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Article of the Week

Article of the Week

Each week we'll post a new article by 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist and former US World Team Coach, Steve Fraser

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Steve Fraser




Message to parents/coaches about when & how hard to push youngsters

March 2017
B
y Steve Fraser and Mike Clayton
 

If you are a parent or young coach of a young wrestler you might have some questions about how hard to push your child/athlete to compete in this wonderful character building sport we call wrestling. This great sport of ours is one of the very best when it comes to building strong mental, physical and emotional skills in the young athletes that decide to join the sport.

Wrestling builds discipline and teaches our youth to work hard. The sport teaches skills in the area of self-sacrifice and focus. It strengthens determination and goal setting practices. Wrestling develops a humble confidence that will contribute to overall life success. No doubt about it…the grueling sport of wrestling can build such great fortitude in our young athletes. Fortitude that will last an entire lifetime!

The goal is to create an approach that motivates our youngsters to enjoy the sport and continue to wrestle for many years. This will allow for all of the wonderful learning to take place. Please remember, the child’s win/loss record really means very little at the younger ages. I could cite bundles of Olympic superstars that had big-time losing records as youngsters.

As a parent/coach of a young wrestler, when and how hard should we push our child/athlete?

My associate and good friend Mike Clayton, Manager, National Coaches Education Program for USA Wrestling, says it best in his words that follow:

“In my role, I often get phone calls and emails from parents whose athletes seem to be facing burn out. All too often, the age of these kids is 12 and under.

The common denominator is that the children on the mat feel too much pressure from the parents and/or coaches. This isn't always because the parent or coach is putting pressure on the child, but regardless the child does feel pressure of some sort to perform in order to make the parents and/or coach happy.

If kids are feeling pressure that we aren't even placing on them, how do we help fix the problem?

If your child is under the age of eight (or is starting wrestling for the first time), ask them what would make them quit the sport…long before they have their first competition. Why, you may be thinking? Because it helps take emotions out of the decision. It shows the child that there is a way out of the sport, but it reinforces that we need to be mentally and physically tough to a certain point. If we reach that point and go beyond, we do not have to continue with this particular venture. 

Now the child will be able to perform at their best, knowing that they have expectations to try hard, learn, listen, behave, set goals, sacrifice...but no pressure to stay in a sport that perhaps their parents or coaches love more than they do. 

Which brings us to a difficult discussion with parents and coaches. What are your goals for allowing your child to participate in the sport of wrestling?

Once you establish your expectations for participation in wrestling, ask yourself if those expectations are reasonable to communicate to a child under the age of 12. 

Does an eight-year old child need to be worried about a college scholarship? It may sound funny to read it, but many parents tell kids that "This is the only way you can go to college." And even if that statement is true, to burden a child with that pressure certainly does not help the youngster perform to their best. The weight of a comment like that on a child's shoulders would be like an adult being forced to carry a bull around on their back every day (that reference is for you Milon of Croton fans - famous Olympic wrestler who trained by carrying a calf daily as it grew into a bull).

Our jobs as parents and coaches are to ensure our kids have a safe and rewarding sports experience first and foremost. This includes emotional stability as well as physical literacy and mental toughness.”

I think Mike Clayton’s message can really help when it comes to focusing on the most important aspects of youth wrestling. Who really knows how far a young wrestler can go in the sport. The real thing to remember is, “Life is hard! The great sport of wrestling will prepare our youth for the challenge. Let’s help raise America’s greatest generation!”

Discover your favorite style while improving your overall skills

By Steve Fraser
January 5, 2017

Who knows what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal? Who wants to know what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal?

In the style of Greco-Roman, more people have walked on the moon than Americans have won Olympic gold. Why is that? Why have we had less success in Greco-Roman, then we have had in freestyle in our country? In freestyle, by the way, the USA has won 54 Olympic gold medals. In Greco, three.

It is because our wrestling culture in the United States is primarily focused on folk-style. Luckily, folk-style is similar to freestyle or we’d be in big trouble winning Olympic medals in freestyle too. Of course, if we wrestled freestyle (or Greco) in high school and college, the USA would dominate the international world of wrestling at the Olympic Games. Don’t you think?

Personally, I like folk-style wrestling. I actually like all three styles of wrestling that we do in our country. I am not trying to suggest we change our high school and college wrestling to freestyle or Greco (even though I would love to see it). The purpose of my message is to suggest that young wrestlers expand their horizons and wrestle in all three styles. Who knows how many great wrestlers we have in the USA that never discover that they may love the two Olympic styles. And even more, discover that they are really good at one or both of the Olympic styles.

Wrestling is wrestling. Especially when you are young, I believe all young wrestlers should venture out and wrestle in all three styles of wrestling (folk-style, freestyle and Greco-Roman). Why not? And the good news is, wrestling all three styles will make you a better wrestler in the style you might end up choosing as your favorite style (most choose folk-style). So it is a no-lose proposition.

I wrestled all three styles throughout my high school and college career. Then, once I graduated from college, I wrestled both Olympic styles throughout the rest of my career. The way I looked at it was - if I wrestle both styles I'd be getting double the competition and training. In my mind, that alone was going to make me better and tougher. I loved both styles, in those days. I actually won the freestyle nationals the year I won the Greco Olympic Games (1984). I beat Bill Scherr (eventual World champion) in the national finals in freestyle and lost to Mike Houck (national champ) in the national finals in Greco. I had the goal to make both Olympic teams, Greco-Roman and freestyle.

In the final Olympic Trials I was scheduled to wrestle Greco first. When I beat Mark Johnson (defending Olympic team member), then Mike Houck to make the team, I decided to drop out of the final freestyle trials. I was happy to have made the team in Greco and decided to focus the rest of my summer on Greco in preparation for the Los Angles Olympic Games. 

You want to become Olympic champion some day? Remember, there are now only 6 weight classes per style (hopefully it will increase again someday). Why not explore, see what Greco-Roman and freestyle are about. Learn new skills, strengthen your core, expand your knowledge, and master techniques in both upper and lower body attacks. You do realize that to be the best in the style of your choice, you will need to draw from a vast amount of experience and skill development, don’t you?

There is nothing more rewarding than succeeding in this great sport of ours! Nothing you will do, beside marriage and having babies, will rival the self-satisfaction that comes with these achievements. And with USA Wrestling’s - Living Dream Medal Fund (LDMF), in play, the color of gold means $250,000.00, not that anyone might do this just for the money.

Greco-Roman or freestyle, the main-stream public mostly asks, “Did you go to the Olympics?”

Now is the time! Explore all styles of wrestling so you can improve your overall skill level AND discover what style might be your path to Olympic glory.

Internalizing your thoughts and aggression strengthens your power

April 21, 2017
Internalizing your thoughts and aggression strengthens your power
By Steve Fraser

I don’t know what most people think, but personally I get really tired of all the confrontation between two UFC fighters at the public weigh-in, prior to the fight. Okay, I know a lot of it is to hype the fight and sell tickets. I get that. But, come on… every weigh-in you have two fighters forehead to forehead, eye to eye, nose to nose, staring and growling and gnawing at each other like they are two rabid animals. Dana White (or whomever) barely holds them apart as they just about touch lips. I don’t know… apparently that’s what the MMA fan base thrives to see.

And at the press-conference, where both fighters are bad mouthing each other and shouting out how bad they are going to destroy, obliterate, and eat the children of the other competitor… again, personally for me, it just gets a bit old.

What ever happened to the days where two warriors were kind and respectful off the battlefield and true warriors on the battlefield (Randy Couture types)?

In this article, I would like to share a pre-match thought process that wrestlers (or MMA fighters, for that matter) might consider. I learned early on in my career that I was not going to be able to hate every opponent that I faced. So I decided to appreciate each opponent for the human being that they were. In fact, I wanted to actually “like” most everyone that I wrestled. That does not mean that during the match and the battle I did not generate strong aggression and fighting spirit. Having a very powerful, aggressive mentality and toughness IS very important during the fight, no doubt! But this attitude has to be tempered with thoughtful and strategic balance.

Personally, my goal was to be kind and friendly off the mat and ferocious on the mat. Off the mat I tried not to talk too much about how I thought I might beat the tar out of my opponent. I never bad mouth my foes. I never told people how I could beat someone. When they asked me, “hey, do you think you can beat so and so?” I never said yes. I would always say, “We will have to see once we get on the mat together.” I said this even though in my head and heart I was thinking, “I am going to beat the crud out of this guy!”

My approach was very similar to how a steam-cooker works. In order to be effective at cooking, the steam-cooker has to keep a tight lid on it as it heats up. This builds up the pressure needed to cook the meal. If you take off the lid, or even crack open the lid slightly, all the steam comes rushing out, thus weakening the power and the effectiveness to accomplish the desired goal… “Cook the food.”

I would internalize my thoughts and feelings, holding in all the heat, building the pressure, so that when it was time to perform and compete I could pop the lid and explode into the mind set and fighting spirit when it actually counted, in the match.

Opening my mouth prior to the match was like cracking the lid of the pressure-cooker and letting out the steam before the meal was to be served. By keeping my mouth shut, prior to the actual competition, it allowed for me to build great strength and resolve to focus and perform to my utmost ability. I wanted my actions to do the talking! Not my mouth.

By talking smack or saying who you can beat or how bad you will beat them, or what medal you will win, can potentially put additional pressure on you to perform. Why create more outside pressure for yourself to perform? Why build yourself up publicly and then have to live up to what you are bragging about? I’d rather be quiet and let my actions do my speaking.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Mohammad Ali was the expert at talking about how he was going to knockout his opponents, and even in what round. And he could back it up. He did make boxing more interesting with his approach. I am just giving my perspective on this subject for you to consider. Only you can determine for yourself how to maximize your mental approach to performing at your best ability.

Expect to win, with quiet relentless intensity!

Don Behm, Olympic silver medalist, shares valuable lessons

By Steve Fraser

January 25, 2017

I was sitting at my desk at USA Wrestling contemplating what my column would be about in this WIN edition. My phone rings, I pick up, and Rich Bender, USA Wrestling’s Executive Direct (my boss), asks me to come down to his office because a Michigander is in there visiting. So I get up from my chair and stroll into Rich’s office to find two of our countries wrestling icons chatting it up with Rich. Don Behm and Wayne Baughman.

Now Don is from Michigan and wrestled for Michigan State University (MSU). Of course I don’t hold that against him. Don won the silver medal in the 1968 Olympic Games. He was someone that I admired when I was in the midst of my career at Michigan. Even though Don was an MSU guy he spent time in Ann Arbor in the Michigan wrestling room. I gleaned many tidbits of valuable knowledge picking his brain, back in the day.

Wayne Baughman, who is also a WIN columnist, was and still is, a person that I have learned many things from. Wayne has won more national titles, in both freestyle and Greco, than one can count; and was my coach at one World Championship that I wrestled in. Wayne is still a life mentor for me to this very day.

Once we caught up a bit, I got around to ask Don, if he had to sum it up, what would he say was the most important thing that helped him have the great wrestling success that he experienced. He began to tell the story of what he shared with the audience attending his fairly recent MSU Hall of Fame induction, in East Lansing, Michigan.

“Were we exceptional people, or were we given exceptional opportunities?” Don starts out asking the crowd. “I feel we were given exceptional opportunities, and the reasons for success always come down to these four things: hard work, dedication, perseverance and overcoming obstacles.

In the 9th grade Don had a dream. He went on to say that it had to be a dream, because he had no idea what it really meant. Don wanted to be the best in the world.

So with that Don had this dream. That dream became a wish. That wish became a goal. And then, with that goal Don made a plan. Now, he didn’t tell anyone about the goal. He didn’t brag about it. He just kept it to himself and began to execute his plan. Don says, “Without a plan, a wish is just a dream, and it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Don went on to talk about that he had many great coaches in his career. He commented, “in fact all of my coaches that I had through the years are in the Hall of Fame.” So he had many great mentors and opportunities.

Don’s dad said he could do anything! And Don believed him.

He had another memorable lesson that came from one of his professors, Dr. Gail Michaels. Don was training about four hours a day and states, “I didn’t spend much time in the classroom.” One day Dr. Michaels gave Don an assignment and asked Don to turn in a paper, of some sort.  So Don went home that night and wrote this paper. When he brought it back to Dr. Michaels, Michaels said, “Okay, come

Don’t’ short-change your Olympic chances

 

By Steve Fraser

January 5, 2017

Who can imagine what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal? Who wants to know what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal?       

In the style of Greco-Roman, more people have walked on the moon than Americans have won Olympic gold. Why is that? Why have we had less success in Greco-Roman than we have had in freestyle in our country? In freestyle, by the way, the USA has won 54 Olympic gold medals. In Greco, three.

It is because our wrestling culture in the United States is primarily focused on folkstyle. Luckily, folkstyle is similar to freestyle or we’d be in big trouble winning Olympic medals in freestyle too. Of course, if we wrestled freestyle (or Greco) in high school and college, the USA would dominate the international world of wrestling at the Olympic Games. Don’t you think?

Personally, I like folkstyle wrestling. I actually like all three styles of wrestling that we do in our country. I am not trying to suggest we change our high school and college wrestling to freestyle or Greco (even though I would love to see it). 

The purpose of my message is to suggest young wrestlers expand their horizons and wrestle in all three styles. Who knows how many great wrestlers we have in the USA who never discover that they may love the two Olympic styles? And even more, discover they are really good at one or both of the Olympic styles. 

Wrestling is wrestling, especially when you are young. I believe all young wrestlers should venture out and wrestle in all three styles of wrestling (folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman). Why not? And the good news is, wrestling all three styles will make you a better wrestler in the style you might end up choosing as your favorite style (most choose folkstyle). So it is a no-lose proposition.

I wrestled all three styles throughout my high school and college career. Then, once I graduated from college, I wrestled both Olympic styles throughout the rest of my career. The way I looked at it was:  if I wrestle both styles, I’d be getting double the competition and training. 

In my mind, that alone was going to make me better and tougher. I loved both styles, in those days. I actually won the freestyle nationals the year I won the Greco Olympic Games (1984). I beat Bill Scherr (1995 World Champion) in the national finals in freestyle and lost to Mike Houck (1995 World Champion) in the national finals in Greco. I had the goal to make both Olympic teams, Greco-Roman and freestyle.             

In the final Olympic Trials I was scheduled to wrestle Greco first. When I beat Mark Johnson (defending Olympic Team member), then Mike Houck to make the team, I decided to drop out of the final freestyle Trials. I was happy to have made the team in Greco and decided to focus the rest of my summer on Greco in preparation for the Los Angles Olympic Games. 

You want to become Olympic champion some day? Remember, there are now only six weight classes per style (hopefully it will increase again someday). Why not explore, see what Greco-Roman and freestyle are about. Learn new skills, strengthen your core, expand your knowledge, and master techniques in both upper- and lower-body attacks. You do realize that to be the best in the style of your choice, you will need to draw from a vast amount of experience and skill development, don’t you?              

There is nothing more rewarding than succeeding in this great sport of ours! Nothing you will do, beside marriage and having babies, will rival the self-satisfaction that comes with these achievements. And with USA Wrestling’s - Living Dream Medal Fund (LDMF), in play, the color of gold means $250,000.00, not that anyone might do this just for the money.          

Greco-Roman or freestyle, the main-stream public mostly asks, “Did you go to the Olympics?”  

(Steve Fraser was the first American to win Olympic gold in Greco-Roman wrestling in 1984 and later coached the U.S. Greco team for 18 years. He now serves as the Chief of Donor and Alumni Relations for USAW.)

Are you ready to beat the impossible?

Rulon Gardner, Steve Fraser and Jeff Blatnick, Olympic Champions

 

By Steve Fraser, December 15, 2016

How do people achieve what most think is impossible? Back in the day, who would have thought someone could walk on the moon? Not too many years ago, who would have thought we could power a handheld device that allowed us to communicate with people around the world; get an answer to just about any question we might have; take quality videos and photos; all by using wifi? Have you heard that in the near future our automobiles will steer themselves?

In the grueling historic sport of Greco-Roman wrestling, there have been some miracles that have happened too. There have been some great achievements that most everyone, during the times, thought were impossible to achieve.

What people think is impossible today, will be reality tomorrow! We can count on this.

In regards to Greco-Roman wrestling, we first have to understand the vast distance that the United States of America had to travel to be successful in the sport.

Just a few decades ago, in world and Olympic competition, our international Greco wrestling family hoped to draw a wrestler from the USA in the first round. Why? Because it was an easy match. No one would have ever imagined that Team USA — Greco would accomplish so much.

Keep in mind; we were up against countries like Russia, who have thousands of wrestlers at the same level as our 50 top wrestlers. Russia has over 10,000 serious clubs/training centers, including over 10,000 professional paid coaches. The USA has five or six programs. And we only have about ten full-time paid Greco coaches.

Even with this huge difference in our programs, the U.S. Greco program was able to close the gap and has posted huge successes in past years. One of the biggest came in 2007 when our team became World team champions, in Baku, Azerbaijan. This is the first time in our history that our Greco-Roman team has won a World title. Not too many folks, in the United States or in the world, for that matter, thought this was possible!

I wonder how many people in the world thought it possible for Rulon Gardner to beat the Russian super-star, Alexander Karelin, in the Sydney Olympic Games. Karelin hadn’t been beaten in 13 years and was going for his fourth Olympic gold medal.

So, how is it that these accomplishments were attained and how can they happen again?

First, we have to set the vision. We must paint the picture for all to see. As coaches, we have got to get people excited about the possibilities of great success. As athletes, we must visualize this great success. We must see ourselves crushing our opponents and winning the big titles. We have got to think big! I would actually dream about this regularly!

Second, we need to develop the plan of attack and create the strategy that will move us in the direction of the vision. This plan must include training and preparation tactics that involve doing very tough and almost crazy activity. We must do what most others are not willing to do.

This is why I thrived on wrestling two- hour grind matches with Mark Churella, a three-time NCAA champion and one tough individual. Mark would have no mercy on me during our training sessions. There were 6 a.m. runs every morning, traveling across the state to train with other accomplished wrestlers; wrestling on my wedding day; are all examples of doing what most people would not be willing to do.

And when times get tough, we must keep the faith. We must believe in each other and the plan we have created. Staying persistent and relentless, no matter what obstacles confront us.

Then as we test ourselves in competition, we must continue re-evaluating and adjusting where needed. Adjust what skills we need to improve while staying determined at following our plan or attack. Believing in our plan and trusting that it will get us where we want to be.

Of course, for me, enjoying the battle and the journey (not just the winning) along the way made it fun. I loved nothing more than leaving the wrestling room - after a tough, grueling, exhausting practice, soaked with sweat from head to toe. The more spent I felt, the happier I was. I remember the shower water would actually sting my raw skin.

Running in the worst blizzard you can imagine, would be another example. The frigid snow pelting my face as the swirling wind would push me from side to side. Of course, there was no one in sight, but a few stray dogs trying to find cover.

Remember friends, we are all going to die someday. Who knows when?! We have got to go for broke! In the big picture, we are only on the planet for a very short time. Why not totally “go for it” and do what many might think is “Impossible?!”

(Steve Fraser, the chief of donor and alumni relations for USA Wrestling, became the first American Greco-Roman wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal in 1984 before he spent 20 years (1995-2014) coaching the U.S. Greco-Roman team, producing eight Olympic medalists and a World team title in 2007.) n

Tips for the new wrestling season

November 2, 2016

Tips to begin wrestling season

By Steve Fraser

If you are a wrestler and are in the beginning of your season - I congratulate you! Why do I congratulate you? Because you are in one of the all-time best sports that there is in existence today!

Oh yes, there are many fantastic sports out there that you might participate in, no doubt. But very few are as difficult and demanding as the great sport of wrestling! Few are as tough! And few build personal character, discipline and attitude like the sport of wrestling does. The wonderful sport of wrestling is truly building our country’s leaders for tomorrow, and will put you in a class of special people. Once a wrestler, always a wrestler!

I could share a lot of advice and direction - in regards to the many skills and tactics that are needed in having success this season. But if I had to choose one, it would be this… Learn to enjoy the battle!

Questions we need to ask ourselves… Do we love wrestling? Do we enjoy the sport and all that comes with it? Do we look forward to the fight? Do we long for the moment when we can get into a battle with that other wrestler? Do we desire to become strong, tough individuals that can handle ourselves in most any situation? If the answer is, YES, to these questions, then we are in the right sport.

Keep in mind; it most often takes practice to enjoy the fight. Please be careful not to confuse “nervousness and pre-match butterflies” as something that means you don’t enjoy it. Everyone experiences this anxiety at times. However, practicing to control these emotions and relax your mind-set is how we learn to enjoy the battle.

Enjoying the battle and having fun with the sport of wrestling is very important in developing a successful warrior’s mentality. It is this warrior’s mentality that will move us in a forward direction where we advance our grappling skills daily.

We must constantly remind ourselves to "enjoy the battle.”  If fact, I would say we must learn to “love the battle.” We must love the process and practice. We must love the fight. We must love the struggle, as well as the setbacks and breakthroughs. Loving success is easy. Loving the whole process of achieving success is what helps one to advance to a new level of competitive skill and toughness.

So, have some fun this month while you are training like a madman. Think humorously to create those positive emotions. When you think goofy, off-the-wall thoughts, your nervousness and fear will disappear. When your emotions start getting the better of you, internal laughter will put you back on track. Life is too short to be stressed out.

Practice using your mental focus in the present time. Operate in the here-and-now especially during competition. This will enhance your `ideal competitive state' and your talent and skill will come alive. During the battle, if you are thinking about the past or future it will hamper your ability to really open up and go for it. Enjoy the present moment and your performance will flourish.

Think energy! Energy is everything and generating a high level of positive energy will create that "dynamic fight.” It will help you to heighten those positive emotions that will make you strong with confidence. Think "fun" and more positive energy will start flowing immediately. Say to yourself, "I Love It! Isn’t this great!? Show me the pressure!"

When you get in that close match, remind yourself how you love it. You love the pressure, you love the excitement, and you love putting it all on the line. For you, life would be too boring if you did it any other way. No holding back, no excuses, you are going for it. Do the best you possibly can. Wrestle to win, and then be proud. Accept the result and move on with new focus and drive to keep improving.

Most of all, remember that you are participating in the greatest sport in the world! Not only will you have fun and enjoy the overall experience, but you will naturally develop skills, both mental and physical, that will promote success in your life, beyond the sport. Welcome to the family!

Olympic Games lessons learned (part 2 of 2)


Mongolian coaches protesting

Olympic Games lessons learned (part 2 of 2)
By Steve Fraser
 
In my last column (part 1 of this 2 part column) I spoke about the Rio Games and what I saw as lessons to be learned. The first lesson learned related to how important the intense battle is.  I spoke about how an aggressive, no-stop attack and constant pressure toward your opponent is critical.
 
To reiterate, the second thing I left Rio wondering was how come so many wrestlers at the Olympic level seem to not understand how to secure the victory in a close match? I have written about this in the past, but it remains vitally important to discuss.
 
Way too many times I saw a wrestler leading in the bout by 1 or 2 points, with 30 or fewer seconds on the clock, and he or she began to back up a bit, or avoid contact, or peak at the clock (to see how many tics were left), trying to slow things down. This KILLS me!
 
There is a definite skill, tactic, technique and strategy to use when you are winning a tough match in the final seconds.  And that tactic and strategy is NOT TO STALL!
 
Stalling, backing up, avoiding contact, even if just a little bit is the worst thing one can do to secure the victory. The wrestlers who use this tactic are only setting themselves up for disaster. I witnessed it many times throughout the Games. And I just don’t get why there is a lack of understanding in this regard.
 
On the contrary, as opposed to stalling and avoiding contact, the leading wrestler’s goal should be to out-sprint his or her opponent to the finish line. This most always requires engaging your opponent. What I mean by sprinting and engaging is one must be wrestling a faster pace than their panicking and desperate opponent, who is realizing that he or she needs to score, and score NOW! 
 
You aggressively pick up your pace, with your elbows mostly tight to your side, still moving forward, then circling, pummeling, tying up and moving your opponent from side to side, trying to destroy any possible attempt of him/her setting up a final attack or move. You score only if the situation presents itself.
 
The key to securing your victory in a close match comes down to momentum, which is crucial in closing out a match in your favor. Whoever keeps or establishes momentum in this scenario will have the advantage. Your opponent’s only hope at scoring on you is to create momentum to get something going. Your opponent needs to pick up the pace and catch you off guard. Time is running out so it is now or never for your opponent to make something happen, set you up, force a position where he/she can score.
       
What helps your opponent greatly is when you try and slow things down. If you are trying to control things by slowing and being careful and he/she is going faster to get something going, you now have created a big difference in each other’s speed. This affects your reaction time and reaction capabilities. He/she is moving fast and you are moving slowly. This difference in speed between the two of you is what creates a huge advantage to your opponent.
       
Plus, the referee (and everyone else watching) is looking for stalling at this point because this is the situation where stalling is very common, right? So now, the referee will often help your opponent with momentum. The referee, if you are avoiding contact, will now warn or penalize you, giving your opponent more momentum, hope and help. And, of course, a possible penalty point.
 
If you saw the Mongolian Olympic freestyle match, Mandakhnaran Ganzorig, at 65kg where the coaches protested by stripping down to their skivvies because of a “fleeing “ call by the officials, which cost Ganzorig to lose the bronze medal, you will see what I am talking about. Why would you start celebrating your victory by backing up, circling, putting your arms up in the air, rejoicing, before the whistle blows? Why would you give the officials ANY chance of penalizing you for avoiding your opponent? ESPECIALLY when you are only one point ahead!!
 
This was a big mistake, in my opinion, by Ganzorig. Instead of his coaches protesting the penalty call, they should have been kicking their wrestlers butt!
 
Securing the victory should be taught and practiced in the training process. You must never-ever put your match in the referee’s hands. It is our responsibility to take all referees discretion out of the match, so there can be NO opportunity for an official to “ding” you.
 
Sometimes “lessons learned” come at a very bad time (Ganzorig’s bronze medal match). This is why we must practice these scenarios in the practice room and in real matches as well. Whether you are winning a match by one point or you are winning by nine points, we should always practice, “out sprinting,” our opponent to the finish line, thus “securing the victory.”
 
As always, enjoy the battle!


 

Olympic Games lessons learned (part 1 of 2)


Maroulis out attacks Yoshida for Gold

August 29, 2016
 
Olympic Games lessons learned (part 1 of 2)
By Steve Fraser
 
The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio are now over and in the history books. The U.S. Team came away with two gold medals and one bronze. Congratulations to Kyle Snyder, the youngest U.S. Olympic Champion in history. Congratulations to Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. woman to ever become Olympic Champion. And congratulations to J’Den Cox, who won the bronze medal, another very talented youngster on the squad.
 
There was some outstanding wrestling throughout the entire eight days of wrestling. There was excitement. There were upsets. There was the” thrill of victory” and the “agony of defeat.” There were spectacular clashes and thrilling battles taking place. It was awesome to witness the best wrestlers on the planet going toe-to-toe each and every day.
 
And the emotion displayed on that awards podium, where the gold, silver and bronze medals were being given, was truly a sight to experience. The years and years of dedication, hard work, sacrifice and focus put in by these tremendous athletes makes the awards ceremony such an amazing moment. Many national anthems played as Olympic medals were draped around necks, bringing almost every champion to tears.
 
Lessons learned: From a technical point of view, I walked away with two main things that I saw. The first one is, for the most part, the athletes winning the medals are all tenacious fighters. They are in OUTSTANDING cardiovascular conditioning. They are strong. They are smart. And they will do whatever it takes to put points on the board. If you go back and look at photos or video of the wrestlers receiving their medals, you will see one thing very clearly. You will see banged up, battered and bruised faces. They most always look like they have been beaten up and punched from ear to ear.
 
I believe to be the best in the world you must be willing to fight to the death! And when I say fight to the death I mean always moving forward, attacking with relentless resolve, never backing down. All three of our Olympic medalists display that tenfold. Take Helen Maroulis’ match against Japan’s superstar, Yoshida, who was trying to win her fourth Olympic gold medal. Helen did not take one step backward the entire bout. She perused Yoshida with a relentless forward movement, always in her face, always attacking forward. This is why she beat this extraordinary opponent.
 
To wrestle like this, it takes extreme mental, physical and emotional conditioning. Physically you have to train in a way that allows you to push your body to limits that the average person or average athlete is not willing to go. You can be very skilled, very smart, very agile, and very tough mentally. But if physical fatigue breaks you, all the other toughening and strength goes right out the window.
 
To get to this level, one must train like a madman or madwoman. One must do things that would seem crazy to the average Joe/Jill. Things like two-hour grind matches, running roadwork almost every morning, running up mountains, strength training that would make many cry, stretching, yoga, swimming, biking and anything else that taxes your body to the limit. Of course a good periodization plan and proper recovery is critical. But the point I want to make here is one MUST have the KILLER mentality when it comes to training and conditioning.
 
The second thing I left Rio wondering was how come so many wrestlers at the Olympic level seem to not understand how to secure the victory in a close match? I have written about this in the past, but it remains vitally important to discuss.
 
Way too many times I saw a wrestler leading in the bout by 1 or 2 points, with 30 or fewer seconds on the clock, and he or she began to back up a bit, or avoid contact, or peak at the clock (to see how many tics were left), trying to slow things down. This KILLS me!
 
There is a definite skill, tactic, technique and strategy to use when you are winning a tough match in the final seconds.  And that tactic and strategy is NOT TO STALL!
 
Stalling, backing up, avoiding contact, even if just a little bit is the worst thing one can do to secure the victory. The wrestlers who use this tactic are only setting themselves up for disaster. I witnessed it many times throughout the Games. And I just don’t get why there is a lack of understanding in this regard.
 
Next month, I will share my thoughts on the importance and tactics on how to “secure the victory.”

Olympic glory IS possible for most!

July 27, 2016
By Steve Fraser

Now that the Olympic Games have begun and our US Team is in their final preparation before the big event, I have recently been thinking about my own Olympic experience, 32 years ago. Sometimes it seems like yesterday. And sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago.

Ever since 1984, I have been known as an Olympic Champion. It is an incredible thrill to hear myself introduced that way at clinics, at speaking engagements or when meeting people in common, day to day situations. The very word “Olympian” has come to mean so much in life and I am honored to be among the elite group of men and women who have earned that label. And then to have won the gold medal is almost beyond belief sometimes.

But believe me, it wasn’t an easy path for me to become an Olympian much less an Olympic champion. The fact is, I was an average kid from an average home, growing up in the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park, Michigan, near 8 Mile Road and John R. I was not gifted, by any stretch of the imagination. I could claim no special athletic ability, no special smarts. I had a lot of doubts about myself as a kid.

I was from a lower middle class family. In fact, probably lower, lower middle class. My parents were divorced when I was five years old. My mother raised me and my three siblings. She made about $15,000 per year. My father wasn’t around much.

Somehow, largely because of wonderful teachers, coaches and role models in my life, I was able to achieve something that changed my life forever. To this very day I feel blessed that the many people that touch my life, touch it in a way that inspired me. I owe any wrestling, and life success, to these wonderful individuals. For without their guidance and caring ways, I would never have achieved the prestigious gold medal.

The 31st day of July, 1984, began quietly for me in my little corner of the Olympic Village on the University of Southern California campus, with no hint of the triumph and fury to come. I arose at 6:30 a.m. and slipped out of my bunk in the comfortable, two-bedroom apartment I shared with seven other members of the United States Olympic Wrestling Team. I showered, shaved and dressed as usual. As I looked in the mirror and combed my hair, the face I saw looked just as it had a thousand times before, and just as it has a thousand times since. It was not a face of greatness that I saw. It was not a reflection of someone special. I saw only me, Steve Fraser, an ordinary guy who had never set limits on what he could achieve.

Unaware that I was on the threshold of glory, I left my apartment at the Olympic Village and took the 45-minute bus ride to the Anaheim Convention Center, where the 1984 Olympic wrestling championships were being held. I had won my first two matches here, against Karolj Kopas of Yugoslavia and Tony Hannula of Finland. Now, upon arriving at the arena for the second day of competition, my first order of business was to check the pairings chart on the wall behind the weigh in scale and find out who my third opponent would be. When my eyes fell upon the identity of my opponent, my stomach turned in a flutter of excitement and surprise. I was to meet Frank Andersson of Sweden, the man virtually everyone regarded as the favorite in the 198-pound weight class for Greco-Roman.

Frank Andersson was a powerful, golden-haired athlete, who enjoyed the status of a movie star in Sweden and who had claimed the world championship gold medal in 1979, 1981 and 1982. Frank was definitely the favorite to win the Olympic gold medal.

One never knows what life has in store. My upset victory over Frank Andersson, that morning, led me to my next two Olympic victories. Later that evening I defeated George Poizidis of Greece in the semi-finals. The following evening I defeated Ilia Matei of Romania, in the finals, to win gold.

When the National Anthem was played, I had to blink several times to keep the tears from falling. I swallowed hard a few times and then began to sing. I had achieved my ultimate goal. I had realized all my wildest dreams. I was stunned, completely stunned, and happier than I could ever say. I was Olympic Champion!

If you believe, work hard enough, and search-out the right coaches/mentors, it is possible for any wrestler to achieve, if they want it bad enough.

What style of wrestling background is best in MMA?

Dan "The Beast" Severn

June 27, 2016

What style of wrestling background is best in MMA?
By Steve Fraser

Of all the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) practices in existence, is wrestling the most important when it comes to success in the UFC? And then, if wrestling “IS” the most important martial art, what style of wrestling is best; freestyle, Greco-Roman or folkstyle?

Back when the UFC just began, the sport of wrestling wasn’t even considered a martial art. When most people thought about martial arts, they thought about someone – yelping - as they did a spin kick to break a board (or someone’s body part). The sport of wrestling wasn’t really connected to the fighting game. In fact, most “fighting” movies or television shows always highlighted a tremendous fighter to be someone in the karate/kick boxing art. Billy Jack, Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jade Fox, Jackie Chan, Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris to name the more popular characters, fit this perception. 

But in real life, and in the UFC Octagon, wrestling arguably is the most important martial art needed to succeed.

Dan Severn, who grew up in Michigan and wrestled for Arizona State, paved the way for many future wrestlers joining the UFC ranks. Dan created a style that engaged his opponents both on their feet and on the ground. He developed what later was referred to as the “ground and pound.” Mark Coleman coined the phrase but Dan introduced it to the UFC.

I remember Dan Severn traveling two or three hours from his home in Montrose, Michigan to train with me when I was coaching at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He was in preparation for his Ken Shamrock fight.

Dan was well versed in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He had great leg attacks but could also pummel and throw with the best of them. In fact, against Ken Shamrock, he used his pummeling skills to keep Shamrock on his feet.

When I asked Dan what his take is on wrestling in the MMA, he said; “High level wrestlers have the work ethic and mentality that it takes to fight. What served me well was my experience in international Greco and freestyle. And Greco especially helped me in the clinch position. Once I got in the clinch, my opponents were never going to see the light of day again.” Check out www.dansevern.com

So what about the specific style of wrestling? Which style of wrestling is the better background to have in the MMA?

Of the three styles (freestyle, Greco & folkstyle) we will lump freestyle and folkstyle together, because, even though the rules are a bit different, they are similar enough. The Greco-Roman style is quite different.

The main difference that distinguishes Greco-Roman from both freestyle and folkstyle wrestling is that Greco-Roman forbids wrestlers from grabbing below the waist. Leg attacks or using your legs to trip your foe are illegal. Greco-Roman wrestling emphasizes throwing, slamming, and lifting. UFC fighters with backgrounds in Greco-Roman wrestling include (to name just a few): Dan Severn, Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Joe Warren and Matt Lindland.

Freestyle and folkstyle, on the other hand, allow for attacks on the legs and one can use their legs to trip or turn their opponent. Freestyle and folkstyle wrestlers in the UFC include such names as: Daniel Cormier, Uriah Faber, Chris Weidman, Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr, Tito Ortiz, Brock Lesnar, Matt Hughes, Johny Hendricks, Rashad Evans, and the late Kevin Randleman. Actually, all of the Greco wrestlers listed previously could very well be added to this list because they all came up through the high school and collegiate system where the rules are folkstyle.

So which style has the most transferability to the MMA?

In the UFC slightly more than half of all takedowns are done with the double leg and single leg, which would lend importance to having a freestyle background. Of course, the standing clinch positions, where pummeling skills and conditioning skills come into play, also represent very successful attacks. This would lend importance to Greco.

Experts in Greco-Roman wrestling might be better at fighting in the clinch and slamming. Randy Couture was a great example of this technique in his matches with both Chuck Liddell and Gabriel Gonzaga, with the slam, as well as Tim Sylvia, who he took down numerous times from the clinch.

However, freestyle wrestlers at the Olympic level shoot and defend shots better than their Greco counterparts. When Daniel Cormier fought Dan Henderson, Cormier won the fight. Greco-Roman wrestlers have better double and single leg takedowns than their non-wrestling counterparts, largely based on their collegiate wrestling experience. They don’t have better takedowns than their freestyle counterparts who have competed at the same levels.

So which is a better background for MMA, freestyle wrestling or Greco-Roman wrestling? You call it! sfraser@usawrestling.org

Olympic Trials Prove Anyone Can Win

Olympic Trials Prove Anyone Can Win
By Steve Fraser
April 15, 2016

The U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials, held on April 9 and 10, 2016, proved to be one of the most exciting wrestling events that I have witnessed in recent years. In my opinion, the excitement of the competition rivaled both the 2015 World Championships, in Las Vegas, NV, held last September, and the NCAA tournament, in New York City, NY, held last month.

The many outstanding matches and wild results made it a spectacular experience for most all who watched from the Carver Hawkeye Arena. The quality of our U.S. athletes is remarkable. For example, take the Jake Varner and Kyle Snyder match up. How many times do you see a defending Olympic Champion against a defending World Champion? Could it get better than that?

One of my “takeaways” I had when I left Iowa City for home was, “anything can happen and anyone can win at this wonderful sport of ours.” We have to understand that our destiny is in our own hands. What we believe, we truly can achieve.

Who would have thought that 9th seeded J ‘Den Cox would have beaten everyone at 86kg, including the seemingly invincible Kyle Dake? This kid is for real!

Who would have guessed that 9th seeded Frank Molinaro at 65kg would have mowed his way to the top spot in a weight class that had the likes of Pico, Metcalf, Oliver, Kennedy, Retherford, Russell, Humphrey and Ness? Talk about putting it all out there!

Kelsey Campbell, who was the 2012 Olympian, had three years of struggle before she beat Alli Ragan, who has been in the top spot since 2013. Is this an example of persistence, determination and not giving up?

Robby Smith has been a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for 10 years. Here is a kid that has really come a long way. Moving up from 96kg to 130kg was a huge jump in weight for this small heavyweight. He has been an example of someone who has dreamed big, followed his coaches’ plans, dedicated himself to the sport, improved his strength, improved his technique, improved his conditioning and believed in himself. But what I like most about this fun loving guy is… he LOVES the sport and loves trying to ignite the crowd.  He thrives on the audience.

Two years ago, at the Greco World Cup in Tehran, Iran, Robby Smith rose to the occasion as the Iranian crowd of about 6,000 cheered his name and beat the Iranian drum (like they do) acknowledging  Robby for his fearless attack against some of the best heavyweights in the world. Robby was clapping his hands and totally getting into the rhythm of the Iranian people. The Iranian people loved him and he loved the Iranian people!

I think this developed an attitude in Robby that he now lives for and thrives on. You could see this in Iowa City as he beat Adam Coon (2 time NCAA medalist) for the Olympic Team berth. Then when he addressed the crowd, you could hear it in his voice. Robby Smith was enjoying the act of wrestling and all that comes with it. He enjoys the preparation, the training, the learning, the matches and the people that watch him compete. It’s what I like to call… “Enjoying the battle!”

Believe that you can achieve anything, because you can! Train harder than everyone else, because you can! Make the right training and life decisions, because you can! And most of all - enjoy the battle. Enjoy each and every day because you are only on this earth for a very short time, in the big picture, so why not love every moment you have?


The Most Powerful Computer on the Planet!

The Most Powerful Computer on the Planet!
By:  Steve Fraser
February 28, 2012

 

Imagine for a moment that you are relaxing in your favorite lazy chair one afternoon and you fall asleep. You start dreaming about a magical coach that comes up to you and gives you a small computer device that he calls a success machine. He tells you that this success machine will allow you to have all the success you could ever imagine in the sport of wrestling. But he warns you to be very careful. He tells you to read the owner's manual very thoroughly for if you misuse it, it can cause great failure and disappointment.

The magical coach then suddenly disappears and poof -- you wake from your nap very disappointed, realizing that this was only a dream. Darn, it seemed so real. One minute you had the solutions to all of your problems and challenges and then the next moment, reality takes it all away.

Not true!  The fact is that we already own this success machine. The success machine is in reality our "mind."

Unfortunately, our mind does not come with an owner's manual and that is one of the reasons it is so often unused, misused, and abused. Most of us don't realize the great potential that computer found between our ears has. We truly can achieve anything we want in our lives and more specifically, in our wrestling careers, if we take control of the most powerful computer on the planet, our "own mind."

Most people rationalize the success of others with thoughts like:

            "They are gifted"

            "They are a special case."

            "They have all the right connections."

            "They were in the right place, at the right time"        

And most of all:

            "They are just lucky"

What keeps most wrestlers from achieving the success we want is not due to I.Q., family history, level of education, race, age, or bad luck! "It is the way we think." Life is a game played between the ears.  What we think determines the decisions we make. The decisions we make determine what we do, and what we do determines how successful we become. Change our thinking and we change our decisions. Change our decisions and we will change our behavior. Change our behavior and we will change our life.

People would be willing to change if they only realized the success and riches that come with this realization.

Of course this leads us to the very important question: What kind of thinking does it take to become the best in wrestling? What kind of thinking does it take to become a state, national, world and Olympic Champion? This is the main question. The answer to the question is you must develop a "Champion Wrestler Mindset." If you have a champion wrestler mindset you will make more of the right decisions. If you make more of the right decisions, success will follow as surely as Tuesday follows Monday.

It is crucial that we believe "our present life is the result of the choices we have made in the past and our future life will be the result of the choices we make in the future."  We are the sum of our choices. Becoming successful in wrestling begins with the understanding that we have total power in the hundreds of choices we make daily.

The most important decision that we will ever make is the choice to take control of our mind. What we choose to focus our mind on is critical because we will become what we think about most of the time. The late Earl Nightingale, one of the foremost success experts of the 20th Century, called this discovery the "Strangest Secret." 

To quote some great philosophers and thinkers regarding this concept:

"A man is what he thinks about all day long."   Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We become what we contemplate."  Plato

"The mind is everything. What you think, you become." Buddha

"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7

Whether you realize it or not, we create the life we live through our choices and our thoughts. If in our thoughts all day we think wrestling, we will become wrestlers. If we think about how to become great wrestlers, we will make better decisions, which will lead to better choices, which will lead to better wrestling behavior, which will lead to better wrestling results.

Most people think that life is something that just happens to them. They feel powerless when it comes to success. We must realize that this is not true! We create the life and success we have by the power of our thinking. We can be as successful as we can imagine and believe.

So let's not settle for anything less than being the very best we can be. Take control of your wrestling success machine. Realize life and your wrestling career is a self-fulfilling prophecy and as you think, so shall it be!

Ahead with seconds left, what do you do to win?

 

 

By Steve Fraser

 

      You are in the finals of the year’s main event and you are winning your match against a very tough opponent by a narrow margin of one or two points with less than one minute remaining in the bout. How do you secure your victory? What is the best, most effective strategy and tactic to win your match?

      A. You slow everything down by slowing your pace and being very careful not to make a mistake.

      B. You grab onto your opponent’s wrist, arm, neck (or another body part), holding on tightly, controlling him/her and try to slow them down.

      C. You do not make any attacking attempts or moves and back up slightly, avoiding contact.

      D. You stall by not attacking or moving too fast, but you are careful not to be obvious so the referee does not penalize you.

      E. You sneak a peek or two at the clock so you know exactly how much time remains in the match.

      F. You wrestle near the edge of the mat so you can go out of bounds if/when your opponent attacks you.

      G. You aggressively attack your opponent trying to score another takedown, no matter what.

      H. You aggressively pick up your pace, with your elbows mostly tight to your side, still moving forward, pummeling, tying up and moving your opponent from side to side, trying to destroy any possible attempt of him/her setting up a final attack/move, scoring only if the situation presents itself

      I. All of A, B, C, D, E, F, if you can do them all.

      I have seen it all too often that a wrestler, who is winning, chooses one or more of “A” through “F.” This, in my experience, is ASKING for big trouble.

      The key to securing your victory in a close match comes down to momentum. Momentum is crucial in closing out a match in your favor.

      Whoever keeps or establishes momentum in this scenario will have the advantage. Your opponent’s only hope at scoring on you is to create momentum to get something going. Your opponent needs to pick up the pace and catch you off guard. Time is running out so it is now or never for your opponent to make something happen, set you up, force a position where he/she can score.

      What helps your opponent greatly is when you try and slow things down. If you are trying to control things by slowing and being careful and he/she is going faster to get something going, you now have created a big difference in each other’s speed. This affects your reaction time and reaction capabilities. He/she is moving fast and you are moving slowly. This difference in speed between the two of you is what creates a huge advantage to your opponent.

      Plus, the referee (and everyone else watching) is looking for stalling at this point because this is the situation where stalling is very common, right? So now, the referee will often help your opponent with momentum. The referee will now warn or penalize you, giving your opponent more momentum, hope and help.

      The correct tactic, in my opinion, for securing your victory is to execute tactic “H” of the choices stated earlier.

      Sprinting very fast while keeping your elbows tighter to your side, sticking and moving, banging, pushing, pulling, being light on your feet and not giving any ground, will allow you to react quickly when your opponent makes a final attempt at scoring on you. This will break them.  They are looking for that one last shot at scoring on you but you never give them a second to get their wits together to set the move up.

      You can anticipate a final double-leg or single-leg shot by your opponent and if you are moving them properly, your opponent’s shot will likely be a desperate, sloppy attempt which you should capitalize on by snapping them down and going behind them.

            This strategy requires confidence in your physical conditioning and technical pummeling skills.  I encourage you to take time in practice to experiment with this tactic.  Every wrestler should be totally confident that they can stop anyone from scoring in the last minute by out-sprinting and moving them.

How to build confidence, by Steve Fraser

How to build confidence and strengthen mental & emotional toughness

By Steve Fraser

January 22, 2016

 

In my column this month I will try and suggest ways and means to build one’s confidence, which in turn, will help build mental and emotional toughness in wrestling and any sport for that matter. Confident athletes will most always perform better than their less confident opponents. One reason for this is because confident wrestlers will be able to access their personal “Ideal Competitive State (ICS)” more easily.

Our ICS is the state of being that allows us to perform to our utmost ability on any given day, in any given match. It is the state of being when we are generating positive emotions. These empowering emotions are associated with drive, challenge, confidence, determination, energy, persistence and fun. Disempowering emotions are associated with feelings of fatigue, helplessness, low energy, weakness, fear and confusion.

Confident athletes that master the art of being able to kick into their ICS, increase their ability to compete at their highest potential, no matter whom they are wrestling, what the situation is, or how big the match. Does this mean they will always win… no. There are other factors that also come into play and help determine victory. Talent, skill, experience, conditioning, strength, mental toughness, flexibility and knowledge all contribute to the outcome of the match.

So, why is building confidence and ICS important? All we can do is maximize our capacity to wrestle and compete in our most energized Ideal Competitive State. This gives us the best opportunity to perform at our highest potential on that given day, in that given match. This is our main task in maximizing our performance, and doing our very best. This is what I like to call, “emptying both barrels and leaving no bullets in our guns.”

Confidence, mental and emotional toughness can be learned, practiced and trained. The two ways to train for emotional toughness are:

  1. Physical toughening

  2. Mental toughening

In this article I will only examine the physical toughening piece. The physical toughening that will strengthen the emotional chemistry. The mental toughening practice that helps strengthen one’s emotion will be reviewed in a future column.

Let’s make no mistake about this.Great coaches have always understood the connection between physical fitness and confidence, and the ability to hold up under pressure. Exercising great mental and emotional toughness requires energy, just like exercising one’s body requires energy. When our energy is gone, it’s all over. No energy, most often means, no fight.

Fitness is a measure of how much energy we can expend and how much stress we can withstand. Having outstanding physical fitness and conditioning allows us to take on the blows of the sport and keep on coming. It allows us to overcome and avoid buckling in tough physical situations.

Being physically fit also allows for us to have the energy to fight the mental and emotional battles. It deepens our resolve to take on anything that is thrown at us. It helps us to believe that we will endure and go the distance, where nothing can stop us, nothing can deter our attack. It strengthens our resolve to “never say die, never surrender!”

Greater exposure to physical stress will most always lead to greater emotional toughness and strength. As many of my friends and followers know, I am always promoting the “Grind Match.” This “one to two” hour live wrestling match, done periodically in practice throughout the season, is one of the best ways to develop physical fitness for wrestlers.

Wrestling grind matches will not only build superb physical fitness, specifically connected to the act of wrestling (by the way), it will also toughen our mental and emotional power. Grind matches build base conditioning, no doubt. But this long match exercise also teaches us how to relax and explode, keep moving in all positions, break our opponents will to fight, along with so many other things. For more about Grind Match go to: http://www.uscamps.net/articleoftheweek

Of course there are many other forms of stressing our bodies, which builds our fitness. Running, lifting, stretching, biking and swimming all can contribute.

The main point I am trying to make is that both physical toughening and fitness are crucial factors in the development of our confidence and mental toughness. Fitness governs our level of energy production, and confidence and mental toughness all require energy to operate. Great fitness allows for great overall toughness.

As always, expect to win and enjoy the battle!

The Grind Match, by Steve Fraser


Mark Churella, 3 X NCAA Champion

THE GRIND MATCH
By Steve Fraser

May 8, 2014

It was the beginning of my sophomore year at the University of Michigan when Mark Churella started taking a bit of a liking to me.  Mark, Michigan’s only 3x NCAA Champion, was a junior at the time.  He was wrestling at 150 lbs. and defending his first NCAA title.

I don’t know exactly why he took a liking to me.  We didn’t talk to each other all that much, we didn’t have a whole lot in common.  Mark was married and didn’t hang with the guys too much socially.  He was an extraordinary wrestler and I was pretty mediocre.  Maybe he took a liking to me because I was one of the only wrestlers in the Michigan wrestling room that would stay out on the mat and wrestle with him for as long as he demanded.  No matter how long I took a beating from him I would just hang in there and keep wrestling.  I’ll tell you one thing…Mark Churella could inflict a brutal beating.  He was an expert leg wrestler and seemed to explode with excitement when his opponent would wince in pain.  I was 190 lbs. and he would beat the living tar out of me for 1 to 2 hours straight without so much as a break.  I was so impressed and honored that he chose me to go with him that I would not allow myself to even think about quitting or asking for a break.

Thus, my introduction to the “Grind Match”.  Do you want to get tougher fast?  Do you want to develop your technique in a hurry?  Do you want to condition your mind and body to their maximum?  Then consider implementing grind matches into your training regimen. 

What is a grind match?  The grind match is a continuous wrestling match that lasts one to two hours in length.  It is a live wrestling activity where the score is not as important as some of the other benefits one gains when completing this exercise. 

What are the rules?  It is simple.  Keep wrestling, non-stop, for the entire, pre-determined time.  Absolutely no stopping is allowed.  No sitting on the sidelines for a minute to catch your breath.  No going to the drinking fountain two or three times for that water break.  No lengthy tying of your shoe or adjusting your shorts.  Wrestling takes place continuously on your feet as well as in parterre or mat position.  The time the wrestler takes on top in parterre is totally up to the guy on top.  Walls, if padded, are in-bounds (maybe even if not padded). 

What is the goal?  The main goal is to try and break your opponent’s physical or mental limit (or perceived limit).  The objective is to make them quit.  Force them to take a break.  Of course, if and when this occurs, you must immediately grab another partner and continue your grind.  It is great to have a partner like Mark who wouldn’t think of stopping but it’s also fun to try and break 2 or even 3 wrestlers during one grind match session.  Only when you actually break someone can you feel what it is like.  This feeling is tremendous.  It inspires you to want to do it again but, this time sooner.  Before long you are breaking wrestlers in less and less time. 

What are the benefits?  This long grind match helps to develop many great wrestling attributes.  First of all, it helps develop that overall base conditioning that one needs to establish a solid foundation.  It will develop tough mental as well as tough physical conditioning.  It will help to develop that “in-your-face” constant attack.  It will improve the rhythm and fluid movement of your style.  It will help teach you to relax and then explode.  Your chain-wrestling skills will improve… learning to keep moving - no matter what happens.  And, most of all, you will learn how to break your opponent’s will to fight.

What actually happens in a grind match?  Normally when we wrestle we tend to be very rigid in our stance and movement.  It is not until we have wrestled to the point of exhaustion that our bodies are forced to relax. This is where the average wrestler stops and takes a break.   Instead of stopping, continue to wrestle but focus on relaxing yet staying in good, solid position.  From this position, work on exploding with technique and movement.  Training your body to explode from this relaxed state will increase your effectiveness.

Mark Churella and the ‘grind match’ are two reasons why I was able to get reasonably good at the sport of wrestling.  I encourage you to find your Mark Churella and grind away!

Help Stop Bullying and Hazing In Youth Sports

Fundamentals eNewsletter

9/9/2015

Earlier this fall, NFL Atlanta Falcons rookie wide receiver Justin Hardy was spotted carrying the two-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones’ pads at training camp. Media snapped a picture and began asking questions. “That’s just what rookies got to do,” said Jones. “I mean, it’s no hazing. It’s all about just showing those guys how to be a great teammate.” At NFL Buffalo Bills pre-season camp, seasoned veterans taped a second-round rookie cornerback to the goalpost and dumped ice water on his head. Players said it was “all in good fun”. But is it really “no big deal” or “good fun”? What’s the line between showing guys how to “be a great teammate” and humiliating them? When incidents are egregious – like some that have made the news in recent years – everyone is clear: it’s hazing and bullying. But the lines aren’t always so clear and oftentimes old traditions and rituals are actually crossing the line. And recent statistics seem to suggest that the problem of hazing and bullying is actually getting worse. Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Play Positive® initiative powered by Positive Coaching Alliance along with many coaches and parents are committed to turning this around, using National Bullying Prevention Month (October) to highlight the problem and champion change.

Did You Know? See The Statistics
28% of US students in grades 6-12 reportedly have experienced bullying or are feeling bullied.1 70.6% percent of teens have seen bullying occurring in their schools. And approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying themselves.2 A recent report found that 47% of students experience some sort of hazing before graduating high school and 74% of college students on a varsity athletic team report going through hazing.3

What Is Considered Bullying & Hazing
According to the US Department of Health & Human Services and the Stop Bullying program, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”4

Bullying can take many forms. Verbal bullying includes teasing, name-calling, taunting, or threatening to cause harm. Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, or making mean or rude hand gestures. And finally bullying can be social, often times called ‘relational bullying’, when someone is left out on purpose, when someone tells kids to not be friends with someone, when a child spreads rumors about another kid, or when a child intentionally embarrasses another child in public.

Hazing is taking these same activities of harassment, abuse or humiliation and using them as a way of initiating a person into a group or a team.

Bullying and Hazing In Sports
Sadly, bullying and hazing behavior in youth and high school sports has oftentimes been excused as “kids being kids”, “team initiation” or “part of our tradition.” But while coaches and team captains sometimes defend hazing practices as activities that create team bonding, the research has clearly shown that hazing deprives both the hazed and the hazers of true, valid team-building.5

Making teammates dress in a costume, wearing something that is humiliating, eating disgusting or very spicy food, drinking large quantities of water, requiring strenuous calisthenics, memorizing trivial information, or acting as a ‘servant’ are all examples of activities labeled ‘initiations’ that are hazing. And while they may seem innocent, they can have a negative effect on children’s psyches and their enjoyment of being part of the team.

Zero Tolerance For Hazing
Coaches and sports administrators should be clear with their athletes and team parents that their organization has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing. Explain what hazing is and clearly state that the behavior is unacceptable. Outline the consequences for hazing upfront and then follow through when issues arise.

Coaches should also follow up the zero tolerance policy by providing a forum for kids and parents to talk about hazing or bullying when they think they have seen or experienced it. And have an on-going open dialog at practice and throughout the season that continues to remind everyone about the shared commitment to a positive environment. And as a parent, remember that your primary role is to ensure you child’s safety: if you believe your child is being bullied or hazed, you owe it to your athlete to have a conversation about the unwanted activity and how you will address the situation together. In some cases, your athlete should speak to the team coaches, but in other cases, you as the adult may need to intervene and speak to the coach directly.

Fresh Approach To Team Bonding
Instead of using activities that diminish, belittle and bully athletes, coaches and teammates can foster a positive youth sports environment by focusing on team bonding and team building exercises that bring about camaraderie. Try physical activities and exercises designed to foster listening, collaboration and teamwork. Rather than divide, separate or in some way create a tiered environment within the team, create activities that truly bring everyone together. For example, PCA National Advisory Board Member and Northwestern University Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald advocates a big brother program throughout the season, with upperclassmen being assigned to an underclassman to help the new player get acclimated.

Also, outside-of-practice activities like pizza parties and ice cream get-togethers can help players find commonalities away from the field.

Creating a positive youth sports environment for kids means eliminating bullying practices. Just because they have been done in the past, doesn’t mean they should continue. Some traditions – like hazing – should be retired and replaced with positive activities that continue to develop a culture where kids can grow and learn valuable life lessons.

 

National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement, 2013. 
2 Bradshaw, C.P., Sawyer, A.L., & O’Brennan, L.M. (2007). Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, 36(3), 361-382.
http://www.stophazing.org
4 http://www.stopbullying.gov
5 PCA Development Zone. http://devzone.positivecoach.org/resource/article/preventing-hazing-and-bullying-your-team


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