Have you ever been wrestling someone and feel like they know everything you are about to do? Maybe as a parent, you sit in the stands watching your wrestler appear helpless on the mat. Every attack they go after their opponent is ready for them.
As a wrestler, it feels like they can see your attacks from a mile away. The truth is they can, and it’s one of the greatest advantages you can have as a wrestler.
That Advantage Is Anticipation!
When you can anticipate what wrestlers are going to do, it makes competing feel almost effortless. Now anticipating can be via your sight but more importantly, if it can come from a feeling.
I heard about this from my first high school coach, Scott Rohrer, a former wrestler at The University of Minnesota. Frustration continuously poured into me when wrestling with him because it felt like I had zero chance to even get to my attacks. Much less ever dreaming of scoring on him.
When the conversation began, if I wanted to become a high-level wrestler and compete at the national level or college level, I had to start learning to anticipate what was happening during the match.
Anticipation Seemed Impossible
I will be honest the thought about being a step ahead of every opponent seemed impossible. It’s one thing to watch film on kids that you compete against during the season. You can start to break down some of their habits and tendencies, but what about when you travel to national tournaments?
You might catch a glimpse of kids wrestling during the tournament but nothing substantial. The real anticipation needs to happen during the match!
It’s kinda like the game of chess. You are always looking to be one step ahead. If you can be just one step ahead, that generally translates in wins. That can be one point victories or larger ones like tech falls or pins.
Anticipation Through Sight
When I first started using this, I was trying to do everything through my vision. I was always trying to watch what their feet, hands, or hips were doing while we wrestled.
This made wrestling even harder!
I knew there was no way my coach was just watching what I was doing and then scoring. Instead, I realized he was like a computer constantly analyzing everything movement or reaction I was doing through more conversations and practice.
I was trying to sit back, watching and waiting for them to get out of position and then jump at my attacks. If you have been around wrestling, it makes it very difficult to score points. The points that you do score are incredibly hard-fought. The wrestlers I was watching at the highest level made their attacks look so organized.
My coach told me it was one of the most profound statements helping me understand scoring, offense, attacks, and being a step ahead. He began to tell me that every movement he was making was calculated. Seems obvious at first, but I realized there were levels to this.
Little things as small as him reaching a backhand to touch my shoulder was calculated? Huh? Made no sense at the time.
But when he reached, he was downloading what I was doing. Did I reach back with my lead hand or maybe try to attack his wrist. Was I circling left or right or maybe try to pressure forward. Did I try to get to my own attacks?
All this was very strategic, and there were about 7 of these little “step ups” he was doing within a matter of seconds just watching taking in all the information in order to get to his attacks.
Once he would reach, push, pull, level change, or a million other things, he knew my reactions. He could now anticipate at a very high percentage what I was going to do. Then allowing him to dive into his arsenal of attacks and pick me apart. And he continued to pick me apart for 3 straight years!
How To Start Learning Anticipation
As a coach, the most frustrating thing is wrestlers overlooking drilling, especially on basic positions and drills. Necessary drilling is to help you understand concepts and positions. To start learning anticipation using your vision, it happens during your drilling. Can you move your feet all while at the same time downloading information about your partners’ reactions?
If you have no feeling during your drilling or it’s all over the place. Chances are it’s going to look even worse trying to do all this during your live wrestling.
There are progressions, and it’s vital to not undervalue the purpose of your drilling!
Anticipation Through Feel
The most elite wrestlers can anticipate your movements through feel. It’s kinda like you can put a blindfold on them, and they still know everything that is about to happen.
You can both be in your ties, and you go to shoot your single or high-crotch, and that hand shoots down to down block your shot. All while you’re scratching your head about how the heck they knew your shot was coming.
Great wrestlers have the feeling when their opponent’s head drops to level change to get to their attacks!
They can feel where their opponent wants to take their pressure and use it against them.
The hardest part about all this is getting young wrestlers to understand the importance and power of anticipating opponents. Most young kids wanna learn the next big “Moves,” they wanna make the highlight reel.
Drilling positions and learning anticipation is not sexy, but it’s a high-level art. Again it all starts in your drilling. Are you able to slow things down to understand and feel what’s happening versus guessing or, even worse, waiting until opponents are already in on their attacks? Then you are stuck defending attacks your entire wrestling career.
It’s a huge reason why I believe we teach so much of our wrestling backward. For example, you ask wrestlers their lines of defense, and they will rattle off: 1.) Head 2.) Hands 3.) Hips
The first thing we teach on shot defense is a sprawl. Let’s start teaching wrestlers to prevent people from getting in on our legs. All defense lines are important, but what if we were able to cut in half the ability of people from even getting to their attacks? Wouldn’t that be powerful?
Even better, when our initial shot defense gets better now, we can get to our re-attacks. If you have high-level re-attacks, you tend to dominate kids around the country
Wrestlers start today putting more value on soft drilling and hard drilling. Do not overlook your positions. Learn to get a feel on anticipating your opponent and start dominating kids!
Your life experiences act as a guide to help you realize your true intentions.