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Making The Transition: High School To College Wrestling

Making The Transition: High School To College Wrestling


Alright guys, time to lay out the stone cold facts of what it takes to transition from high school stud to college stud.  Some people seem to make this transition effortlessly, picking up right where they left off dominating the competition or always in the mix of championship contenders, others struggle to find their stride and seem to barely make the cut that they had hoped for themselves.  College sports, wrestling in particular is a whole different ball game. Your accomplishments in high school don’t matter, it doesn’t matter what you were known for or who you beat or lost to. In a way, it is a chance to reinvent yourself into a much better version both as a student and an athlete.  Hopefully this blog will help illuminate some of those key steps and help you get on the right track to becoming the best version of yourself you can be.  

Breaking Down The School Perspective

As you all know, or should know, there are two parts to being a student athlete, DUH!  You can’t just be a stud on the wrestling mat and in practice, you have to be a stud in the classroom as well.  Great athletes with mediocre to bad grades go nowhere in life, trust me on that. They become the hometown hero who never left their hometown, that isn’t who you want to be, is it?  Let’s get through this first, and ironically the most important part of the puzzle, the classroom. An equation to keep in mind is this, bad grades plus ANYTHING ELSE still equals no mat time.  

More Outside Responsibility

When I mention outside responsibility, this refers to anything outside of your school work as it is always your first priority.  Wrestling is important, and it is a lot of fun, but without a good GPA we won’t have it very long. This includes things like practice, strength and conditioning, meals, networking with professors and potential employers even, and so much more.  Looking at all this you may feel a bit overwhelmed, and trust me at some point you will, and it is normal. There are three readily available tools to help you manage all this in an effective way so that you can still get the most out of your college experience.  

  • Time Management- Time Management is hands down the most important thing you will have to learn to utilize at this level.  Without grasping the concept of time management you are simply setting yourself up for failure. Make a schedule in your school planner or on your phone calendar, have designated times for study, for weights, for friends, for any other extracurricular activities that may intrigue you, and anything else that earns its way into your schedule.  Once you’ve figured out and planned your activities, make sure to strictly adhere to it. The schedule only does you as good as the effort you put in to keeping it. Things will happen that make you readjust your schedule, that’s just life. Deal with them as they come and keep on chugging along.  
  • Coaches- You spend a lot of time around your wrestling coaches, so it only makes sense that they should be part of your support system at school.  If you’re struggling with anything from classes to scheduling to professors, even guy or girl issues, I promise your coaches will be there to help.  Don’t neglect your most readily available source of help, they were there once to and I’m sure know what it’s like to struggle with almost anything you could think of.  
  • Professors- Just like your coaches, your professors are on of your most readily available facets for assistance as a student.  They have also all been here before, so I’m sure no matter what your issue is, they can lend a helping hand of some kind.  Just talking with your professors about issues ahead of time can gain you a lot of leniency. Always put your best foot forward, be on time, if you’re struggling ask questions or attend study tables, if there is a scheduling conflict between a wrestling obligation and a class make sure your coach and your professor both know about it, I’m sure your professor will be more than understanding.  The more of an effort you make to do better and be a good example in class, the more your professors will do to assist you so keep in mind what kind of image of yourself you are creating.  

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    Differences In Your Wrestling

    As I’m sure all of you have watched a collegiate level wrestling match whether it be on television or if you’ve had the opportunity to see it live.  I’m also sure that having done either of those you have noticed some subtle differences not so much in the moves themselves but just the way that they wrestle.  This extends to the technical level, the aggression, and things like mat awareness, and willingness to score. As many differences as you may see on the mat there is also a very important one that you don’t see off the mat.


  • Discipline- In case you were curious, this was the key “off the mat” difference I was referring to.  Discipline off the mat takes the form of a few things including but not limited to being early to both classes and practice, giving 100% in both all the time even as things get hard (and they will), and being an example of the perfect student, teammate, and athlete.  It also includes prioritizing your wrestling and your studies over things like parties and other late night shenanigans that could potentially drop your grades and performance because you aren’t resting your body enough or giving enough time to your craft.  
  • Performance- This is going to be a pretty big one.  Performance in the way I mean it refers to more than winning or losing, it is about micro managing the things in the sport we can control and utilizing in the best way possible for the best possible outcome.  
  • Win   And Lose With Humility- This one is a big one in general but especially once you get to the next level.  When we win, act like we’ve been there before, don’t hoot and holler and throw headgear, flex and all that extra stuff, get your hand raised, be proud, and move on to the next one.  Now that isn’t to say when you beat a huge ranked opponent or win a prestigious tournament or title you can’t be overly excited, but save it for those moments. In contrast, when we lose, we need to handle it the same way.  That means no getting upset with refs, coaches or teammates, chances are we lost because we didn’t capitalize on something, although there are exceptions. Let’s get busy focusing on the things we can get better at to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  
  • Attention to Detail- normally this one is pretty tricky at first.  Everyone usually thinks that when you mention attention to detail that there is going to be this huge thing that they have somehow missed the whole time they have been wrestling when in all reality it is the simplest things like foot, hand, and hip or head placement.  It can be as simple as learning to stay on your toes, where to put one hand versus the other, where to apply hip pressure, sit back more instead of getting high, or transitioning instead of starting over. Guys in college don’t do the moves any differently very often, they’ve just gotten really good at knowing the tiny details as to why they are effective.  
  • Chain Wrestling- I began to take a small crack at this one when I brought up transitioning in the last section.  Chain wrestling by definition is exactly that, learning to smoothly transition from one move to another whether it be in an offensive sequence, defensive sequence, or a combination of the two.  In you’re a Game, it is learning what moves feed into one another, anticipating your opponents reactions, and trying to stay a couple steps ahead at all times. On defense, it’ll probably be a lot like this, I know my opponent wants “A” to lead to “B” then “C”.  If I can’t stop “A” for whatever reason what do I need to look for to stop “B”? If I can’t stop “B” then I need to look for my best option from “C” to prevent losing the match. If I do stop “B” what position will my opponent be in and where can I go to immediately leave him or her vulnerable to my own chain of attacks to get back on the offensive side of the match?  

  • One of the biggest determinants to success with chain wrestling is the ability to picture and plan for the action and reaction between you and your opponent in those scenarios of your offense and defense.  This is exactly what we went in to above with the ABC scenario. It seems stupid, and maybe even a bit too simple that way but I promise your level of wrestling will skyrocket as a result.  

    In Conclusion

    There are quite a few differences between your high school wrestler and your successful college wrestler.  The good news is, all of this can be learned and constantly made better through your own adherence and willingness to do better in all aspects of your college experience.  Remember, it is natural to feel a bit overwhelmed, college isn’t easy, college wrestling really isn’t easy, but you’ve made the first step to proving just how tough you are so stick with it.  Remember the guidelines, tricks, and people that are there or that can be put into place to aid you in any struggle you may have, and at the end of the day, remember that these will be some of the best days of your life.  Enjoy it while you can.  


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