Interview By Chad Zimmerman
On their way to compiling a 19-3 regular season record [their best in more than 20 years] and a top-10 national ranking, the 2006-2007 Wisconsin wrestlers found themselves literally on top in nearly every match. Knowing the potential of giving up a point if an opponent escapes a takedown, the Badger coaches teach their grapplers to stay on top for the long haul. Bart Chelesvig, the squad’s assistant coach, has been a significant player in this training. Below, Chelesvig answers six questions on the ways of riding, Badger-style.
STACK: What’s the first thing you teach your wrestlers about riding an opponent?
Bart Chelesvig: A key to riding is keeping your weight up on his hands. That makes it harder for him to stand. The next thing is to control your opponent through the type of ride. You can ride a guy with his legs, wrist control, hooking the ankles—there are all kinds of types. The key though is finding the one you’re good at and using it.
Are there any don’ts to riding?
BC: In general, don’t put your arms over his arms. Staying underneath his arms makes escaping much harder for him. Another big don’t is getting too high on an opponent’s hips. Being too high makes it easy for him to come out the back.
What’s the difference between riding after a takedown and the referee’s position?
BC: Say you’ve taken a guy down. The first thing he wants to do is get to his base—his hands and knees. From there, he has a better shot at getting away. So when you take him down, you want to secure a good position where you can keep his hips flat to the mat.
What positions make you more susceptible to a reversal?
BC: Usually, reversals come from rides that are too loose, where you’re not controlling his hips. If he can get his hips out, he has a good shot at reversing you.
How can you get better at riding?
BC: Most wrestlers are used to wrestling on their feet. During the whole practice, they work on taking their partner down, then letting him back up. Doing this really contradicts wrestling on the mat. Make sure to put more emphasis on mat wrestling. Do drills where the guy on the bottom goes at about 75 to 80 percent and the guy on top floats around, learning to follow his partner’s hips.
How does your mental approach affect riding?
BC: It’s an attitude on top. You need a strong attitude, because keeping a guy down is hard work. So you need a real mean attitude when you’re on top—especially if you want to turn the guy for a pin.