academically, you will. If you choose to seek other things, you will find it. When student-athletes get to college you find out quickly how much they love the sport. You will do great if you love the process of discipline, hard work, sacrifice, competition, and overcoming challenges. That is what college wrestling is all about.
Wrestlers with great attitudes will quickly close the gap on more talented, less motivated athletes. Wrestlers with great attitudes that haven’t had the same quality instruction and competition will catch up to those that have if they have a better attitude. Attitude determines potential. Obviously talent, attitude, and opportunity (good coaching and training partners) together create the perfect storm.
In addition to having the great attitude (attitude is 100% your choice) there are other ways to prepare. Find the best workout partners you can find. Be coachable. Listen to your coaches. Drill and scrimmage intensely in practice. Seek opportunities to improve. Watch video online. Study the sport. Work hard and enjoy the process!
name: Tim V
question: Would you ever consider fighting in mixed martial arts (MMA)? Also, Do any MMA fighters consult with you to assist in their wrestling for MMA?
Hi Tim, I get an email or two almost every day with this question. If I wasn’t enjoying the incredible opportunity I have to coach college wrestling, I would certainly consider MMA. My love is wrestling, and that is what I know. But the challenge and competitiveness of MMA is very interesting to me.
My goal is to build a team that wins the NCAA team title. Then after we do win, we’re going to want to do it again and again.
We have MMA fighters asking if they can come and train with our team on occasion. But with NCAA rules that isn’t allowed.
name: John DeGarmo
question: What is your take on the aerobic conditioning and wrestling? Some say aerobics are useless in developing the overall conditioning of wrestlers, and that wrestlers should only focus on anaerobic methods, since wrestling is a short fast pace sport.
I think aerobic conditioning is great supplement for wrestling conditioning. However, I don’t think aerobic conditioning will get you into warp wrestling shape. The only way to get into warp wrestling shape is to wrestle. Running, riding a bike, running sprints etc, have their place and benefits. They are good for building a foundation of conditioning and great for building confidence in conditioning. Aerobic conditioning is good for the mind, and can give you some variety in your training to keep things fresh.
The only way to get into warp wrestling shape is to train at warp speed. You have to wrestle as hard, if not harder, in practice matches as you do in real matches. I learned this lesson my redshirt year in college. I started competing as hard as I could go in practice and my real matches followed suit. The mistake kids make is that they think they can train at a comfortable pace, and then expect to be able to turn it up in matches. That doesn’t work; you are the same person in competition that you are in practice. You aren’t going to magically be able to compete hard if you haven’t been training hard. The effort has to be the same whenever you strap on those Asics wrestling shoes.
We do condition as a team after practice with sprints and aerobic type exercises but that is just adding sprinkles to the frosting on the cake of conditioning. After practice, the common thing for kids to do is to jump on the treadmill or bike, especially when trying to cut weight. Our staff encourages our guys to wrestle. Grab a partner and roll around on the mat to get extra work in and to burn extra calories. You don’t learn how to wrestle riding a bike or running. Good technique will improve a wrestler’s conditioning a great deal, but that is a different subject.
The ankle pick technique is now available. Go to the video section of the site to find it.
Our first video is executing the ankle pick. I hope you enjoy it.
We will provide technique once or twice a month. Submission grappling world champion Ricky Lundell will provide some submission technique as well, as we get going.
You competed at a hair under 185, did you walk around pretty close to that, or did you have to cut much weight to compete?
I walked around just over 200, when I was training hard. I had to eat real healthy a month out of competition to make weight and be able to compete at my best the next day. I eliminated soda and junk food and increased my work load.
Last one: Psychologically, what was your prematch ritual, or state of mind? I mean, are you more of the emotional “barely controlled aggression” school of thought, or more of the un-emotional “quiet mind and technical execution” type of guy. As an example, I used to do some very amateur boxing…for me, I wanted to be up, but never angry…I felt like I had a guy as soon as he got ticked off. What are your thoughts?
I didn’t have any prematch rituals. I was lucky to have the ability to stay relaxed but focused. My mindset was to keep things as simple as possible. I focused on the little things that I knew would help me wrestle my best match like: move my feet and pull their head down. Those were the things I knew I had 100% control over. I knew if I did that I would be at my best. The issue I see with most athletes is that they focus on what they don’t want to think about. The more you try not to think about something the more you actually do. When I had doubts creep in my mind I just said to myself, “nope, I am ready now.”
Question from Rick: Morning to u guys will we get a chance to see the red shirts get a chance to wrestle off at all in the Nov 5: Intersquad Exh?
Yes, our two top guys in each weight will be wrestling in the intrasquad on Nov. 5. As long as they are eligible this semester, and earn the opportunity to wrestle in the intrasquad, they will be there. We are planning on redshirting all of our true freshman as of right now but there is a good chance you will see several in the intrasquad match. Thanks for following the program and for your support.
Regarding your Olympic experience, were you able to enjoy or at least experiece the atmosphere of the Games as a whole, or did the discipline of your event dictate that you had to stay pretty regimented during your entire stay?
I didn’t engage in much of the Olympic experience just because I thought it was better for me to rest and stay focused. I did participate in the Opening Ceremonies, which were pretty cool. The bad thing about the Opening ceremonies was that it took a very long time, with the security and enormity of the event. I think our team got back to our rooms around 4a in the morning. We were staying and training at a university about an hour away from the Olympic Village.
Other then the Opening Ceremonies, I didn’t do much. I wasn’t really there to enjoy the Olympic experience. I just wanted to train, rest, and put myself in the best situation possible to win the gold medal. I was very regimented and disciplined in what I did each day. I was on a strict diet and training plan. Also, getting proper rest was as important as anything I could do at that point.
We were in Athens for three weeks before we competed so it was critical to stay relaxed but focused. The only event I watched was when the marathon ran a block from our hotel. I went to the city a few times with my training partner Tim Hartung and brother Cody to just get away a few times. We went to the city to get some different food and just a get a change of scenery, but were always back in time to get a great night’s rest.
To sort of follow that up; If you were able to take in some of the general atmosphere of the Games did the tone or mood meet your expectations of the traditional Olympic ideals?
There is a different feel and mood at the Olympic Games. Everyone knows what’s at stake. The energy at the Games is incredible. Most of the athletes have dreamed of being at the Olympics since they were little kids. Many have dreamed of winning a gold medal. For me, going into the Games, I couldn’t imagine not winning. Not because I was over confident, just because I had planned on winning the gold medal since I was 5-6 years old and this was my chance. With that sort of expectation, the mood and tension was sharp.
At the actual event, it is just like any other world championships. The only difference is that the cameras were broadcasting the event world wide.
I am an old beginner training in Krav Maga, and also a big fan of mixed martial arts. I know throughout the history of the UFC, guys with an elite wreslting background have had a great deal of success. I was wondering if you, the most elite wrestler out there, had ever been tempted to take up the sport?
I have thought about it a few times just because it looks like a lot of fun. When I was just getting out of competing in 2004, there wasn’t a huge draw for wrestlers to go into mma like there is today. I am so busy and focused on building a NCAA national championship team that thoughts of mma are nothing more then entertainment. I didn’t really consider going into mma after I finished wrestling. It is fascinating though.
Also, I am studying sport psychology, and have become interested in stress-coping strategies and arousal/anxiety management, particularly as these topics relate to endurance and combat sports. From what I have read, Penn State has a pretty significant Sport Psyc department. I was wondering if your team makes use of them as a resource during the season, or if they make use of your team as a research resource?
Penn State does have a great sport Psyc dept that is available to them when they choose to use it. We all know that most of life is mental, especially in sports. A huge part of a coach’s job is to help athletes believe in themselves and to help them learn to control their minds.
Question from Austin: Coach Cael its Bay area kid. I was wandering how you always hit your ankle pick? When I am wrestling I try to hit the ankle pick but most of the time its not their or to far back to get. I try pulling and circling toward the leg and I can’t seem to hit it very often. When I was watching some of your videos it always seems like its right their. Is their anything specific you do to set it up and finish it?
I hope everything is going great for you. Those 21 days of camp this past summer will pay off for you, no question. The ankle pick is a very technical move if you are going to get it consistently. Make sure if you are tying up with a right hand collar tie that your left leg is forward. Remember to hold the wrist with your left had or if you can’t control the wrist, and then push his elbow across his body. The more you can cross up their body and balance the better. Lead that left leg and take small steps as you inch closer and closer. Move in a tight circle and keep that left leg forward. Make sure your head is a little bit lower then your opponent is in the tie up. The footwork is the key to the ankle pick. I assume you remember to circle to the leg you want to pick. If the pick is not there then there is a good chance a shot to his other leg is open. The footwork is the same for both shots. Just make sure you readjust your feet before you shoot back to his left leg with your left hand. You will actually get the left leg inside hand single shot more then the ankle pick. Both shots work together to set one another up. Then if the opponent if very defensive and doing a good job of keep both legs back, snap him down. The snap down with get you in a front head position or your opponent will move his feet up to not go to the mat. Then his legs will be open to your shots. The snap and fake snaps are a huge part of keeping a step ahead of your opponent. Hopefully this refreshes your memory. Remember to focus on the set up and the shot will follow. Focus on the process of getting the shot and you will get one of the three options: snap down, ankle pick or inside hand swing single shot. Keep working on it!
Question: I am a longtime fan and wrestler and now train with Ricky Lundell and Brandon Guzzo at the throwdown gym in Orem. I would love to findout more information for your clinics as I am an old man starting to compete again in the world of grappling….
We are getting more and more requests to run grappling camps and are looking into it. Ricky and I have been working together on creating a grappling school. I am organizing the takedown and wrestling curriculum while Ricky, being a 3x submission grappling world champion, is creating the submission and jiu jitsu portion. That should be ready probably next Spring or Summer I would guess. If you are training with Ricky and Guzzo now I think you are in a pretty amazing training situation. Ricky is by far the best jui jitsu grappler I have ever seen. Ricky also spent last year at Iowa State training and learning wrestling, so he knows what he’s doing.
We will very likely host a grappling clinic or camp next summer at Penn State. We don’t have it set yet but are working on it. You will be able to find info on our PSU camps on my site and also at this address. http://www.outreach.psu.edu/psu-sport-camps/Wrestling/
We will get the site updated soon.
Question from Andrew: Take us through your wrestling experience as a child. With three brothers, how has that helped you become as good as you are. what was it like when your older brothers came home from practice and showed you what they learned that day. How did that influence you to keep wrestling?
Growing up with siblings has many benefits. One being that you learn to compete right away. Growing up with two older brothers was a huge advantage for me. As the younger brother I was thrown in with my brothers at a young age. I trained with them, all the way through high school. Luckily I was bigger for my age then they were, so were close to the same size until late in high school. So I grew up getting pounded on by my two older brothers. There were also a couple other older kids in our community that I was similar in size to that just hammered me. I might have only scored a few legit points (if that) on either Brett Gappmayer or Craig Jensen in many years of practices. Neither they nor my brothers would give me anything because they probably thought I was a little too mouthy. So I tried to keep up.
In elementary school I wrestled with my brothers on the jr. high team. My brothers were always a level ahead of me and as I trained with them it pulled me along with them. That was a big advantage. Also the great thing about brothers is how competitive you are with each other. Our practices were very intense. The last peson in the world you want to lose to in practice is your brother. My toughest matches growing up were in practice.
My brothers paved the way for me. They went to the big tournaments, did well, and showed me that when my time came that I could win too. My brothers were so motivated in both wrestling and academics. My older brother Cody was a straight 4.0 GPA and Cole slacked a little and had a 3.96. So my bros set the standard and it was fun to try and keep up with them.
In college having my brothers around helped me tremendously. Again they paved the way and helped me to understand that I could win. They were the hardest working kids on the team and I followed their lead. We only had one car so I had to wait for them to finish their workouts before I could get home. So I just did what they did and did extra work every day. Having two brothers at college with me made it feel like home. I knew they were 100% loyal to me and had my back all the time. That was a big deal to me.
They were by my side all the way through my competitive career and now Cody is by my side in coaching.
My dad and his approach with my bros and I is what ultimately set us up to have strong careers. I think it is critical for parents to help young kids develop of love of competing and not a love of winning. Kids need to develop of love of the sport before winning and losing becomes an issue. That is if you want your kid to have a strong high school, and hopefully college career where they get close to their full potential. If someone loves to compete then they hate to lose. Hating to lose is the best motivator in my opinion. If you hate to lose you will do everything you need to do to not lose. That is a deep, entrenched motivation. Liking to win is a shallow motivator that is quickly forgotten in tough training and outside of the practice room and competition mat. Hating to lose will motivate someone to live the lifestyle that it takes to reach your potential. My dad also helped us to love hard work. Those two things are, in my opinion, the key to a very solid foundation for future success.
Question: I’m a junior and I want to get great competition by wrestling in a college open tourney. Is that possible? i have qualified for states as a sophomore and think that wrestling in a tourney like that would help me advance to the next level and prepare me for the season. Any Imput?
I do believe that the PA High School Athletics Association does allow high school aged wrestlers to participate in college open tournaments. Some states do and some don’t. Some open tournaments require the athlete to have written permission from a high school administrator before they are allowed to enter the tournament. So just check around and see what it takes to enter into college open tournaments. I know that the Nittany Lion Open has allowed high school aged participants in the past. As far as the competition being good for you, I would say yes. Competition and challenging yourself is usually a good idea. My only concern would be to make sure you are prepared and that it doesn’t interfere with your high school team’s schedule. Because a lot of college open tournaments are before the high school season, you want to make sure you are in good shape and ready to compete at a high level. Entering a competition when not prepared increases your risk of injury and that is the last thing you want obviously. Also I would make sure you are ready for a college level tournament before I entered. There are plenty of preseason high school level tournaments available as well. Getting matches in is the key and training with the best people you can find. Both with help you get to the next level.
Question From Joe: Coach, I see you’re in Europe. Do you forsee a day when there’ll be colleciate wrestlers from outside the US?
There have been some great NCAA champions from outside the U.S. I would guess there are a few international wrestlers wrestling in the NCAA on any given year. That would include all of the different divisions. There might be more international wrestlers but I really don’t know for sure. I’m not sure that we will see an increase of international wrestlers in the NCAA anytime soon. The U.S. is the only country that wrestles folkstyle and the rule differences are significant. On the same note, kids in different countries grow up watching different tournaments and set their goals accordingly. So I don’t know how much of a motivator NCAA wrestling is for international wrestlers. The other issue is that international students have to be able to pass the NCAA Clearinghouse to be eligible. That means they have to take exams in English and pass them. The majority of the toughest wrestling countries don’t speak English. That is a challenge. If they don’t pass the exam and have the necessary high school level courses to be eligible, they have to go to a junior college
So recruiting internationally as you can see can be a challenge and I don’t know if the numbers of international wrestlers participating in the NCAA will increase or not. But history has shown that all the hardwork, planning and patience that it takes to recruit international wrestlers can payoff. It is risky but worthwhile.
Question From Jeff: Do you feel that it’s hard to stay focused on wrestling if you redshirt your freshman year? I know you were able to do it, but it seems to me alot of wrestlers just get lost in the college life and never wrestle up to their full potential and end up quitting ?
I don’t think it is difficult to stay focused while redshirting. I think the culture of the program has an enormous effect on redshirts. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people and right leadership. If the older kids on the team are partying then the incoming kids might follow their lead. A few kids are natural leaderes and are going to do everything they are supposed to and more to be successful, regardless of what is going on around them. There are also a few that are going to go the opposite direction, regardless of the circumstances. But the majority is going to follow the lead of someone else and that’s why it is important for a program to establish a strong, clean culture.
To stay focused, redshirts need to have training and competition goals. Goals provide direction, and direction will help them stay focused on moving the correct direction. There are many tournaments available to redshirts. They should get 4-5 open tournaments of folkstyle and a few freestyle tournaments in as well. If a wrestler looks at a redshirt year as a year off of wrestling then that could definitely be a problem. We all know “the idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
Question from Sam: I’m going into my Junior Year in High school. I wrestled varsity my first two years and i really want to continue and get better. I’ve always heard advice for geting better in wrestling by gonig to the wrestling room a couple times a week. My high school has a small wrestling program and so the wrestling room isn”t open till the season begins in November. I’ve been running every day but i really want to start practicing wrestling as early as possible to get ready for the season. What should i do to prepare for the season?
I would keep running and doing strength and conditioning exercises. Do push ups, pull ups and a lot of stance motion. Work on your footwork and visualize performing technique. If you don’t have access to mats, ask your coach if there is anyway you can get on the mats. I think most coaches would be happy to open the wresting room for you if you ask. Also, there should be mats somewhere in your community that you can use. If not, or if the wrestling room is used for something else until November, find a partner and work on hand fighting and skills that you don’t necessarily need a mat. With all the access to technique and wrestling video on YouTube you should have plenty of access to all the technique you could need. I have had several technique videos on YouTube. I think they may have been taken down recently to change them to Penn State and/or Undefeated videos but they will be back up soon. It is a great time to be a young wrestler with all the access to wrestling technique out there online. Be relentless and creative, and you will continue to make progess.
It sounds like you are doing this but make sure you are in tip top shape when November rolls around. Yhat way, as your opponents are trying to get into shape, you will be working on getting better.
Question from David: I know this is hard to remember, but how many matches did u lose throughout grade school. I know you lost 3 in high school and I’m doing a report on you so I was wondering if you still knew.
I am not 100% sure how many matches I lost in grade school. When you say grade school I assume you mean 1st through 5th grade….if so I think I lost 4 matches. I believe I lost 3 matches in 4th grade when I wrestled on the jr high team. I am not sure what year I lost, I just remeber the gym, and being really upset afterwards. I asked my dad just be safe and he came up with the same number.
Good luck with the report. I hope I answered the question in time to help.
Question from Erik: Cael, Its almost wrestling season, and since my school doesnt do conditioning during the summer, and i need to drop weight, whats the best thing i can do as of right now to both geting in wrestling shape, and to lose the weight?
Erik, If you have access to wrestling mats, the best thing to do is wrestle. Drill, and spend time in all areas but wrestle hard. The best way to get into wrestling shape is to wrestle. Train and scrimmage at actual match pace. Drill at match pace. Running and different strength and conditioning excercises can help but wrestling shape comes from hard wrestling. If you need to lose weight, wrestle for longer periods of time. You need to burn more calories so workout longer. To get in shape you need to pick up the intensity. When I needed to lose weight in college I would put sweats on after practice and grab a partner and wrestle. You can also put sweats on and run or bike but you get better by wrestling.
Also, eat healthy food. Eliminate sodas and limit junk food.
If I were you I would focus more on becoming a better wrestler instead of losing weight. Work on technique. Get off season competition in if possible. Go to camps if possible, but find a place and way to get on the mat.
Question From Fazon: Cael how do you angle yours shots because i dont know how to angle them and what do you mean by “Throw those hands” to make your shot faster and what else makes your shot faster please help thanks.
You angle your shots with your foot work and by moving your opponent with your hands and tie ups. if you have an opponent that is tough to move, hold them in position and you move to the attack position and angle you want.
When I say to throw your hands I mean to shoot your hands like you are throwing a punch. Shoot your hands with your thumbs down (pointing at the mat) for increased speed. Also, pull yourself into the legs to increase your speed. Having a good penetration step increases your speed. Drive off your back foot. Shoot directly to the leg instead of the common dropping your butt down and shooting. And practice a lot. Good luck
Question: Cael, what did you do in the offseason to stay in shape and consistent for the upcoming season?
I wrestled. Strength and conditioning are important but improving your wrestling skills is the most important thing you can do over the summer. Train, drill, and compete when you get the chance. If you are in high school or younger do push ups and pull ups. Run 2-3 times a week. But nothing is more important then just wrestling. wrestle!
Question: Hey Cael, I have a question..How do you stay consistant, this season I lost about 12 times, I feel I should’ve only lost maybe 4 tops. I have a really hard time focusing, In Practise I feel like I can out wrestle the best, but when I get on the mat, I freeze, bad position, Bad Technique, and intiminated. This Year at nationals, I couldn’t focus my first match. I threw a beautiful over under, but didnt rotate my hips well enough. At fila trails, I had to wrestle a who won his weight in Cadet and won Pam-ams and so on. I wrestled horribly. And then at Canada Games trails, I bet this guy before, I couldn’t focus. First Round, I was up 3-1, 8 seconds left, He finished a double, next round I was up 2-1, 9 seconds left, I was very dissapointed in myself, I practised defence for doubles, I dont know what it is..
If you just read your question you will see that it is just a matter of you overthinking and putting pressure on yourself to win. When you put pressure on yourself to win instead of simply focusing on your best effort it changes everything. You tighten up, you worry about making mistakes, you don’t react, you worry about things that you can’t control, and it’s no fun. Everyone wants to win. But is really winning? Winning isn’t necessarily who has their arm raised at the end of the match. At least not in the big picture. We really have a talent of complicating things. The deep down truth is that winning is doing everything in your power to succeed, not having your hand raised. When you go to heaven, God isn’t going to ask you how many wrestling matches you won. Life is only a test. Wrestling is only a question on the test and the question isn’t whether you won or lost. The question with eternal implications is how you play the game not whether you won or lost. Are you a good sport? Did you play within the rules? Etc. did you give your best effort in training and in competition? Those are the important questions. The world we live in judges us by wins and losses but that doesn’t mean anything. That just makes it more special to think like God wants us to think. It is not a good thing to be of “this world.” So the point is, step out on the mat and fight with your best effort. Don’t waste your time and energy focusing on the wrong things. Putting pressure on yourself to win instead of fighting makes it more difficult to reach your goals and it doesn’t work anyways. Keep it simple, know that the real goal is to fight and go see what you can do. If you don’t win, it’s not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to learn from your loss and move forward. my recent blog talks a little about this same topic.
Question from Xiong: Hey Cael, do you think you’d ever be interested in doing ADCC submission wrestling championships? In the world of grappling there are two exceptional families, the Gracies and the Sandersons. Collegiate/Freestyle wrestling hasn’t won since Mark Kerr in 2000 and it’d be great to see you in action again. knowing your history it’d probably be easy to get invited and a mans body doesn’t truly peak till about 33-35 yrs old. don’t you ever just watch MMA, see peoples weaknesses and say Ii could beat him”.
I would enjoy trying and learning submission grappling. We play around with it occasionally before or after practice for fun. We had world champion submission grappler Ricky Lundell in our wrestling room this past year learning to wrestle. It was really cool watching him and learning a few tricks from him. However, if I was going to compete in anything I would probably just wrestle. That is all I know. I could control someone pretty well but I don’t know any submission techniques.
If I wouldn’t have jumped into coaching I may have tried MMA, but hard to say. It is fascinating and incredible competition. It’s funny that you ask but yes I do question how I could do when I watch mma, but that’s just the competitor in me. I would guess most people do. I do the same thing when I watch all sports. I watch and instead of just enjoying the game I wonder how well I could do in the situation and wonder how well I would have done at that sport if I had put the same amount of time, focus, and energy into it as I have wrestling. Ultimately I just love to compete. It doesn’t matter what it is. If we’re not competing, it’s not fun.
I love the competition of coaching and trying to help people be the best they can be.
Question From Josh: How can I improve my hand speed and quickness on shots during the off-season?
Thanks for the question. The man who runs my website, Justin Basch with Basch Solutions, who does a fantastic job, got my “ask Cael” section fixed today. Since my recent job change it messed up a few technical things and I was unable to get the questions. I am set up again and will answer questions regularly.
The best way to improve speed is to throw your hands to leg as you shoot. Also work on your foot work and foot speed. Work on your penetration step to improve speed. Drive off the side of your foot. Think about getting into an explosive position similar to what you the position you get into, to start a sprint race. Stay in a good stance and cheat your head close to the leg you are going to shhot at. If your head is a long ways from the leg it will take a long time to get where you need to be to finish. Head position is key for defense and offense. Don’t overlook it’s importance.
Do shadow wrestling everyday. Keep those elbows in and work on your penetration everyday. The best thing you could do for your speed is to work on better set ups and creating better angles for your attacks. The better the angle and better the set up the higher your success rate will be. Focus on the set up and creating that strong angle. Set ups, set ups, set ups!! Get a step ahead of your opponent with your set up. Speed is one of those things that you are sort of set with genetically but you can increase it through with these suggestions. Work hard and good luck. If you aren’t super fast then you can make up for it with hustle and determination. That’s the beauty of wrestling. Make the most of what you have.
Do explosive drills. Warm up every day doing penetration shots without a partner. Throw those hands and drive off the side of your foot.
Question: I know u are still doing the iowa camps but are you doing the the penn state too? And which ones or all of them?
Yes I will be working all of the Cael Sanderson Iowa State Camps and all of the Penn State camps. I am responsible for both sets of camps. It will be a busy month for me but I am commited to putting quality time into all of the camps. The Iowa State camps actually start a week earlier then the Penn State camps so I will be in Ames the first week and then I will travel back to Penn State the second week. I will be back and forth a few times. We will have excellent staffs at both camps. I will be at each camp and the camps will be top notch. I take great pride in producing a premier camp and this year will be exactly the same. With the struggling economy camp numbers are down around the country, yet the numbers on our 10 and 21 day camps are up. The numbers are up because we work really hard to make sure our campers get more then they expect. We have a system and our campers get better. We don’t just throw a bunch of random technique at them and think they will pick something up. We teach and rehearse the important things that win the big matches. When our campers go home they will take these skills with them. We work hard but we don’t focus that much on conditioning because we understand that kids will lose that with in a few weeks after the camp ends. We teach them how to train, how to think, and what to work on technically. There are not better camps in the country.
Question: Every school has it’s different challenges what have you found are Penn State’s challenges? thanks
Yeah every program has it’s different challenges and goals. Penn State has a beautiful campus and is in a very nice community. Mountains (or large hills) are basically five to ten minutes in every direction. PSU is a large university but the community has a small town feel to it. The people are great and very passionate about PSU athletics, especially in wrestling. The tradition of the program is great and ripe to build on. The alumni support is unbelievable and we all know how critical that is to the program. The facilities are one of the best in the nation if not the best. The academic reputation of Penn State is the best in the Big 10. That is a great recruiting tool but can mean that you have to make sure you recruit kids that are academically motivated and responsible. That doesn’t mean that kid’s have to have 4.o gpa’s and 36 act scores to get into school. As long as the student-athlete passes the NCAA Clearinghouse we can get them into school on a “change of assignment.” We are allowed a few “change of assignments” each year for kids that don’t meet the academic standard of a regular student applying to Penn State. The academic standard for a student-athletes to get permitted to PSU on there own is really high. PSU has more students apply to school then any other school in the country. We can get them into school but they have to make it happen after that. Penn State’s eligibility standard for our student-athletes is higher then the Big 10 and NCAA standard as well. We just have to keep these guys focused and on track. So although the academic standard is higher, I feel like it is a great positive. Having a degree from Penn State will open up a lot of doors. The other potential challenge is that PSU is fairly expensive state school. However I believe you get what you pay for in opportunities down the road so that is also a bonus. if you have been to State College and PSU you know that there is a huge downtown and campustown with a lot of social opportunities. there are countless bars and places that a student-athlete could get side tracked from the mission of being a national champion and scholar student. Penn State Wrestling has had a reputation for being a team that likes to party. That will change immediately. We have a single focus and partying does not fit into our plan. The downtown/ campustown area is actually really neat with cool shops and lots of places to eat. It’s a fun place. That will also be a positive. So those are the potential challenges are really great opportunities to promote the program if approached correctly.
Question from Brad: Cael, congratulations on your hiring at Penn State. My question is concerning staying healthy. To have the amazing run you had in collegiate wrestling, you had to stay away from injuries that would keep you from competition, or even season ending ones. How did you stay so healthy? Was it just luck, or did you do something extra to ensure that you could be healthy come competition time? Did you have any serious injuries during college that would have kept most wrestlers out?
Response: Thanks Brad. I think most injuries are avoidable in wrestling. I think with proper training, recovery, smart wrestling and discipline most injuries can be avoided. Staying in good position and being fundamental helps prevent injuries. I would say most injuries happen when athletes are fatigued. Many injuries occur late in practice when wrestlers get sloppy and put themselves in dangerous positions. I didn’t put myself in bad positions in training. I didn’t put myself in bad positions when I competed really either. In practice I would give up a takedown before I would put my knee in a bad place. I figured I could always get an escape and get back on my feet and make things right but I only have two knees and I need them both to work and last a long time. Of course there are times when crazy things just happen and can’t be avoided. That’s life and you deal with it. There are few surprises in wrestling like there are in other sports like football. The only serious injury I have had in my sports career came in football my senior year in high school. I was a running back, probably the slowest running back in the state but still a running back. We were running an option and our quarterback was getting tackled, as he was going down he sloppily pitched the ball backwards and behind me. I turned around and went to pick the ball up to run with it and got hit blindly in the knee at a bad angle. I messed my knee up and had to have minor surgery. The only other time I have been injured was during my sophomore year of college playing basketball. It was probably the only time I actually played bb during the season and was going for a rebound and came down on someone’s foot. I sprained my ankle pretty bad. That was a scary time but every thing ended up working out. my point is that I believe wrestling is different when it comes to injuries. most injuries in wrestling come when someone is fatigued and/or put themselves in bad position. we continue to see kids voluntarily put themselves in bad position which increase their risk for injury. by being smart, being in top condition, training correctly and getting good healing and rest time you can avoid most injuries.
Question from Lee: What is the status of Mark Perry? Will he be on staff, it seems that he and Quentin are very close.
Response: Hi Lee, Mark Perry was a great asset to the Penn State program. Mark is leaving Penn State. As you know I brought my two assistant coaches with me from Iowa State, both Cody Sanderson and Casey Cunningham. A program is allowed to have two paid assistant coaches and one volunteer coach that isn’t paid through the university. Mark was receiving many coaching offers and wasn’t interested in taking a position that wasn’t one of the official assistant positions. That is obviously very understandable. Mark has a great career in coaching ahead of him. He was not only a great wrestler but he has incredible experience wrestling for several of the best coaches in the country and being raised in the Oklahoma State Wrestling room with his father and uncle. I know Mark will be missed at Penn State but he will provide a valuable opportunity to which ever program he chooses to coach at. I haven’t heard where Mark is going to end up coaching but he will do great.
Question From Jim: Do you have any plans on incorparating former Nittany Lion Wrestlers into the future of Penn State Wrestling
Hi Jim, I am still working on putting our staff together. Alumni Aaron Anspach is going to continue to be involved in the program. Coach Matt Dernlan is going to be the Director of Operations for the program and Coach Troy Letters will continue to be a part of the program. These three coaches are a great asset to the program and I am looking for ward to working with them, and really joining in their mission to bring a national championship back to Penn State. Incorporating former Nittany Lion Wrestlers has definitely been on my mind as we put our staff together but ultimately I have to hire the staff that I know and trust. We will work hard to reach out to alumni as well as we can. We will invite them back and reach out to them often and hope that as many alumni as possible will be apart of the future of Penn State Wrestling. We all know how important the alumni are to a program. We will do the best that we can to make the alumni proud of what we are doing and how we are doing it. It is important for alumni to be excited about their program. We need their help in many ways. We need advocates in the communities around the state and nation. We need them to be eyes and ears for us. We need their support by attending events and matches and of course, financially. The support from alumni has been outstanding so far. I have been told that Penn State University has more alumni then any other school in the nation. The potential and support here is unbelievable. The connections that a graduating wrestler has here are incredible. As a coach, one of my main goals is to pack the gym that we wrestle in and I believe we will pack the Rec very soon.
Question From Ron: Welcome to PSU wrestling, sure glad to see you there. Only one question, what are you going to do to keep the talent produced in Pennsylvania in state to wrestle. I have been disappointed to see talented wrestlers leave the state.
We are going to work hard and do all the necessary things to build a program that consistently challenges for the national championship. We are going to do it the right way like PSU athletic department slogan “success with honor.”
Recruits already know that with my staff they can reach their greatest potential as a student and an athlete at Penn State. We will quickly establish PSU as a program that is disciplined, clean, focused, fierce competitors, humble, loves working hard, driven, motivated to be the very best, prepared in all aspects, and good sports and good people. We will do our homework to find the student-athletes that fit the type of person and competitor that we want wearing the Penn State singlet.
I believe the issue will be that we wont have enough weight classes for all the great kids and families that want to be a part of Penn State wrestling. When a parent sends their son to wrestle for Penn State they will know that they will be surrounded by positive and uplifting coaches and team mates.
If we do things the right way, there is no limit as to where this program can go. As you know we won’t have to go very far to find the types of kids that will excel in our program.
Question from Bob Hoover: Why did you choose the Penn State University wrestling head coach position ? I am happy you made this decision because I am a Penn State graduate and wrestling fan . Wade Schalles or Kerry McCoy or or others were on my wish list but I never thought PSU had a chance of getting you as head coach. I wrestled several matches on the Dubois Campus of PSU in 1951 and my other team members went on to wrestle on the PSU varsity and won the NCAA division I championships in 1953. What do you think of mixed martial arts ? Wade Schalles is in the Guinness Book Of World Records and I would like to know what you think of him. Thank You . Bob Hoover (PSU class of 1953 and 1961)
Hi Bob, It is great to hear from a PSU grad! Thanks for the email. I chose to take the PSU coaching job because the challenge and potential of the program. It was just a different opportunity. I had what I considered my “dream job” coaching my alma mater at Iowa State. But after I really thought about it and talked with my family and a few friends, I just felt compelled by the challenge of building a dynasty in the East.
I know that Iowa State will always be a great program and it will be a rare year that they aren’t in the hunt for the NCAA title. I think that building a powerhouse in the East will be great for our sport. I think my staff and I can build off the successes of the former coaches of PSU wrestling. All the pieces of the puzzle are there it is just a matter of putting everything together. Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, and New York are the pinnacle of high school wrestling. It’s a recruiting hotbed. The love of wrestling is there. The strong desire for success is there. The support from the administration is there. The support from alumni and boosters is there. The big pieces are there. Of course every school has it’s own challenges but I believe Penn State can and will consistently challenge for the title. That’s why I chose to coach at Penn State.
I enjoy watching mma. I haven’t gotten into it too much just because I stay pretty busy. It is cool that wrestlers can take their skills and jump into a high profile profession. I try to follow the former wrestlers as much as possible.
I have only spoken to Wade Schalles a few times. He has been very nice. He is considered one of the very best college wrestlers of all time. He was supposed to be a monster on the mat.
question: Just wanted to say welcome to the PSU community/family. As a Penn State graduate and employee, my first reaction to the announcement of your joining us was an appropriate hurt for ISU. There is no doubt you are one of their most beloved national treasures. Hopefully in some small way they will consider us a part of their extended family now rather than an adversary. There is no question that I now feel an affinity for and a connection to ISU that did not previously exist. Should also mention that I was impressed that through prayer you felt led to come to PSU. To think that the Creator of the Universe would have a hand in directing the likes of Cael Sanderson to join our community has humbled me more than any other element of the recent events. Would be remiss not to mention that my brother (who now lives in New Jersey) and I have talked more in the last couple of days than we have in the last couple months. So much excitement about your coming to PSU. So, Coach, it is with great humility that I would like to join the many others who have welcomed you here. I am nobody of significance just a fan and admirer for the tremendous values and accomplishments you bring to the wrestling and sporting world. Win, lose, or draw, Cael, may God richly bless you and your family as you join the Penn State community and in whatever you put your hand to do.
David, thank you for the note. It means a lot. As difficult of a decision as it was all the way to the end , I knew it was the right thing for me and my family to do.
Coach Cunningham and I just returned from State College last night. We spent the earlier part of the week on campus, staying in the Nittony Lion Inn right across the street from the wrestling room and offices. It is a beautiful campus. There are plenty of great places to eat. Coach Anspach advised us to try out Canyon Pizza. It was delicious and maybe the first large pizza that Cunningham and I havnt been able to finish. We will train appropriately and give it another shot soon. Losing to a pizza is unacceptable. I’m looking forward to getting my family to State College. Thank you for the support.
Question: hey the past 2 years i have been one of the best wresters on the team, but this year i have been wrestling real horrible and it seems i have lost my skills in wrestling any advice on how to get back to the way i was?
Just be positive with yourself. As long as you are working hard, working on the correct things, and living a clean life, you will make progress. It might not always feel like you are moving forward. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forward. If you aren’t doing technique correctly or if you need to make some adjustments, it will look and feel like you are stepping back during the process. That is one reason why it is difficult to make changes because you often have to step back before you can go forward. My redshirt in college was a difficult and confusing time for me at the time but proved to help me make significant strides. Coming out of high school I wrestled from the outside and used only my own motion to set up my shots. Once I got to college I was taught to use my hands and set up my shots from the tie up. That is critical thing to learn but during the transition was confusing and a challenging time for me. It may have looked like I was regressing, and my parents thought I was, but it was just part of the process.
It’s easy to get hung up trying to get to back to the way you were. I’m guessing something has changed, like your technique is evolving, or you have grown into different weight class, your workout partners are better or any number of other possibilities. The truth is that you are better now then you ever have been. You have more experience now then you ever did. You have had more practice now then you did. Making progress is usually difficult. It might feel like you aren’t always moving forward, but as long as you are working hard, working smart, listening to your coaches, living healthy lifestyle, being disciplined, surrounding yourself with good people and being totally committed you will get where you want to go.
From Drew: Hey Cael how much running did you do while you were competing? Did you do sprints or longer distances? How often did you run? Did you spend more time doing aerodyne or other cardio workouts? Do you make your team run or do you expect them to run on their own?
I did quite a bit of running when was competing. I liked to run and ride the aerodybe bike in the morning and wrestle in the afternoon. I probably ran 3x a week and lifted the other weekday mornings. I would run as hard as I could for 15-30 minutes depending on the day. I would also would run sprints every day after practice. We do run as a team 2-3x a week depending on what competitions we have coming up. We also do sprints to warm up and for conditioning after practice.
question: After reading your blog about the qoutes sheet that you carry with you i wanted to share this one with you: ”I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ”Move from here to there” and it will move”… It reminds me to not be upset with those who dont live the belief of God because as long as they believe the possibility, they can still be saved… But its also a very wrestling relevant quote…. What do you think?
Yes, that is a great qoute. Thank you for sharing it. I agree it is very relevant to wrestling as well. Here are a couple of my favorite scriptues on the power of faith.
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them , with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. -Matthew 19:26
Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you. -Moroni 7:26
I especially like the last one because it shows that what we want must be good. Also we know that we humans are not great preidictors of our own happiness. We think that things, success, wins, power, etc will make us happy when the only way to have true lasting happiness is by keeping our Lord’s commandments and living his gospel. Of course that is easier said then done and it takes more then a lifetime for most of us to figure that out. Luckily our Lord is very patient and merciful.
I agree with you that it is not our place to be upset with people dont live the belief of God. It reminds me of a qoute that I once heard that goes “hate the sin, love the sinner.”
question: whats the most painful wrestling move you ever inflicted on somebody? By the way i think im heading to your camp this summer
Now that is a good question. I have this new move that I do in practice that really hurts. I called it the triple toe to eye fajita casserole. It works like a charm on Varner. He enjoys pain so it is a win-win.
I hope to see you this summer. Our camps are top notch. Remind me at camp that you sent me this question and I’ll be happy to demonstrate on you. jk
name: George Avgeris
question: Mr. Sanderson: Your opinion of Kurt Angle/ Do amateur wtrestlers mock him / condemn him for selling out [becoming pro]t?
No I think the great majority of amatuer wrestlers are very happy for Kurt Angle and the success he’s having in pro wrestling. Everyone knows that pro wrestling is nothing like “real” wrestling and is simply entertainment. I dont think real wrestling and pro wrestling really compete with each other. I see the two as apples and oranges. The problem I have with pro wrestling is the sleazy approach and direction it seems to be taking. That can’t be good for real wrestling in any way.
I think it’s a good thing that wrestling gold medalists can take their success and use it to jump into a career of their choice. Everyone has to make a living. I remember Kurt Angle saying after he won the Olympics that he wanted to be an actor. He is living his dream career and I cant fault him for that.
question: My dad was recently hired as the head coach of my wrestling team going into my junior year of high school. What was it like having your dad as the coach?
I liked having my dad as my coach. I learned a lot from him and still ask him for advice on a regular basis. I think it is much tougher for the dad then it is for the son on the team. I understand now that everything I did, as a son of a coach, was watched closely by the other kids on the team. If you can understand that it will be much easier on your dad if you are a good example to your teammates. Being a good example means being early to practice, staying late and doing extra work, listening to your coach, treating your coach with respect, living a clean life socially outside of wrestling, and working and competing hard. Just understand that when you’re at practice and wrestling events, your dad is your coach. Don’t expect special treatment and don’t think you can mouth off because he is your dad. My dad threw his huge set of keys at me a few times for mouthing off. Really, I would expect your coach to hold you to a higher standard then everyone else because you are his son. I would guess that your dad is getting into coaching because he loves you and wants to help you succeed. Don’t forget that. Good luck, I’m sure you will enjoy this experience.
question: Hey cael, I would like to know what you look for in wrestlers when you go to recruit. Any special qualities? Skill level? Thanks cael! -Eli, from ohio
We look for a fighting spirit, hustle, good attitude, good hips, good student, wrestles hard, and enjoys competing. Those are the main qualities we look for. We can always teach kids technique and skills if they have the right attitude. It’s difficult to teach competitiveness and fight.
name: Alesha Zappitella
question: Hey Cael, I’m a girl wrestler from Northeast Ohio. I started wrestling in 1st grade and now I’m in 8th grade and still wrestling. I love to wrestle, and am pretty good. Everyone in Northern/Central Ohio and PA know who I am for my great wrestling and being a girl that’s great. I have a pair of your V3.0 wrestling shoes in Navy/White/Gold and I have a pair of your Limited Edition shoes #40 out of 505. My middle school season is now over, I’m wrestling out of season and I think I always will. I plan on wrestling all through highschool and hopefully college and olympics. I was wondering if you could tell me some ways I could possibly get ready for highschool wrestling and all that comes after. Especially since I’m probably switching schools to a better school in acedemics which is what I need since I get great grades, but the kid who I will have to wrestle off for a position is great I have to be ready. And, I think it would be great for not only me !
but many others too if you maybe came to northern Ohio or PA and did a wrestling camp. Please think about it, and thank you for your time. Please get back to me soon. P.S-my brother is the one who got me into wrestling and we were the first in our family to wrestle and he is probably going to wrestle for Case Western next year, about 145? Thank you for your time, again.
Congratulations on every thing you’re doing. It sounds like you are track to do great things in high school, college and the Olympics. Thanks for wearing my Asics shoes. I hope you like them. I just got a pair of the limited edition shoes this past weekend. They are pretty cool.
My advice would be to dedicate yourself to your goals and to becoming the best you can be. Never be satisfied with how good you are or how good your technique is. Listen to your coaches. Work hard to master the fundamentals. Be aggressive when you wrestle. Make your opponents adjust to you. Build your reputation as someone that your opponents don’t want to wrestle. Seek the best training partners you can find. Train hard and train smart. Training smart is making sure you are working on the right things so you are making progress. Allow your coaches and parents to help you. Study the sport and what works and what doesn’t. There aren’t many secrets. If you want to do well in wrestling and you’re willing to do what it takes to do that, you will create success. Really that’s about it.
I have been to PA to work camps in the past. The last two years my staff and I worked with Coach Bonomo and Lock Haven U on their camp. That camp was in Shippensburg, PA. I am not scheduled to do a clinic this coming summer in PA/ The closest I will be is in NY area in late July. Good luck, thanks for the letter. Tell your brother good luck at Case Western.
question: Hey Cael… well my situation is that i’m in two sports cross country and wrestling but i want to do wrestling my coach says that i should just stick to running, i love wrestling and i’m forced to run i’m a 112 varisty as a FRESHMAN well what do you think i should do
Running is great for conditioning. My brothers ran cross country in the Fall because my dad and coach thought it would get them in shape for wrestling. I didn’t because I played football. I ran track in the Spring with my brothers to stay in shape for freestyle competitions. I didn’t compete in any track events, just did the practices. After we ran we would go to wrestling practice. So my suggestion would be to do the running but get in the wrestling room as often as possible as well. If you are a competitive cross country runner, and competing for your team, then your loyalty and focus needs to be with your cc team and coach. If you are running solely to get in shape for wrestling then get in the wrestling room 4 days a week as well. Hope that helps. Most importantly sit down with your coaches and figure out a plan.
question: Dear Cael, this wrestling season i had a really bad season. About as bad as you can get.it was my first time doing an actual first sport. so i started thinking that my body want in well enough shape, both for endurance and strength. i was wondering how do you train both before wrestling season starts and after the season is over.
wrestling requires great endurance and strength. That’s part of the fun. The best way to get in shape for wrestling is by wrestling. Wrestle intensely. Find good training partners and drill and scrimmage intensely. Work on technique. Doing technique correctly greatly decreases the amount of energy you use. Wrestling alone builds strength but also do push ups, pull ups, and all the exercises you can think of. I don’t know how old you are but if you have access to a weight room that will obviously help as well. To build endurance do lighter weight with more reps. technique will beat strength but technique and strength together cant be stopped
question: Hey cael, I wrestled at the Norm Sanderson Classic in Pleasant Grove, UT last weekend and I was just wondering. . . Who is Norm Sanderson?
Norm Sanderson is my grandpa. My earliest memories of wrestling are at his youth club ,the Little Mountain Grapplers. My middle name is Norman after my grandpa. My grandpa and grandma Sanderson live in Pleasant Grove. They are awesome.
question: hey cael I came into wrestling for the first time this season but I came in late and only had three weeks to prepare and train I wrestled six matches and won three with two pins but I feel like if I could have set up shots more efficiently then I may have been able to win two of my very close matches do you have any advice for me thanks cael
It sounds like you are picking the sport up very quickly. The more experience and matches you an get the more you will figure these things out. There are several factors in winning close matches. Conditioning is key to winning close matches. Keeping your poise and staying relaxed but focused is key. Mastering the fundamentals of controlling the tie up, baseline defense, finishing shots, and knowing what your crunch time attacks are important. Multiple sets ups and relentless effort score in close matches.
the key to better set ups is really just effort. Use fakes and motion. When you fake, fake with your feet like a “juke” in football. Pull your opponents head down, twist their shoulders, club them, etc. Put multiple set ups together to get the best success. It’s really important to drill set ups intensely every day. Drill set up, shot and finish every time you take a shot in practice.
Question: Hello Cael. My name is T.J. Fox. I’m doing a research project on you. I was wondering if you had a spouse or any children If you could please write back to me quick I would love to Know?
My wife’s name is Kelly and our son’s name is Tate. Tate is a little older then 2. That was an easy question. Good luck with the project. Cael
question: Well this is kinda just asking you what you think. Im a sophomore, and i did vary well in j.r. high i went undefeated my 8Th grade year, but now as a high school wrestler i haven’t done anything spectacular…And my life pretty much revolves around wrestling, I’m worried that all this work is going go to waste.. Im afraid i just don’t have what it takes at this level
I answered a similar question a week ago but it was for a kid who just finished his high school career and he didn’t feel like he had accomplished what he wanted to. He felt like all the time and effort he put in was a waste of time. My answer was that the greatest gift you can get out of any sport is what you learn. Like the love of hard work, dedication, courage, discipline and learning how to set goals and attack them. The medals you win are much less important then learning how to give something your best effort. Success is being totally committed and giving it your best effort. If you focus on that, everything else will take care of itself. I wouldn’t over think the situation and question whether you have what it takes or not. If you work hard and have a desire to do well. You have what it takes. Keep moving forward and making progress. If you do that I promise you that you will find your way.
Question: Hey Cael, if wrestling is one of your top priorities, how did u find the time to fit in your other priorites? i.e. football and church on sundays. . It’s been a little hard for me to fit in things like that, especially sundays.
When talking priorities the thing that pops in my head is an analogy I heard when I was young. You have probably heard this before but here is a quick version as a reminder.
Imagine you have a large glass jar. You also have a pile of rocks, a pile of pebbles and a pile of sand. The rocks represent your top priorities (family, church, school, main goals). The pile of pebbles represents important but less important priorities (wrestling, sports, friends, strong hobbies & extra curricular activities etc). The sand stands for all the unimportant priorities (checking myspace, video games, entertainment, leisurely activities, etc) that fill our days. Imagine filling your jar with the pile of sand. If the jar is full of sand, how many rocks and pebbles can you squeeze into the jar? The answer is none. The jar is too full of sand. If you spend your day by filling it with “sand”, you will never have adequate time for your real priorities. Now imagine filling the jar with the rocks. If you can picture the rocks in the jar, you will notice that there is plenty of room around all the rocks for some of the pebbles to fit. Plus there’s room to pour some sand on top. Now shake the jar. Some of the sand will fill in around the rocks to get even more sand to fit inside. And there you have a full and purposeful day and plan.
The point is to take care of your top priorities first. The first step is recognizing what your “rocks” are and go from there. Set your schedule around your top priorities and plan so you can get in what’s really important to you.
Q: What was your favorite food you loved to but couldn’t because of wrestling in the olympics?
A: Defintely soda, I stopped drinking soda five weeks before the Olympics so I could make weight more effectively and also sleep better at night.
Q: Hey cael im doing a biography on you and I was wondering what your favorite move was in high school and colege and what kinds of things did u do to improve on that move
A: My favorite move was an ankle pick in both high school and college. In high school I hit the ankle pick from the outside in a sort of surprise attack. In high school most of my shots came from the outside. In college I learned how to shoot from the tie up. After I figured out how to really control the tie up and move my opponents into my shots I became much more effective. My set ups continued to improve as my career progressed as well.
question: Hey Cael, It seems like you are not a big propent of weight training. Was weight training part of your routine in college or did you only do body weight strength training?
I believe in weight training for sure. weight training is not my expertise. I am just not sure how young kids should start focusing on lifting hard. I don’t think it is a big deal to lift weights heavy while in high school. I encourage kids to wrestle as much as they can and just do the body weight exercises. It just seems to me that kids that start lifting hard at young ages end up having more injuries later in their careers, especially in their shoulders. I would focus on technique and wrestling as much as possible and forget about heavy lifting until late high school or college.
In college I lifted weights. We did a lot of circuit training during the season. We would go in and do a few core lifts and then jump into a circuit lift where we would do 30 or so different exercises for 20-40 seconds depending on the time of the year. Personally I did a lot of pull ups, rope climbs, push ups, wall sits, sprints, aerodyne workouts etc after practice every day. Coach Douglas told me if I did 50 pull ups every day after practice I would be on Olympic champion. So I did 50 pull ups every day after practice. Getting stronger is something that you can control. It is important to especially take care of all the things you can control: strength, technique, conditioning, etc.
question: Hey Cael umm I was Just wondering any technique you could give me on finishing my shots my coach say I have one of the best shots, but I immediately hit my knees and they get the 2. Any suggestions will help Thanks!!
You have answered your own question. Stay off your knees. If you do hit your knees you need to keep driving. The two keys to finishing shots are get your hips in and your head up. If you are on your knees your hips are back. actually I think wrestlers have a difficult time finishing shots because of bad drilling habits. Drill intensely and every shot you drill, go all the way to the takedown or back points if they are possible. Create the habits you want. If you shoot in and grab the leg and stop when you are drilling, that’s exactly what you will do in competition. Drill through the finish. Coach Douglas always told us to “Drill for the pin.” Drill the way you want to wrestle in matches. Wrestlers have been successful shooting to both knees before but they keep moving and find angles to score. Keep moving and find a way to get your head up, hips in, and create angles to score.
question: Hey Cael, I was wondering if it was better to be really good at 2 or 3 moves or to be good at a diverse number of moves? I’m just really confused because I want to be able to do a lot of things from neutral like ankle picks, low singles, high singles, high crotches and doubles along with throws and trips, but I also want to be really good at some of them…do you have any advice for me?
good question. It is better to be really good at a few takedowns then it is to be good at a variety of takedowns. Also if you can use the two shots to work together to set each other up that is even better. If you can hit two or more takedowns from similar foot work, tie ups and set ups, that will make you more effective as well. I would drill through each of the other takedowns you mentioned on a regular basis but spend more time on the 2-3 shots (we call these your “go to” shots) that you are going to hit in a close match. Drill the set up, shot and finish of your ‘go to’ shots as intensely as possible. Remember the set up and finish are as important as the shot. Drill and compete in practice at match pace and intensity.
question: i am in 8th grade and i weigh 123 right now wrestling 125 and i want to cut to 112 for my freshman year do you think i should or shouldnt
Matt, I wouldn’t worry about what weight you are going to go until next Fall. Right now I would just do everything I can to get better. Work hard, work on your technique and get as many matches as you can get in. I am not a big promoter of cutting weight. I think kids are better off going a weight class that you can make by simply working hard, doing extra work after or before practice and watching what you eat. After you do those things for a couple months you should be close to the weight you are going to compete at. In the long term it is much better for you to be able to go to practice to get better at wrestling instead of going to practice to cut weight. Also cutting weight can affect your academics and we do not want that. You can make a lot of progress during the season if you have the right attitude. I understand cutting weight is sometimes required because of the team dynamics but don’t think that the cutting weight is the only way to win. Most wrestlers don’t know how to cut weight and end up trying to starve weight off. If you do end up cutting weight, make sure you do it the right way like I wrote above, extra work, and eat and drink healthy items. Work the weight off. Good luck Matt
question: hey cael, you have anwsered a few of my questions in the past, but now i need your advice one more time. i dont know if i wanna wrestle in college because of how poorly i did this past season, i didnt really mind not the losing part. but what bugged me the most was thinking about all the phard work i put in during the off season, all the run, lifting, pushups and working wit some college wsrestlers i know. it really bugged me that all that work never paid off. do u have any advice for me?
Hey Josh, I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t get the results you wanted. Hard work always pays off. It might not be in the way we want but it pays off. It is tough to see the big picture but the real rewards that working hard and wrestling teach are much bigger then a state championship or any championship. State championship medals get dusty and the thrill of winning soon fades. But the lessons of hard work, discipline, setting goals, focus, team work, sacrifice, etc will be there for the rest of your eternal existence. With the qualities that you learned will help you support your future family, excel in the career you choose, and overcome obstacles that we all certainly face. I know it doesn’t feel like that now but you would be the same person win or lose. The greatest payoff of hard work is learning how to work hard. With hard work, combined with the other qualities I mentioned ,you will do great things. You will do things that you will consider far greater then winning a state title. Iowa State Coach Casey Cunningham was just telling me the other day about an article he read where two brothers were talking about what made them successful in wrestling. One of hem said, my brother was always the more talented so I always had to work harder. Coach Cunningham said something like, “If working hard isn’t a talent, it’s the next best thing!” I agree 100%, working hard is more valuable then any natural talent.
As far as whether you should wrestle in college I would say if you love wrestling, training and competing, then yes I would. You should keep going if you love it, that simple.
question: H i cael my name is richard i wrestle heavyweight for highschool i want to get better condition in my matches how can i get better i need tips because i use to play footballl for bout all my life and i just need some to do what are toughts about that. what are some things you do for eating habits and life style in beening healthy
Hi Richard, the best way to get in warp shape is to increase the intensity when you drill and when you wrestle in practice. Also, you can use actual matches to increase conditioning by increasing intensity, and action. It is difficult for kids who stop and go in practice and drilling to get into excellent wrestling shape. That means if you get taken down you don’t fall to your belly and lay there. If you are drilling don’t fall over like a log, land like a cat. That’s better for you and your partner. You don’t wait for stalemates, you keep wrestling. That will also help your scrambling ability. Jump back up and hustle to the center to continue drilling or wrestling. Don’t stop, fix your socks, adjust your Asics knee pads etc. Continue to wrestle after you shoot even if you miss the takedown. Keep driving and looking for angles and other ways to score. Pick up the intensity and your conditioning will pick up.
Set a plan with your eating habits that are more healthy. It takes planning. If you don’t plan ahead it’s tough to break bad, convenient habits. Be disciplined to eat the foods and drinks that will help you feel great. Core nutrition is the key. Its ok to have snacks but do that in moderation. Good nutrition is a huge part of living the lifestyle and being healthy. Get plenty of sleep. That means 7-10 hours of sleep, not 14-15. too much sleep isn’t good for you. Avoid alcohol, drugs, nicotine and excessive amounts of caffeine. They will have a negative affect on your life. Nothing good comes from them.
question: Hi thanks for answering my other question. Some more about your 21 day camp, what is your 10 fundamentals of wrestling. Also do you attend the camp regularly I attend a ————camp and he attended once. What do you feel like your campers learn most. Iâ€™m trying to get to the advanced level will this camp help me get to that goal?
the fundamental positions that we spend a lot of time on are 1) stance and motion (most kids move their feet wrong) 2-getting to the tie up effecticely 3) controlling tand moving our opponent from the tie up 4) hard and multiple set ups from the tie up to leg attacks 5) efficient leg attacks and quick finshes 6) baseline defense 7) pressure back on bottom to sit out/ stand up and pressure back to knee slide to stand up 8)breakdowns and turns (9 mental toughness and other excellent technique like the ankle pick, half nelson pinning roll, etc. I amd my staff will attend the camp regularly. I have nothing else planned during the 21 day camp. you see more of me then you want. this camp will absolutely take you up a notch or two and closer to your goal.
question1: Does jiu jitsu help or make your wrestling worst.Also how is your 21 day camp?
The objective of jiu jitsu and wrestling are different so technique and strategy are different. They are both forms of grappling but I wouldn’t take jiu jitsu classes to help your wrestling. You could definitely learn some bad habits in jj that will hurt you in wrestling. Obviously going to your back isn’t going to help you in wrestling. I think you could learn some helpful skills in jj but you need to be careful of what you are working on and spending time on. If you’re disciplined to stay off your back, control your opponent and work on takedowns then jj might nor hurt your wrestling. My experience with jiu jitsu limited to having one the best jiu jitsu athletes in the world Ricky Lundell on our wrestling team this year. I think it’s an easier transition from wrestling to jiu jitsu then from jiu jitsu to wrestling. Both disciplines require similar skills to be successful. Both sports require focus and hard work to be successful. Ricky is the only jiu jitsu athlete that I know about that has tried to start wrestling post high school. Ricky is a two time world champion submission grappler. It is usually the other way around because wrestlers want to learn submissions for mma. Ricky is pretty special, but he is picking up wrestling very fast.
I believe our 21 Day camp is the best in the country. We work hard and have a great plan to make sure our campers get better and have a solid idea of what they should be working on when they leave. We spend a lot of time going over what I think are the ten fundamentals of wrestling. We also have fun, get a bunch of matches in and work on tricks. But our goal is that every kid makes progress technically and mentally. We hear great things from our past campers so I believe we hitting our objective. If you are willing to put 21 days of the summer into your wrestling career with us, you will get your money’s worth.
question2: Cael, My son is 15 years old and in the 10th grade. He is just a 2nd year wrestler but has shown a great deal of progress and excitement for the sport. He wrestled for Swartz Creek High school in Mid Michigan and compiled 45/40 in two years. He wants to attend a summer camp and continue to wrestle all summer giving up football. I would like to know what stile for wrestling you teach and do you think he could benefit from your ten-day camp. Thank Your for your time,
I teach how to attack, create angles, control the tie up and score points. We work hard to master the fundamentals. The fundamentals to me are: attack and control the tie up, clearing the tie up if it’s not what we want, hard set ups, quick and solid finishes, pressuring back to escapes, pressuring forward and at angles on top, wrestling in our strong areas, and baseline defense. A lot of this is technique and lot is attitude to go 100% instead of 90%. My staff and I also have a number a tricks that work great, and we will cover them but our focus is making sure our campers leave with a clear understanding of the basics and how to drill them daily. We have fun and compete as well. To do something well you need to be excited and enjoy the process. Summer camps are worth the time, especially if the camp has a solid system of teaching and we do. Kids have drill things many times before they learn them. We arent like most camps that cover 200 different moves over the camp and kids forget everything they worked on two weeks after camp ends. I hope to see your son this summer. Good luck regardless.
question: Hey Cael I have a question about lifting. What muscles are the most important for wrestling. I Have a tough time on Bottom I always feel that I can never escape I was wondering what muscles help you on Bottom to escape best. And finally I have a really nice cradle and I want to be able to catch anyone with It what muscles Should I build to make my cradle unstopable.
Hi Logan, It seems these days that kids are lifting weights at younger and younger ages. You have to be careful with lifting, especially if you don’t have a coach or expert guiding you. Lifting can be a bad thing and set you up for injuries down the road if you aren’t careful. I am in no way a lifting expert. Strength is important and is one of the few things that we can control so we need to be as strong as we can when we step on the mat. I would suggest as many body weight type lifts as you can do. When you are working out, think about wrestling. Pushing, pulling, core strength, back, grip, and neck are the main areas that come to mind. Do push ups, pull ups, sit ups, shadow wrestling, wall sits, grip exercises (grab a tennis ball or a hand full of rice and squeeze it) and do buddy neck exercises. Muscles are important but technique will beat strength just about every time. Great technique and strength together are our ultimate goal but it starts with technique in wrestling.
If you are having a difficult time getting off the bottom it is probably a technical issue. On the bottom, pressure back into your opponent with your hips to escape. Also, change things up so you aren’t predictable. Really, to get off the bottom you need to clear your hips and get your hands free. If you are trying to muscle you’re your way out, you are going to burn up a lot of energy and probably be there for a long time. Get with your coaches and work on technique.
To improve your cradle I would work on technique. Work on more set ups to getting to the cradle. Work on technique to put the guy on his back after you get your hands locked. Lock your hands by your opponent’s throat. A lot of missed cradles come from the lock being down by their legs instead of close to the throat. Slide your lock accordingly. a strong grip is important to have an effective cradle. Lock your hands with your fingers where your thumbs are on opposite sides.
question: After wrestling for the better part of my life I have found that after my wrestling career I am having issues with staying in shape like I was back in high school. I would love to be able to get back into that shape and competitive drive again. Question would be do you have a certain workout routine post wrestling that you would follow that keeps you in shape post wrestling other than avoiding Coach Cunnighams take downs.
It would be nice if everyone had a coach Cunningham to beat on everyday to stay in shape but that’s not the case. Just to be clear, I don’t avoid Cunningham’s takedowns. I’m too busy taking him down to worry about avoiding his attacks-haha. he did take me done once in December, I forgot to get him anything for Christmas and figured giving him a takedown would be the best gift i could ever give him.
Anyway, staying in shape just to stay in shape doesn’t seem to be extremely motivating, atleast not for the long haul. I would suggest getting active in something that you love to do. Get on a sport team that plays on a regular basis. Set up basketball games with your buddies a couple times a week or something like that. make it competitive and fun. Set goals that you want to accomplish so your exercise has more purpose, like run 3 miles in under 25 minutes or prepare to run a 5k or 10k race or something like that. Give yourself something to train for. That should make a difference. My favorite exercise outside actually playing sports is the aerodyne bike. I’m not sure there is a workout machine that is tougher or more like a wrestling match. It builds strength and stamina all at the same time. Probably the best thing you could do for yourself is to get up in morning and get some exercise in before work. That will jump start your metabolism so you burn more calories all day. You will have more energy and feel much better. Also make sure you eat in the morning and then eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism moving.
question: Hi Cael My son is a 4 yo and I put him in wrestling he seemed to like it until his first tournament when he got matched up with 2 6 yo and a 7 yo then he did not like it. Just wondering how I can get him more confident and motivate him to want to wrestle again or should I wait till he is older.
That is a tough part about getting young kids started in wrestling. The youth programs and opportunities around the country are really hit and miss. Not many four year kids are going to last long if they are getting matched up 6 and 7 year olds. Wrestling is a tough sport as it is.
I would suggest that you take him to practices and make it more of a recreational activity for a while. Make it fun. Keeping him involved in wrestling will only help him with the right approach. I wouldn’t worry about taking him to tournaments until he asks you again. If it takes a couple years that fine. Hopefully this way your son will be able to develop a love for the sport before he gets overwhelmed. Enjoying the sport now will help him stick with it and reap the many rewards and life lessons that wrestling teaches. Good luck with everything.
question: Hey Cael, Im a sophmore and cut from 120 to 112. I want to get some of your undefeated for after weightins for state. What should I get and can you give me a discount lol?
Hey Matt, Good luck at state. For after weighins get hydration. Hyrdration was designed to help you hydrate as quickly as possible. Endurance is for the day of the tournament and recovery is for after practice, lifts, and last match of day in competition. Hope that helps. It’s good stuff, actually the best. Type in “cael” in the promtion code when you order it and you will get 25% off. That promotion code will be good for a few weeks for anyone who wants to use it.
Hi cael!!! i want to wrestle for you wat do you look for in recruits. i am in 8th grade and I was a jr hig state champion last year how many times do I have to win state in high school?
Congratulations on winning the state jr. high tournament. It sounds like you’re on the right track. At Iowa State our goal is contend for the national championship every year and to do it with the highest quality of student-athletes. We have to find the right student-athletes to be able to do that. There isn’t a set formula in wins or state championships that we look for before we recruit someone. Winning state championships is nice because that helps us find you easier but really we are looking for potential. We are looking for kids that can be successful at the next level. We look for student-athletes that have a great attitude, solid grades, a hatred of losing (this doesn’t mean you run off the mat and act like a poor sport, it means you will do whatever it takes to not lose again), hard work ethic, love of competition, good hips, wrestle hard, someone who can be coached, athletic ability, you expect to win and expect to succeed in school and life, and finally we look for team players. That’s just off the top of my head and I know that may seem like a lot. If you look at it doesn’t say anything about how many wins you have. The right attitude will cover most of the qualities. If you have the desire to learn, work, and become the best you can be, you eventually will.
Thank you for emailing me back. Like I said I’m doing a project on you and wrestling so here just a few questions.
1. What inspired you to start wrestling?
I started wrestling because my family was so involved in the sport. My dad was a coach and my two older brothers wrestled. I wanted to do what they did. Once I started I was hooked for life.
2. How old were you when you started wrestling?
I believe I was 5 years old. I am not exactly sure. I won my first freestyle state championship when I was in kindergarten or first grade.
3. What is your most effective move?
I am known for my ankle pick more then anything else. I hit an inside single a lot that worked along with my ankle pick to set each other up. I would guess I hit the inside single 2 or 3 times as much as the ankle pick but the ankle picks are more memorable. On the mat I used a cradle and a half-nelson roll to get pins. I’m not sure what my most effective move on the bottom was. I used several escapes, it depended more on what my opponent did. I liked to roll around in half granby type escapes.
4. What was the toughest match you ever wrestled?
That is difficult to answer. I have had several tough matches. I had a lot of tough losses growing up that stand out. I have been pinned three times in my life. Once in fourth grade I was wrestling on the junior high team and I got pinned in a double arm bar by Brian Ford. The other two pins were in greco at fargo. My freshman year in the Junior Nationals I got pinned by a kid from Wisconsin I think. My senior year I got pinned in a defensive fall in one of the first matches of the tournament. I don’t remember where the kid was from or his name. He ended up getting beat out so the loss didnt effect the outcome even though I lost again and only took 3rd place. I would say my toughest match after I really started figuring the sport out was in the world championship finals in 2003 to Sajid Sajidov. It was a tough loss because winning the world championship that year was very important to me. Sajidov was very, very strong and he nuetralized my offense very well. that match showed me that I had a lot of work to do before the Olympics the next year.
question: Cael, my son is 13 and has been wrestling for the past 3 years. He is one of the top wrestlers in his weight class and I’m contemplating sending him to your camp this summer to help prepare him for high school and get him to the next level. I have been working with him this past year but I have limited wrestling knowledge. My question is whether you think it would be beneficial for me to attend the coach’s camp along with him? I want to stay involved throughout high school and beyond.
Summer camps are beneficial. Just off the top of my head the most obvious benefits of camp are technique, confidence, training partners, experience, matches, and training in an environment that takes them out of their comfort zone. We have a variety of camps and they are tailored to help kids in different ways. There is no question that our 21 Day camp is the best. I believe it is the best camp in the country. It also takes the most commitment. We run through a variety of technique but our goal is to make sure each kid goes home with a better understanding of 10 fundamental positions. Having 21 Days gives us a chance to spend enough time with them to cover and actually learn the skills. Our camps aren’t based on conditioning and running miles and miles. Those types of camps are fine but in reality, that conditioning is going to be gone before school even starts. They do build mental toughness and confidence, but that only goes so far if you don’t have the technical skills to back it up. We want to help the kids become better wrestlers. All of our camps are going to be worthwhile. It just depends on what you want. I put a lot of pride into making sure our campers get more then they expect. As far as you attending with your son, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. He is young and it wouldn’t hurt to have you there with him. Plus it will be helpful for you to see the technique and training first hand. Good luck with everything. I hope to see you this summer.
Hi Lance, as you prepare for matches take notes and keep adjusting until you get it right. Everyone is different and everyone’s warm up is going to be a little different. As a team we often tell our guys that they have matches at certain times and it is their responsibility to come in and get warmed up to be ready to go at that specific time. Make adjustments until you find exactly what you need to do to ready to go. Plus, knowing exactly what you need to do be warmed up will eliminate any doubt and build confidence. It sounds like you need to really blow your lungs out before you step on the mat for your first match. Wrestle a match as part of your warm up. Or do 3-5 one minute goes, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not an exact science but figure out what you need to do to be ready. If you are practicing your warmup you need to get close to weight as well. Making weight always makes a difference. Play with your warm up until you get it right.
Question: Hey Cael I’m from Wasatch I’ve been wrestling for 1 year and I took third at state but I think I could get better can you give me a few tips? Thanks Cael
Hey Jordan, That is awesome to place third your first year, congratulations! It’s difficult to give specific tips without being around you every day and knowing more so I’ll give you some general but very important tips. First, work hard buddy. There is no way to reach your potential without hard work. enjoy the hard work, and enjoy the challenges. Remember these are your goals and only you can do what it takes for you to be successful. Second, listen to your coaches. Allow people to help you. Learn from other peoples successes and failures. Three, Believe in yourself. two keys to believe in yourself are to know that the goal is to do your very best. Know that and focus on that. and the second key is to be prepared. that’s where the discipline, hard work, listening to your coaches, sacrifices and everything else come into play. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you won’t believe in yourself if you are not prepared. You can’t fool yourself. know that you deserve to win. pay the price. Fourth, live the lifestyle of a champion. that means have a positive outlook on life. a great attitude is more powerful then anything. Surround yourself with friends that also have high goals. Eat and drink like a champion. take care of yourself. be consistent in all things, and do your best. do your best in school, wrestling, practice, the beginning of practice and the end of practice, at home, at your friends house, every where and at times live the life of a champion.
question: Hey Cael, I am a 8th grader and I’ve been wrestling for 2years now. I went to a wrestling camp in summer and I also wrestled in near wrestling club before season started. And some random kid who never wrestled before took my spot. And now I’m JV… All that hard work and effor I put into this sport just feels like I wasted my time. I barely get any matches and I was thinking of quitting. What should I do? Should I tell my coach that I’m going to quit and just work out for next year? And also I am 5feet 11 and currently 147. And I wanna be build like you or Jon Trenge. What kind of supplement should I take and what weight class do you think I should wrestle next year? Thank you so much for your help
Keep your head up. Don’t allow anything take you off the course to your goals. More then halfway through my freshman year in high school I was undefeated and had won 3-4 tournaments when I got beat out of the varsity spot. I watched one of our biggest tournaments from the stands. It was difficult and frustrating. A week or two later I was able to win back the spot. The kid’s name that beat me out was Landon Bonner. He ended up being a two time state champ I think. When I look back, it was moments like this that prepared me for bigger obstacles down the road. Also, I am grateful that I had someone as good as Landon to push me that much harder. The tougher the challenge is in your practice room the more prepared you will be when you step out on the mat. I used to get thumped in practice. Because my dad was the coach and I had two older brothers already in high school, I used to practice with the high school team when I was in jr high. We had some very good teams and wrestlers. There are several guys that I didn’t score many, if any points on at all, over years of wrestling them. Those guys prepared me to be the best I could be. challenges are usually blessings in disguise and prepare you for the future. The Olympic year in 2004 I lost in the finals at the national tournament. It was a big advantage to win nationals if you wanted to make the Olympic Team. The national champion got to sit out and wait while everyone else fought it out to see who would challenge the national champion in a 2 out 3 series to be the United States Olympian. That was frustrating, especially since I had won the nationals the three previous years. Anyway, even though things don’t always go as planned, stay focused on your goals, and things will work out one way or another. I promise you one thing, that there will always be obstacles as you attack your goals. Expect obstacles like the one you are having right now and kick it’s butt. Take pride in not letting anything discourage you. Hopefully your goal is not just to make the team, but to go to state, place at state or even win state. This kid that beat you out of the spot will prepare you for that. Find the best guy you can get every day in practice and go with them. Talk to your coach about helping you get as many matches in as possible. It doesn’t matter if they are JV or whatever, just get matches. Don’t worry about what weight you’re going to go or what your build is. Just work hard to get as strong as you can. Do push ups and pull ups everyday. I was not very strong in high school. I think my parents put me in school as soon as possible to get me out of the house and I was young for my age. On top of that I was a late bloomer. My senior year in high school I remember doing 8 pull ups in my P.E. strength test. I was embarrassed. My college coach Bobby Douglas, told me my first year at school that if I did 50 pull ups every day I would be an Olympic Champion. I did at least 50 everyday for the rest of my career. After a while I could do 35 pull ups. Your weight and height reminds me of myself in high school. Do the best you can, work hard, and keep that head up. I wouldn’t take any supplements. Just work hard, get plenty of sleep and eat healthy. Don’t worry about what weight class you’ll be in, just worry about getting as good as you possibly can and working as hard as you can. Then next season you’ll compete at whatever weight you end up being. Attack your goals and let nothing slow your effort.
question: hey cael, do u remember me i’m deaf i am state champ at 215lbs but my coach is brain pace he coach at dixie high in st.george but i was figure if u can make usa cael wrestling shoes 1.0 like u used shoes at olympics u won olympics with 1.0 usa if u make one my size is 12 i can pay u for price i really want shoes so badly so can u make one so i can buy from u on cael 1.0 wrestling shoes
It’s cool to hear from you. Congrats on that state championship! I bet it’s nice in St. George right now huh? It was more then 20 below zero in Iowa a few weeks ago. It’s awesome-haha. I get a lot of questions about getting the original Asics Cael 1.0 wrestling shoe. I have a couple pairs that I have kept but none to sell. I dont know where you can get them. It was a very popular shoe as you know and I know Asics gets a lot of requests to bring them back. Hopefully they will someday , but until then, sorry I can’t help.
question: HI, Cael, my ankle pick is so good, I feel like I can hit one on you but the problem is when I tie up some wrestler russian out, what should I do to make sure my collar tie doesnt get russian out thanks
The Russian 2-on-1 tie up can be a solid defense to some one who wrestles from a collar tie. It can be a battle if the guy is good. You will just need to keep them on the defense. Use multiple set ups of snaps and fakes while keeping your collar tie. Make them move their feet. Circle and pull their head down to you shot. If you collar tie and just try to hold them and aren’t moving them you will be more vulnerable to getting tied up. Very few people use the collar tie correctly but when you’re pushing them your elbow should be tight to their upper chest and collar bone. Your hand should actually be above your opponents head when your pushing them. If there is space between your elbow and his chest then you better be pulling or baiting them to take a shot. Space is weakness in wrestling. When you’re pulling their head down your hand comes down on their head. The hand that isn’t on the collar should be working too. I like to control their wrist or upper elbow and cross their head and arm as I pull or push. Do that while you circle to your shot and you’ll be very effective. Remember to not grab and squeeze them because that really doesn’t help and will make you tired. Stay relaxed as you pull, push and twist them. Squeezing also makes it easy for your opponent to know when you are going to attack. You have to stop squeezing to release and attack and that it easy to feel coming. Stay loose with your muscles but tight with the tie up. Keep them moving and off balance with a strong effort. If your opponent does get his a Russian then clear it immediately. Don’t hang out and wait for a stalemate or let them control the tie up. Use the tie to pull them down as you circle. Club them with your free arm. Attack his hands and get your head in good position. I’ve seen people clear the Russian by clearing both their opponent top and bottom hand that they have. Multiple set ups are the key and keeping them reacting to you. Don’t wait and hope they step where you want them to step. Make them step where you want them to.
question: Hey Cael, what are your thoughts on mma and would you ever consider fighting in the octagon?
I’ve received several emails on the MMA topic. I didn’t really consider getting into MMA after I finished wrestling. I remember thinking about it but I figured if I was going to compete I would just continue wrestling and I was ready settle down and start a family. Then I started coaching and my focus has been only on coaching ever since. If I hadn’t jumped into coaching I think I may have considered mma but it’s hard to say. I know how to wrestle, I have no training outside of wrestling. I was in two fights in junior high because two bullies type kids wanted to put the wrestler to the test I guess. Both times I took the guy down and tickled their nose with I grass until they said chubby baby. That’s the extent of my fight experience-haha.
Randy Couture is one of my business partners in Undefeated Sport Nutrition and I got to roll around with some of the guys training at his gym in Vegas. I got to wrestle around with Forrest Griffin and a few other studs. Those guys are some tough dudes. We have two-time submission grappling world champion, Ricky Lundell, wrestling at Iowa State right now. He is a guy to watch in the future. He is freaky good at submissions. I actually had someone hit me up a little while ago about doing a mma match with a famous boxer and that sounded pretty cool. Nothing ever came of it though. When MMA first started I wasn’t sure what to think about it but now I just view it as pure competition. The sport has quickly evolved. MMA is only going to get bigger and I think you’re going to see more and more wrestlers getting into it- just probably not me.
Question: Cael, I wrestle heavyweight and want to know what you think a heavyweight wrestler should do tie up and work trips and throws or work on shooting the legs?
Answer: Hi Ryan, I think you should develop your strengths. Do what you do well. If you do decide to focus more on throws and trips I would suggest you still develop a shot. An opponent will have a better chance of defending against just trips and throws. Throw a shot in your arsenal and you’ll be tough to stop. Here’s some general advice that I think really applies to heavyweights, especially lighter heavyweights. You don’t have to hit your knees on your shots. Work hard to move your opponent with your tie and snatch and/ or run to the leg instead of going to the ground to finish. Always get your head up and hips in quickly to finish. If you do shot to a knee that’s great but get quick to your finish. Avoid going to both knees. I see a lot of kids shoot and go to both knees. I can’t think of a position in wrestling that you want to be on both knees. Also work on controlling the tie up. If you can control the tie up, you control the match. Controlling the tie up will neutralize size advantage very quickly. It will also shut down their offense. Last thing, attack at angles. Move your opponent so you can attack him where he’s weak. If you just shoot straight into someone you have to go through all of their power. Attack them at angles where they are weaker. If your opponent is bigger then you and it’s difficult to move them then hold them where they are and you circle around to the angles you want. Good luck Ryan.
From Fazon: “Cael, How Can I be a better wrestler without tying up opponents in what set-ups to get the shot in takedown do I throw a lot of fake shots or set-ups I use without tying up?”
It is difficult to consitently score on an opponent without tying up but it is possible. What seperates different levels of wrestlers is controling and using the tie up. When you see a wrestler step iup nto the next level and get handled it is usually becasue of the opponent controlling the tie up. with that being said there are ways to be effective without tying up. Like you said fakes will help. The trick is to just fake with a quick studder type step like you would in footbal or basketball. A lot of wrestlers take big long steps and swing their arms toward the leg to fake. That is slow and gets you out of attack position. Just take a quick studder step and stay in attack position with your hands and feet. A lot of wrestlers will be controlling the tie up and then fake a shot and release their tie up to slap at the leg. Then they have to fight to get the dominant tie up again and start all over. Even if you have the tie up just fake with your feet. Also it’s important to use your hands to open up your opponent even if you dont want to tie up. Jab them in the shoulder with the palm of your hand. Coach Kevin Jackson was the master of this set up. He would jab an opponent and tget them worrying about his jab, and then he would blast them with a double leg. When jabbing think boxing. You want to get your hands back to defend and attack position asap. Dont leave your hands laying around. Hit them and get your hands back quickly. Also I would wack my opponent in the head with my forearm to get them off balance. If you use your hands well and hit your opponent that will cause them to flinch and anticipate you hitting them again. That sets up your shots. As you are jabbing or clubing your opponent, keep your feet in attack position. That means have your back foot in position so you can drive off teh side of your foot and get maximum speed and power. When you are jabbing or clubbing them with your forearem, keep one hand down and close to your body so you can downblock any shots. You have to defend your legs. Keep one arm down to defend and the other one to work setting up your shots. Use all of these set ups together, clubs, fakes, jabs to keep your opponent a step or two behind you. Good luck.
Question: I wrestle at 171 in Shenandoah Iowa how can you run a single leg successfully
Answer: To finish a single leg or any shot the key is to get your head up and keep your feet moving. Never go to both knees. When you’re on both knees your power and momentum stop. By getting your head your hips will follow. Your power is in your hips and you want your hips in and tight to finish. Head up and hips in! Drive through them instead of trying to go around them. If you have a standing single which sounds like you’re asking about, get your arm elbow deep tight to secure his leg and lock your opponent’s weight into your whole upper body instead of trying to control the arm with just your arms. Elbow deep and keep your opponent’s feet moving, keep him reacting and defending. Make it difficult for him to keep his balance and that will keep his mind off trying to counter. If you get his leg in the air and stay stationary then your opponent will have a far greater chance to defend. They will fight your hands, push your head away and get their leg back down. I think getting elbow deep and then hike the leg between yours (this finish is common with many names, “like running the pipe.”) When you hike the leg swing your lead leg backwards to give you power and momentum. You want to hike the leg while you are moving backwards and in a circle. As you have one arm elbow deep the same side shoulder is driving into their upper leg. You create a lot of pressure by doing driving your shoulder into the leg while you pull the leg out with your arm all at the same time. Keep this pressure as you hike the leg, swing your leg back and move in a retreating circle. As you circle and hike bring their leg down and closer to the mat by bending your legs. After you sit them to their butt, finish your shot by attacking their legs to secure the takedown. If they don’t go down you use this motion to snatch their leg up high or to set up a trip. Use the hike to get them off balance and to set up your other finishes. If you’re elbow deep, pulling the knee out while driving your shoulder into their upper leg, kicking your leg back, bringing them down to mat while you stay on your feet you should finish pretty much all the time. Another good thing about retreating and circling backwards when you have their leg is because it eliminates them from jumping between your legs and getting a stalemate. That only works if you are pushing into them. That may seem complicated. Play around with it. Other important keys are to not leave your feet until your opponent is on the ground. Remember you are in control. Kids miss a lot of takedowns because they force finishes and often end up hitting the ground before your opponent. Stay on your feet and keep them moving until you finish. Throw them forward, trip them, and/ or hike the leg. Lots of options. Finishing shots is a lot about attitude. Good luck.
Question: Hey cael, i have been wrestling for about 5 or 6 years now, and i’ve always had success until this year. now it seems i can’t catch a break at all and i lose to alot of wrestles that im better then, i actually have thought about quiting now but i dont know what to do anymore. do you have any advice for me?
Hey man, Don’t get frustrated. Look for the opportunity in your challenge. It’s good that you are frustrated, that means that you aren’t satisfied. The day you become satisfied is the day you stop progressing. Never be satisfied. When things aren’t going as well as we’d like it’s important to be honest with yourself. Are there things that you’re not doing this year that you have done in the past to be successful? Are there things are keeping you from being your best? Are you totally committed to be the best you can be at all times especially outside of competition and practice with your lifestyle? Are you working hard and trying to make progress or are you letting excuses chain you to your mistakes? What are you focusing on? Are you focusing on giving your best effort or are you focusing on things that you have no control over? If you’ve read my previous answers you know that I believe success is fighting and giving your goals your very best effort. Winning is important and fun but it’s not the best judge of success. Only you know what your best effort is. Your best effort is what success is. I believe God will judge us on our effort, not on how successful we are according to the world. God, the ultimate in every way, knows what true success is. He knows what true happiness is. He is omnipotent and omniscient. Try to think like He thinks. A brilliant lady, Bonnie Epstein, told “who you are is God’s gift to you, and who you become is your gift to God.” I’m not sure if that is her quote or where it came from but it is good. Keep your head up and do the best you can. Enjoy overcoming challenges. Don’t let anything slow you down or get your head down. Never quit. Attack your obstacles. Have the attitude that nothing can keep you down and nothing will. Here are some great questions from Anthony Robbins from his book “Notes from a Friend” that I think are just awesome. Ask yourself these questions daily and it will help you a great deal.
Morning and Evening Power Questions and Problem Solving Questions
The Morning Power questions
1. What am I happy about in my life right now? What about that makes me happy? How does that make me feel?
2. What am I excited about in my life right now? What about that makes me excited? How does that make me feel?
3. What am I proud of in my life right now? What about that makes me proud? How does that make me feel?
4. What am I grateful for in my life right now? What about that makes me grateful? How does that make me feel?
5. What am I enjoying most in my life right now? What about that do I enjoy? How does that make me feel?
6. What am I committed to in my life right now? What about that makes me committed? How does that make me feel?
7. Who do I love? Who loves me? What about that makes me loving? How does that make me feel?
The Evening Power Questions
1. What have I given today? In what ways have I been a giver today?
2. What did I learn today?
3. How has today added to the quality of my life? How can I use today as an investment in my future?
The Problem Solving Questions
1. What is great about this problem?
2. What is not perfect yet?
3. What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
4. What am I willing to no longer do in order to make it the way I want it?
5. How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?
Keep your head up and keep those feet moving forward.
Question: My question is about technique, I’m pretty good with most moves, i just started wrestling in 6th grade and I have worked really hard to get where i’m at. (placing in nationals.) Well I’m in 8th grade so i need find things that i like movewise so i can improve on those for high school. And i don’t feel comfortable with ankle picks. My dad told me he used to be really good with them. And i’ve watched some of your videos and matches, and you are amazing with your ankle picks. So is there any thing i can do to help me get this right? like am i not hand fighting enough or something?
Answer: Hello. The key to the ankle pick is the set up. You want to pull on the head, and circle in your attack stance. I like to have the collar tie and wrist. If I can’t get the wrist then I’d control their elbow or above the elbow and push their arm across their body with my thumb on the inside. You do this all while you circle to your attack position. So you are doing several things at the same time. I actually circle away from the foot I would ankle pick which is generally opposite of the common ankle pick. Get the same side foot of your shooting hand forward and move in a tight circle as you’re pulling the head down with the collar tie up. Then take the head to the ankle and throw it like a baseball. The other important thing that I did is I would attack both sides with the same set ups, tie ups, and motion. Even though people probably remember the ankle pick the most, I actually hit the other leg with an inside single much more often. The two shots set each other up. The only adjustment I’d make is a quick shift of my feet so I could penetrate and drive off the side of my back foot. So my point is that if you can attack both legs with the same tie up, motion, you will be tough to stuff. If the right leg is forward then you hit the ankle pick, if the left leg is forward the inside single is there. If both legs are back then a good snap down should work. Also add some fakes into what you’re doing. When you fake just do a quick stutter step and keep your tie up. Most people let go of their tie up and slap at legs to fake. You have to start over if you let go of your tie. A quick stutter step like you would juke someone in football or even basketball is the most effective fake. If your opponent is real defensive and keeping their legs back try a fake and then hard snap down. The process just keeps going until you get your shot. Fake, snap, fake, circle, pull, fake, snap, etc until you get what you want. The key is the set up.
Question: Hey Cael, this is my 1st year wrestling and through out my days at practice, i never really seem to improve mentally. It seems once i learn the moves my coach is telling me, once it comes time for my match all the anticipation gets to me and i forget. I just want to become not only a better wrestler, but a better athlete. Do you have any advice you can give me?
Answer: You have train your mind just like you train your body. Just like you drill wrestling moves to learn them you have to drill the way you want to think. Repetition and practice are essential. Understanding how you need to think is important just like knowing the correct technique of moves is important. You need to be positive and look at matches as opportunities to do something cool. They are an opportunity to have fun, compete, and attack goals. You want to focus only on things you can control like your effort and the way you think. A great quote on this subject is from English heart surgeon Martyn Lloyd-Jones who stated, “Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.” Don’t be a victim of your thoughts. Don’t listen to yourself, talk to yourself, and talk victory. Focusing on and/or anticipating a potential problem is like walking holding an open umbrella on a sunny day. Focus on doing the best you can and accept that you can’t control most things. If you can’t control then let it go. Regardless of what happens you can always give your best effort. When you step on the mat try to think as little as possible. Hustle, move your feet, react and trust your instincts. Thinking slows you down and is for practice not competition.
question: hi cael im a mosinee wrestler im 210 lbs and wrestling heavyweight im giving up about 60 -80 lbs with all the guys i wrestle i work my butt off but i get so tired trying to deal with there extra weight i was wondering if you could give me some tips on conditioning for this problem and strength training on it thanks for your time.
Definitely work on your strength but it would be more effective for you to develop better technique. Control the tie up and circle. Wrestle smarter. Create strong angles before you attack so you’re not going through your opponent’s weight. Wrestle to your strengths. Use your speed and agility to move around your larger opponents. Work on technique where you stay off your knees. Technique beats strength. Attack with your tie ups and offense and keep your opponent reacting to you. Quick snatch singles, duck unders, outside shots with quick finishes would be good to work on. On top use flanks, ankles rides and again stay off your knees. Spiral ride break downs where you switch angles and directions regularly will help. On bottom keep a strong a base and get to a quick sit out. Pressure back into your opponent to get to sit out. That way you will keep a strong solid base at all times.
question: Hi cael my name is Dallas i am a freshman,and started wrestling in the seventh grade.I love it and have a dream of wrestling for iowa state, and continuing on to the olympics.I wanted to know what you did as a kid to prepare yourself for your great acheivements through out your wrestling career and throughout life. I hope to attend your camp this summer and thankyou for your time, Dallas
Hi Dallas, thanks for the email. If I were you I’d surround myself with good people. Hang out with people that will lift you up and motivate you to be the best you can be. Work hard and love it. Never be satisfied to be as good as you are in anything. Seek the best workout partners and competition you can find. Always give your best effort. Your goals as a competitor should be to hustle, attack and be the best you can be. Focus on that and winning will take care of itself. Do as well as you can in school. Be coachable and let other people help you. Those are a few things that I think are key to help prepare you for wrestling and life. I hope to see you at camp this summer. Good luck and best wishes.
question: We have followed your career and are very proud to have known you and your brothers. My son was on the little wasps team in Utah and has always remembered you telling him he was doing a good job, he now only wears your shoes. He is now a senior in high school and has done very well for himself. He came in 2nd in the state last year, however this year he has already had two loses, and is becoming discouraged. His father and I don’t want him to lose his will to wrestle, what advice can you give to help us out? I think he feels as though he may never win again, and he holds the school record. If you could give him any advice at all it would mean the difference!!
Congratulations on all of the success that you’ve had in wrestling. You have a lot to be proud of. I know you had a plan of how things should go, but as you’re finding out, sometimes things go as planned. What’s more important then any win could ever be is that you pick your head up when times are tough and not going as we hoped, and keep moving forward towards your goals. I just read a qoute a few weeks ago in the Wisconsin wrestling room that read something like this: “judge a man not by his successes but by how much it takes to discourage him.” Winning and losing is not what’s important. What’s important is that you give your very best effort. Your situation reminds me of the last year I competed in 2004. I started the year off very frustrated and was planning on quiting. I had quit wrestling in mind for several months because I didn’t know how to deal with the pressure that I put on myself to win. I hadn’t enjoyed wrestling really since I finished my NCAA career. My confidence was weak. I learned that confidence is not necessary. I did’t need to be confident to do my best and my dad taught me that at a very young age that success was simply giving your best effort. Eventually I realized that all I needed to do was do my best in training and competition and I’d be proud win or lose. It wasn’t easy, I had to retrain my mind to think like that again. Seven months before I won the Olympics I was planning on quiting wrestling forever. The toughest year of my life ended up being one of the most rewarding. Not because I won. Because of the obstacles that I went through. Even if I hadn’t won, I would have been happy because I would have known I did my best. So pick your head up and attack your goal of being a state champion with your best effort. There’s plenty of time to get ready. Just do your best and have fun. That’s the most dangerous combination a wrestler can have. Do your best and win or lose you will be proud of your effort. Win or lose your family will be proud of your effort. I promise you that. You owe it to yourself to pick yourself up and attack your goal with your best effort. You can do it!
Hi Cael I have been studying you for years and believe I have you figured out. I was a state champion in the senior level state freestyle meet. The question I have is are you willing to put your reputation on the line against me in a freestyle match. Freestyle is my specialty and I would like the opportunity to show the world that i am the man. I believe this could benefit me in many ways. I think I could get a shoe deal and a movie about my life which will set me up forever. Please consider this and let me know if you are ready for the crusher. Thank you the CRUSHER
Sure, where and when do you want to meet? Do I have to make weight? It’s been a little while. Just a heads up, I have learned how to do an ankle lace since I competed in 04 so be ready for that. Oh yeah, and I will poke you in the eye if I need to.
Consistency is the key. Control your thoughts and emotions. They should be the same regardless of the circumstances, either dual or tournament, 15000 fans or 15 fans, state finals or intrasquad match. Jared, it’s important to understand that worrying about things that you can not control is a complete waste of time and energy. Things that you can’t control are: what your opponent is going to do, what the referee is going to do, how many fans are there and who they are cheering for, what other people’s expectations of you are, etc etc. All you can control is what you think, say, do and feel. All you can control is that you are going to give your best effort. That needs to be your goal. Nothing more is possible and a waste of time and energy to think about. Everyone that really matters will be very proud of you if you go out and fight and do your very best.
English heart surgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, says this well, he says “most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather then talking to yourself.” Think exactly what you want to think. Of course it’s a small battle but you are responsible for everything you think, say do and feel. Talk victory. Simplify your focus as much as possible. Break down your thoughts to find what the most simple and effective instructions that you need to perform at your best and only focus on that. An example would be to hustle, or to move your feet, or move your feet and pull their head down. Really, we want to focus on the simple, controllable things that will help us get into the “zone.” We will always be at our best, quickest, sharpest form if we are only reacting and flowing (that’s the zone.) We don’t want to be out on the mat thinking our way through the match. That slows us down. Sure there are times that you need to think, but for the most part, it’s best to save your thinking for practice. I knew if I was moving my feet and pulling my opponents head down that my mind and body would shift into “the zone.” If I need to score I focus on moving my feet because that’s how I best create scoring opportunities. If I think “oh man, I have to score” and focus on trying to score then it’s not going to be quite as effective. Focus on the process to score. Break down your thoughts and actions to help you figure out what the simple thing you need to do to get into the zone. Talk with your coach to help you. Then that’s all your coach has to yell to you when you’re in competition and you need help.
That is a lot to take in but I believe it’s the holy grail of sports performance and essentially any challenge or goal in life.
Hey Cael, my name is Chad, and I’m a freshman at the high school. I’m a ok wrestler. I’m 195 so I wrestle at 215 and its hard. I don’t know if I should try to make 89′s. What should i do? I would also like to know what should I work on the most to dominate on the mat?
Hi Chad, If I weighed 196 I would probably eliminate junk food from my diet, get into warp shape and go 189. get into shape by working out more then just required pracitices and throw on your sweats after practice and wrestle an extra 10-20 minutes. Your weight will come right off. Eliminate soda and junk food from you diet. It’s ok to have a treat every day or so but keep in moderation.
Ok to be more effective on the mat you need to move back into opponent to set up your escapes. I have gotten several questions the last week on getting off the bottom so hopefully I answer all your questions. Pressure back into your opponent to get your stand up and sit out. Getting away on the bottom is attitude more then anything else. One move and then stopping dosn’t work on a good wrestler. You keep moving until your out, you refuse to go to your belly, and you make your opponent react to you. You move your opponent, even though they are behind you or on top of you. to get to the sit out pressure back with your hips (not your head and upper body) into your opponent and get your feet out in front of you. then switch directions and get to your feet. This is probably confusing. I believe we have a video of the technique that I am talking about on our wrestling camp website and/or youtube. check it out. attack on the bottom. if you get to your feet and your opponent is behind you use one hand to fight hands and one hand to hold his hips back from you. this will help you hold position, feel the leg attacks and also prevent them from picking you up and throwing you down. remember theyhave to put you back down or they will get warned for stalling so be patient on when you are on your feet. Don’t do something in desperation unless there is short time left on the clock. there are many ways to do things. another solid treat is to move away from your opponent and get them to chase you and throw a switch from your feet. that’s a tough move to stop. when throwing the switch, move forward, reach forward with your hands to mat( so your head and hands are forward with your lower half trailing) and right before your hands hit the mat fire off a switch. really it’s all attitude. Keep your hips under you and stay in good position. the biggest mistake people make is probably getting extended and not keeping their hips and power under them.
Question from Dylan: Cael, I am from Iowa and started wrestling in 7th grade for junior high just to try it. Now i am a freshman at a school that is known for its tradition and hard work etc. Anyways right now i am wrestling exhibition or junior varsity. I just want to know with the lack of experience i have what all can i do to make me a better wrestler? Even though I don’t have much experience in the sport i just seem to love the atmosphere.
Hi Dylan, good question. If you have a passion for the sport and the hard work ethic you will improve quickly. I would arrive early and stay late for every practice. Get as much help and work in as possible. Get the best workout partner you can find everyday. Get as many matches in as you can. The more matches the better. Plus, the off-season will be a great time to make strides. Get on the mat as much as you can. Compete as much as you can and use every match as an opportunity to make progress and learn. With the right attitude and effort you will quickly close the gap on your competition and then pass them by. Good luck and attack! Cael
Question from Jake from ID: Cael, I am 13 and am in my second season of wrestling. I have a recod of 8 wins and 5 losses and I feel like I could have won my closer matches if was better and more comfortable with shooting doubles, singles, ankle picks etc. What should I do to get more comfortable with taking shots? Thanks
Hi Jake, good question. The answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill your shots over and over again. Drill them intensely. Drill them with hard sets and finish with hard solid finishes. It’s very common for wrestlers to drill half speed shots, some with set ups, some without, some with finishes and some without. Be consistent and drill the shots the way they must be performed to score on your best competition. Make sure your partner isn’t just falling over like a wet noodle. Tell them to land like a cat, not fall to their belly and back when you are taking them down. Your partner shouldn’t try to stop your shot, but they should make sure you are doing them correctly and effectively. Attack drilling like you attack live wrestling. Enjoy drilling; if you do it correctly like I have explained then it will be fun and much more effective. Drill, drill, drill, and drill intensely and correctly.
Dear Cael, whats a good way to condition outside of practice when your on a limited schedule?
Hello Jacob, A great way to condition your body for wrestling outside of practice to get in a stance and shadow wrestle. If you can stay in a good stance for your entire match you are going to be tough to beat. Condition your body to be able to do just that. Get a warm up and then do full length shadow matches. Move every second, do squats, pushups, wall sits and stance motion. More stance and motion then anything. Use the pushups and other exercises to break up the time a little. You should burn your core and really get your heart rate up. You need little space and you should get a lot of bang for your buck with this type of workout. I used to do this in hotel rooms, at my parents house, at the in-laws, basically when I was training and on the road. Also on a rare occasion if I didn’t have a workout partner I would do shadow matches like this in the wrestling room for a workout. Prepare for wrestling by building wrestling muscles and wrestling conditioning. Good luck!
Question: Hey Cael why do I get so tired in matches and practice when I know I shouldn’t because I do work hard?
Response: Hey Mike, great question and I think this is a common issue for many wrestlers. Just know that you will always get tired when you work hard, even when you’re in great shape. That’s a huge misconception, people think that they shouldn’t get tired and that getting tired is a terrible thing. So people end up fighting the feelings of being tired and they get stuck in a rut fighting these feelings. What happens is this makes a small issue a huge issue and they end up just getting more tired then they would otherwise. The trick to accept how you feel and don’t fight it. It doesn’t matter how great of shape you are in, you will get a little tired no matter what. Accept that you’re going to get tired and focus on something more productive. Remember you can only focus on one thing at a time. Focus on something positive…like scoring points or getting your opponent tired. The best conditioned wrestlers still get tired, they just don’t worry about it or let it slow them down. If you are in great shape you want to get tired because that means your opponent is exhausted. Don’t fight it, it’s natural and part of the fun. It’s the same idea with everything. If you are concerned because you are nervous then it becomes a bigger deal. Being nervous is part of the process. Accept that you are nervous and know that it’s a good thing, don’t fight it. Not being nervous to me would be a concern. Tom Brown, an outdoorsman who has written several books on wilderness survival and tracking, talks about a smiliar idea with being cold. He said after he accepted the cold air and cold wind as being “his brother” and stopped fighting the feeling of being cold….he stopped being cold. When you’re golfing if you focus on the pond and not hitting it, you probably will. Accept that getting and being tired is a good thing and move past it.
Question: Hi Mr. Sanderson my question is for a paper im working on, “why did you wrestle? and How did wrestling help you to become a better person?”
Hello and thank you for the question.
I grew up in a wrestling family. My dad grew up in a wrestling family. One of my earliest memories is of my Grandpa Sanderson’s kids club in Pleasant Grove, Utah called The Little Mountain Grapplers. I was young and just remember running around and playing but the point is that wrestling has been a big part of my family’s life for generations. My dad was a high school coach and my two older brothers were wrestlers. I wanted to do what they did. Once my dad let me start wrestling I was hooked. The sport came pretty naturally to me and I never looked back. My brothers and I participated in a number of sports growing up but wrestling was always our love.
Wrestling has taught me many things that have helped me to become a better person. However, IMO, religion and family are where people should learn the basics of life’s lessons, values, morals, and what kind of person you want to be, etc. Wrestling is just an opportunity to take these beliefs and lessons from theory and put them to the test in real life situations, develop them and pick up additional information along the way. Even though I learned what type of person I want to be through my family and religion, I’ve learned what it takes to be the best I can be at anything, through my participation in the sport of wrestling. The essential things that I’ve learned through wrestling are: what hard work is, how to set goals and develop a plan to attack them, real discipline, sacrifice, how to ovecome obstacles, humility, responsibility, accountability, how to be coachable, what it means to work smart, importance of teamwork, that I am responsible for everything I think and feel, what a total commitment is, and how to win and lose with dignity. Those are just the fundamental things that come to mind. With determination and the right attitude, I know a person will learn what it takes to be a stronger and better person through wrestling. There are certainly many opportunities where a person can learn these and other qualities but I’m not sure there is a more direct path to learning them then through wrestling. that’s one main reason why I love the sport.
Hi Jacob, I’m not a big believer in cutting weight. However, my answer would be a different for wrestlers in different phases of their career.
I would not have young wrestlers cut weight at all. Now, if a kid is a quarter of a pound over a weight class and all he or she would need to do is to do is not have a bowl of ice cream for dessert or something like that, then sure do it. I would think you could help a young wrestler be a little bit lighter if needed without them even knowing it. I wouldn’t have kids skip meals or doing standard weight cutting things to make a certain weight. Remember we’re looking at the long term picture here. We want kids to get the benefits out of wrestling in high school and even college. Winning a title as a 5 year old is far less important then helping kids build a solid foundation and love of the sport.
As a wrestler starts getting into jr. high and high school. I think you should be close to your weight class after working hard in practice, doing extra work, and eating a healthy diet. this needs to be a sustained and constant effort. One day of hard work and eating right isn’t what I mean. Minimize junk food and discipline yourself to eat what’s good for you instead of what tastes the better. Don;t eat what’s convenient, eat what will help you. that’s why I partnered up with my buddy to create Undefeated Sport Nutrition because there just isn’t much out there for you. I watched my team and what they ate and drank and realized we needed to provide them something better.
You should be going to practice every day to make progress with your wrestling, not to lose weight. You will get much better faster with that attitude. have fun and continue to make progress during the year.
If the circumstances of your team make it that you are going to have to cut more weight then make sure you work the weight off. It is common for kids to try and starve weight off. that is the worst thing you can do. You will be miserable and your results will likely so that. It is going to much more fun and better for you to eat more so you can work harder and get more out of your workout. By being able to work harder (and continue to make progress) you will also lose more weight in practice. that is a much better plan then not eating and drinking and going to practice feeling weak. When you feel terrible at practice your effort will be poor and the result is that you don’t lose much weight. Eat and work harder. Put sweats on after practice and jog for 10-20 minutes or grab a partner and roll around on the mat to keep your sweat going. Take advantage of your hard work and the fact that your body is already heated up. There is definitely an art to losing weight correctly. In high school I made the mistake of going for a tough run and then immediately taking my sweats off afterward to see how much weight I lost. To lose weight all you need to do is get a good sweat going and then stay warm enough to keep that sweat going. You don’t need to kill yourself working hard, and overheat. Break a sweat and then find a way to stay warm with less strenuous activities. If you feel your sweat slowing down then do some more exercise to get it going again. Remember when you’re cutting weight you don’t want to wear your body out for your competition. After you break your sweat, do something like move around (bike, jump rope, etc) for 5 minutes and then sit down somewhere warm to keep sweating for 5 minutes. Repeat that until you’re down to weight. Your body only has to be so hot to continue to sweat.
Be disciplined, the worst thing a wrestler can do is balloon their weight up and down drastically between weigh ins. eliminate the feast or famine approach. It doesn’t work and is actually more difficult. Eat in moderation between weighins so you don’t have to lose large amounts of weight each week. We want to be fresh and excited to attack our goals at the most important time of the year and that is at the end of the season at the state tournament or NCAA tournament. Maintaining and cuttiing weight properly is a big key to that.
Question: Hey Cael, I was wondering if you could give me a little advice. I may not be the best wrestler on our team but i was told i was the hardest working one,with the fact most of our wrestlers place at nationals. I always thought hard work was the key to greatness. Can my problem be my focus?
Hi James, you are correct when you say that hard work is the key to greatness. However, everyone was not created the same. We all have different strengths and talents. It is through hard work that you develop and get the most out of your talent. Some people are more talented in certain areas then others. Your goal should be to be the best YOU can be. Don’t judge your success by what others on your team are doing. Hard work will usually overcome talent over time. Be patient and consistentlyattack your goals with everything you have. There’s an old saying that goes..”hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.”
If you are a hard worker and talented and still not getting desired results, there are two areas that I would look at closely. They are 1- discipline and 2-accountability. Your mention of focus would probably fall under discipline. Hard work without discipline is very limiting. discipline means making the sacrifices that will help you be your best and doing the little things that make the difference. Some examples are: being coachable, living the right lifestyle, (getting enough sleep, eating the correct foods, avoiding smoking, drugs, and alcohol etc) sticking to game plans in training and matches, sticking to fundamentals in matches, focus, your attitude, working smart so you continue to make progress, etc. If you aren’t disciplined to do these things it will drastically limit your potential regardless of how how hard you work the 2-3 hours you are in practice each day.
the second limiting factor is accountability. this means you take responsibility for everything you think, say, do and feel. this means you take responsibility for your mistakes and losses and look objectively at how you can move forward. People who refuse to take responsibility and make excuses or pass the responsibility on to their coach, the referee, the weather, not having your lucky shoes, or whatever they dream up, will spin and their wheels and usually seldom make progress. Losing stinks, so accept responsibility so you can address your weakness and move forward. Even if your coach isn’t the greatest, or the referee has a grudge against you, so what? take responsibility and find the help you need to move forward. Don’t let excuses keep you from being the best you can be. expect obstacles and kick their butt.
Sarah from South Dakota: I know you have answered many questions about how to promote our children’s wrestling adventures in a positive way. I have a similar question. My son has been wresting for about 4 years, he is now 9. He started off really strong and had great results. He had one difficult year and doesn’t seem like the same kid on the mat. From the stands and the videos, he doesn’t really even look like he’s trying, although he still loves the sport. I want to make sure that I am not pushing him, but that I am encouraging him to get the results he wants. We are coming up on a new season now and I was wondering what words you would use if this was your child. I just can’t get him to understand that he has the talent, he just can’t be afraid to use it. Thank you so much for your time.
Cael: “Hello Sarah,
Great question. I almost had your question answered– talking about how even though we don’t want to put pressure on our kids to win, we need to make it clear that our expectation is that they do their best. It is important to guide our kids and let them know what our expectations are. If we don’t guide them, someone or something else will. I’ll talk more about that further down in the answer.
After re-reading your question it sounds to me like you guys might be focusing on results. Focusing on results can make it hard and really no fun for a kid. It needs to be fun. If it isn’t fun, there is a chance he won’t try as hard. It can be really tricky. Your wrestler may be misinterpreting what you’re saying when you tell him that you want him to get the results that he wants. That’s why I would just focus on effort. Encourage him to do his best. His best effort will bring his best results. Keep it really simple.
When you say that you can’t get your son to understand that he has talent and can’t be afraid to use it, that is putting expectations on him. I would guess that he interprets that as he should be winning, or he should win most of the time or something based on outcome. Really, I wouldn’t talk to him about anything more than doing his best. It’s certainly a good thing for your kids to know that you believe in them, but just be aware of the fine line between encouragement and expectations. Telling a kid he has talent and potential is good as long as the clear expectation is about effort and not performance.
Kids are very good at reading their parent’s emotions. So if they win or lose and their parents are getting fired up or disappointed, they will know. I’ve mentioned this several times, but most kids do not want to disappoint their parents. That is far more important then winning or losing to them, in my opinion. That means encourage, but don’t put pressure to perform. Make sure your actions are in line with your words.
Even though we don’t want our kids to feel like we are pushing them just so they win, we need to still push them. They need guidance and direction. Growing up, my parents made the sport about having fun and recreation. Just like youth soccer, baseball, football etc. It was simply a game. My dad never put pressure on me or my brothers to win, but he did expect us to give every match and every practice our best effort. We knew what the expectation was–we were expected to give it our best effort every time we stepped on the mat. We also knew that we were expected to give academics our best effort. I’ve probably written this before but my dad used to tell us that “we didn’t come here to win, we came to fight” before big matches. That meant to try as hard as we could to win and if we didn’t, that was fine. We did know that we were expected to fight with our best effort, everytime we stepped on the mat. If we didn’t fight my parents wouldn’t spend their money and time to take us to tournaments.
My dad had us believe it was a privilege and a reward to wrestle. Of course this is true but it is really easy for a young kid to think they wrestle for their parents and not because it’s fun. He basically tricked us or persuaded us into being the best we could be.
I don’t think your child will ever come back once they’ve grown up and say, “Geez mom & dad, why did you push me so much? I could have reached level 10 on my Playstation game.” However, they will come back and say, “Why didn’t you push me harder & make me learn a skill or develop a talent?”
Set the standard of excellence early with the process of the sport & in academics, not creating expectations with results. Help your kids focus on the process of giving their best effort in training & competition by tricking them or whatever you think it will take. Every kid is different. But every kid wants the approval of their parents more then anything else in the world. Expect them to give their best effort, and then praise them for their effort win or lose. With this approach, I promise they will have the best chance for success. The goal is to become the best that we can with what we have. This approach will help your kids become the best they can be.
Jeff from Terre Haute, IN: I was concerned when I saw that you wouldn’t be competing in the Olympics this year. You’re the best wrestler I’ve witnessed in my lifetime and the best of our era. I was just wondering why you decided against doing so?
I appreciate the email. I was strongly considering competing this year but my commitment was to my responsibilities with the Iowa State wrestling program. When I took my dream job of head coach at Iowa State I knew I was choosing and accepting that I wouldn’t compete again myself. I know I didn’t wrestle freestyle long enough to ever compete at my greatest potential level and that sort of bothers me. But my goal was always to win a gold medal and after I did that I wanted to do what was best for my family which I feel was to coach. I absolutely love coaching at Iowa State. I considered doing both this year but I quickly learned that I couldn’t give both 100% and that was unacceptable. It felt a little weird following the Olympics this year knowing that physically I could still be competing, but I am at peace with the decision that I have made. I really appreciate your support.
Thank you!! Go USA!!
Tim from Reedsburg, WI: I have two boys–2 and 4 years old. What is a good age to get them started in wrestling and spark their interest? Thanks!
Cael: “Hello Tim,
I don’t think there is a specific age at which kids should start wrestling. In my opinion, the important thing is the approach you take with them as they start.
To get the best long term results, I would suggest making it more recreational like youth soccer, swimming, baseball, etc. Be supportive and encourage them to work hard, but don’t make the focus on winning and losing. The winning and losing will come, don’t worry about that. Help them to learn to love the sport first.
Make the focus on effort. Just reinforce the importance of doing their best in competition and practice. Be patient with them. Make them think it’s their idea to go to practice and competitions. Also, the parent must be sincere and consistent in this approach, win or lose, because kids will see right through insincerity and everything will be a waste of time. This approach will keep your kids focused on wrestling for as far as their talent and work ethic will take them. That means junior high, high school and potentially college. Also, having focus and direction in wrestling will help them have focus and direction in all aspects of their lives.
Matt Silva from Modesto, CA: What is the best way to prepare cardio wise for wrestling?
The best way to prepare cardio wise for wrestling is through live wrestling in practice. Wrestle in practice at the same level or higher then you do in actual competition. Get as tired as you possibly can. Prepare everyday for your toughest possible match. You can’t expect to compete at a higher level then you train. So train harder and longer then your toughest possible competiton. My career took off when I learned that I needed to train this way. There are a lot of other ways to add to your conditiong but nothing is nearly as important as just pushing yourself harder in live scrimmage.
Some keys to wrestling harder during scrimmage are:
1. Wrestle every second–from whistle to whistle.
2. Don’t be a clock watcher, don’t worry about the time.
3. No stalemates, no breaks between action–ever!
4. Attack in every position. If on the wall, keep wrestling, get as tired as possible, try to make your opponent quit by wrestling too hard for too long.
5. Pick the best/ toughest partner you can find. If that’s not enough, have your opponent rotate in on you.
6. Stay off your belly.
Also, extra running, sprints, push ups, pull ups, wall sits, in addition to regular wrestling practice will help a lot too. I love aerodyne bikes. They are about as much of a full body workout/ wrestling workout you can find outside of wrestling. Shadow wrestling at a high pace is excellent conditioning for wrestling. Staying in a stance and moving your feet is great for you. Good luck!
Tim from Chillicothe, IL: Cael,
I am a junior high level wrestling coach. What can you tell me for strength training at this level?
Cael: “Hello Coach,
I am not a strength and lifting expert. However, my opinion is that learning technique and getting experience is far more important than strength training for junior high kids and younger. I wouldn’t suggest that junior high kids should go into the weight room and throw around large amounts of weight. Technique beats strength. But being stronger will only help.
I would throw strength exercises into practice as warm up and at the end for conditioning. I would suggest doing a lot of body weight and partner weight exercises like push ups, partner neck, pull ups, wall sits, buddy carries, stance and motion, bear crawls, etc. I am a huge advocate of pull ups and rope climbs.
In wrestling, we need strong necks, backs, legs and grip. Work on pulling, pushing, penetrating, exploding with your hips, and wrestling strength specific areas through drills. Have your wrestlers bring a sweatshirt to practice. Put the sweatshirt around their partners waist and hold on to the sleeves to give them resistance as they work on penetration shots, sprints, bear crawls etc.
Good luck! Cael “
Cyndy from Spokane, WA: Hello, I have a 11 year old boy who has always loved and done well in wrestling. But suddenly, this season he can’t hit his moves, can’t concentrate but still wants to wrestle. I worry if he spends much more time on his back, he’ll quit when he appears to want to keep trying. Do you have any advice on how to help a boy through an apparant slump? Thanks
Cael: “Hello Cyndy,
This is a common problem for people. Just stay positive with him. Try to make sure he is having fun. Remind him that wrestling is just a game. Reinforce that the point is not to win but to give it your best effort every time whether he wins, loses or gets pinned. Be consistent with this approach and I believe he will get through the slump.
Sometimes when people fall into slumps they start over thinking the situation. Over thinking leads to more hesitation, doubt and will prolong the slump. Wrestling is a game of instincts. Drilling in practice is the time to “think.” When your boy steps on the mat he needs to focus on nothing more then his best effort. That means different things to different people. However, break it down and make it as simple as possible for him. For example, all I thought about before I wrestled was that I was going to move my feet and pull my opponent’s head down. That was it. I knew if I did that I would create the opportunities that I needed to score points. A simple focus like that also helps you get more into the “zone” where you are just reacting and trusting your instincts and training. This is a simple concept but it is difficult to accept. Very few people and wrestlers can allow it to be this simple.
However, focusing on effort is the “holy grail” of wrestling and life.
Bill from Des Moines, IA: As a long time fan of wrestling I constantly bring friends to meets to try and turn them into wrestling fans. I’ve thought for a while that our sport needs to make some changes to make it easier to follow. I’m interested in your opinion and any suggestions you have?
Cael: “Bill, I agree that we need to make some changes. It really blows my mind that a regular season college basketball game gets more viewers then an event like the Big 12 Wrestling Finals. If it didn’t our Big 12 Finals would be on tv live instead of the game. That’s reality and we need to fight to step up our sport.
I frequently ask myself why and what can we learn from more popular sports. It seems simple, the games that are easy to play and easy to follow are usually the most popular. We all want more media coverage, but we must give the media something they want to cover. It’s a business.
However, opportunities to watch wrestling are continuously growing. Growing up in Utah, my brothers and I were only able to see a couple college wrestling matches. BYU was 35 minutes from my hometown so we saw them compete a few times. Other then that, the only college wrestling we watched was from my dad recording the NCAA finals at 2 or 3 in the morning several weeks after the actual tournament. Consider the differences now–it’s awesome. ESPN now airs the quarterfinals, semi-finals, placement matches and finals. Wrestling fans nationwide can see matches on the Big 10 Network, CSTV, and probably other stations as well. With the internet and live streaming, a wrestling fan can watch most colleges matches. Internet sites like youtube and flowrestling are also excellent means to watch matches that we simply couldn’t, not too long ago. What a great time it is for wrestling.
Bill, you’re not the only one looking for change. There are a lot of people talking right now about how we can make wrestling more exciting and more fan friendly. I believe by making a few changes we could accomplish this and take a big step in the right direction. This in return would help us develop a bigger fan base.
People don’t watch what they don’t understand. These are some thoughts and suggestions that I have given to the NCAA Rules Committee. The NCAA Rules Committee has a very tough job and obviously as a coach I really appreciate the time and effort they put into our great sport.
Here are my thoughts:
#1- We need to change the season of college wrestling. Right now our conference and NCAA tournament compete with arguably the biggest sporting event of the year–March Madness Basketball. Actually, I wouldn’t say we compete–we share the left over scraps. My suggestion is to start the season Jan. 1 and have the NCAA tourney in April. Maybe allow open tournaments in December. Right now our season covers all three of our school’s student breaks–Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break. That is tough on the student-athletes academically. This isn’t a new idea, it’s been floating around for awhile but I believe it would be great for the sport.
#2- Rule changes: Wrestling is a tough sport to officiate. There are so many judgment calls. The two most inconsistent calls in my opinion are “stalling” and “fleeing.” Basically each referee calls both differently then every other referee. This is frustrating for coaches and athletes but more importantly it makes it difficult for fans to follow. Both rules are difficult to enforce so here are my suggestions and thoughts:
A) Eliminate riding time. Here’s why: right now we encourage wrestlers in the top position to hold their opponent down for one minute to get an extra point. This is boring. By eliminating riding time we eliminate the main reason to hold an opponent down. Back points are enough encouragement for a wrestler to try and put their opponent on their back. The hypocritical part of the riding point is that riding an opponent just to hold them down is stalling. So essentially we are rewarding stalling with riding time, and therefore, encouraging it.
B) Eliminate the escape point. There are positives and negatives here but I think the positives outweigh the negatives. By eliminating the escape point, we eliminate the need to hold someone down and that would encourage takedowns. In theory, a takedown would now be worth more if you consider the escape making a takedown worth 1. The negative side is that the escape point does bring some excitement to the sport in the last seconds of the periods and mat wrestling would decline. However, there would be more wrestling on the feet and more attempts at takedowns. Plus, we would better prepare our wrestlers to make the transition to freestyle. Right now it is very difficult for our college wrestlers to step out of folkstyle and make the adjustment to international wrestling.
C) Eliminate ride out overtime procedures and make the winner get a takedown. I don’t know anyone who likes the :30 ride out overtime procedure. When regulation time ends, start the two wrestlers on their feet in the middle of the mat and let them decide who the winner will be with a takedown. The concern might be the uncertain length of the overtime. Big deal! Uncertainty is fun. However, wrestlers would be a lot more willing to take risks at a takedown if they know it’s the only way to win. One big problem I have with the ride out overtime procedure is the same problem I have with the riding point. We reward a wrestler for holding their opponent down. However, holding an opponent down with no intent to turn them to their back is considered stalling, right? Again, in a way we are rewarding the wrestler who does a better job stalling. Put them in the center and let them wrestle to a takedown. That makes conditioning more of factor as well which is something wrestlers and fans pride themselves on.
D)- Have a push out/ step out be worth one point. That would simplify the rules for the fans and make the sport more exciting. Right now the two most inconsistent and tough calls for refs are stalling and fleeing. Adding the push out rule would almost eliminate those two calls, or at least make them much easier to call. The push out would only be worth one point. No way should someone stepping out of bounds be worth as much as an actual takedown. This would also better prepare our wrestlers for international competition. We would have to decide how the push out rule applies in the top/ bottom position. I feel the pushout would only apply in the neutral position.
E)- Don’t allow wrestlers to lay on their backs without being penalized back points. The object in wrestling is to put your opponent on their back. The sport has evolved. Wrestlers are very good at countering takedowns and reversals by rolling around and creating stalemates. Some of the time, putting their own back on the mat to do it. I think wrestlers should get a scramble grace period of a few seconds but after that, the referee should start counting back points. This would make it easier for the officials and make it less confusing for spectators. At no time in wrestling should a wrestler be allowed to expose their own back for an extended time and not be penalized for it.
F)- Coaches should be allowed to question the referee as many times as they feel is necessary. Coaches should not be limited to only a few opportunities at a tournament, and one at a dual meet, to fight for their student-athletes before they are deducted a team point. A coach should be able to fight for his athlete, now we can’t. Of course the referee should be able to penalize a coach who is out of hand, but a coach should be able to question a ref. Let’s face it, there are a ton of “judgment calls” in wrestling and refs do make mistakes. Coaches should be able to question judgment. Fans enjoy watching coaches “get after refs” almost as much if not more then actual wrestling so I believe it would be more fun for spectators. Coaches and ref disputes are a big part of sports. Why is it that in wrestling, arguably the sport with the most judgment calls, coaches can’t do their job? Coaches and referee disputes are part of the fun.
#3- I think the NCAA should have a set and standard mat size. Right now there is a huge variety in mat size. I can’t imagine any other sport that allows the host school to decide how big or small the playing surface is. I understand that very few schools could go out and buy a new mat but this is something that the NCAA could give the school 10 years to comply with. If you think of the difference in the square footage of the minimum and maximum mat size allowed–it’s huge.
#4- Seed the individuals in the NCAA tournament to 16 instead of 12. That would seed the entire first round. There is a huge difference between the 13th ranked guy and the perceived 32nd ranked guy. It is more fair for the individuals competing and more fair for the team race to just seed to 16. Plus, it would not take much more work.
#5- Give wrestling fans the best seats at the NCAA tournament. Right now the best seats don’t go to the loud fans representing their favorite teams. One side of the front bottom arena goes to different wrestling organizations to sell??…..I think. I’m not 100% sure who gets the seats but they aren’t team fan sections. The other bottom front side goes to the host school. But at the NCAA tournament, especially when we use the same location again and again, the host team should not get all of the best seats. Right now, after the two best sides are given out, then they give the teams that do the best at the previous tournament the best corners. Please understand that I know little about the work and organization that goes into the tournament so I’m not trying to criticize. I am very appreciative of all the work that goes into our great sport.
However, the way we are forced to sell NCAA tickets to our fans makes it the opposite of fan friendly. Fans have to buy their tickets before Christmas. People who aren’t die hard fans have little chance to jump on the bandwagon and become fans if their team starts doing well. If a team does well at their conference and the average sports fan from their university wants to go to the NCAA tournament, it’s not going to happen. I’m not sure if we can correct this but it’s something I have been thinking about that would help wrestling build more fans.
Thanks, Bill, good question.
I love wrestling!! There is no sport that compares to it!!
Josh from Beresford, SD: Do you ever get butterflies in your stomach before a big match?
Cael: “Josh, yes, I did have butterflies in my stomach before I wrestled. I would be concerned if I didn’t. It’s important to understand that being nervous and having “butterflies” is natural. Having butterflies means that you are ready. Your body knows that something is up and it’s time to go. Having butterflies means that your powerful adrenaline is on your side. Know that butterflies are a good thing.
Remember, you are responsible for everything you think and feel, so make sure you are taking control of your thoughts and feelings and making them positive. It’s natural to have negative thoughts—everyone does. ISU’s sport psychologist Marty Martinez tells our team that the second thought is the important one. It’s what you do with negative thoughts that count. Do you replay them over and over in your head or do your simply realize that a negative thought is garbage and you replace it? Control your thoughts and know that butterflies are great! Before matches keep your thoughts simple—focus on your best effort and what that means to you.
Josh from Ballston Spa, NY: Do you ever find yourself pushing your younger brother a little harder in hopes that he may even surpass your amazing achievements?
Cael: “Hi Josh,
Thanks for the question. I don’t push my brother any harder then I do anyone else on the team. My brother is family–I love him just for that. I realize that the coach/athlete relationship is just a small part of our relationship and will just be a short time in our lives.
I’m going to go off on tangent here. I have several parents ask me how to make their kids dominating wrestlers and most don’t listen. They are obviously just expecting me to reinforce what they already think and if I don’t, they don’t listen. They expect me to say the crazy stuff like “have them run sprints around the block dragging cinder blacks, or feed them raw meat, lock them in a closet with a badger, have their five year old do 100 pushups after they finish their 4 hour workout, take them to every tournament possible as soon as they can walk, have a belt ready to whip them if they lose, etc etc.
I tell them that the biggest mistake parents can make with their children in athletics (or anything for that matter) is to blur the lines between why they support and love them. It is very easy for kids to mistake why a parent is proud of them. Kids needs to know that their parents love them just because they are their son or daughter.
To help kids reach their greatest potential, they need to know that their parents support their effort–not whether they win or lose. A lot of parents give their kids the impression that they are only proud of them if they win. Parents are the most important people in the world to their kids. Wrestling is already a tough sport. If a kid thinks he has to win to make his parents proud of him–that is a ton of pressure. In my opinion, that is the greatest pressure in the world, especially for a kid. A parent not being proud of you is far more frightening then the scariest opponent. Most kids won’t last long in sports in that kind of environment. And the kids who do tough it out, or have no choice, are usually the ones who develop mental problems. They are the ones who usually end being labeled “head cases.” The kids whose parents simply expect their best effort in training and in competition are the ones who have the better chance of reaching their potential.
My advice for parents who want to help their kids get the most out of sports is to simply support your kids, support their best effort, keep things in perspective for them (wrestling is just a game), reinforce that giving it 100% is the goal and be proud of whatever comes after that. Parents with young athletes, make the kid think it is his idea to wrestle, let him set the schedule and decide how many tournaments he wants to go to. Sure, you can manipulate (bad word) what they think they want to do– but let it be their idea. If your child wants to go to a tournament, make sure he puts the work in to be prepared for it. Make sure he has the grades in school that you want him to have to be eligible for you to take him to tournaments and even to practice. It takes a game plan like that to help your kid go all the way with wrestling.
Nothing will teach your child how to be successful in life better then wrestling. Don’t worry about wins and losses with a young wrestler. If you make it about wins and losses, your kid probably won’t last long enough in the sport to get the most out of it. The ultimate goal of sports should be to get an education and prepare for the rest of your life and of course have fun. Think long term. It’s more common than not that the parents who have their kids going 100 miles an hours are going to be doing well early. Do that if your goal is to have the best 8 year old wrestler you can. If you want to create a good high school wrestler, or even college, do what I suggested. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. There are kids who want to compete at every youth intergalactic championship out there. My advice for them would be to take them to a few tournaments but make it a privilege. Hold them back a little so they really develop a love to compete. Tough love is also important to develop a good wrestler. That’s a different subject though. My mom was not afraid to get in my face and let me know if she didn’t think I gave it my best.
For young wrestlers who are reading this–it’s important that you realize that your parents, no matter how much pressure you think they put on you, just want what is best for you. They want you to win because they want to see you be successful. They want to see you be happy. Even if they don’t communicate that message the best–it’s the deep-rooted truth. Know that it is the truth. It is. Know that your parents and family go to tournaments to support you, not to see you win. Knowing that this is the truth, and it is, should take some unrealistic pressure and let you attack your goals–for you.
Back to your question. My brother always gives it his best effort so I am very proud of him for that. He has set lofty goals for himself and I believe he can achieve them. One thing about my brothers and I is that we never competed with each other over achievements. When we were scrimmaging in practice, or playing football in the backyard, it was war. But when it came to outside competition we were always very supportive of each other. I remember feeling worse if my brothers lost than if I did. In fact, my senior year in college was probably easier for me because I no longer had a brother to worry about.
So what I’m saying is that my brother and I aren’t concerned with my achievements or anyone else’s–we are focused on him being the best he can be. When you start worrying about things outside of your control, like anything other then being the best you can be, then you make it more difficult to reach you potential.
Jesse from Southgate, MI: Do you use the head for your set-ups on your ankle pick all the time or is it possible to post both of the opponent’s shoulders, snap the head and then shoot?
Cael: “Hi Jesse,
I usually use the head to set up my ankle picks. There are an unlimited number of ways to score takedowns—if that works for you, great. Work hard to develop your talent.
I’m not exactly clear what you mean when you say post your opponents shoulders but I like how you are putting multiple set-ups together to get your shot. There is no wrong answer. One thing we work on at Iowa State is continuous set-ups until you open up your shot. Don’t wait for your shot to open up. You create the circumstances that you’re looking for. Set-ups and finishes determine whether your shot will be successful. Focus on the set-ups, not the shot. Your set-ups should continue to improve and evolve as you get further into your wrestling career. There are several ways to shoot an ankle pick. The 66kg (I think) 2004 Olympic champion from Ukraine hits incredible ankle picks from the elbows instead of the head. You might be able to find some video on him on youtube. Good luck!
Mike from NC: Cael,
What is the one single mental element and the one single physical element in your training that you believe made you a champion? In other words, if you were to choose one, what do you think is the one mental thing you did during practice (or a match), and the one physical thing you did during practice that you attribute most to your success as a wrestler? I’d like to find out what you believe helped you most.
Cael: “Hi Mike,
Good question. The one thing that I did physically in practice was try to get better everyday. I worked on the areas that I needed to improve on. Make it a point to try and physically get better, even a tiny bit, everyday. That is how you attack your potential as a wrestler! You train yourself mentally by pushing yourself and putting yourself in difficult, challenging situations everyday. Work harder then you expect your toughest match to be. If you fight through challenges in practice, then you will fight through challenges when competing. Be aware of what you are thinking and telling yourself- understand that negative thoughts are natural…but eliminate them- don’t play them back and forth in your head. You are in control of everything you think! A strong, positive mind is more important then a strong body. Train your mind like you train your body.
Sam from San Jose, CA: Dear Cael,
Whenever I learn a new move, and I try to execute it during a match, it doesn’t work and it ends up backfiring on me. My coach tells me not to force the moves, but if I don’t try to “force” moves, I always get called for stalling. What do you think I should do?
Cael: “Hello Sam,
If your coach is telling you not to “force” moves that means you are trying to execute moves when they aren’t there. If the move isn’t there, then you need to focus on putting your opponent in the position where your move is going to work. So in matches and practice, work the entire match setting up your moves. It sounds like you are waiting for your moves to open up and then “forcing” them whether they are there or not to avoid the stalling call. Hustle the entire match trying to create scoring opportunities.
First of all, competition is not the best place to try a new move. Spend as much time as possible in practice (and after practice) working on techniques that you hope to execute in matches. Drill your moves so much that they become instinctual in competition. Plus, to get the most out of your drilling, you need to drill the set ups to the move every time as well.
If you are a beginning wrestler, do the best that you can in competition. Whether you are a beginner or a very experienced wrestler, your focus needs to be on creating the circumstances that will make your move work. If you are focusing just on the move itself, it will be difficult to execute the technique successfully.
For example, if I’m trying to do an ankle pick, I focus on the set up to the move and not the move itself. I focus on pulling my opponents head down and circling. When you have your opponent set up and you feel that your technique is there…then you execute.
Another example is a cross face cradle. To get the best result, I must focus on putting my opponent in the position where I can successfully execute. I need to first control their hips by breaking them down or by hooking the ankle, get them to put a lot of weight on their hands, etc.
So focus on the little things that you can control that help set up whatever technique you want to attack with. Focus on the set up of the moves. Have fun attacking your moves with set ups–it’s much more fun to attack then wait around and hope that your opponent puts himself into the position you want. Attack set ups!
I hope this helps- good luck!!
Thanks! Cael “
James from Elsipogtog: Hey Cael,
I was wondering what made you go that extra distance… I’ve been wrestling for 5 years and I am planning on winning nationals and making the national team and hopefully winning the Canada Cup and I am looking for some words of advice.
Cael: “Hello James,
Attack your goals! Attack your goals with a total commitment and a total effort. A wise person once said “when you see a person on top of mountain you know they didn’t fall there!” You have to climb the mountain. One key to becoming the very best you can be is to enjoy the difficult process. Keep in mind that these are your goals–enjoy the hard work, dedication and sacrifice that it takes to attack them. Attack your goals!
Bill from CA: Do you have any advice for parents of young wrestlers?
Cael: “Hi Bill,
Wrestling is a tough sport. That is one reason so many people love it. There isn’t a better sport to prepare the youth of our great nation to become better, more productive citizens. Wrestling teaches discipline, hard work, responsibility, accountability, sacrifice, mental toughness, physical toughness, goal-setting, hustle, resolve, self-confidence, independence, self-defense, team work, and humility to name a few. These are the priceless qualities that your children will learn through wrestling.
Wrestlers learn that hard work, dedication, and focus pays off. They also learn that winning is fun and worth working hard for. However, “winning” can’t be your focus if you want your kids to fully realize their potential and get the most out of wrestling. We all know that “winning” is important in everything we do, but there is a fine line of what your expectations should be with your children.
Your children know that “winning” is important–it’s your job to help them understand that winning isn’t the most important thing. Doing their best is the most important thing. No one on earth can do better then their “best” so why focus on anything else?
It is a truly exciting time for youth wrestling. There are national championships all across the country almost every month. When I was coming up through the youth ranks of wrestling 15-22 years ago, there were fewer opportunities. The first national tournament I went to was when I was 14 years old and that was only because some wrestling friends were taking their kids and I begged my parents to let me go with them. I wanted to wrestle in a national tournament, but the idea of flying in an airplane for the first time was probably the main reason I wanted to go.
It is important that parents realize that wrestling is a marathon, not a sprint. I can think of many great young wrestlers that were way ahead of the competition at an early age and didn’t end up making it very far in this great sport. Some didn’t even wrestle in high school. These kids all had one thing in common–parents that pushed them way too hard, who focused on “winning” at an early age instead of focusing on effort. Wrestling is tough enough already without adding parents expectations to win on top of it.
I have three keys to help parents as they bring their kids up in wrestling:
1-Your child must know without a wink of doubt that you love them because they are your child (not because of great things they do)
2-Your child must know that you support them and want them to do well because you want to see them happy (not because you want everyone to know your kid is a champion) and
3-All you could ever hope for as a parent is that your child do their best (not many people are willing to do their best)
My dad used to tell my brothers and I when we were at big tournaments and/or matches “we didn’t come here to win, we came here to fight!” These three things are reality (they better be or there is a much deeper problem) so the trick is making sure your child knows it without a doubt.
Be careful and be aware of how you say things. Kids can easily interpret things incorrectly. To help your kids reach their greatest potential as a wrestler, and learn all of the great lessons that wrestling will teach them, it must be fun for them. There can be no confusion that you support your kids because you love them and not because you want to see them win. There is nothing more scary for a kid than to think that his/her parents will be disappointed in him/her if they don’t always win. Support their best effort and nothing more, be happy for them if they win because you like to see them happy. If you do these things your kid will have a much greater chance to reap the many rewards of a long career in wrestling.
Logan from Mt. Airy, NC: Hey Cael,
What’s your favorite wrestling move and who were your idols?
Cael: “Hi Logan,
My favorite move is the ankle pick. I have always looked up to my older brothers so they are probably my idols. My favorite wrestler was John Smith. My favorite athletes were Mike Singletary, Walter Payton and Gale Sayers.
Brodey Serres from Lingle, WY: Hey Cael,
I’m a 3-time southeastern Wyoming champion and about ready to step on the mat and wrestle for my high school. What do you think I should focus on to take my first state title as a freshman?
Cael: “Congrats on your past success, Brodey! Keep things simple—just focus on what will make you wrestle well. Examples include hustling, controlling the tie up, maybe focusing on hard setups to your takedowns. Whatever it is, keep it very simple. Break down your thoughts to what you can control.
It is a waste of time to think about things out of your control like worrying about the ref, the crowd, what happens if you win or lose, or what your girlfriend thinks. Give it your best effort every time you step on the mat and have fun doing it. The trick is to allow it to be that simple.
TT Prayther from Barefoot Landing, SC: Hi Cael, I am TT Prayther from North Myrtle Beach High School, and I would like to know if it is bad to train 2 to 3 times a day. Can you please help me?
Cael: “Hi TT,
It is important to make sure you are getting more out of your workouts then getting more workouts in. Try to get better every time you go to practice. Make sure you are working on mastering the fundamentals and doing what your coach tells you to do. Get more out of your workouts–drill set ups, takedowns, and finishes like they need to be executed to work in a match. Eliminate anything that is not helping you reach your goals. Attack your goals and have fun doing it. Enjoy the hard work that it takes to be the best you can be. Look for ways to improve. Do everything in your power to be the best you can be and you can always be proud win or lose. Attack!
Jake from Zanesville, OH: Cael,
I have been working hard at practice every day and I would think that I would see results on the mat, like at tournaments and dual meets, but there really hasn’t been any change. I just don’t get it. What can I do solve this problem? I work in the weight room, I go to camps, and I’ve been wrestling for about 11 years. I just don’t know what my deal is and I am wondering if you can help me.
Cael: “Hello Jake,
You are getting better. With every new day you are more experienced and smarter then you were the day before. If you aren’t getting the results you want or think you should be getting, you need to evaluate your whole experience. Have your coaches, teammates, and family evaluate you as well. Figure out what exactly what is holding you back.
You said you worked hard, but are you working hard on the right things? There’s a great story that author Jon Bytheway tells in one of his books that really explains the difference between working hard and working smart. The story goes something like this….a scientist once conducted an experiment with processionary caterpillars. Processionary caterpillars follow each other in a single file line–follow the leader type fashion– as they search for food. Well, the scientist somehow managed to arrange the caterpillars around the rim of a flower pot. You can imagine what happened. They followed each other around and around for days until they eventually died of starvation. The lesson here is not to confuse activity with accomplishment. It doesn’t matter how hard you are working if you aren’t working on the right things. Make sure you aren’t going around in circles.
Thanks and good luck! Cael “
David from Boston, MA: Hey Cael! Well, I’ve been wrestling for 2 years, I’m a sophomore in high school, and the season just ended. For the past two years I have been a JV wrestler and I was hoping to move up to varsity next year and I really want to have a winning record and possibly place in districts. What is the best thing I can do in the off season to help achieve my goal next season or do you think that goal is a little too much for someone with my experience?
I don’t think your goal is unrealistic. In fact, if you work hard on the fundamentals, like keeping a good stance, controlling the tie up, hard set-ups to takedowns, good finishes, leg attack defense- getting your legs back and hips low and away, a solid chop and drive on top, and hand control on the bottom, I believe you might surprise yourself and do better. Get in the wrestling room every chance you get and work on these things. Also, get as many matches in as you can over the spring and summer. Attack your goal of placing in the districts.
Good luck! Cael “
Josh from Fort Kent, ME: Cael I have a problem. I am told that I am an excellent practice wrestler and I don’t seem to have a problem finishing any kind of takedown, pinning combination, or reversal during practice even on the bigger guys. However, when it comes down to wrestling at a dual meet or tournement, I have a hard time focusing or sometimes finishing moves without slipping up or getting caught in something else. what would make me better out on the mat during meets?
Cael: “Hello Josh,
This is a common problem. It sounds like you are thinking too much when you are competing. If you are thinking too much, that means you are hesitating and your timing will be off. You need to simplify your thoughts when competing and when getting ready to compete.
Focus only on what you can control. For example, you will hustle, you will keep moving, etc. Whatever works for you. If you are thinking about a specific takedown, it will be tough to get it. If you focus on the set up or the motions for the set up, the shot should come naturally.
Trust your instincts, simplify your thought process and let loose. Practice is where you “think” about what you are doing. That is why drilling is so important–the moves become second nature and instinctual. Think in practice and just go hustle and do your best when it comes time for you to compete.
You need to figure out what your mind set in practice is and do that during competition. You are probably relaxed, having fun and wrestling hard. Try and switch up what you are doing in practice with what you are doing in competition.
Kris from Baton Rouge, LA: In your collegiate career was there one match or one opponent that sticks out as the “toughest”? Or because of the constant scrutiny was every match tough? Daniel Cormier comes to mind for me.
Cael: “Hello Kris,
One thing that I learned was that there will always be tough competition. I kind of thought that each year would get easier as I got older and as people graduated. That was not the case and that is why it is so important to continue to work to improve. All people develop at different rates and the more you compete against people, the tougher they get.
When thinking about my college career, several great athletes come to mind. My freshman year, Brandon Eggum and Vertus Jones stand out. Eggum was a very solid and powerful athlete while Jones was quick and explosive. I only wrestled both of them once that year and had the closest match of my college career with Jones in the All-Star match. In the final thirty seconds of the match I tried to lock up a cradle and slipped. If there had been a couple more seconds, Jones probably would have won.
My sophomore year both Jones and Eggum were back and then Cormier stepped in the mix. We had some battles but I really improved a lot between my freshman and sophomore seasons. The closest match my sophomore year was at an open tournament against red shirt Damion Hahn.
My junior year was the toughest. I was feeling the pressure a little and Cormier was very tough. Hahn came into the mix as well–we were set to wrestle several times but it never happened. I wrestled Cormier four times that year—at the ISU vs. OSU dual meet, National Duals, Big 12 Finals and NCAA Finals. We were also scheduled to wrestle at the All-Star match but he couldn’t compete at the last second because of an emergency. Cormier was tough, had great conditioning and was very dangerous. We had some great matches.
Finally, my senior year I moved up a weight class and Jon Trenge was the big competition. Trenge was a tremendous athlete and we had some battles.
The guys I competed against in the NCAA Finals stand out the most in my mind–Cormier, Eggum, Jones, and Trenge. These guys were all tough, and they forced me to continue to work to improve throughout my college career.
Thanks, Cael “
Jake Cambrige from AR: Hey Cael.. What’s a good work out I can do at home or outside of the wrestling mat?
Cael: “Hello Jake,
An excellent workout you can do at home, in a hotel, or anywhere outside a wrestling room is to do shadow matches. A shadow match is where you visualize an opponent and go through all motions of a real match. You will be able to work on both conditioning and technique. It is important to stay in a good stance the entire time. If you can stay in a good stance throughout a real match you have a great chance of winning. It is also productive to throw pushups, high knee jumps, and any other challenging drills into the shadow match every couple minutes.
Mat from Ligonier, IN: This is my fourth year wrestling and I’m trying to get down to 140. I’m around about 150 now and our practice starts on October 31st. I work out everyday and run, but I can’t get the weight off. What should I do? Any eating habits or exercises I should try?
Thanks for your time Mat
To lose weight you have burn more calories then you are taking in. Your calorie intake has probably increased since you started working out. With that being said, I believe in working your weight off. I would suggest that you continue to eat but be aware of the calories you eat. Eat until you are satisfied instead of eating until you are full. Eliminate soda and junk food. At the same time increase your work load. I would suggest putting on sweats immediately after practice ends and run or get a partner and wrestle on the mat for 10-20 minutes. That always worked for me.
Good luck! Cael ”
Sean from Ranco Cucamonga, CA: Cael,
In high school did you find it hard to keep up with school, football, wrestling and other things? I am going to be a junior this coming school year and will be taking the SAT’s to get into college for wrestling and my major. How were you able to handle that? Were you a straight A student?
Cael: “Hello Sean,
The trick to doing several things well is managing your time effectively. That means spending the most time on the things that are the most important. It is very important to keep your goals in mind all of the time. Remembering your goals will help you prioritize your activities. I find it helpful to set daily goals to keep me on track to my long term goals. Try writing your daily goals down on paper each day. List them in order by their importance level and then attack with your best effort!
It might be wise to examine your old habits to see if there are areas where you can eliminate some wasted time. There’s an old saying that really applies to your question. It goes something like this: “it isn’t how much time you put into what you are doing, it is what you are putting into the time that is important.” Get the most out of your time. Get as much out of the couple hours that you spend in practice each day as possible.
I also think that is really important that you enjoy what you are doing. Enjoy the hard work that you are putting into reaching your goals! Look forward to each new day because you have an opportunity to make progress towards your goals.
Attack your goals!
David P. from Macomb, IL: Cael,
Have you ever considered getting into mixed martial arts? In light of the growing popularity of the sport through the UFC, many of the fighters have strong wrestling backgrounds and given your credentials, I was just curious if you ever wanted to try your hand. –Mike (San Diego, CA)
I was wondering what you think of mixed martial arts becoming very popular in the U.S.? Do you believe that it is helping the sport of wrestling by encouraging men to learn the sport to be able to use it in MMA, or do you think it steals wrestlers and fans? Finally, would you encourage MMA as an alternative form of competition for your wrestlers after graduation? Thanks!
I have gotten this question a number of times so I will answer it. I haven’t really considered getting into the mixed martial arts and/or the UFC. I find it fascinating but not for me. I have a ton of respect for the fighters and I cheer for the former wrestlers. But, if I had continued to compete after the Olympics it would have been in wrestling.
I don’t think MMA steals wrestlers and fans, I think MMA actually gives wrestling more publicity. I also think it makes wrestling look more like a martial art.
Lastly, I wouldn’t recommend or not recommend it to former wrestlers because I haven’t done it myself and I don’t fully understand what it entails. I would hope each individual would make that decision for themselves—what’s good for some people may not be good for others.
Danny R. from Baldwin Park, CA: When I am in the medal rounds at tournaments I am usually seeded but I get intimidated beacause in my mind I think my opponent must be really good for getting this far and I end up losing the match. What can I do to prepare myself for those important matches?
It is important to take control of your thoughts. Your thoughts and focus should not change from match to match. Your focus should be on your own best effort and the simple things that make you wrestle well. The simpler your focus is the better. Be consistent-give your best effort every time- whether it’s the first match of the tournament or the finals. Let your opponents get intimidated while your focus remains the same. Train your mind. Replace any negative thoughts. The fact is that you are in the medal rounds so you must be really good. Make sure your thoughts are helping you.
A good example I just saw was from the movie Troy. In the movie, Hector gives his brother Paris some great advice before his sword fight with a man who is more skilled and experienced than he is. Paris tries to tell Hector that if he dies, tell his girlfriend that he loves her and a few other similar things when Hector interrupts him and says “you focus on your sword and his sword and nothing else!” That is a great example of simplifying your focus. Focus on the essentials and nothing else.
Alex B. from Ottawa: How did you get such a fast leg attack? Are there any exercises I can do to become quicker?
I believe the key to quick shots is positioning and set ups. You can slightly increase your speed by “throwing you hands” more when you attack and through explosive exercises. If you want to attack more effectively you need to find different ways to get your opponent off balance and out of position before you attack. It doesn’t matter how quick you are, without a set up it will be tough to score on a solid opponent. Use you hands and/ or motion to get the advantage. Look for angles- attack when and where your opponent is weak.
Head position is key. If your head is higher than your opponent’s, you are at the disadvantage. Get the dominant head position and don’t be satisfied to be “even” in a tie up. Control the tie up and then create angles to attack from.
If you like to wrestle from the outside, you need to fake attacks and still use your hands to create openings. Quickness is timing. Anticipate the outcome of a set up so you are attacking just before it opens up, instead of waiting for the opening. If you wait for the opening then it is probably too late to go for the easy attack and finish. Timing comes from quality drilling. Drill your set ups just like you drill your attacks. The great thing about wrestling is that you can make up for whatever weakness you have in other areas and with hustle. Hustle, Hustle, Hustle!!
Mike L. from Richmond, VA: My son Mikey is 9 yrs old and just had his first winning season. My questions are: Which camp would be more important at this point, a technique or a training camp? What can I do to ensure wrestling remains fun for him? What type of exercise/training can we do here at home to help?
I think a less-intense technique camp would be the best option for your son. That way Mikey can have a fun experience and improve as a wrestler at the same time.
In my opinion, the easiest way to make wrestling fun is to not put any pressure on him to win, just encourage him to do his best. Then be consistent.
At his young age, I don’t think it is important to train at home, especially if you have a decent kid’s program in your area. I would also have him participate in other sports. Wrestling was my family’s main sport but we still played soccer, baseball, swimming, and football. Mikey has a lot of time, take it slow. Everyone is different, so let him determine (with a little help from you) the pace at which you guys will step things up. That should help Mikey over the long term so he remains hungry for wrestling through high school, college and beyond.
Thanks! Cael “
Paige E. from Mesa, AZ: My little brother has been wrestling his whole life and I support him in every way I can. What do you think was the best thing your family did to support you?
I think the approach my parents took with my brothers and I was the best thing they could have done to support us. They were there to support our best effort, win or lose, and we knew it. They were consistent. They expected our best effort in practice, school and competition.
I think it is important for your younger brother to know that you’re there to support him and be there with him, rather than to watch him win. He’s probably facing enough pressure from himself—-as an older sibling or parent, you are the most important people in his life and he doesn’t want to disappoint you. Be a source of support and comfort, not someone with expectations. Encourage him to give his best effort and let him know you’re proud of him win or lose.
Abner Roman from Flowery Branch, GA: I am a high school wrestler and I have trouble finishing my favorite shot, “the low single.” I’ve wrestled a lot of good wrestlers over the years and I always get the shot and the ankle but have trouble finishing it. Any tips on good finishes?”
The key to finishing any shot is to finish quickly. When you are drilling takedowns, always drill through the finish. Make it a habit to shoot and finish in one motion instead of shooting and stopping. The two things I like to think about when finishing takedowns are “head up” and “hips in.” Leave no space between you and your opponent. If your head is up and your hips are in (under you) than you have a great chance to finish.
The low single can be tricky to finish. The low single is just like all of the other takedowns, and getting to the ankle is only half the battle. Finish quickly. Get your head up and hips under you. It is very common for wrestlers to catch the ankle and then try to finish depending on their opponent’s reaction. It is easy to develop bad habits like this in folk style because you can scramble and roll around (even across your back) to finish takedowns. This was something I had to improve on before the Olympics.
After you hit your low single, get your head up and your butt down. If you can, immediately get your head on the inside of your opponent’s knee on the same leg that you have the ankle. Then, use your head to bend his knee as you pull the foot out and towards you. As you are doing this, swing your free arm around the free leg as you are circling that same direction with your body. This is the “go to” and easiest finish if you get to the ankle in a quick and surprise fashion.
If your opponent has been able to drop his body weight and lock you up, then you want to get to the “sit out” position. Basically, you want to get your head up, your hips under you to make them heavy, and then pressure back into your opponent. By putting pressure back into your opponent, he has to use his hands to stay off his back and hold position rather than use his hands against you.
I believe the most commonly taught finish is what we call going out the “back door.” The problem with the “back door” is that you go away from your opponent and turn back into him. When you move away, you take all of the pressure off him, giving your opponent a good chance to lock up your ankles, which can lead to a stalemate.
To get to the “sit out” position, you need to get your hips under you and your head up. Then get your feet out in front of you by shifting your feet to the side and pressing your butt back. The entire time you want to put pressure back into your opponent. If your opponent has your ankles, rock your weight around to get your toe(s) on the mat. Get your weight on them so your opponent can’t lift them off the ground. After you get your weighted toes on the mat, shift your butt to the side and pressure back into the “sit out” position.
In any scramble situation, when your opponent has your ankle, get the bottom of your feet on the mat to take back control. Your legs are much stronger when your feet are on the ground and in their working position. Once your feet are on the ground, get weight on them and your opponent won’t have much power. He will no longer be able to control your ankle. Now you are sitting on your butt– lean your upper body forward for balance as you pressure back with your hips. Pressure back into him and keep your weight as low as possible. A good scrambler will roll you through if your hips aren’t heavy and low to the mat. Drive back into your opponent by driving off your feet. Keep your hips under you and your head up- almost in the fetal position. Also, it is important to keep your opponent’s foot close to your head. Put some pressure on the ankle by pulling and bending it over your shoulder. Now, take your time and continue pressuring back into him. Put your opponent on his back and he should give up the takedown. Look for the pin. Look to turn back for the takedown.
Be patient; keep your hips low and heavy, as experienced scramblers are waiting for your hips to get too light and come up so they can roll you through. Get to this position and you have a much greater chance of finishing the takedown. There are several different ways to score, but these are the fundamentals that will lead to everything else. If you are looking for more options I know John Smith has some great videos out on the low single, which I grew up calling the “John Smith Low Single,” since he literally invented the move.
Good luck with everything, I hope this makes sense and helps!
Ray Harris fom Selah, WA: I am the youngest of six boys. I was a coach and am now the father of 4 boys; 9,6,3 and 1 year old. I have seen so many high school coaches push their own children too far. My question is how do you know when you want it more than they do and how far did your Dad push?
Cael: “Steve Sanderson, Cael’s father and high school wrestling coach:
Cael passed this question on to me. I understand your question and your concerns, as I had those same concerns. I am not sure that this will answer your question or concerns, but it was my way through.
As a young coach I remember wondering how to transfer the love and passion I had for wrestling to the wrestlers that I worked with. I tried to do it by example; by running, lifting, and by wrestling with my wrestlers. I studied hard to find the components of a program that would help me build a program that would help me be successful as a coach. As I was doing this, I often asked myself, “Why do I want this success worse than the kids in the program?” I was going to make them successful and I was going to make them love this sport and be good whether they wanted to or not.
When I moved to Wasatch, I worked hard to establish the program. My kids were young, just getting started, just reaching the age to enroll in our recreation program. I kept thinking about how I would like them to develop and trying to factor in the that they were coach’s sons. The pressure would be on me to push them harder and farther so they could be the best. The nightmare continued when I got home and got the lecture about making sure that my sons received their share of my time and that I was spending my best time and patience with everyone else’s children. I remember the day I noticed what my wife had been talking about. At this particular practice, I thought I was showing something of critical value and my sons didn’t seem to be paying attention. I screamed at them.
Just a note, on numerous occasions, after running around, playing with bugs in the corner or some other disapproving activity, I would ask Cole to repeat everything I had said in explanation of some technique. He would start back 5 minutes earlier than I requested. He would use the same sarcastic tone, the same Heber English, and he wouldn’t miss a syllable.
Cael also did what he could to test me. He always had the ability to watch a move and immediately be able to include it in his repertoire of moves. So, he would act like he was not paying attention, would make sarcastic comments whenever he could get away with it, he would join in whatever non-wrestling activities were happening. As quickly as we would start scrimmaging, he would make sure I was watching, and then he would demonstrate the move, and then smile and wink at me.
I realized that I was treating my kids worst of all. I decided at that point that what I had been doing would change. By reevaluating the way I was treating my sons, I was able to get to a point where I could treat all of the young people as my own children. I treated them with love and respect. It was at this point that the success of our program took off. It helped me learn to coach from the positive side.
When it came to activities, I left a lot of what the family was doing up to them, with conditions. “Where do we want to wrestle this summer? Okay, these are the things we need to do to be competitive. If you are willing to do those things, we will go.” I refused to take them if they hadn’t followed the preset training schedule. I did the same things with the club kids. (No workout, no travel) Also, if they didn’t want to go, we didn’t go. Each one of them has expressed thanks that they aren’t coming through now, with a world or universe championship every weekend. You have to carefully choose what and when you want to compete so that your kids learn to wrestle on your schedule. When Cyler was young, I received all kinds of criticism from wrestling “crazies;” why aren’t you attending all the national competitions? Why aren’t you pushing him hard? Why don’t you list his credentials on the website for everyone to see? As I explained on our website, I wanted him to develop at the rate that he wants to develop at and that I wanted him learn to play the game without having to worry about success or to have to justify a loss or not participating or even listen to the words of other wrestlers who had beaten him that wanted to say, “I beat Cael’s brother,” as if that were something personal between the kid and Cael.
I feel like God’s greatest blessings have been my sons, my family. They were the most important things in my life. I wasn’t going to let a win or a loss, a good practice or bad practice, wrestling or something else worthwhile wasn’t going to come between my boys and me. I helped them understand that what I was doing was for them and when they decided that they had other interests, we would pursue those interests with the same intensity. Our family followed those other interests as much as we did wrestling. When we went to the Olympics, we assured Cael that we didn’t go to watch him win. The family went to watch him participate in the games. We were there because he was there, we went to support him, win, lose, or draw.
Eventually, I realized that I was teaching children and parents to play a game, just a game. I tried to provide the opportunities that would help the wrestlers achieve their dreams. I tried to remove myself from other people’s dreams. When they dream the dreams, they will seek the fulfillment of those dreams. My job is to support in any way that I can.
Don’t misunderstand me, as I am as competitive as the next person and I don’t mean to sound preachy. I enjoy the victory as much as anybody and have tried to work hard to maintain successful programs, to keep that enjoyment, but when times get crazy, I keep reminding myself that it is just a game.
Is it more than a game? What is it that you hope to gain from your son’s success?
Be thankful that your kids have the physical ability to participate, be most thankful that you have the time to spend with them in an activity where you can help them learn some valuable lessons, least of which is winning. Cherish the time with your children, it goes by quickly.
Having had a son who achieved the ultimate in this sport, I can tell you that we are extremely proud of him and what he has accomplished because he has been able to maintain those things that are most important: integrity, humility, a sense of who he is. Our best times haven’t been in Madison Square Garden or even the halls of Ano Liosia, but the quiet times we spent as a family; the few days we spent on Santorini after the Games were over, sitting around doing a family puzzle at Christmas time, and maybe even the times we have had visiting over dinner when everyone in there. As Cael moves into coaching, if he can continue to be positive and to treat each of the kids in his program as he would treat his own brother, he is going to be incredible.
Is there a bigger prize than that? ”
Mike R. from Oak Harbor, OH: How does one mentally prepare themselves for a tough match, a tough practice, and any other dificult obstacle in front of them? Or, what kind of mind-set must you have to overcome these tasks? What did you do to prepare yourself for such?
Cael: “Hello Mike,
I think the key to mental toughness is to understand and accept that you are responsible for everything you think. It has been my experience that most people think that they are victims of their thoughts. This is false. This attitude will severely limit your progress and success. The fact is that YOU are in control of everything YOU think. Take control of your thoughts–especially in tough times and pressure situations. Always think positive. When you do have negative thoughts, replace them immediately–don’t entertain them. Know that you are in control of what you are thinking at all times. Simplify your thoughts and focus on what’s important. Focus on giving your best effort–every time, every practice and every match. Focus only on what will help you accomplish your mission. Before a match, all you need to think about are the few things that will help you wrestle well. Put yourself in the “eye of the hurricane.” Forget about all of the things that are out of your control, like the big crowd, the pressure, what you’ve eaten or not eaten, you’re not wearing your lucky socks, your opponent’s intimidating Asics shoes, etc. It doesn’t matter whether you are on the mat competing, training hard, or lying in bed the night before your match–be your own greatest ally.
When you’re training hard- don’t focus on how tired you are. Focus on giving your best effort. Focus on how great of a workout you are getting. Think about how you are taking steps towards your goals. Attack whatever challenge you are faced with your best effort. What more can you do then your best? Nothing! So be calm and confident, and trust that your best effort is good enough.
Of course, “give your best effort” is easier said then done. Very few people train past their own comfort zone. Push past your comfort zone- that is when you will make the most progress. Give your best effort at all times and you will have a lot to be very proud of.
Aaron J. from IA: What do you think helps make a good wrestler become great?
Cael: “I think a key (maybe the key) to becoming a great wrestler is by making a TOTAL commitment to your goals. A total commitment is being committed to your goals at all times and in all places. In good times and bad, tough times and not so tough- your goals must come first. If you set lofty goals they must be your number one priority if you truly intend to reach them.
Of course, there are more important things than your goals–like your family, religion, being a moral person, etc. However, none of these things will keep you from your goals. In fact, they should only help you reach them. When I was wrestling in college and training for the Olympics, I was totally committed to doing my very best. Besides my family and religion, everything else came second to accomplishing my mission.
It has been my experience that few people are totally committed to their goals. I feel that the majority of people are casually committed to their goals. To me, a casual commitment means someone is committed when it is convenient. A casual commitment will not get you through.
If something is not contributing to you reaching your goals, then eliminate it. A total commitment is the realistic approach to reaching your goals. With a total commitment you don’t question whether you want to get out of bed at 5:40am when your alarm goes off–you jump out of bed. You don’t debate taking short cuts because you know what is more important to you. Be totally committed to getting the sleep you need. Be totally committed to getting the proper nutrition. If you’re cutting weight, eat healthy foods instead of better-tasting junk food. You will feel better, you will be stronger and your weight will come off easier.
It all comes down to how important your goals are to you. If you have to make some difficult sacrifices, make them. There are so many examples of what a total commitment is. Everyone is a little different, and everyone will have different obstacles and challenges.
A total commitment will help you get through tough times. Think long term. Something might be easier and/or more fun today, but what will be more satisfying in the long run? It is important to have fun, but not at the expense of your goals. Nothing is more fun than reaching your goals! ”
Luis from Winston-Salem, NC: Do you think that wrestlers who have been wrestling since they were little have a better chance to wrestle in college and become an overall better wrestler than those who started in middle or high school?
Cael: “The answer is no, not necessarily. It is definitely an advantage to have wrestled longer, but as the saying goes “it is not where you start, but where you finish, that matters.” Some of the U.S.’s best wrestlers started wrestling in high school, like Mark Schultz, who became an NCAA, World, and Olympic Champion.
An experienced wrestler may have more opportunities to receive an athletic scholarship because they may be more established or less of a risk to invest in, but that doesn’t mean they will automatically be a more successful wrestler. Often times, kids that walk on to a college wrestling program will beat out kids on scholarship.
Obviously, the more experience (mat time) an athlete has, the better. But experience is not the only factor that determines how successful a wrestler will be. There are several other factors to consider, including: attitude, technical skills, physical talent, athlete’s willingness to be coached, quality of coaching, quality of workout partners, support from family, etc. There is no exact formula for success.
Everyone is different, but your attitude is the most important factor. Whether you have 1000 matches or 50 matches under your belt, if you are totally committed to reaching your goals, you can.
Regardless of past successes or failures, the future is unknown. All we know is that there will be ten NCAA champions every March. It is up to the wrestlers to determine who will be on top. The wrestler who is motivated, passionate and having fun has the advantage. The wrestler who works to get better at every opportunity has the best chance to become the best overall wrestler. The wrestler who goes to practice everyday with a purpose- the purpose to get better- will improve at a much quicker rate than the average athlete. Then the less successful wrestlers will gain on those with more experience, and those who are already successful will distance themselves from the competition.
You can always improve your game. Take small steps everyday and it won’t matter when or where you started- you will get to where you want to go. “
Javonni from Milwaukee, WI: Cael, I know you have probably never had this problem, but what should you do when people are putting you down about wrestling because it’s not cool or something? What should you say to those people and how should you react?
Cael: “Hello Javonni,
If this is Javonni from our 24-day camp at ISU this summer, what’s up? I hope that shoulder is feeling better. I miss running you into the wall with the old pick-to-double routine. Good luck this season. Hopefully, we’ll see you again next summer.
In answer to your question, I think it is important to remember that there will always be people who do not agree with what you do or what you say. Some people would criticize Grizzly Adams for having a beard. It is important that you continue to do the things you like and stand for the things you believe in, regardless of the criticism you may receive. Think long term. The older you become, the more you will cherish the sport of wrestling and what it does for you.
I think there are two main reasons people criticize wrestling and wrestlers. First, they are unfamiliar with the sport. It is human nature to fear the unknown, and it is much easier to criticize something than try and understand it. I would suggest that you encourage these people to give wrestling a try. I have met very few people who have tried wrestling and didn’t like it.
Second, people criticize wrestling because it is an extremely tough sport. It is much easier to criticize wrestling than participate in it. Wrestling is one of the toughest sports in the world–probably the toughest. Therefore, wrestlers have to be some of the toughest people in the world. It takes a great deal of courage to step out on a mat and face an equal opponent in a one-on-one format. You either win or you lose, and you alone are completely responsible for your successes and failures. That can be scary to a lot of people. Criticizing the sport is a lot easier than “putting it on the line” and actually participating.
In my opinion, all sports are fun, but nothing compares to wrestling, and I am proud to be a wrestler. Consider these facts and you will always be proud to be a wrestler as well.
Kari from Mosul, Iraq (UT): Hey Cael, good to see you coaching – you have always had the right personality for it!
My question is this – what are you doing now as you are older and more mature to develop your comfort level in the media and fame? (Even as a kid this was tough for you! How’s it going? Keep up the good work!)
Cael: “Once again, sorry for the delay in answering a question.
First of all Kari- you are a great American. Thank you for serving our country and the entire world with your service in the military. I know that soldiers like yourself ensure the freedom that allows people like myself to chase our dreams. Thank you very much. To answer your question- everything is going very well for me. I love coaching at Iowa State and look forward to each day.
In answer to your question about dealing with the media and fame, you are right, I have never been very good or excited about either. My focus as an athlete was simply to reach my goals. I viewed the media as an outside distraction that I had to deal with. When I was dealing with the media around the undefeated streak in college, Coach Douglas told me, “You created this mess. You need to deal with it.” I guess it is better to be dealing with the media than not because that probably means that you are closing in on your goals.
My dad helped me to understand that the media doesn’t care whether you win or lose as long as they get their story. They are just people trying to do their job. That’s the reality of it, and if you can remember to view it in that light, it’s not that difficult. Overall, practice has helped me to be to be a little more comfortable with the media.
I’m not famous, but my family and I have been fortunate to have some awesome opportunities because of wrestling. It was cool when I went to the the ESPY awards and a lot of the famous athletes in different sports actually knew who I was. I will never be famous, but winning a gold medal in wrestling has definitely opened some doors for me and my family.
I hope you’re doing well in Iraq. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. “
Ivan Gaeta from Bremerton, Wash.: Why did you get redshirted in college?
Cael: “Coach (Bobby) Douglas pretty much redshirts all of his student-athletes their first year. I believe a redshirt year is in the best interest of every student-athlete. It might not be the best thing for the team, but it would be difficult to argue that a redshirt year isn’t the best thing for the athlete.
Pat Smith won his first of four NCAA titles without a redshirt year. That is an unbelievable accomplishment. I needed my reshirt year. Coming out of high school, I needed the year to prepare for college wrestling. I needed to get stronger and I needed to take my wrestling up a notch. My redshirt year I had an incredible training situation. I learned a lot. My training partners and coaches were Barry Weldon, Derek Mountsier, Bart Horton, Matt Mulvihill, Chris Bono, and Charles Burton. You will get better training in a college room for a year. If you go to practice everyday with the goal to get better, you will make great progress.
A redshirt year is not a year off. You need to get in as many matches as possible. You should compete in open tournaments and freestyle tournaments throughout the year. Prepare to get the most out of your four years of NCAA eligibility.”
Ty from Rocklin, Calif.: I have trouble scoring on bottom. What do you think are some key things to focus on when going for a escape or a reversal?
Cael: “The keys to escaping and reversals are hand control and clearing your hips. Be patient when on bottom. Hold a strong base until you can get a hand. When you grab your opponents hand – grab all of their fingers if you can. If you only grab their wrist you still have a hand to deal with. After you secure one hand block their free hand from getting under your other arm. Keep your elbow in and keep their arm on the outside of yours. Now you’re out.
Nobody should be able to hold you down with one hand. If you can get both of their hands – even better. Don’t let go of the hand/or hands until you have completely escaped. Wrestlers often release the hand control too early and their opponents are able to shoot and avoid giving up the escape. Try keeping the hand control after you’ve escaped and turn it into your favorite tie-up on your feet.
It is important that you are aware that you must clear your hips. All of the common escapes (the sit out, granby, switch, and stand-up) involve clearing your hips. On the flip side this should tell you that when you’re on top you need to control and/or attack your opponent’s hips. It will be very helpful when executing these escapes to pressure back into your opponent. Most wrestlers try to go forward and away from their opponent. When pressuring back – pressure back with your hips. Keep your hips low and heavy to the mat. Don’t pressure back into your opponent with your upper body. Get hand control and use it to get your hips clear. Change up what you do on the whistle. It is much easier for your opponent to control you if they know what you’re going to do. Put two, three, four, or how ever many, moves it takes together to escape.”
Question: What is the best way to get colleges to pay attention to me?
Cael: “I believe the best way to get colleges to pay attention to you is to wrestle in Spring and Summer regional and national tournaments. By wrestling in off-season regional and national tournaments, you show college coaches how you stack up nationally and you give them a chance to watch you compete. College coaches monitor the national and regional tournaments closely. With the majority of the states having three or four divisions in them, I’m guessing that there are around 150 state champions in each weight class each year across the nation. So it is important to separate yourself from the competition every chance you get. Compete outside your state.
Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t winning the big tournaments. Remember that there are over a hundred college wrestling programs looking to fill there rosters. Don’t avoid bigger tournaments because you don’t want to lose. The more you compete the better you will be. The better your competition is the more you will learn. You should be able to get a season or two worth of matches in the off-season. All college coaches have different strategies in what they’re looking for in possible recruits. They aren’t necessarily looking at the guys winning in high school. They are looking for kids that they think will be the best college wrestlers. For example, my first priority in looking at recruits is their attitude. There are several attributes that come before actual winning when looking at a high school recruit.
You need to do your very best in school. After a college coach finds out that you’re a good wrestler, the next thing they look at is your grades. Your grades are very important. There is a new NCAA rule that penalizes NCAA teams for athletes that become ineligible and not return to the roster or leave their institution before graduating. So coaches will have to be even more careful in the future when recruiting athletes with poor grades and study habits. Do your best in school – it will pay off. Remember that there are many academic scholarships available.
It is also important for college coaches to know that you are committed to the sport and that you enjoy wrestling and competing year-round. If you aren’t willing to train during the summer in high school, then you probably won’t be in college either. This puts you at a great disadvantage because the off-season is the best time to improve. This doesn’t mean that you have to wrestle every day of the year. In fact I think it is important to get time away from the sport to refresh your mind and body. Before high school my brothers and I played several sports – football, baseball, and soccer. I played football in high school, but wrestled most of the year. We had breaks after the high school season and between bigger tournaments.
Show that you are committed to becoming the best college wrestler that you can be. Be a great student, train hard, compete hard, and wrestle in big off-season tournaments.”
Drew from Lakeland, FL: What is your take on losing weight and when is enough, enough?
Cael: “Weight-cutting is a tricky subject. I am not a big fan of cutting weight, especially with kids. It is common to think that you need to go down a weight class to be more competitive. This isn’t necessarily the truth. I think you should be pretty close to your competition weight after working out and eating healthy. You need to be going to practice to get better everyday – not to lose weight.
I’ve watched several athletes go up instead of down and do much better than they were doing cutting to the lower weight class. Putting weight on will probably be a better option than taking it off. If you’re a little lighter than you’d like to be for your weight class then make up for it in different areas. Work hard – make conditioning a factor. Improve your technique. Spend extra time getting bigger and stronger. A great attitude will beat a few pounds any day – especially long-term.
You will be a more successful wrestler if you’re happy and focused on getting better. Obviously each person will be a little different when it comes to coming to cutting weight. Some people are better at it than others. If you need to cut weight to make your college or high school team – then do it correctly. Workout more, eat healthy and drink water instead of pop.
To make my Olympic weight I would stop drinking soda at least three weeks before I needed make weight. Something else that I would do is run with sweats on after practice. It simply takes discipline to cut weight correctly. Be disciplined and you will feel much better and you’ll get better results.
Do not starve your weight off – work it off. I think it is more common in high school to starve weight off because wrestlers just don’t know any better. Workout after practice. It isn’t that hard to keep your sweat going for awhile. Work out more so you can eat more.
I would recommend that young wrestlers (fifth grade and younger) don’t cut weight at all. I think this is the best long-term solution. Wrestling is tough already and, as you know, there is no sport like it. There is no other sport that can teach you what wrestling will. Keep your kids in wrestling by making sure they are having fun. Don’t put pressure on them to win and don’t make them cut weight. Your kids will become better wrestlers. Some of the kids I remember being the toughest wrestlers when I was young didn’t make it long in the sport. Thinking back I realize they were the ones that were being pushed hard by their parents.
Between fifth grade and high school I don’t think wrestlers should lose more than a couple of pounds. That might mean eating a salad the night before weigh-in or running in sweats for a few minutes before stepping on the scale. I wouldn’t suggest doing much more than that. Allow your wrestler to decide what weight they want to go. If they decide they want give up a few pounds or lose a few pounds – support them. Let them decide. Remember that they are the one that has to step out on the mat. Also remember that a little weight is a lot more for a little wrestler. Make the sport fun for your wrestler. Wrestling is just a sport – the greatest sport, but just a sport. All of this talk of weight cutting has made me thirsty. – Cael”
J from Smyrna, TN: I’m not that good at my takedowns. Could you tell me how to get the confidence to shoot and take someone down?
Cael: “I believe that the key to being successful and confident with your takedowns is to focus on the set ups. Focus on getting your opponent out of position before you attack. There are several ways to get your opponent off balance and out of position. Use effort and motion, pull their head down, use fake shots, and use your hands and feet to pull them into your attacks. By focusing on set-ups and working on them throughout the match you will increase your opportunities to get takedowns. Most wrestlers wait for their shots to open up. If you wait- you may only get a few opportunities the entire match. Make your opponents step where you want them to step, force them to move where you want them to move. By doing this you will drastically increase your opportunities to score.
When actually shooting, think of a football tackle. Attack your opponent like you’re playing football. Get your head up and your hips in. Go through them. When finishing your shots, leave no space between you and your opponent. Space is weakness. Your body does follow your head- so look where you want to go. Also, the quicker the finish the easier it will be. When drilling in practice- drill all the way to control. Don’t just shoot and stop. You will do this in competition. This is something I worked really hard on before the Olympics. Quick hard finishes can not be stopped.”
Jake(Orange, CA): What inspired you throughout your wrestling career? Did you ever just want to quit but your parents wouldn’t let you? Or was it the success of your brothers?
Cael: “My family has always inspired me throughout my wrestling career. I’ve always looked up to my parents and brothers. My wife Kelly really inspired me and helped me win the gold medal in the darkest year of my life. She gave me support when I needed it and she told me to “suck it up and get tough” when I needed it. My family has been everything to me. I followed my brothers around from a very early age all the way through college. I learned how to work hard from them. They literally were the first ones to practice and last ones to leave everyday. We shared a car so my ride wasn’t leaving until the last brother- so I was also putting all of the extra time in. Surround yourself with people that have similar high goals as yourself, that will inspire you and push you to be your best. There are times for playing and times for working.
My father was my wrestling coach growing up and through high school. I never even thought about quitting wrestling. My father’s approach with us was very successful. He never put pressure on us to win. He only expected us to do our very best- both in school, training, and competition. Now that I am trying to be a coach, I am really seeing how incredibly valuable my father’s approach with us was. If you are a parent or coach I would highly advise to take this approach. Only put pressure on your athletes/ kids to do their very best, and be proud and positive with them if they do, regardless of the outcome. Kids will put plenty of pressure on themselves to win. I know from my personal viewpoint as an athlete, it kills me to think that my family, wife, and coaches would be or are disappointed in me if I lose. Wrestlers whose parents put a lot of pressure on them to win, instead of doing their best, don’t last very long in a tough sport like wrestling. If they do last, their chances of reaching their full potential are slim. Parents- you should want your kids to be successful for them. If you want your kids to be successful for you then there is a problem. Thank you dad!
What a frightening thought- to have the people you love the most- be disappointed in you. However, my dad wasn’t afraid to tell us that we weren’t working hard enough. Come to think of it- neither was my mother. I vividly remember a few times my mom didn’t think I did my best or she thought I was afraid of someone. I’ll just say that she didn’t think this was acceptable. If our grades weren’t excellent- there were no extra-curricular activities. If my father didn’t feel that we were training hard enough- he wasn’t going to take us around the country to tournaments that we weren’t prepared for. Then once we got to the tournament- it was always “we didn’t come here to win- we came here to fight!” Focus only on your best effort in training and competition and you will get your best result. Nothing changes from the first match of the season to the last. You putting forth your best effort. Easier said than done, but if you do this – you will maximize your success.”
Lance from Atlanta, Ga.: Take us through your match preparation, please. What aspects are you concentrating on, how early before your matches do you begin to prepare and is there a routine you’ve developed?
Cael: “I apologize for the delay in answering this week’s question. This has been an incredibly busy week. I believe that every individual’s ideal match preparation will be a little different. Wrestlers need to learn from their own experiences in preparing for matches. If you feel great or terrible – take note. Continue to learn until you find the routine that will make you feel your best.
First of all I think it is very important to realize that everything isn’t going to be perfect before you compete. Expect problems and adversity. Don’t let them affect your performance. Don’t rely on anything, because sooner or later you’ll forget your lucky pair of socks or sports drink. Know that you will do your best with what you have.
My physical match preparation isn’t much different than anyone else’s. I like to eat 4-5 hours before I compete. If I have a match at nine in the morning, I set the alarm to eat breakfast at 4 am. In a college/ high school match situation where you compete an hour after competition I make the preparations to eat my meal (sandwich or whatever) 4-5 hours before match time. I would work out accordingly to be able to do this. Usually about an hour before my match I try and get a good warm up by running/sprinting for 10 or so minutes. Then I would stretch and drill for about 10 minutes. I finish up by blowing out my lungs with something like three one minute full-speed drill cycles. I would then play it by feel, by staying loose, relaxed and focused.
One great way for coaches to help their athletes find their best warm-up is to have practices where they simply tell their athletes that they have a match at a certain time. It is the athletes responsibility to arrive, warm-up and be ready to compete at that exact time. Coach Jackson had us do this several times this summer in preparation for the Games. Coach Jackson also increased the intensity and took this experience to the next level with some creativity. Prior to our matches, he had all of the bystanders in the room loudly chanting to create the experience we’d be facing during competition from opposing the countries’ great fans. This small addition made a huge difference in the success of the practice.
The goal in my mental match preparation is to keep my thoughts as simple as possible. Concentrate on the few things that will help you wrestle your best match. Focus on the fight (doing your best.) You can always do your best, regardless of the circumstances. Focus on performance instead of the results. Just like with your physical warm up- you should learn from your own experiences. Know that you are in control of your thoughts and feelings. Use them to your advantage.”
Question: “My question concerns your conditioning and what you do to get in shape and stay in shape. Do you get tired in your matches and how do you push yourself when you’re tired? Also, what is your mindset when you are tired, behind on points and can’t seem to score?”
Cael: “Hello everyone- thank you for taking the time to send in your questions this week.
I believe the best way to increase your match conditioning is to wrestle at a higher pace in practice. Get more tired in your practice than you do in matches. Take more shots, contend every situation and wrestle every second. If you get taken down, no big deal. Immediately work to escape.
Wrestle smart, work on your areas of concentration, but pick up the pace. This is in addition to the running, sprints, push-ups, pull-ups and etc. that you’re already doing. Push yourself when you’re tired in practice and it will be much easier to do it in matches.
Focus on scoring as many points as you can. Work to get better everyday – with technique and conditioning. When I need to score I focus on the set-ups, not the shots. Strong set-ups are the key. Focus on the set-ups and you’ll be on your opponents leg before you know it.”