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High School Wrestling: My 10 Favorite Moves

I have never used a throw in my competitive career. Throw it wasn’t my thing. High amplitude throws look pretty cool and can quickly score 5 wrestler points and may result in a pin. But, throws are high-risk movements. Throws are high-risk, high-reward movements. Investing in commodities is a high-risk, high-reward effort. I would rather put my money in a savings account or CD with a definite rate of return on my investment.

Similarly, in the sport of warfare I preferred to use my practice time with double leg drills, single legs and stands. In the sport of football, you see a lot of passes and short passes. You don’t often see trick plays or very long passes (i.e. the bomb). Often a team kicks a field goal instead of trying to tour because the goal of the field is a definite thing. I think you see what I am getting. Throw and throw counters are good for throwing. However, the basics usually win basic games. This is probably a message you have already heard. Ninety percent of the time, you will probably use the same movements. You may use a different version of the transfer or set it up in a different way, but still use the same basic transfer.

I had a team of junior highs who liked to hear everyone who threw it. That worked in junior high, but he stopped working in high school. If you are good at smoking then go for it. But, most NCAA cheaters and Olympic champions don’t wear freestyle. Watch a video of John Smith or Tom Brands and see how often they wear. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either competitor throwing a competition.

Most of the following movements are easy to find online or in books. Some of them have appeared in online videos. I am sure you are aware of all these movements. They are basic movements. But basic movements hit games and that’s why everyone uses them. The key is to find the right techniques to apply these movements. Remember the importance of setting up your movements and not just shooting wildly takedowns. Always be aware of your job. Don’t try to imitate other throwers or make movements because your coach thinks they are good. Find out what works for you. Take the time to learn your craft (ie wrestling). Do not have imitation movements or immediate gratification. Religiously practice and drill basic movements. Don’t spend time in practice or competitions doing movements that are only likely to work two percent of the time. Now then, here are my top ten moves.

1. Double leg takedown

The double leg is one of the first movements I learned. The double foot is one of the first movements most wrestlers learn. A sport of judo has a similar technique called morote- gari (two-handed touches or double-legged grip). What could be more basic than tackling a person by grabbing two feet? Kids probably do it all the time. Of course, it’s a little harder than that. Proper technique is required. You don’t want to overeat. Your opponent might snap you and turn you around or put you in a front skull. Therefore, make sure you take a deep penetration step while keeping your hips about you. Some wrestlers like to drive through an opponent and some like to lift their opponent off the ground to finish the double foot. In junior high we were always told, “On a double foot you keep your head on the outside. On one foot you keep your head on the inside.” Sometimes you can lock your hands while doing a double leg and then use your head as a prime to take down your opponent. I had a team of high school staff who used the double leg takedown 99% of the time when he was on his feet. He placed third in the state tournament during his senior year. Sometimes you can stop making the same move over and over again when you are very good at it. You can often go for a double leg after doing a high crotch. The double leg is a relatively low risk movement. If you don’t finish it, you often don’t finish back on your feet again. Former UFC champion Matt Hughes has often put double legs in games and pitted his opponent against the canvas. Mixed martial artists often learn how to do a double leg. Of course, you can’t beat your opponent in country style warfare. But, the double leg takedown is a great move. The double leg is a high percentage movement (i.e. it works often).

2. One leg takedown

The single leg is another basic takedown. I used one leg takedowns primarily in high school. There are many ways to set up and finish one leg. The single foot is also a high percentage movement. Push and pull your opponent forcing him to advance the foot you want to attack. Make it “heavy” on the leg you want to attack. Lower your level and drop with your hips under you as a solid foundation. Keep your head inside and find an angle on its side. Or, don’t tie up and make sure you’re close enough to make your shot without going overboard. I think it’s pretty easy to shoot one leg. I think the real secret is being able to finish it. You may need to pivot around and grab her long ankle. You may need to get his ankle to your knees to help you raise his leg. You may need to make a tripod and then “make a boot scooter.” Spend a lot of time working on your ties, fixes, and finishes for your individual legs and other thakedowns.

3. Takedown high crotch

The high crotch is a type of one leg. It’s like a duck about it too. You can set up a high crotch from a substrate, a two-on-one tie, or many other ways. I like to hit a high crotch and then finish it off by twisting to a double leg.

4. Whizzer

If someone shoots for a takedown, you can sprawl, whizzer, and crossface him. I consider a whizzer to be a basic and effective movement to combat leg attacks. The whizzer is meant to make a deep overlap of an opponent’s close hand when he is deep on a takedown attempt. Whizzer pressure on your opponent’s arm is often enough to prevent an attack. Sometimes in a whizzer position, you can wrap your free hand around his neck and drive him to the mat in half nelson. Other times you end up on your feet with the whizzer still intact and you can try throwing hips at your opponent. The whizzer is an important movement and should be drilled frequently.

5. Stand up

This is the most standard move to escape from the bottom position. Hold your elbow in, stand up explosively, break your opponent’s grip, and turn to face him. Manual and manual control is important. You will need to be good at hand fighting. After breaking his grip, you can try to grab his hand and put it in your “back pocket” before you quickly go to face it. Stands are great for getting that 1 point escape. Make sure you look for a takedown aggressively right after you escape.

6. Switch

I love the switch. The switch is the most basic reversing technique in warfare. It involves a hip heist type movement. Sometimes it helps to push back into your opponent before you flex and bend your hips to hit the switch. I really enjoyed doing the “stand switch” in high school. I want to stand up from the bottom position. When he pulled me back to the mat, I immediately hit a switch. You should know how to make a fixed switch.

7. Sit out

This is another basic move from the bottom position. After you reach the sitting-out position, you can often execute a hip heist and escape. In addition, if your opponent lays his head over your shoulder, you can grab him, rotate hard in the opposite direction, and place him on his back. Sitting out is basic and you should know how to do it.

8. Cross-body leg ride

The cross-body ride is done from the top position and involves placing one or both feet inside your opponent’s feet. We used to call it a “cow ride” if a wrestler put in both feet. I liked to use a cross body ride when I had trouble keeping my opponent down in the bottom position. I used to make turkeys and guillotines from the cross-body site. Sometimes I just used the ride to break down the protesters. I was ridden by an opponent once for a whole period who put both feet in and used a nelson half force. That wasn’t fun. The cross-body can be at higher risk. You need to keep your back arched and not allow yourself to go too far ahead of your opponent’s back. Nonetheless, I think it is an effective move. Olympic champion Ben Peterson was good at leg riding.

9. Hand bar (aka the chicken wing)

The hand bar was my favorite peeling move. I used single and double arm bars often. I liked to secure one arm bar and then swing my foot over my opponent’s head and use it as a prime. This usually caused my opponent to turn his back. Dan Gable was exceptional at hand bars.

10. The first quarter nelson

The nelson front quarter is a great move after you sprawled and stopped an opponent shot. You place one hand on the back of his head while threading your other hand behind his close hand. Then you place the threaded hand behind your hand close to the top of the hand on the back of the head. You apply pressure, raise his close arm, and push his head to the mat. You can often turn it on its back in this way. I used to apply nelson front quarter, move my opponent one direction, and then pull or shake arm while spinning around the back for the takedown.

Other Best Move

  • Rolla granby
  • Cradles
  • Low single
  • Pick an ankle
  • Inner tour (in judo called ouchi-gari)
  • Draw a hand
  • Half nelson

Remember, the basics of war games hit. Practice hard and drill your movements religiously. I hope some of my favorite movements are a choice for you too.

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