Good agility leads to a good defense. It’s something every wrestler needs to be successful, because if you can sprawl and defend shots, you won’t give up many points, which will keep you in matches.
The biggest thing when defending a shot is to match your opponent’s body level. If his head and body drop, you should drop to that same level—or he’ll be able to get to your legs pretty easily. Mirroring his body makes him have to go through your head and hands to get to your legs, and that’s difficult to do. Make sure to keep your head at your opponent’s height or lower at all times.
If your opponent happens to get in on your legs, the most important thing to do is to keep his head from looking up. Stuff his head down with your hands. Also, sprawl your legs backward and apply pressure into him with your hips. The further his arms are from his body, the weaker he becomes. When you sprawl, put your laces in the mat. That way, if your opponent drives into you, your toes won’t dig into the mat, which aids his cause of driving you up. You want him to drive you out-of-bounds.
To improve our agility, we use sport-specific drills that directly translate to good defense on the mat. I like having our athletes work on defending a partner’s shot at half speed. This allows them to slow down and really work on technique.
Partner Sprawling Drill
Perform at half speed with a partner as a warm-up every day for 2 minutes
Cues for Partner:
• Change head and body level 2-3 times
• Perform shots, trying to get to wrestler’s legs
• Retreat from shot; perform again
Cues for Wrestler:
• Match or get lower than partner’s head and body level
• Work on stuffing his head, sprawling, applying hip pressure and putting your laces in the mat
• Get back in position quickly to match opponent’s level
Coaching Point: Make sure you really stress technique when going through this drill. Work on keeping hip pressure and stuffing the head to try to break free.
Ron Anspach is the assistant coach of the Hofstra Pride wrestling team, which claimed its sixth straight CAA Championship in 2006.