Wrestling off the Mat – Jake Herbert

Wrestling off the mat

Why I have dedicated myself to working with Fila and CPOW – to Keep Olympic Wrestling.

By Jake Herbert

Wrestling still has the spot for 2016. I have been blessed to do more than 99% of all wrestlers ever get to do. I am very happy with the chances I have gotten in life because of wresting. Now I am helping the people who gave me the raw deal at the Olympics. Why you ask? Not for them. Not for myself, but because of what wrestling has done for me, what it will do for our children, and who wresting has made me.


The children wrestling right now are our future leaders of the world tomorrow. Some may be the next Jordan Burroughs, others may become doctors, teachers, coaches, political activist, world leaders. They will become all these things because of the base skill set learned through wrestling. Wrestling saves lives, gives kids an outlet, and teaches more about hard work and taking pride in ones actions than any other sport. You are forced to learn what struggle and sacrifice is and how to deal with it when it overcomes you. You also feel that feeling unlike any other when that struggle and sacrifice rewards you with a victory.


Wrestlers make lifelong friends, get their mind and body pushed to the limit and beyond each practice. Because of this they grow they learn they believe that they can do anything. Take wrestling out of the Olympic games and you start to lose the number of kids who learn all these important life skill sets. Take away a child’s dream and the teaching of how to achieve those dreams and your left with a dark world. No child should ever be without dreams and goals. Children shouldn’t be told no you can’t but YES YOU CAN AND WILL.


As long as there is life there will be wrestling, as long as there is wrestling there will be light. The wrestling world has come together and we have already done through sport and the Olympic spirit what others cannot. Over 170 country’s are working together for one common dream one common goal that transcends, religion, race, gender, age, and nationalism. This is what the Olympics are about this is the proof that wrestling belongs. It’s why wrestling has been here since before man, and why it will still be around after we are all gone.


Show your support during May, World Wrestling Month. Go to an event, watch and event, support this great sport. Visit KeepOlympicWrestling.com Sign up, Donate. Let the world know you support this sport and all it does for people all over the world.

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Yours in wrestling

Jake Herbert

World Cup Recap – Andy Hrovat

World Cup Recap

I am sitting here in my living room on this Sunday afternoon getting my life back on track and watching the B1G Wrestling finals. I have been home for exactly one week, but I feel like I have not even come close to getting everything back in order from being away for so long. This might have been one of the longest trips I have been a part of. It consisted of extended stays in three countries over 21 days. The amount of travel and the many different rooms we had to stay in made it seem much longer than it really is. We stay in places that are not very comfortable. Hotels are probably the worst for being comfortable. There is never a good seat and the rooms don’t have a lot of shelving for storing clothes. Wrestlers have to bring a lot of gear since it is winter and we have to get down to weight. We are away from our families and loved ones for long periods of time. We do this because we love the sport, and inside all of us, we want to be champions.

The wrestling community at the highest level is a very close group. We compete against one another throughout the whole year. We also train with each other side by side, USA and the world. I have been all over this planet for wrestling — from Brazil to France to Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, China and many other countries. All of these places have very different cultures, and in each place, there are people training to become the best in the world. Wrestling has been around for as long as we know. It appears in one of the oldest known texts ever found in the epic Poem of Gilgamesh. This poem took place in what now is modern day Iraq, which is very close to where we were for the World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling in Tehran, Iran. When I walked into the arena before our semifinal bout with Iran, I could not help but imagine myself back in time 1000s of years ago entering a similar arena for the very same purpose. Ever since the original Olympic Games, men have wrestled and the rules have always been similar. In its purest state, wrestling is all about controlling the other man, and in doing so, a winner is chosen. Wrestling could not have been on a bigger stage than the moment the American team faced off against the Iranian team in that World Cup. Nothing else mattered other than settling a match to see who would advance to the finals. There were no talks about nuclear power or elections; the focus was on who was the best prepared to win a wrestling match. Wrestling brings people together from cultures whose governments couldn’t be farther apart. While we might always be enemies due to race, religion, geography and human nature, wrestlers can become brothers in a sport that supersedes everything else. Through sport, there is a mutual respect for one another, and we can learn from each other.

Every time I attend an international wrestling tournament, I get to see many of the friends that I have met along the way. These are people that without the sport of wrestling I would have never met or even known about. They come from different backgrounds, but each of them has the same goal in life. They all struggle on a daily basis to become the best wrestler or coach they can be. Striving to become the best has been ingrained in my mind, and if I don’t achieve perfection, it is hard to be happy. I learned at a young age that in wrestling, you have to sink or swim. As I get older, I appreciate more and more others that go through the same struggles we go through every single day of our lives. I think this is why I can go to a wrestling tournament in Tehran, Iran, and get a hug from my Russian coach like I was his son he has not seen in 20 years. The two of us grew a bond together from the time I spent with him, and I will forever be grateful for what he taught me. This coach opened up his life to me to teach me the sport of wrestling. To him it didn’t matter if I was American and my last name was Slovenian. I wanted to train to become the best wrestler in the world, and he was willing to help me because he saw something in me. This is why the sport of wrestling will never go away. We don’t need the Olympics to teach us the life skills that wrestling teaches; we are always going to dream bigger than we can achieve anyways. The Olympics needs wrestling because there is no other sport on the planet that can bring different nations together in a more pure form of sport.

We as a sport have to stop apologizing to others who do not understand us. We have to make our own path to secure our future as a relevant sport. We have to come together as brothers — not as separate nations — to pave the way for wrestling’s future. When we bend and change the rules so that outsiders like the IOC can understand a sport they never intend to watch, it is going to kill wrestling. I hope FILA understands this when meet to change the rules. We cannot change the rules just so 15 IOC members can understand the sport. We need to make sure we don’t alienate our fans, because these are the people are the foundation for the sport’s future. Wrestling is a popular sport all over the world; I know because I have been all over the world. FILA and its member nations need to find a way to market the sport so the fans start pouring into the arenas. Once we get the fans then we must create a plan to expand and grow the sport. It is 2013 and there are many ways to build a fan base, but for the world’s oldest sport this has been our biggest challenge to date. We must think outside the box, and we have to stop holding ourselves back by not thinking big enough. In the past, wrestlers were happy if we were simply given a mat and opponent. This can no longer be the case. The ATHLETES and FANS have to step up and demand more — more media coverage throughout the year, better attended events and more prize money for winning. With information today more readily available, it is easy to pinpoint why something was a success or a failure. The U.S. Open is back in Vegas, and we have some of the best wrestlers in the world right now battling for a national title. Will the venue be full? Wrestling is missing something big, and until we find out a way to fix it, we will be blaming the rules every 4-8 years.

So, regarding the rules, I believe they must be simple, but we don’t necessarily have to change the sport to accommodate a changing world. If this were the case, we might as well just make a video game and contest our bouts while playing online against our Russian foes. I believe what we have as a sport should not be changed. What needs to be changed is the way we let the officials influence the match. Here are my suggestions:

Match length: Either 2×3 min or 1×6 min match with cumulative scoring
Points: 1 point for push out, 2 points for a takedown, 2 points for any turn, 3 points for a takedown to the back and 5 points for a throw over the head.  
Par terre: In order to take the official out of the match and to make it fair, there should be a 15- or 20-second clock that counts down after a takedown. A wrestler should also have his choice of par terre or neutral after taking a wrestler out of bounds. When wrestlers are on their feet, there can be difficulty scoring in a double leg/chest lock position, but a turn is almost always black and white, and the fans can see who gets the points with little to no confusion. This will bring back par terre without giving the officials the ability to influence the match. All the officials need to do is score the match. They don’t have to worry about how long someone has on top. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when a wrestler gets a takedown now they don’t know how long the official will give them on top. Having a set time will add an extra dynamic to the sport without compromising the integrity of the sport. Wrestlers will work hard to score within the designated time because it not only is a battle between him and his opponent, it becomes a battle against the clock. The fans would love this and every time someone is on top there is the potential to have an exciting period of wrestling as the time winds down.

The World Cup in Iran was one of the best wrestling experiences of my life. The USA wrestling Iran in Tehran, Iran, for a chance to make the finals of the World Cup was great for the sport. Wrestling has made giant leaps over the past few years to showcase the sport. We have had matches in Times Square and the USS Intrepid. In May, we will wrestle Iran in New York City, either in Times Square again or in another iconic location that will showcase just how big of a stage our sport deserves. In June, the U.S. will wrestle another team on the west coast for Beat the Streets LA. While the venue has not yet been picked, I am sure that L.A. will not be outdone by NYC. Finally, I am hearing things about a match in July against USA and Russia in Red Square, the most iconic symbol of Russia. If they can put down a mat and build a huge stage with St. Basil’s Cathedral in the backdrop, it would be hard to argue against our sport’s relevance. We must keep pushing the envelop to showcase what we already have. Fans and future wrestlers are going to be drawn to the matches that make the sport look larger than life, and right now we are moving in the right direction.

I want to leave you with one of the best quotes I have read since the IOC made the recommendation to drop wrestling from the Olympic Games.                

“Do we destroy our historical sites which are symbols of humanity? No. Then, why should we destroy wrestling?” — Iranian gold medalist Ali Reza Dabir

Wrestling has been around and will always be around. People in the wrestling community have a direct impact on which direction the sport will take. We can either continue to be a sport on the verge of breaking into primetime or we can settle back into the same routine that we’ve done since man held the first wrestling match. Wrestling is embedded into human nature, and to take it out of the Olympics for something new and flashy would be like Egypt tearing down its pyramids to build condos in the shape of a pyramid. The pyramids have a rock solid foundation and will last thousands of more years. I believe wrestling will too. We just need to strengthen our foundation that has brought us this far. We must work on marketing and promoting the sport we all love, and together we can build a rock solid base with all the flashing lights that people love.


2012 Olympic Games Statistics – Andy Hrovat

 Breakdown of the 2012 Olympic Games

Here in America we have a system set in place that has been in existence for as long as there has been wrestling. Our model is based on competition, and the better you compete the more doors will open for advancement to the next level. By the time we get to the Olympics or World Championships we have proven to be the best in the USA, but we still struggle to become the best in the world. Russians from the day they begin wrestling know that if they advance to become the best in Russia, then they are already at the level to become World and Olympic champions. I know we as a country can get to this point of expecting to win every time we put on the Red, White, and Blue singlet. I am always comparing USA to Russia, but I have to, it is my job to help America becoming the best wrestling nation in the world. Russia has been the number one team in the world for 50+ years and we have to be focused on catching them, then surpassing them. It is impossible to dream of achieving greatness when you don’t have a target to shoot for. Zeke Jones and Doc Bennett spent hours upon hours and days upon days breaking down video from the Olympic games. The matches they focused on were the semi-finals, finals, and bronze medal bouts. Overall there were 35 matches and 80 periods wrestled. I will do my best to breakdown the stats and relate it to how we as a country can use them so we can be better prepared for future competitions.

Total Offensive Efficiency

 The first statistic I am going to cover is offensive efficiency per minute by country. In this statistic we can take the total points scored by team and divide it by the total number of minutes they wrestled to give us a points per minute total. Wrestling is a funny sport at times, but the bottom line is the more points you score and the less points you give up the better chance you have of winning. At this past Olympics the top five teams in the world were separated by only four team points. The team standings for the Olympics goes in order Russia(40), Georgia (40), USA(38), Iran(38), and Azerbaijan(36). The tie breaker in freestyle wrestling is the amount of gold medals won. With the tie breaker in place, Russia beats Georgia and we beat Iran. When looking at the numbers below, it is no surprise that the top five teams in the point standings at the Olympics were also the top five teams in points scored per minute, but not in the same order.

Country Total Offense – Per Minute

1) Georgia 0.95

2) Azerbaijan 0.94

3) Russia 0.88

4) Iran 0.85

5) USA 0.84

6) Japan 0.83

7) Kazakistan 0.79

8) Uzbekistan 0.71

Now that we can physically see where we stand as a nation in points scored per minute, we can set a goal to become the top scoring nation in the world. If you go back and look at the 2008 Olympics the USA scored .77 points per minute, we had an increase of .07 points per minute this year, so we know we are moving in a positive direction.

It is my philosophy that wrestling is wrestling, whether it is Freestyle of Folkstyle. If you take a quick glance at a Freestyle match and a Folkstyle match you may see some very different techniques being used, and hence you can argue the styles are too different and they are not the same sport. Now when you take a comprehensive look at Freestyle and Folkstyle, what wins at the highest levels in each discipline is not different at all. I have in front of me the statistics for all scoring actions from the 35 matches reviewed from the Olympics, and on paper it can look like it was the NCAA tournament.

Highest percentage attacks

I want it to be known again that the 35 matches reviewed from the Olympics were all semi-final, final, and bronze medal matches. It can be said with confidence these are the best wrestlers in the world without a doubt. Out of the 35 matches there were 188 attacks to a score. Out of the 188 attacks 41(21.8%) were single legs. 37(19.7%) of the attacks were counter offense/reshot/run behind. There were 25(13.3%) core attacks (seat belt, bear hug, whizzer), 25 (13.3%) double leg attacks, 22(11.7%) high crotches, and 12(6.4%) front headlocks. The six highest percentage attacks at the Olympics makeup 162/188(86.2%) scores.

I know looking at numbers is not always the most enjoyable thing to do, but in this instance it is a must we study the numbers and apply what we learn to our training. Offensively I think a person can develop any scoring attack as long as they believe in it, but it takes time to develop it so you can use it to score on the best wrestlers in the world. Based only on the statistics, it makes sense to concentrate a majority of practice working single legs both offensively and defensively. You can start in with a single leg on the feet, on the knees, to the side when a guy has a whizzer, and extended in order to cover all scenarios. Even if a single leg is not an athlete’s top scoring attack it will pay off when he wrestles the best because he will be ready to defend a single leg, and knowing the statistics there is a high probability he will have to defend one.

I do not have any statistics on Folkstyle wrestling to compare the Freestyle numbers to, but I have seen my fair share of Folkstyle matches to make an educated guess. When looking at the numbers above I am certain there are more core attacks in Freestyle than in Folkstyle, but all the other attacks on the above list would also be on the list of highest percentage scoring attacks at the NCAA championships or any high school state championship. In reality core attacks are almost all started with a shot, and is the direct effect of a different type of scrambling associated with Freestyle wrestling. In Freestyle wrestling if you take a shot and do not get the hands locked around the leg it makes sense to come up to your feet and attack the body since you are already underneath your opponent. A seat belt/bear hug is a perfect position to be in for Freestyle because you are able to get under your opponent just enough to not put yourself at a disadvantage. Seat belts/bear hugs are used mostly to get a guy on the edge and work towards a push out. In Folkstyle, scrambles after a shot are wrestled more on the mat, whereas wrestling on the mat in Freestyle puts you at risk to give up points. Being able to transition from mat scrambling to getting up through a guy and use the edge takes a little time to get used to, but if a wrestler has a solid background it does not take long at all, as long as they are aware of what they need to focus on. The base technique of the shot does not change, the only difference is how the shot is finished.

Highest percentage of set ups

Now that we know what kind of shots are being taken we can look and see what the most popular set ups are to get to the legs. There were 118 set ups used in the 35 matches that resulted in a scoring attack to the legs. The number one used set up by far was a snap/chop/pull down to an attack. This set up was used 38(32.2%) times when a wrestler took a shot and scored. The second most popular set up was finger fighting which was used 13(11%) times, but it was only used in the first three weight classes. The third most used set up was a tie between open shot (fake/level change/or touch and go) and shrugs/shucks both with 10(8.5%) apiece. The four most popular set ups make up 62.8% of all the set ups used during the 35 matches reviewed. Offensively this does not teach us much except that in order to get to the legs you have to beat the head and hands. All of these set ups are used to get the guy to reach or pull up with his head and hands. When we take these numbers and apply them to our defensive wrestling, we can conclude that in order to be the best in the world we have to make sure our stance is low and we stay disciplined with keeping our head and hands down. We as a country have to get better at lowering our stance and getting better at knee sprawling and head blocking before we let someone even touch our legs.

I have a great live drill that I learned in Russia that helps with both offensive and defensive wrestling. It is a live situation you can do every single practice to teach wrestlers to stay low with their head and hands while teaching them to not be scared to shoot. In the first minute of this live drill one wrestler is only offense and one is only defense. The only objective for the offensive guy is to get his hands locked around the legs as many times as he can in the one minute. Defensively it is simple, do not let the offensive guy get his hands locked. During the second minute of this live drill we switch positions and the guy who was defending is now on offense. The third minute is a little different because both wrestlers are offense. It is really cut and dry in the first two minutes since you only have one thing to focus on in each go. In the third minute each wrestler still has to be conscience of staying low and not letting the guy touch his legs while at the same time trying to attack and get the hands locked around the opponent. This third minute is a great time to learn how to knee sprawl and reshot. There are many missed opportunities in wrestling when you defend a shot and let the guy off the hook by allowing him to pull out of the shot and get right back in his stance. I will have video of this up on the Cliff Keen website soon.

Par Terre

With the current rules set in place for Freestyle wrestling, the transition from Folkstyle to Freestyle should be the easiest it has ever been. I know a lot about wrestling history, but I am not that up to date with what wrestling was like before the 1970s. During the 1970s the matches were nine minutes long and there was a lot of time during the match to focus on par terre. Then around the late 70s and early 80s they changed the match length to two three minute periods with one minute between. Still with two three minute periods there was plenty of time to work par terre. Then sometime in the early 90s or late 80s they changed the match length to one five minute period. Again, there was plenty of time for par terre. After the one five minute period, FILA went back to two three minute periods, but with only 30 seconds in between. In order to try and increase action FILA recently changed the rules to three two minute periods and in order to win the match you must win two periods. The average match length now is 2.28 periods, so what this shows is there are more wrestlers winning in two straight periods then wrestlers going all three periods. With the match length shorter and FILA wanting more action there is not a lot of time for par terre anymore. At the olympic games in the 35 matches reviewed there were

16 gut wrenches, 8 ankle laces, and 2 bent leg turks. Gut wrenches were twice as popular than leg laces, and there was one sequence where a wrestler hit five leg laces in a row which boosted up the total number by more than 50%. Par terre may have been the hardest area to master when transitioning from Folkstyle to Freestyle, but with the short amount of time given to the top wrestlers now par terre is almost a non factor. I am not saying it should not be a focus, but if you are able to stop a gut wrench you will allow yourself to remain in the match. Giving up a one point take down will not lose you a match in freestyle, but getting turned will. On the flip side if you take someone down but fail to score a turn you can still win, getting a turn is a bonus and should secure the period for you. The time is right and the rules fit for American Wrestling to again claim the number one spot. Learning what to focus on and where to concentrate your time during training is a great start to becoming the best wrestler you can be.