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Defensive Mastery With Dan Vallimont

Defensive Mastery With Dan Vallimont

Defending the takedown in wrestling is one of the most crucial skills a wrestler can possess. The concepts are often easy but not always easily performed. If it was all a wrestler would ever need would be the sprawl. 

What makes defending a takedown ever more difficult depends on who is performing the takedown. Strength, size and technical ability mix together to make for unique situations specific to that wrestler. A few concepts will remain the same while defending a leg attack. 

Get your legs back and hips down or the technique more commonly referred to is the sprawl is almost always the first step. The second step will be determined on how well the first step worked.

If you can’t get sprawled out, the whizzer (overhook on the same side as the leg being attacked.) must be attained. With this grip a wrestler can attempt to pull his opponent up to him or decide to  angle out and try a few offensive measures such as throws bys and leg heist throws. (uchi mata) 

This is the best you can hope for after a failed sprawl. At best it will lead into a takedown of your own, a neutral position or a scramble but all of it beats giving up two points. 

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On the other side if you get the sprawl you will end up in one of two positions. A free leg or a trapped leg. There may be other positions a wrestler could find themselves in but this would not be a typical scenario. So for learning purposes we will stick to these two variations. 

First is the untrapped leg position. When a wrestler sprawls on their opponent their legs go back behind them forcing the attacking wrestler's arms to extend far from their body making taking them to where they are weakest. A second mechanic of the sprawl is the hips driving into the upper shoulder girdle creates downward pressure on the shoulders. These two mechanics together in many cases will create enough force to break the grip of the attacking wrestler leaving the defending wrestlers lower body free.

Once the leg is free the most common action will be to spin to the back of the attacking wrestlers and gain back control worth 2 points in most rule sets. After this a wrestler can begin to attack by breaking down the downed wrestler's base or start attacking with various tilts.

The second common scenario is the trapped leg position. Once sprawled with legs back and hips down the bottom wrestler has maintained their control of a single leg. Reasons for this could be the same as mentioned above Size, Strength or technical ability but regardless of reason something must be done to free the leg. If the wrestler does not free the leg, the attacking wrestler can continue to attack by maintaining the connection and creating angle. 

Below is how Coach Dan Vallimont deals with a trapped leg situation after a sprawl. Not only will Dan Free his leg, in freestyle he will score points for a turn as well!


Dan uses a Tight waist position and allows his opponent to work up a little. This is to create the space needed to boost his momentum to drive his opponent over his base. As the attacking wrestler rises their base becomes more narrow and center of gravity higher. Now when Dan blocks his opponents leg at the shoes he prevents the base from being opened again. 

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Now Dan rolls through. The most valuable part of this roll is to arch while Dan's back is flat, this will break the hold on the leg and once the roll is finished allow Dan to immediately start looking for an offensive position. Which most commonly is a crossface and spin. 

Dan is an amazing coach with lots to offer wrestlers both seasoned and new to the game. This is why he is coaching some of the best wrestlers in the country. He was an All American while he wrestled for Penn State. He is now still in the hunt for his spot on the Olympic team for the Delayed Olympics in 2020ne.

 Next Level Defensive Fundamentals by Dan Vallimont

Check out his instructional series on Defensive wrestling because a Good Defense is a Good Offense!