In a sport where your opponent is there to break you to their will, being tough is a requirement that is more than just physical or mental. It’s everything. The moves are all the same, you’re matched by weight class, and everyone is watching the two of you. In the book, Wrestling Tough, author Mike Chapman discusses the very essence of the sport of wrestling and while giving readers a glimpse into the toolbox of every great wrestler. Chapman does not only use wrestlers but he also touches on other great athletes and coaches from a variety of sports and how these skills, traits and habits all help develop a winning mindset for the mat and for the rest of your life.
Wrestling has been around since the beginning of man, and is one of the purest sports to the characteristics of man and nature. Two people attempt to compete against each other and force their will upon them and claim what is there’s. The Epic of Gilgamesh, is listed as the oldest piece of literature in existence today. It is a story of a warrior king who battled for his lands in an epic wrestling match a wild man from the outlands of his kingdom. The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s battle for Uruk is a story that is over 4,000 years old. Uruk was believed to be in a land called Sumer, which many historians have cited to being the location of the Garden of Eden, this is the place from which god had expelled Adam and Eve for disobeying him.
As long as there has been man walking the earth it would be safe to say there has been some form of wrestling. There are over 50 variations to wrestling that are practiced around the world today in more than 150 nations. Wrestling is a sport that is talked about in the bible and participated in world-wide from villages to the Olympics with over 40 centuries of history to hold it together. The people to participate in it and the characteristics that are built from being involved in what may be the most demanding sport known to humankind also make it stand alone.
The fundamentals to wrestling tough start with simply choosing to wrestle. Both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were known as wrestlers of considerable skills. The idea to choose to wrestle is a tough one, but many educators promote the sport as an ideal way to instill discipline and values that will allow people to succeed in life. While you can choose to play some of the more popular sports like basketball, baseball and football, wrestling demands something of you at every practice or event. Every time a person wrestles they can expect to be pushed to their limits and they can expect to want to quit, but wrestling demands that you want to win more.
Understand toughness and building confidence are foundational attributes that any wrestler has to push themselves to obtain. Understanding toughness is the difference between quitting and winning in a lot of cases. It is the process of knowing something is hurting and knowing if that pain is going to stop you from drilling, training, and winning in competition. It is moving past the setbacks and standing before an opponent and knowing they are nothing special no matter what the circumstances maybe. Building confidence goes hand in hand with understanding toughness, as a wrestler you have to build from the pain and torments of training. The rigors that a wrestler would endure must be felt and understood that the pain of today is to make them a successful champion when the whistle blows. The confidence built through physical preparation cannot be given to you with a game plan executed in one day, but is a day-to-day plan that will allow you to know that no one could have possibly trained harder.
Dan Gable is mentioned time and again, as expected in a book about wrestling tough, as his style of wrestling and coaching was that of tenacity and honest destruction. His focus and dedications are that of which legend was born. This same intensity was passed down to what is known as “Gable’s Boys” in the wrestling world, as he never quite picked what he would call the best wrestlers so much as the wrestlers that matched his style. He then took the time to destroy those wrestlers to be made again into a better mold, a Gable mold that was confident that they could pressure their opponents to wrestler their way: the Gable way.
Gable taught focus and determination to all of his athletes through preparation. This however requires one thing from the participants, commitment and dedication to their goals. This was something that many coaches have come to understand through watching successful athletes, but with wrestlers this can be spoon fed one murderous second at a time. Every takedown is that one that wins the match, every drill is that one point or a dire situation the pin you need to win. These little goals lead to bigger goals: state titles; national titles; world championships; and the Olympics. While wrestling tough it is however important that you have to want it before every practice before you can actually put in the level of intensity to get that far.
Bear Bryant was known as one of the greatest coaches of all time in college football, winning 6 national titles. He also held the sport of wrestling in high esteem, requiring every player to participate in wrestling during their spring training, to prepare them both physically and mentally. When it comes to preparation, wrestling drives a person to the outer limits of themselves and face to face with giving up or pushing onward against a person.
Will, the will to win and to want to win has to be ingrained in a wrestlers mind. The Brands brothers were known to “will” themselves toward their goals, by writing out affirmations and declaring what their futures held. Several great wrestlers had this same belief that it was all a matter of wanting it so bad that you brainwashed yourself, by affirming it again and again. This is the mindset of a wrestler, many great wrestlers like Bill Koll and Dan Gable were known for their intensity and brainwashed mentality that seemed to put them in another place.
Talent is good but giving that something extra, is important especially when your opponent is likely working just as long as you are in the off season and wants it just as bad. Talent without hard work is going to leave you run down and exhausted to an opponent who committed to hard work and willing to outwork you. Hard work leads to the ability to rise to the occasion and bring a new level of intensity to competition and their opponents. Also with that added effort a wrestler who has worked hard will have built the mental toughness that can be developed, and constantly improved upon. Those improvements can touch onto other abilities and attributes that will only make for a better, more talented wrestler.
The ability to pay the price for victory is paramount. John Smith and Dan Gable neither committed to relationships while in search for wrestling excellence. To not hang out with friends or to just be so consumed with victory can weight a lot onto an athlete, and with wrestling the mental gas tank will be challenged. In practice a wrestler has to be willing to take themselves to a higher level where they can push aside all the setbacks and the life that happens. After pushing the thoughts aside then they must be ready to be pounded into the mat again and again or fight off an opponent who is there ready to drive you into the mat. Wrestling is paying the price, and when you have paid that price everything else in life is easy.
Wrestling tough is a mindset, a winning mindset. If you are looking for a magic bullet or the latest self-help craze you will not find it. If you are looking to changing everything about you and how you approach life as a whole, learn what it is to wrestle tough. Wrestling tough is a mindset that by applying hard work success will follow. Wrestling tough is about looking down deep into yourself and being critical of what it is that you do as an athlete weather you are a competitive swimmer or wrestler there is something in the mindset of wrestling tough to benefit you.
Building a can do attitude. Developing a view point that if you want it bad enough you will have it is good, but the ability to know that if you want it and you work hard enough you get it. Coaches like Dan Gable, Pat Summit, John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, and Bear Bryant all expressed the benefit of having a highly confident team that had been tested through physical preparation to a point of a powerful mental acumen of confidence leads to success. Presidents, statesmen, ancient kings, and many more believed in the benefits of wrestling and its ability to create a mental vacuum that sucked in success. The values and confidence built from one of the most demanding sports that humankind has ever partaken into can only lead to improved life skills and brighter futures.
Dan Gable once said, “Wrestling is not for everyone, but it should be.”
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