It’s a well-known fact in folkstyle wrestling that the bottom position is the least practiced. However to dominate the mat, you must be great in all positions, including neutral, top and, yes, even bottom.
If you spent any time last season stuck underneath a great top wrestler, you know what I’m talking about. The most basic escape is the stand. You must know the technique for this and practice it often. All versions of the escape require three things:
1. Gain back pressure
On the bottom, you must recognize that the top man is trying to drive you forward and put weight on your hands to either ride you out or break you to your belly. You cannot allow him to do this. Learn how to pressure back into your opponent, get the weight off your hands and get your head up.
When you’re on your back and fighting to stand, know that your opponent is going to latch on or adjust in a fight to keep you down. You must be able to free yourself from his grasp as you stand. Keep your elbows in and attack one of his hands with both of your hands.
3. Sheer away
Once you’re on your feet, it’s not enough to turn and face your opponent. You must maintain your back pressure and pivot into him, lowering your level as you do.
Here are three types of stand-up maneuvers that you must be familiar with, along with the breakdown moves that they counter.
Folkstyle Wrestling Maneuvers
Off the whistle or takedown, your opponent chops at a near elbow, pulls it in—perhaps to a two-on-one or cross-wrist lock—and drives you forward in an attempt to break you down to your belly.
Response: Inside Stand
The trick to a solid inside stand is three-fold. First, you must have great back pressure that meets and stops your opponent’s forward progress. He will drive you forward and get weight on your hands as he attempts to get you to your belly. Don’t let this happen. Get your head up and throw your shoulders back into him. Then, as soon as you can, get that inside leg out as a post before he drives you onto your face. Push off of that leg and drive yourself into a standing position. Finally, you must handfight the whole time to keep him from lifting you or dropping down to your leg.
Breakdown: Spiral Ride
Your opponent snakes his far hand around your waist and locks onto your inner thigh, while his close hand wraps under your near armpit or up to a claw. He then drives you forward and spirals toward the claw hand in an attempt to break you down to a hip and gain wrist control.
Response: Spiral Stand
The spiral stand is simple. Your opponent is trying to spiral you down to a hip. Counter this by beating him to the punch, spiraling up with his motion and peeling his hands as you do so. Go with his spiral motion and corkscrew yourself up with your head up. If you fight against his motion, you are likely to stay on the bottom or, worse, be broken down to your hip.
Off the white, the wrestler in black shorts attempts a spiral ride breakdown. To accomplish this, he moves into a claw position with his left hand from the orange wrestler’s elbow to his far shoulder. Black then moves his right hand from orange’s stomach to his inner thigh. Black then drives orange’s weight forward on his hands and behind to spiral out to the front in an attempt to break orange down to his hip. Orange combats this spiral by forcing his head up, attacking black’s claw hand with both of his hands and corkscrewing himself upward by going with black’s spiral motion. Soon, orange uses black’s momentum to drive himself up to his feet, where he can escape after hand fighting.
Breakdown: Tightwaist and Ankle
From his position on top, your opponent wraps his near hand tightly around your waist and latches onto your far ankle with his far hand. Then, he lifts at the ankle and drives forward in an attempt to put you on your belly.
Your Response: Ankle Stand
The first key to a successful ankle stand is never to let your ankle be lifted. If it does, you are in trouble. So, put weight on your ankle by turning your knee up and pushing off the mat, or straighten your leg out. Either way, you must peel at the hand grabbing your ankle, and get your head up with back pressure into your opponent.
In this photo series, the wrestler in the black shorts performs an inside stand on the wrestler in the orange shorts. The period starts in referee’s position with orange on black’s left side. Off the whistle, orange attempts a chop-n-shock breakdown with the aim of trapping black’s left arm and driving it to his belly. Black avoids orange’s breakdown by beating him off the white and clearing his left arm by sweeping it up and across his body. At the same time, black uses his right hand and catches orange’s left hand to gain hand control. Also, black slips his inside (left) leg out and posts, so orange cannot drive him forward to his belly. He pushs back into orange off his post leg to drive himself up to his feet into a rear standing position where he can continue to hand fight and sheer away for escape.
Folkstyle Wrestling Drills
All of these can be drilled from the referee’s position or from a takedown. Try drilling them like this:
Start your drilling slowly with little resistance and at a slow pace to learn the techniques. Have your opponent attempt the breakdown and perform the corresponding stand. Then, increase speed and resistance. Eventually you should be able to defend his breakdown attempt at full speed, because you know it’s coming and you can beat him to the punch.
2. All at once
Have your partner switch off among the three breakdowns; you respond to whichever one he attempts. Have him keep you on your base or break you down to your belly, and you try to escape as quickly as possible. This will improve your reaction to these common breakdowns. Eventually, you will feel them coming and prepare before they can do any damage.
3. From a takedown
In another reaction drill, have your partner hit a takedown and transition instantly into one of these breakdowns. It will be your job, in the scramble of the takedown, to recognize how he is trying to get you to your belly. Recognize it, and stand up quickly without allowing him to get on top. If you are quick enough with your scrambles, you can even nullify a few near takedowns in your matches.
(Note: Do not allow your opponent to get you all the way to your belly off of his takedown finishes. Be catlike and land on your base, not your face.)