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Greco-Roman skills in folkstyle

by Ike Ramaswamy Sachem HS, New York It's pretty amazing to think that the oldest form of wrestling is the most misconceived and the least credited among coaches and athletes here in the US. Successful college, high school, or club coaches avidly seek to learn and incorporate new and varying freestyle and folkstyle techniques into their programs, but the implementation of Greco-Roman skills remains a very distant third, if at all, in the picture as the season's practice plans are being drawn. So, the question is, "How can Greco-Roman fit in, or more importantly, WHY should Greco-Roman fit in?" Many coaches may be intimidated by the initial frustrations that come with the idea of trying to teach Greco-Roman technique and strategies to their kids. Some may be concerned that Greco-Roman technique doesn't transfer to freestyle and folkstyle, and that its teaching engrains bad habits (i.e., standing up straight, going for bad throws, etc.). Others are probably insecure about their own knowledge and ability to successfully teach in this area. Either of these is a poor excuse. A shrewd coach realizes that ALL wrestling knowledge is useful to both coach and athlete, in ANY style of wrestling. Wrestling Greco-Roman is like using chopsticks - it requires great patience and precision. It forces an athlete to concentrate, and narrow the focus of his wrestling. Look at it this way: How many moves do coaches teach during the course of a regular high school season? There are hundreds of techniques from the various positions, and more than likely, most coaches have a broad enough base knowledge of folkstyle to cover a large percentage, if not all of these even in a single season. Now, consider all the hours that go into teaching these techniques, and then, stop and think: How many moves do you actually see executed by either wrestler in a regular match? Six? Eight? My guess is, in a common match on the high school level, you'd tend to see the same two or three techniques attempted over and over again. All that time spent teaching, and the best that most of the kids can put together is two or three moves. But then, there's the standout - that kid who's operating at a completely different level. He just flows through matches, even the tough ones. What separates him from the others? Knowledge? No, he's been in the same room with all the others as you've been teaching. Talent? Maybe, but I'm sure there are at least five other kids in the room that could out throw, out run, or out power him. Experience? That's most likely it. Chances are, this kid has put his time in, and he has a true "feel" for wrestling. He understands the total concept of it, from every position, not because he's been taught, but because he's been there, over and over and over again, and he is now completely comfortable on that mat, even if you start him out in a back bridge. How many of your wrestlers can you say that about? "Feel" is not an easy thing to teach; as previously stated, it most likely comes from the experience of being exposed to and becoming comfortable with all positions in wrestling. Once a wrestler has feel, he's on a different plateau in regards to skill level. He understands not only the techniques, but the nuances that allow him to successfully execute: How to position, Where to focus. When to attack, and, if necessary. How to adjust. Exposure to Greco-Roman technique can help a wrestler achieve this feel at an incredibly accelerated rate. Most kids are so limited in their understanding of upper body wrestling concepts, that they rarely ever gain the real confidence to become totally comfortable on the mat, and such misgiving can prevent an athlete's realization of his true potential. So, as a coach, exposing yourself to Greco-Roman technique, and then giving that exposure back to your athletes can help you to maximize the overall success of your program. Five fundamental Greco-Roman skills, which not only transfer to, but enhance freestyle and folkstyle wrestling are handfighting, pummeling, level changes, hip pop, and the back arch and bridge. Hand fighting is a commonly overlooked skill in folkstyle wrestling, but it is a staple for success in Greco. A wrestler's ability to take control of and manipulate the hands and arms of his opponent can lead to a more effective offense, and certainly, a much stronger defense. Training and sparring in the Greco-Roman style helps to focus on and enhance skills such as double wrist ties, inside bicep control, outside elbow control, 2 on 1 positions, and arm drag attacks. Undoubtedly, when you have two evenly matched wrestlers going at it, hand fighting strategies can make all the difference in determining how the scoring goes on the feet, in any style of wrestling. Another skill developed through Greco- Roman wrestling is the art of pummeling. Pummeling, when done correctly, is a fight to gain an advantage during upper body contact. What most coaches don't realize, however, is that a good pummeler also maintains great lower body position. Teach a wrestler how to pummel, and he'll learn to gain a feel for strong position. His balance will be better, his feet will be more agile; his overall stance will improve. A strong pummeler can take control over the pace of a match, regardless of his technical skill level in the other areas. Level change is another concept that is enhanced (and in some cases, corrected) through practice in Greco-Roman technique. Right away, the misconception that level change is a freestyle or folkstyle concept, and that Greco causes wrestlers to stand straight up, comes to question. In response to that, consider this: How many times have you as a coach had to correct "bad shots" meaning, that leaning, bent at the waist, head-down lunge for a leg or ankle that looks more accidental rather than a strategic attack? How many points have your wrestlers given up because they took those bad shots and got sprawled on and spun behind? The problem is, as long as the wrestler has a hold of his opponent's leg, he thinks he is doing everything right - regardless of his own body position. In Greco-Roman, if a wrestler executes an incorrect level change, there is no failsafe of a leg to grab and hold on to, so the immediate result is a failed attempt with one or more points scored against him. Many Greco-Roman techniques require not only level change, but precise level change. Greco-Roman techniques teach not only proper execution (maintaining balance and control) but also varying degrees of level changes. A shrug requires only a slight level change, while a duck-under requires a bit more, and a slide-by or hi-dive requires the attacking wrestler's head to drop down to his opponent's hip, similar to a single or double leg attack. Teach an athlete a good slide-by or hi-dive, and you will see how his level change leg attacks also will improve. There are a lot of studly-looking wrestlers out there, even on the high school level these days, with bulging biceps and tremendous chests. But on more than one occasion, we have all witnessed some wiry kid mop the mat with one of his more impressive looking opponents. Coaches usually share the same comment after seeing such a spectacle: "Boy, that kid didn't seem like much, but he sure had great hips." A good hip-pop is the great equalizer in wrestling. It is the central point from where all useful power for wrestling comes. A wrestler with a good hip-pop has great lifting power and maneuverability. Leg attack finishes, sprawling ability, and even riding skill are all greatly improved with stronger hip-pop skills. The throwing demands of Greco-Roman help to develop hip-pop skill in a faster, safer, and more efficient manner than any weight lifting exercises ever could. Teaching athletes how to execute proper back-step and back-arch techniques such as headlocks, armspins, and belly-to-belly throws will help them get to that next level on the ability scale. Finally, the back arch and bridge are solid skills within the repertoire of wrestlers trained in Greco-Roman, while prevailing freestyle and folkstyle thought generally sees these as th
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