Wrestling from the Top Position. Are You Putting the Work in?
In the sport of wrestling, there are three main positions: on the feet, on the bottom and on the top. If most wrestlers and coaches were honest, they would probably admit that they spend the most time working on offense and defense from the feet. Then, coming in second, in terms of time spent, is wrestling and escaping from the bottom position. Coming in third would be wrestling from top, but if this is the way you are training yourself or your team, you are doing yourselves a huge disservice.
A lot of wrestlers are of the mindset that if they can take down an opponent and escape from the bottom, then they will win the match and this is true in most cases, but there are definitely many matches that don’t go that way which is why every wrestler should be more serious about getting better on top.
One reason you need to get better on top is that you may need to win by more than a couple points. Wrestling is mostly thought of as an individual sport, but that is not entirely true. There is team scoring at tournaments and dual meets where one team faces off directly against another. In a dual meet, winning by one to seven points will earn you three points but a pin will earn you six team points. Not only that, a major decision will earn your team four points and a tech fall will earn your team five. Being good on top helps your team to do better because you will score more team points.
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Another reason having good top game is important is because it can help save your energy during a tournament. In one day, you might wrestle five matches in one day. If you are in high school that is thirty minutes out on the mat and that will really wear you body out by the time the last match rolls around. Compare that to if you get pins in four of you five matches, you may only be on the mat for fifteen minutes total for the day. Being able to go into your last match of the day less fatigued than your opponent will give you a huge advantage.
A third reason you should get better at the top is because it will actually help your teammates get better on bottom. It is all too common in a wrestling room, while wrestling live, for the top man to just let the bottom guy out without much effort. In reality, you are robbing your partner of the opportunity to get better at bottom. The harder you wrestle from the top and look for breakdowns and turns, the better your training partners will get at defending from the bottom position and escapes and that will translate directly to their success out on the mat. Hopefully this will come around full circle and your training partners will also get better at top and force you to get better at bottom too.
Lastly, you can score a lot more points from turns. Couple years ago in college wrestling, the rules changed a couple of years ago and now a five second near fall count is four points! To earn four points via takedowns, you would have to get a takedown, cut your opponent, take them down again, cut them again, then take them down and hold them the third time. It uses so much less energy to turn guys than it does to take them down and cut them repeatedly.
Just like every wrestler focuses on takedowns and escapes, every wrestler should be putting the same amount of time in wrestling from the top position. At some point in your career, you will find yourself down by a couple points needing some near fall points to win a match or needing to get a pin to secure your team the win. Make sure you are prepared for when the time comes around.
If you are interested in learning some high level top position wrestling from one of the best wrestlers in the world, be sure to check out : “The Cradle Machine by Ed Ruth” Ruth was a three time NCAA national champion from Penn State!