Why Greco-Roman and why you should care?

If I could show you scientific evidence that Greco-Roman wrestling will make you a better wrestler would you try it? Coaches if your wrestlers will be better as a result of Greco-Roman will you give it a try?

The first rule of selling is what’s in it for the customer. Sure, I would love to see the US be as dominant in Greco-Roman as we have historically been in freestyle. I would love to see USA Wrestling be a dominant force in both international styles. I hate seeing Greco-Roman wrestlers in the US being treated like the redheaded step child of the wrestling world. I know there are wrestling fans, coaches, and even athletes that think we should just do away with greco here in the US. Why not just put all our eggs in one basket and focus all of our resources on being the best in the world at freestyle? I’m not going to try and tell these people why they should even care about greco, but what I am going to explain is how greco will help them be better at their folk style and freestyle or MMA for that matter.

I have always considered wrestling to be just that, wrestling. I never got caught up in the style weather its folk style, freestyle or Greco-Roman. I fell in love with the art of wrestling and I see way too many commonalities in all styles, rather than see differences. I have my club coach, Marc Sprague to thank for that.

As a first year wrestler my high school coach told me there was an opportunity to wrestle in the post high school season and he said he would show me some throws so I could compete. I had no idea if learning some new throws would not help me prepare for this tournament or not. I went to a few workouts and practiced my new throws and was shown what a gut wrench was and that was about the extent of my training for freestyle/greco training.

I showed up for the state freestyle and Greco-Roman tournament and fell into the cadet age group and also was able to compete against the high school age group in both freestyle and greco. This gave me the opportunity to wrestle more matches 0-2 cadet freestyle 0-2 cadet greco 0-2 HS free style 0-2 HS greco, not exactly the results I was looking for.

My high school coach treated this like it was a completely different sport, but somewhere in my mind even back then I though of it all as just wrestling. I heard how important it was to throw your opponent. My coach never tried to connect the commonalities because, he like many coaches think that anything outside of folk style is completely foreign. I went out and tried to throw my opponents, but I ended up being the guy thrown, taken down or turned.

I got a lot of feed back from that tournament, and what I discovered was I needed to find a coach that understood wrestling. I didn’t want a coach that just had a basic understanding of folk style. I needed a coach that could teach me how to wrestle. I decided if I was ever going to be able to compete with these guys I would have to seek out better training. That's how I ended up being a club wrestler and getting the opportunity to work with coach Marc Sprague.

Not only did Marc connect all the styles with basic positions and drills to develop these positions he instilled a love for wrestling in me that I still have to this day.

It’s no secret, the United States is a folk style focused country. Our high-schools and colleges wrestle folk styleand in the off-season wrestlers might do freestyle if they wrestle in the off-season at all. Most college coaches are like my high school coach and haven’t made the connection yet that Greco-Roman is a better style for improving your wrestling overall than freestyle.

I remember when I was in college and our club was willing to pay for post season tournaments only if I wrestled freestyle. My college coach didn’t care if I wrestled Greco, but I had to wrestle freestyle if the club was going to pay for my trip. All my training up to the University national tournament had to be in freestyle and I had to make the scratch weight for freestyle and after the tournament since I was already there and it was just another entry fee I could compete in Greco.

I am happy to say I won two national titles in freestyle wrestling and don’t regret anything or begrudge my coach for making me focus on freestyle. It allowed me an opportunity to go compete in the freestyle Pan-American championships. I won my first international tournament, a gold medal, that's another story for another time.

My focus of this article is not to tell you why I am a fan of Greco-Roman or convince you it’s the better style. First of all I don’t believe there is a such thing as a better style I think wrestling is wrestling, it’s all the same. What I want to show you is how scientific evidence suggests that Greco-Roman is the best for wrestling no matter what style you ultimately decide to focus on.

Everyone knows that practice is a key to success. What everyone doesn’t know is that specific kinds of practice can increase skill up to ten times faster than conventional practice. Daniel Coyle in his book "the talent code" calls this kind of practice deep practice. "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle is a book on how to grow talent.

Coyle like me doesn’t believe we are born with talent and it must be developed through practice, what he describes as “deep Practice”.

Coyle's belief is that talent comes from Myelin. Myelin is the insulation that wraps nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. When these certain signals are sent down the nervous system, myelin wraps around the nerve fiber. The thicker the myelin, the better the signal. Thus, "skill is myelin insulation that wraps neural circuits and grows according to certain signals”. Skills and talent allow individuals to perform at a higher level, faster and better than those who don’t have talent.

Malcom Gladwell in his book "Outliers" describes the 10,000 hour rule, which basically states that if we practice any subject for 10,000 hours we can become world-class. World-class is Olympic medal caliber top 1% types. Gladwell never said you need 10,000 hours to be and expert at something. 10,000 hours is for the phenoms, the truly elite. If this is the case and you want to be the best in the world start logging the hours. If you want to be great, say win a state championship or a national title, I have some tips on how to hack the talent code in wrestling.

I have tested this for the past decade at Team Quest my MMA gym. We all know that wrestling is an essential skill for MMA. We have all seen what happens when a guy doesn’t posses enough wrestling skills or knowledge. They don’t go too far in the sport. We have seen the top strikers learn enough of the principals to stay competitive using a sprawl and brawl type style. To truly get to the top now days the top guys all have all become adept with wrestling.

I have had the opportunity to send over 20 athletes out of my gym onto UFC, some have fought in championship level fights and even held titles in UFC. I developed a style of fighting known as “Dirty Boxing”. Dirty boxing employ’s the basic principals of Greco-Roman wrestling with strikes. Just like greco dirty boxing uses control positions and angles to stop your opponents attacks and give you opportunities to attack or counter.

The two control positions that Greco-Roman emphasizes are 2-on-1 and the under-hooks. The third control, comes into effect when your opponent doesn’t want to engage in a chest to chest battle and back his hip away. That control is head, when your opponent tries to avoid the pummel for position he literally “gives  you head” which is the third control.

I have successfully been able to take guys who have never wrestled a single match in their life, to out pummel and out wrestle college level all-Americans. Coaches and other fighters often ask me where my fighters wrestled in college.
Using some basic principals and deep practice of these positions, my fighters have constantly out wrestled most all of their opponents in the cage fighting arena. I want to share these basic concepts with you in hopes that you will use them in your wrestling to improve faster and hack the talent code of wrestling.

Wrestling from the outside is wasted training time. 

In these moments this is time we could be building skills. Having to react and correct there actions, motions and positions. Building skills is literally myelin insulation that wraps neural circuits and grows according to certain signal. When wrestlers are required to stay in constant contact fighting and attacking from the correct chest to chest position they get more circuits firing in the right parts of the brain and for the correct muscle groups which allows them to optimize there circuity.

These athletes are in the optimal position for greatest learning, forcing them into the deep practice zone, making and correcting errors, and constantly coming up with solutions and adjustments to correct those errors.

So if we can get to a position in wrestling where we are required to train in a constant contact chest to chest position this will create the right atmosphere and leverage our time on the mats and improve wrestling skills faster. This will compress the essential skills and place wrestlers in the deep practice zone, making and correcting errors, and constantly coming up with solutions and adjustments to correct those errors.

If you want information on myelin please do your own research. If you want to get better at wrestling fast, spend time training in a chest to chest head up position, like in Greco-Roman. I am not saying you can’t trip, sweep, prop or pick up a leg but all attacks should start in this position, in MMA it’s referred to as the clinch position. I am not saying there is not a time and a place for an outside attack, what I am saying is give my theory a try. Have practice once a week that requires from this position without separation. Make it a challenge for every time the coach see’s you not in constant contact taking a step back as he implements a penalty, I use ten burpees or push ups.

Make it fun and keep it light hearted, as you start to see the improvement, increase the time your spend training in this position.

Coach Matt Lindland