Stance/First Contact by Kyle Dake
Think back to the first time you stepped into the mat room. You saw the veteran wrestlers moving with grace and poise all around the mat, shooting and sprawling with ease. When it came time for you to try out your stance and movement for the first time...you might’ve realized that you don’t move like them.
At least not yet.
Your stance can make or break your entire wrestling career. Too upright and you’re easy to take down, too low and you lack driving power. Whether you’re a rookie or longtime wrestler, it’s never too late to adjust your stance.
2018 World Champion & 4-Time NCAA Champion Kyle Dake demonstrates below how to tighten up your stance for effective defense. In addition to the video, here are a few extra tips.
Stay Below Eye Level
Dake prefers to stay just below his opponent’s eye level, which makes sense. Staying at that level means you’re most likely going to be below your opponent’s center of gravity, which means a higher chance of a takedown. Yet he also stresses not to compromise your stance to get to that level, meaning that bending your back throws your balance off while squatting too low takes away your power.
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Flatten Your Back
According to Dake, keeping a flat back activates the muscles on the back side of your body a lot more than having a round back. This leaves your hamstrings and calves readily available for power and prolonged movement.
Contact First With the Head
Many beginning wrestlers make the mistake of automatically reaching for the head, resulting in your weight shifting forward. Your opponent can use this shift to snap you down or duck under. Dake’s advice is to make your first point of contact using your head, then use your hands.
Work From the Bottom to the Top
The next points of contact Dake rely on are the hands. He establishes wrist control and works his way up his opponent’s arms to the inside tie. Connecting back to the previous tip, this gets you out of the habit of reaching for your opponent and compromising your balance.
Angles are a huge part of wrestling. Rather than attack your opponent head-on and rely on grit, why not use angles to disrupt their center line? Dake establishes angles against his opponent, but to an extent. He doesn’t overexaggerate his angles but conserves his movement with small, sharp angles. This creates movement from his opponent, and movement means opportunities.
Be Disciplined When You Drill
Sometimes, we go through the motions when we drill. It happens to everyone once you establish something and become complacent. In order to break that habit, you need to discipline yourself when you work your drills, especially when it comes to stance and contact. Work on everything listed above and be mindful of it each time you drill until it becomes second nature.
Lines of Defense
If your tie-ups are meant to start low at your opponent’s wrists and progress upwards, then your defense should work the other way around. Dake starts his line of defense with his head: the first point of contact. As his opponent works their shot and breaches past the head, Dake relies on his elbows and hands to protect his legs. If the opponent works past those lines of defense, as shown in the video, you can use your hips to sprawl and pressure back.
Lead Leg Tells
Just like in poker, your stance has certain “tells” that dictate what move should happen next. Consider which leg you lead with in your stance. If you are a right-legged shooter and your opponent leads left, you both are likely to attack those legs due to proximity. If you both share the same stance, then you know that your opponent has to move you in order to get your opposite leg in front. This also applies to you as well offensively. Rather than shooting across your opponent’s plane, you have to get them moving with any of the above concepts.
Your stance is the foundation that holds your wrestling up, much like a house. Having a poor foundation means the house tumbles easily, as do your chances of winning. Build your stance with proper points of contact, posture, lines of defense, and strategy and your wrestling will stand strong.
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