West Virginia Wrestling


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

. . . on Practice Wrestle-Offs and the Importance of Group Work
by Bill Welker, EdD

Every wrestling coach wants to run the most equitable wrestle-offs possible to be totally fair to all program participants. They also must realize the significance of efficient grouping strategies during practice. The following ideas will help them achieve these objectives.

Practice Wrestle-Offs

Your wrestle-off matches determine who will compete on the varsity squad; thus, they are very important. To begin with, it would be very wise to utilize registered officials for wrestle-offs. This practice will dismiss any thoughts by the participants or their parents that you show "favoritism," especially with closely contested wrestle-offs.

Your initial wrestle-off matches should occur at least two weeks prior to your first scheduled meet. They should be conducted with the same formality found in dual meet and tournament bouts. In fact, you could conduct the wrestle-off matches during "Meet the Team" night.

If two wrestlers are evenly matched, the "best-out-of-three-matches" format would be advisable. This set-up leaves fewer questions in the minds of the competing wrestlers or you as to who is the more competent wrestler.

All wrestle-off matches should be carefully evaluated. With this feedback, both wrestlers can learn about their strong and weak points. After the first set of wrestle-offs, it would be advantageous to encourage wrestlers to challenge their varsity counterparts throughout the remainder of the season. A wrestling program that promotes wrestle-off matches adds to the competitive spirit of the participants, and keeps everyone of their toes.

One final point needs to be mentioned. There may be isolated instances when you must decide who wrestles varsity, even if your choice is not the winner of wrestle-offs. How can this be? Well, there are those athletes who are great competitors in the practice room. However, they experience "stage fright" in front of the fans. It is a tough call to make, but sometimes it has to be done for the good of the team.

Group Work during Practice

The purpose of group work is to aid in a smooth flowing, well-organized, and fast-paced wrestling practice. Group work is usually a necessity due to the fact that the practice room cannot accommodate the entire squad at one time. This is especially true during wrestling workout sessions, and sometimes with specialized drills found in the conditioning drills chapter.

Since most successful wrestling programs consist of 30 to 40 team members, there is no need for more than two groups during the wrestling workout phase. The ideal number of group members would be 18 to 20 wrestlers. Of course, team size would ultimately determine the number of groups.

Thus, when one group is wrestling, the other group(s) could be running in the gym or outside and/or lifting weights. However, if the gym is occupied and the weather does not permit them to run outside, an alternative could be jumping rope or running in place, with jog and sprint intervals.

When dividing your squad into groups, see to it that the primary group is comprised mainly of your varsity performers. The other group(s) would be made up of the less "polished" wrestlers. You definitely want the members of each group evenly matched by weight and ability level.

It is very important to assign two or three "student leaders" in each group to keep the participants "stepping" and motivated when not involved in wrestling and in front of the vigil eye of the coaches. These student leaders should be very conscientious individuals who are highly respected by their peers on the team.

Group work is beneficial in lowering the level of practice "boredom." Furthermore, group work assists in to eliminate practice "down time." It also allows the coaches an opportunity for more individualized instruction.

Wrestling Words of Wisdom

"He who won't be counseled can't be helped."
- Benjamin Franklin

(Excerpt from The Wrestling Drill Book, 2E by Bill Welker. It can be purchased at www.humankinetics.com or www.amazon.com.)

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