Defense Wins Championships: Get Better at Defending Shots
There is a timeless saying is sports that says “defense with championships”. Originally this saying was directed towards football, but it is safe to say that it has stood the test of time is many other sports including wrestling.
Ask any good wrestler or coach and they will tell you that if you want to achieve your goal, whether it be a state champion or an Olympic champion, you must have a good defense. Here are some key points to having a great defense.
A good defense isn’t all about being able to sprawl well. A good defense starts with your wrestling stance. Having a good stance alone will be able to stop many different possible attacks. When looking at your stance, the first thing you want to look at is your level. You should be bending at the knees and hips in order to keep your level low. The taller you are, the easier it will be for your opponent to shoot on you.
Another big part of your stance is your head and your hands which are generally considered your first line of defense. Make sure you are keeping your elbows in tight to your sides and have your hands out in front of you ready to grab wrists or block shots. One common problem wrestlers have when defending shots is letting go of wrists when their opponent shoots in on them. If you have wrist control, try to keep it to prevent your opponent from grabbing on to you leg.
Using your head to block your opponent is another great way to defend a shot. If you are in a bad stance with your head down, this is difficult to properly use your head. That is another reason why it is so important to have a great wrestling stance.
In this video, four time NCAA champion and world champion Kyle Dake goes over what a good wrestling stance looks like and how to use your hands and head to as defensive tools while wrestling.
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If your opponent is able to get past your first line of defense and is able to get in on your legs, the next step is to make sure you have a great sprawl. When you get shot on, your opponent is going to want to drive you back, but if you have a good sprawl, you will be able to stop your opponent’s shot. Here is another video by Kyle Dake where he goes in depth about sprawling after he gets shot on.
Notice how Dake uses his hips to stop the momentum of his partner. This is very important, because if your opponent can blast you backwards with their shot, it is very hard to defend because you will be on your heels.
Moving your opponent’s head is another important aspect to defending a shot. There is a basic rule you can follow when defending shots: push your opponent's head on the opposite position where they want it to be. Basically, if they shoot a head inside single, put their head to the outside and then you sit the corner. If they shoot a double with their head on the outside stuff it to the inside. Where the head goes the hips follow, so if you can put the head in a bad position, the hips will end up in a bad position.
After Dake stuffs the head to the inside, he sprawls to put his weight on his opponent. Then, he circles to collapse his opponent which takes the power out of his partner’s hips. Towards the end of the video, he even uses it to lock up a cradle.
So what happens when you get shot on and your opponent is able to drive up a single leg? Well at some point in your wrestling career this will happen to you. That is where a whizzer comes into play. A whizzer is when you use an overhook to apply pressure to your opponent’s shoulder. From here you can work you leg free. In this video, Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo shows how he likes to defend a single leg.
To defend a head inside single leg, the first thing you need to do is get a whizzer, but as you can see in the video, Cejudo does not get a normal whizzer. Instead, he does what he calls a “raptor whizzer” because he keeps his elbow tight to his side and makes hook with his hand and wrist. With his other hand, he is attacking the far wrist.
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Another thing Cejudo does right away is moves his right leg from in between his opponent's leg to the outside so he can use it to pressure into his opponent and block. It is very important to move you leg to the outside to prevent your opponent from elevating the leg which puts you in an even worse position.
Once he has the whizzer and has the leg blocking on the outside of the thigh, Cejudo is using his foot that is planted on the mat to drive into his opponent which makes it very difficult for him to finish the single leg. Also, you will notice that Cejudo does not have inside head position, but if you can get your head to the inside, it makes it even more difficult for your opponent to finish the single leg.
The next thing to do is to get your leg back down to the mat. To do this, the hand that is down on the wrist is going to come under the chin and it will push up on the chin and you will turn and face your opponent.
The last step is to break the leg free. To do this, Cejudo locks over his opponent’s arms with an “S” grip and kicks the leg down to the mat and pulls the arms up which should break the leg free.
Keep Your Composure
Lastly, when it comes to defending shots, one very important aspect is that you must keep your composure. That means, you don’t need to panic when your opponent gets in on your legs. So many times wrestlers will try to do some crazy move to create a scramble when in reality, the best thing to do was to simply stick to the fundamentals of keeping hands and wrists, sprawling, pushing the head either to the inside or outside, and using a whizzer properly. Having the ability to scramble is great, but having great fundamentals when it comes to defending shots will take you much further in the sport of wrestling.
Kyle Dake is one of the best wrestlers on EARTH! His newest instructional Defense Wins Championships will take you on a wrestling JOURNEY! Take your defense to the highest level, and STOP THE TAKEDOWN!