The Importance of Freestyle and Greco
by Daryl Weber
Editor's Note: Daryl Weber wrestled under the legendary Dan Gable at Iowa where he won an NCAA title in 1996 before a successful stint on the international circuit. As the coach of Christiansburg HS (VA), Coach Weber has lead his team to 12 straight team titles and is regarded as one of the best developers of talent in the country. For more information and tips, visit darylweber.com
I have been either competing or coaching in wrestling for the past 30 years and the path to being a state champion has always been off-season training in Freestyle and/or Greco-Roman wrestling. I grew up in Iowa following this path and when I moved to Virginia thirteen years ago, nothing was different. I have been head coach for seven years now and we have had roughly 40 State Champions. EVERY one of those State Champions wrestled Freestyle or Greco-Roman during the spring season at a minimum, and many trained all summer to compete in Fargo, N.D. at the largest Freestyle/Greco-Roman tournament of the year.
There are plenty of opportunities in most states to wrestle in local, state, and regional events throughout the spring. Most states have a website dedicated to USA Events in that state or region. The best place to find regional and national events for FS & GR is TheMat.com. Below I have put together a sample schedule that our club has used for over the past decade and is, no doubt, a huge reason we have won the past twelve straight State Championships.
Top 3 Reasons to Wrestle Freestyle and Greco-Roman
1. Find the Best Competition
The information in this article is nothing new. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the path the best wrestlers have been on for decades. The best wrestlers and teams will be at off-season FS and GR tournaments and that is who you want to compete against if you desire a State Championship. This makes my point relevant everywhere. No matter what level your state is at if you are training to beat the best you are preparing to be a State Champion. If you are on the state, regional and national FS and GR circuit you will probably be separating yourself from the pack.
2. Sharpen Folksytle Techniques
Most of the Folkstyle fundamentals it takes to be a State Champion are very important in FS & GR. Striving to be successful in FS & GR will solidify the techniques and strategies that are essential in Folkstyle.
Top 5 Folkstyle Techniques and Strategies Sharpened in FS & GR
- Finish shots quick and preferably on the feet.
- Control opponent and learn to use edge of the mat.
- Clearing out of Front Headlocks
- How to use a Tight Waist effectively
- Managing close matches
And many more…
3. Master The Art of Winning Close Matches
FS & GR matches are actually 2 to 3 small matches within one. The fact that it is easier to score on your opponent forces you to be sharp at all times. If you tech-fall your opponent in the first period you have to get up again immediately for the second period, because the scoring for that period starts from 0 all over again. If you lose the first period by anything but a pin you are still in the match. During the high school season, I talk with my wrestlers frequently about breaking your opponent. The key to breaking your opponent is scoring points. In a Folkstyle match, the wider the point spread the easier it gets to score points. When your opponent feels the match is getting away from him, he just doesn't fight as hard. In FS & GR it is much harder to break your opponent and he is more likely to come at you hard the entire time. This is because the score is reset for each period and opponents know they can score a lot of points quickly. This leads to wrestlers knowing that they have to be ready at all times, and likewise, that if you have a lead it is never safe to shutdown. Wrestlers who compete in a lot of highly competitive FS & GR matches learn to control their opponent, hand fight, stay in great position, and wrestle tough the entire match. These skills will take your Folkstyle to a completely different level and you will learn to master the art of winning close matches. The Folkstyle wrestlers who win State Titles and other big matches win the close matches. There is no better training ground to winning close matches then FS & GR matches.
Strategy to succeed in Freestyle Wrestling:
Below is a breakdown of the skills and progression a wrestler can use to quickly have success in FS & GR. Combine these skills with your Folkstyle skills and you will definitely hold your own and be on the State Champion's plan.
Neutral -- Wrestlers can use the same scoring techniques they learn in Folkstyle to score in Freestyle. One thing that is different in Freestyle is the exposure rule. In Freestyle you don't need to get a count to get 2 back points. If you expose your opponent by breaking 90 degrees you will score 2 points. With this in mind, your shot finishes need to be extra sharp or you can get tilted off your shots. That means you need to tighten up your shot finishes. Also, with the exposure rules you can be tilted from a front headlock (fhl) position so you need to clear out of fhl's quickly. These are all things that coaches preach consistently to wrestlers during the high school season.
If you really want to have fun and learn how to score points quickly you should learn to tilt off your opponent's shots. This isn't a necessity but will give you more scoring opportunities from the feet and they are pretty fun to learn.
Bill Zadick -- National Freestyle Developmental Coach
Top -- Learning turns from the top position in Freestyle is gravy. As you gain experience and attend more competitive competitions, wrestlers will want to learn some maneuvers from the top position. I have witnessed wrestlers winning Freestyle & Greco-Roman National Titles with only one effective move from the top position. A Gut Wrench is a good one to learn because it can be used in both Freestyle and Greco-
Bottom -- The Gut Wrench Defense is the first technique you should learn. There are some simple strategies and techniques a wrestler can learn to defend the Gut Wrench. If you can stop this move you are going to be ready for your first FS & GR tournament.
Strategy to succeed in Greco Roman Wrestling:
Greco-Roman is not all throws! Most of your scores in the neutral position are from 2-on-1's, Drags, Underhooks, Front Headlocks, Duck Unders and modified Double Legs (Hi-Dive). These are all techniques wrestlers are exposed to in Folkstyle.
Neutral -- Like I mentioned above, most of the scoring in Greco-Roman is from basic Folkstyle holds. If you wrestle Greco-Roman you are forced to hand fight, get angles, use setups/tie-ups and work for front headlocks. These are all techniques teams work on during in Folkstyle.
Top -- Learning some offense from the top position should be a goal of yours as you gain experience and challenge yourself with tougher competition, but it isn't a necessity. A Gut Wrench is the first offensive maneuver I would recommend learning to build your arsenal. Next would be a Russian Back Breaker (yeah, scary name) adn Reverse Body Lift.
Bottom -- The Gut Wrench and Reverse Body Lift should be the first moves you learn to defend from the bottom position. There are some simple strategies that a wrestler can learn quickly to defend the Gut Wrench, Reverse Body Lift and Russian Back Breaker. If you can stop these moves you are ready.
"From a developmental perspective the FILA Cadet National/Trials (Akron, OH) emphasizes another high level event where kids will see good competition and sharpen themselves. As you know, the winners go to Cadet Worlds and this gives them another opportunity, at the same time promotes the Olympic/World Championship dream and the skills needed to get there."
Bill Zadick -- National Freestyle Developmental Coach
Sample Spring and Summer Schedule
Below is a typical spring and summer plan that I have used in Christiansburg since 2000. If you have any questions feel free to email me at email@example.com and I hope to see you on the circuit this spring.
- 27 Freestyle and Greco-Roman Clinic @ Roanoke Catholic HS (All Ages) -- FREE
- Look for other clinics or clubs to attend. It is always more fun to train with a group of like-minded individuals.
- Find a local tournament to get your spring season started.
- Get in 1-3 local Freestyle & Greco-Roman Tournaments.
- Maybe one more local tournament or join a club team and hit up a dual tournament.
- Attend the state tournament for your age division.
- Attend 1-2 Regional Tournaments.
You may want to switch gears back to Folkstyle and hit up a camp or two during the summer. If you are doing well in Freestyle and Greco-Roman or are at the level where you want to challenge yourself against the best in the country, then there are more Freestyle and Greco-Roman opportunities to attend through USA Wrestling.
- East Coast Duals
- Cadet National Duals
- Schoolboy/girl National Duals
- Kids Nationals
Junior/Cadet National Championships