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Dan Gable's 7 Essential Ingredients For Good Wrestling

Updated: Oct 8, 2018

Dan Gable's 7 Essential Ingredients for Good Wrestling

State champ, All-American, World Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, coached Iowa to 15 NCAA titles, and was voted NCAA coach of the year three times. These are a few of Dan Gable's accomplishments. If anyone should be studied for wrestling, it should be him.

Thankfully, the legend himself is already a strong promoter on growing wrestling, and has a lot of educational material out there. One of my favorite knowledge gems he has given us are his 7 ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOR GOOD WRESTLING, and here's why:

It's so easy to mentally and spiritually fall asleep during the season.

Many wrestlers come into practice everyday just "going through the motions" or their goal is to just survive the practice. This may not be all their fault, especially for younger athletes. It's difficult to pin down areas to work on and set goals in with a huge sport like wrestling. Unlike in football or basketball, a wrestler must master each aspect of the sport instead of a specific position or role.

So what must be done is that an individual wrestler must break the huge sport down into pieces, and focus on each aspect one by one instead of coming into practice with the general goal of "getting better at wrestling". Good goals are specific and detailed goals. Dan Gable's 7 Essential Ingredients gives us a great starting point to define our specific goals. Baby steps make champions.

“I’m a big believer in starting with high standards and raising them. We make progress only when we push ourselves to the highest level. If we don’t progress, we backslide into bad habits, laziness and poor attitude.”

- Dan Gable


Here are the ingredients Dan Gable details in his book Coaching Wrestling Successfully.

1. Standing Wrestling

Also known as wrestling from neutral. This ingredient includes offensive leg attacks, defending your legs, sprawling, hand control, hand fighting, head and shoulder positioning, blocking skills, a good stance, keeping good motion in a stance, snap downs, shrugs, and go-behinds.

2. Underneath Wrestling

In folk style this is commonly known as wrestling from bottom. The elements here are stands ups, escaping with correct hand control, sit outs, switches, rolls, defending from leg riding, escaping leg riding, hip heisting, and scrambling.

3. Strength

Often overlooked but extremely important, strength is an essential aspect for a wrestler. It is, however, greatly determined by genetics and body type. This doesn't mean the you can forget strength all together. A wrestler should know his body type to build it into his/her ultimate wrestling machine, and that's going to mean a different workout and regimen for each person. When it comes to strength training, there are a few elements that do apply to everyone such as power/explosion, strength (as in how much weight you can move), and muscle endurance. Strength also plays greatly into developing mentality, and preventing injury.

4. General Conditioning

Can you perform at your highest intensity all match long with a clear and calm mind? Or are you desperately gasping for air? If not, some things you may want to work on are your short burst stamina, long term stamina, and stamina recovery. Breathing exercises can do wonders.

5. Flexibility

From my experience, this has to be the most underrated ingredient for the sport of wrestling. You can see why it's so important and how you can improve flexibility in our Flexibility Article. Are you doing good stretching? How is your agility on defensive and offensive positions?

6. Nutrition

This is so important to us, that we wrote an entire guide to a champions diet. Where flexibility is the most underrated, nutrition is the most uneducated. A wrestler must know and understand how food and water consumption works. The elements here are weight control before an event, nutrition education, balanced dieting, BMI understanding, hydration, and replenishing sweat loss.

7. Attitude

Last but certainly not least, attitude will affect every single area of your wrestling. Consider the following elements of this ingredient: goal setting, motivation, competitiveness, productivity, initiative and doing work without being told, leadership, focus, and excitement.


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Now that we have the sport of wrestling broken down by a wrestling legend, we can set more specific and better quality goals. These goals are not going to mean anything though if you do not have an ACTION PLAN to execute them. So here's what a wrestler should do after absorbing the information above.

  1. Make a table and rate yourself from 1 to 10 in each ingredient. Anything above 7 is your strength.

  2. List 5 weaknesses you need to work on this week

  3. Determine what exactly you are going to do to tackle each weakness. Coaches can certainly help.

  4. List 5 strengths you can capitalize on this week.

  5. Determine how you are going to capitalize on these strengths. Coaches may teach you specific advanced moves or put you through advanced training.

  6. Come in to every practice with one weakness and one strength to hammer every practice in addition to the training you will already be receiving that day.

  7. Don't leave unless you have made progress on your goals

Being awake and conscious in your work will lead you to a happier season, no matter what reason you are wrestling for.

“When you finally decide how successful you really want to be, you’ve got to set priorities. Then, each and every day, you’ve got to take care of the top ones. The lower ones may fall behind, but you can’t let the top ones slip. You don’t forget about the lower ones though because they can add up to hurt you. Just take care of the top ones first. In 25 years as a head coach and assistant, I think I might have missed one practice. Why? Because practice is my top priority. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t accomplish something in my family life or my profession because those two things are my top priorities.” - Dan Gable

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