In my Sophomore year at Iowa, we took second at the National Tournament and as a team, we struggled a bit throughout the year. I was the starting 158 lber that year and was having a season with some ups and downs. My biggest weakness was the bottom position and it caught up to me one night in Minneapolis.
We went on the road to wrestle U of Minnesota and we lost the dual. I lost a match in that dual because I couldn’t get out from the bottom position.
Coach Gable gave us a looong talk on the way home and in my shame of losing that night I stood in front of the team and said I would never lose a match again because I couldn’t get out from the bottom.
Well, the damage was done and when we got back the coaches told me they were bringing Joe Williams out of redshirt and we would wrestle off that week. We wrestled off and I lost. I was devastated, Lincoln McIlravy was at the weight class below and things weren’t looking good.
Even though I wasn’t in a good spot I still had my eyes set on being an All-American, so I dropped two weight classes to 142, made the team, and ended up gaining All-American honors that year. I feel that if my bottom wrestling was better I wouldn’t have been in that position and I would have gotten the job done at a more natural weight class that year.
The devastating effects of not being prepared in the bottom position popped up again my senior year. I had my sights set on winning a National Title before I left Iowa but I had two defending NCAA Champs in my weight class. I wrestled one of them, Mark Branch, in January and lost by Major Decision because of my inability to get away from him. The last month of the season Jimmy Zalesky taught me some rock-solid strategies for staying out of and clearing legs and Coach Gable put everyone we had in the room that ever threw a leg on top of me. He would have them shark me and at first it WAS NOT FUN.
By the time the Big Ten’s rolled around NOBODY could ride me more than a couple of seconds. After my Sophomore year experience, I had developed a great Stand-up Series and NOW nobody could ride me with legs. I had so much confidence in my bottom position that I felt invincible. The rest is history, I went on to beat both of the defending National Champs at the NCAA’s and won the National Title. Without the setbacks and hard times that motivated me to master the bottom position, I wouldn’t have won the NCAA’s my Senior year.
1-2 Punch for Bottom Mastery
The bottom position can be a thorn in the side of many wrestlers and coaches. This is typically most obvious when a wrestler moves up a level. It is almost expected for middle school wrestlers going to high school and high school wrestlers moving to the college ranks to all struggle in the bottom position. An experienced coach sees this coming and will try to find ways to keep this from happening.
Several core principles stand out to me from the bottom position. If wrestlers can understand these wrestling moves and strategies from the bottom they will often overcome their bottom struggles quickly. Many times escaping from the bottom position is a matter of hustle and grit, but it is also like solving a puzzle. If a wrestler is moving frantically, they can often find themselves flat on their belly with arms tied up and fighting for their life. If they hustle with the proper fundamentals in mind their fight will be much more efficient and effective. This is easier said than done, but if this is to be accomplished then simplicity is a major factor.
Standing Up/Getting to Your Feet
The Stand Up is the most fundamental method of escaping your opponent. Every wrestler should understand how to execute a Stand Up. More importantly, they should understand the position they should be in once they get to their feet and how to Hip Heist or clear away from opponents. Most wrestlers struggle with the stand up because they are taught to explode off the whistle straight to their head up and all motion shooting to the ceiling. This is the way I was taught and the way I taught it for a long time.
The problem with this is that it’s like shooting craps. If the wrestler can get to their feet this method can work out well. If the top wrestler chops, grabs an ankle, bumps off the whistle or does many other things it can get ugly for the bottom wrestler very quick. I would suggest rather than trying to explode to the ceiling, have the bottom wrestler explode to a position where they find backpressure, hand control, and have a stable base under them. In this position, they will be able to backpressure to their feet, hip heist away, or defend breakdown attempts from their opponent before getting away.
Watch this video to view an example of what I am talking about.
The technique in this video is being taught for a situation when the top wrestler is going for an outside ankle off the whistle.
The standard version of the Windshield Wiper Stand Up would have the bottom wrestler sealing off the inside elbow to keep his opponent’s hands from getting inside. As the bottom wrestler wheels into his backpressure, he would be looking to attack the top wrestler’s hand that is around the waist with both of his hands.
If the top wrestler is bumping or chopping and knocking the bottom wrestler off balance the bottom wrestler may need to post his hands on the mat to keep his balance and keep his hips under him. Returning to hand control as fast as possible.
Don’t Get to Your Feet… Sit Out? Get Your Hands in the Mat!
If the bottom wrestler is broken down one easy thing they can focus on is to dig their hands in the mat. This will keep their arms from getting tied up and allow them to start pushing back into their opponent, slide their hips under them and work other holds from the mat or get back to their feet.
A Sit Out may be a good option for this position. The bottom wrestler can almost always get to their rear into a Sit Out position and has many options from that position.
Here is a video that demonstrates what I am talking about and shows how the bottom wrestler digs their hands into the mat.
Obviously there are a ton of ways to get the job done from the bottom position. This is just one way I like to break things down and keep them simple.
What do you think? I am sure there are a lot of opinions on the best ways to handle bottom troubles. I would love to hear them. Please post below and I will be sure to jump in on the conversation.
– Coach Weber