West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker, National Wrestling Hall of Famer
and Rick Welker

. . . on Evaluating Practices

In order to have a successful program, you must develop practice sessions that benefit each and every wrestler. You need to match practice strategies with the wrestlers' ability levels. General questions you want to ask yourself after each practice:

Did the wrestlers react well performing today's drills?
Were the wrestlers able to adapt to new moves taught?
Were the wrestlers giving all they have during practice workout sessions?
Were partners in the groups co-operating with each other during the drill
and new move phase of practice?
Was each group working to their fullest during the "off-mat" activities phase of practice?
Do we need to spend more time with drill work, workout sessions, conditioning, etc.?
Did the wrestlers seem stale during practice?
Do the wrestlers need a day off or "change of pace" activities day?
Was the overall practice successful in achieving the daily objectives and goals?
On a more detailed basis, you must continually watch for wrestler strengths, but more importantly, wrestler weaknesses. You must always be aware of wrestler mistakes and correct them immediately. Below is a basic checklist example of wrestler weaknesses to eliminate in the three wrestling positions.

Neutral Position
_____ The wrestler is crossing his feet (foot work).
_____ The wrestler's feet are too close together or too far apart in an extreme manner.
_____ The wrestler is standing up too straight (lower center of gravity: hips).
_____ The wrestler has his elbows out too far.
_____ The wrestler is reaching for his opponent rather than penetrating.
_____ The wrestler is looking at his opponent's face or feet instead of focusing attention on his opponent's center of gravity (hips).
_____ The wrestler is backing away from his opponent.
_____ The wrestler is not crossfacing properly.
_____ The wrestler is not sprawling on his toes.
_____ The wrestler is putting too much weight on his heels.

Offensive (Top) Position
_____ The wrestler is reaching over his opponent's shoulder.
_____ The wrestler is riding too high (readjust center of gravity: hips).
_____ The wrestler is not on his toes while riding opponent.
_____ The wrestler is locking hands on the mat.
_____ The wrestler is pulling his opponent on top of him instead of riding with weight pressured on his opponent.
_____ The wrestler is too parallel while riding or pinning his opponent.
_____ The wrestler has his head too far over his opponent's back to the far side.
_____ The wrestler has all his weight on his knees while riding his opponent.
_____ The wrestler is repeatedly assuming an incorrect starting position on top.
_____ The wrestler reacts too slowly on top when the whistle blows.

Defensive (Bottom) Position
_____ The wrestler is reaching over his opponent's back while executing a switch.
_____ The wrestler is stopping after one move.
_____ The wrestler is sitting-out too far.
_____ The wrestler is not changing direction.
_____ The wrestler is balling up which makes him easy prey for a cradle.
_____ The wrestler is not controlling his opponent's hands when standing up.
_____ The wrestler is leaning too far forward when assuming the referee's position (lower center of gravity: hips).
_____ The wrestler is laying on his stomach with elbows close to his body.
_____ The wrestler is looking toward his opponent's half nelson.
_____ The wrestler is hesitating on the bottom when the whistle blows (needs to curl toes).

Remember, you must immediately correct wrestler mistakes as soon as possible. If not, those mistakes will become bad habits.

There is one exception regarding the evaluation of wrestlers during practice. And that is "individual wrestler creativity." Allow me to explain.

To be a perceptive coach, you must have the wisdom to accept the "uniqueness" of all wrestlers on your team. In fact, you will sometimes need to develop a "compromising attitude" when interacting with your athletes. Consider the following.

When your wrestlers begin to perfect their "essential" wrestling skill, you may observe a wrestler who is unconsciously adding a subtle variation to a specific move learned. Furthermore, he is experiencing a high degree of success with the maneuver. Should you stop it? No. As long as the variation is, for the most part, fundamentally sound, let it be.

Occasionally, a slight modification of a move may, in fact, be very appropriate for the body-type of a specific wrestler. However, should a move-variation consist of a bad habit that could potentially get the wrestler in trouble, do not hesitate to break him of it.

Individual wrestler creativity can also be a valuable learning experience for the coach. A good analogy would be a high school math instructor who showed his class how to solve some problems assigned for homework. As he was checking papers the next day, the teacher found that one student devised his own alternative method for solving the problems, which was also fundamentally sound. Thus, both the teacher and student learned. Such is often the case when coaching wrestlers with unique physical abilities.

Evaluating each and every practice is a must for coaches who sincerely want to produce champion wrestlers and teams.

Wrestling Words of Wisdom

"A great athlete does not come from muscle, speed, and skill . . . but from the mind first."
- Daniel E. O. Welker

(Excerpt from The Wrestling Drill Book, 2E by Bill Welker. It can be purchased at www.humankinetics.com or www.amazon.com.)
Return to the West Virginia Mat Thoughts Index Page
Return to the WV-Mat front page