My Take on “Iowa Style” Wrestling

IronsideDo you really know what Iowa Style Wrestling is?  It’s a style that can work for anyone, will lead to more fans and can maximize each wrestler’s potential.  Oh, and if you get two wrestlers that wrestle in this fashion, watch out and hold on to your popcorn, because it is going to be an entertaining match!

Read on to learn from a Gable Trained NCAA Champ that toiled in the trenches of the Iowa Wrestling room alongside greats like the Brands Brothers, Lincoln McIlravy, Mark Ironside, Randy Lewis, Royce Alger and many more.

What is the Iowa Style?

gable in practiceA style of wrestling that Dan Gable used to dominate the world as a competitor and own college wrestling, as a coach, for two and a half decades.   This style and mentality is passed on by his former wrestlers and the many coaches he has influenced.  At its core it is based on scoring as many points as possible while always working toward the pin.  It is called the Iowa Style because Dan Gable taught it to the masses better than anyone while he was the Head Coach at the University of Iowa.

Who can wrestle the Iowa Style?

54c5b6d6db6e0.imageAnyone from anywhere can wrestle the Iowa Style.  Any techniques can be inserted into true Iowa Style, but if you are going to wrestle with this form of controlled aggression then, you are going to need to understand some important core fundamentals.  Even though, those that wrestled under Dan Gable may own an advantage at understanding and teaching this style, any coach can teach these philosophies.  Ultimately, it is on the athletes shoulder to embrace this mentality to reap the full benefits.

Why is this style important to wrestling?

When deciding on how I want to see athletes wrestle,  I try to consider how styles clash.

Cat-n-Mouse vs. Cat-n-Mouse = BORING!

Let’s imagine two wrestlers playing the cat-n-mouse game where they like to back up, go to a knee and play the edge all while looking to capitalize on their opponents mistakes.  When on top they ride ankles, throw legs when bottom wrestler stands up and basically hang on.  When I image two wrestlers with this style pitted against each other I think it would be a great match to watch if I had trouble going to sleep.

Iowa Style vs. Cat-n-Mouse = Interesting

A lot plays into this scenario.  If both the IA Style wrestler and the Cat-n-Mouse wrestler are rock solid on all fronts, my money is on the IA Style every time.  Of course the Cat-n-Mouse wrestler can win through superior experience,  mental toughness or technique.

Iowa Style vs. Iowa Style = EXCITING!

Now lets imagine two wrestlers that close the gap looking to force their scoring holds on opponents, have forward grinding pressure on top, mat return when bottom man stands up and are always looking for the pin.  If you had two guys that executed this style and both thought they could win, this would create the most exciting match possible.

Iowa Style Wrestling – The Down & Dirty

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailNeutral Position

In essence, an Iowa Style wrestler is a tank. They move forward, welcome confrontation, and have confidence that the harder and smarter they fight, they more likely they are to succeed. The core of this philosophy is that forward pressure, motion and hustle are the keys to creating a high level of wrestling, which is the perfect blend of a street fight and a chess match.

  • Forward Pressure that leads to:
    • Changing Directions
    • Working the head
    • Finding Angles
    • Snapping off
    • Moving in and out of ties…
  • Using hands and feet to move opponents
  • All with the purpose of creating openings for offensive and defensive scoring
  • Possessing the skills needed to score when your opponent beats you to the punch is a crucial part of this aggressive style
  • Gable quote “I shoot, I score…  He shoots, I score”

Caution:  some fail to prioritize scoring points over brawling when wrestling this style.  The Iowa Style is a physical style, but the best understand that any form of brawling is all part creating legitimate scoring opportunities.

imagesTop Position

Iowa style wrestlers never give their opponents any advantage willingly, and this attitude is embodied perfectly by the philosophy of grinding from the top position. If the bottom man wants to escape, he is going to have to struggle for it. If the top man wants to release him, he makes certain the bottom man knows he is being released, and not escaping on his own initiative. Iowa Style wrestlers always use the top position to bring the match to higher levels of intensity.

  • Forward grinding pressure
  • Finding wrists and handles for turns
  • Mat Return series when bottom wrestler gets to feet
  • Taking control of bottom wrestler with the goal of creating pinning opportunities.

Bottom Position
Phillip Keddy #8 ranked 184 pound Iowa Hawkeye vs Mike Pucillo Ohio Buckeye
To an Iowa Style wrestler, if you are on bottom, you’re losing or at least the top wrestler is gaining! Regardless of the techniques used to work for an escape or reversal, the Iowa Style wrestler approaches the bottom position with a sense of urgency.

  • Get away or reverse as quickly as possible in order to return to positions to score more points and look for pins.
  • Core fundamentals are getting to feet, keep legs out and clear them if they get in.
  • Never waste time in this position, always wrestle with a sense of urgency to regain the controlling position.

The Secret Sauce!

One must understand that this style demands incredible strength, conditioning, offensive weapons and an expertise in the core attacking fundamentals.  But even more important than any of these components is confidence and mental strength.

Relentlessly training day-in and day-out to master the Iowa Style builds mental toughness and confidence  quicker than most other training methods.  This is where Gable’s greatness truly came from.  He constructed an environment where offense was encouraged, the core attacking fundamentals were mastered and the confidence needed to dominate thrived within his wrestlers.  He did this better than anyone, ever!

One Size Fits All

The beauty of the Iowa Style is that it works for everyone.  Some wrestlers will embrace it wholly quicker than others but even those that never perfect it will be better off for working towards mastery.

Where some styles have prerequisites such as extreme athleticism, strength or mental toughness, the Iowa Style can build off of each of these strengths and develop them if they are weaknesses.

For some, one comes before the other.  For me, I had a drive then learned the fundamentals and when I expanded my technical skills it all came together.

Some may have incredible technique and ability to score, but lack grit.  If they strive to master this style and learn to continually force their advanced skills on opponents they begin to dominate, are exciting to watch and win more consistently.

In conclusion

quoteIn my case, the Iowa Style truly clicked for half a season. That is when everything came together and I won the NCAA Title my Senior year.  But the years previous that I was striving toward mastery of this style maximized my results and led to me earning All-American status twice.

This is the style I attempt to pass on to my wrestlers.  Some commit to it and find great satisfaction from their success and the journey.  Not all embrace the commitment and dedication it takes, but I have confidence that each wrestler has the tools to maximize their potential.

Nothing is guaranteed, but if you are looking for a style of wrestling that works for everyone at all levels and is proven to be exciting and successful, then the style Dan Gable taught at the University of Iowa is a great way to train to reach your maximum potential.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this subject!  Please leave a comment below and join the discussion.

-Coach Daryl Weber


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