Final Tournament Preparations and the Russian Approach to Sparring

Final Tournament Preparations and the Russian Approach to Sparring

Yakutsk, Russia Week 2

I have been in Russia now for two weeks. It is still hard to sleep through the

night and during the day I get really tired after eating lunch, but this is expected

when you are more than half way around the world. Right now I am sitting in the

gym making ???? sure the guys cutting weight are doing alright. It is a little distracting

with guys running around and some playing basketball, but this is exciting to me

because the tournament starts tomorrow.


We have a very young American team here, but I expect great things from them,

and they expect the same from themselves. Ever since Zeke has taken over as

the head coach the National team has been doing more and more international

training camps. This is not an easy thing to pull off. First off these trips take a lot

of money, and they take guys who are sold on the benefits of doing them. When

I first came on the international scene in 2002 after I graduated I don’t think

anyone would have been willing to come to Yakutsk for two weeks. The

difference between then and now is that the guys on the team Miami Dolphins Jerseys are sold on the

benefits of training in Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Ukraine. We have gotten

past our attitude that we are Americans and we have to do it our way to become

successful. I am not saying we have to do it their way, but it always helps to

know what your main competition is doing so you can judge your training

accordingly. When I was young and just starting out in freestyle, the Russians

were a mystery, to me they were just the best in the world. Now I have spent

well over a year training in Russia and its former republics and I know first hand it

is not a secret or mystery as to why they dominate the international level.


The young guys on the team who have never been here knew before coming

what to expect, this wasn’t the case 10 years ago. The veterans on the national

team talk to the younger guys, these younger guys talk to college kids, and the

information we get here makes it way down to the youth level at some point. This

is a great thing for American wrestling, as I am a big proponent that the direction

we are going in has to start at the top and work its way down to the kids. We are

slowing building our identity again and it is not just hard work wins. We have to

train hard because everyone trying to be the best in the world is working hard,

but now we are starting to train smarter and we are focusing our efforts on great

technique and breaking down the positions that win world and Olympic titles.


After the world championships in 2010 I went to Russia to train with hopes of

coming home and becoming a world champion. That did not happen Road and I can

live with cheap jerseys that, I was not young when I went over there. When I came back to the

US I was hurt and not at my best, but now I am healing paradise up and playing around a

lot more with Tyrel Todd and Josh Churella in practice. I have noticed that even

though I don’t get on the mat that often my technique and positioning is way

better than it was when I was competing. My time in Russia taught me a lot, but

one of the most important things I learned was to slow everything down. This

past week of training in Yakutia has been light since we have a tournament that

starts on Saturday. During this week, the local coaches would put the guys

through a good 15 minute warm up and then the practices opened up for the

guys to do what they want. This is where the important part of my blog begins.


When you are young and just learning how to wrestle drilling is a great tool to

learn the move, but as you mature and grow as an athlete doing the same move

over and over with zero resistance from your partner is wasting time. You

already know how to hit the move and doing it on a guy who gives zero

resistance will not make you a better wrestler, it will make you a better driller.

What I have noticed this week when the coach opens up the practice for the

athletes to do what they want, I see the Americans wanting to drill, but the

Russians do not drill they spar. Sparring for me has changed my wrestling and

my approach to wrestling. For Americans this is a hard concept to figure out

because it is not drilling and it is not live. We Americans have two gears, all out

or nothing. This is not a bad thing, but we have to learn that there is a gear in

between. That gear is called sparring.


Not only is sparring cheap jerseys hard to figure out as an athlete, it is harder to write about. So

bear with me as I try to explain how to spar.


Sparring is live wrestling but without the intensity. Sparring gives both the

offensive and defensive guys a chance to work on their skills. This has to be

done with little intensity but perfect positioning and skill. For instance if a guy

takes a bad shot and tries to finish still in poor position the defensive guy will

have the chance to defend and win the position. A lot of times in America guys

who are sparring just trade off taking offensive shots and finish all the time. This

is more like drilling but with more resistance.


What sparring should be is both guys on their feet doing light hand fighting. This

light hand fighting will improve timing when you actually go live. It will show you

the openings you need to get to the leg. Also hand fighting while sparing will

teach you how to trick your opponent. Since you are going lighter than live you

can set traps so to say. When you do see an opening and take a shot you don’t

want to finish by blasting through the guy. Blasting through a guy is great and if

you can do it in a match it will make your life as trots a wrestler easier. While sparring

you want to get to the leg and make sure you are in good position before

finishing. This will give the defensive guy a chance to get you out of position.

The defensive guy will have the opportunity to stuff your head, take your head to

the outside or inside depending on the shot, or block your arm so you can’t cut

across. This playing around is where wrestling is learned. When you wrestle a

match and get to the leg a guy will defend it, but if you have been in that position

thousands of times while sparring, anything they throw at you will be second

nature and you should be able to finish with no problem.


As I wrote in my blog after the Olympics wrestling starts when you get to the leg,

so sparring will help with these small positions that are critical in winning

matches. This approach can be applied to all levels of wrestling. If you can get

to the leg but you are not well versed enough to finish most of the time then you

need to put yourself in the position and spar. Sparring does not have to always

be from the outside like live wrestling. Sparring is also very helpful if you pick a

position and play around. For instance if you are having trouble finishing on a

single leg you and a partner can start in over and over on a single leg and spar.

LIke I said before there should not be a lot of intensity in the finish or defense.

When you start in on the leg you should focus on how to finish with proper

positioning and skill. The same goes defensively. In this form of sparring the

smallest change in position can make or break the move. This is why it is so

important to feel this with little intensity so when you do go live you know where

your body is supposed to Another be, and your overall awareness of the position is



I hope this helps, Iʼll try to get some video of examples up soon. If we as a

country focus on the right ways of training it will not take long for us to compete

year in and year out with the Russians for the best team in the world. For some

of the readers out there being the best in the world might seem like a long ways

away, but this way of training will also help make you the best high school

wrestler you can be, the best college wrestler you can be, and more importantly it

will help produce the best future coaches who will train people to become the



Like I said earlier these training trips cost a lot of money and take a lot

organization. I want to thank USA Wrestling for letting me be part of this trip, as it

is always great to use them as a learning tool so that I can become the best

coach I can be. I also want to thank Candice Kasischke who works for USA

Wrestling, she spends a lot of time making sure myself and all of the athletes

make it through the trip with no problems. A special thanks needs to go out to

Paul Kieblesz of the NYAC, he is our team leader and has put in more time than I

can imagine, he has been doing this for 30 years. I want to thank the Cliff Keen

Wrestling Club for letting me come here with Ty so we can continue to build the

best RTC in the country. I also want to thank Cliff Keen Athletic for letting me

take the time off from my job to come here and show all of you this great

experience. I hope the photos I have taken and the blogs I have written will help

inspire young wrestlers to have goals of making the USA national team and

become world and Olympic champions. I also hope my insight has been a tool

for coaches who are trying to train the best athletes.


Now the fun begins, stay tuned in for results of the tournament and cheer on

team USA. You can’t win without support!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.