The Importance of Freestyle and Greco Roman

This article was posted a few years ago but it is definitely worth re-posting!

Why The International Styles Of Wrestling Are So Important

By John Gartiser

Over the years I feel it has been harder and harder to get our (I mean “our” in terms of NYS wrestlers, though it could be noted across the nation as well) top end wrestlers competing in Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling.  In my opinion these two styles, the International Styles, are extremely important for an athlete to reach their full potential in the sport of wrestling.  I will cover some of the basic points on why the International Styles of wrestling are so beneficial to young wrestlers.  My hope is to grab the attention of the local athletes and other NYS wrestlers to increase their knowledge and outlook on Freestlye and Greco Roman wrestling participation.  I will list the benefits of these styles below.

1.Exciting style of wrestling:

With the new rule changes, more so than ever, Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling promote scoring but also make an easier transition for an American Folkstyle wrestler into the two styles.   What is the most exciting point (no pun intended) in a wrestling match?  It’s usually when a wrestler is scoring or when there is a long scramble where two wrestlers are trying to score.  A scoring style of wrestling is what makes the sport exciting!  Excitement is what our sport needs in order to thrive on a grand scale like other major sports.  Freestlye and Greco Roman wrestling reward the aggressive wrestler and the wrestler who is looking to score points.  In both styles there are more opportunities for the wrestler to score points.   That is a good formula for participant and, maybe more importantly, fan excitement.

  1. Sharpens your technique:

One of the biggest advantages I see to wrestling Freestyle and Greco Roman is the styles’ ability to expose your weakness from the neutral position.   In these styles of wrestling I commonly tell my athletes that, “in Freestyle if you are not scoring there’s a good chance you are being scored on”.  It is this fact that your inability and weaknesses on finishing your shots are being exposed.  If you are in on a leg attack and if you don’t finish effectively your opponent will be in position to score on you and off of your attack.  In freestyle wrestling, the wrestler does not need complete control in order to score.  From a defensive position it is very common to expose an offensive wrestlers back 90 degrees for a 2 or 3-point move.  Knowing this, you MUST work on your set ups and finishes for all of your offensive leg attacks.  In Folkstyle wrestling your ability to get to a single leg attack and grapple to a stalemate does not negatively reinforce a wrestlers actions enough to truly focus on a technical deficiency in your leg attack finishes as it does in Freestyle wrestling.  Furthermore, you can actually see wrestlers USE this position of a stalemate to BURN time off a clock to eek out a close match.  If this were a freestyle competition your ability to “eek” out that victory can become counterproductive very quickly.  This type of mindset focuses and emphasizes what makes wrestling exciting, a scoring style of wrestling! This type of attitude should be brought to the mat every time you step out there to practice or compete.

Another aspect of technique to be sharpened through Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling can be reinforced through Parr Tarre position (wrestling on the mat).  I will use Greco Roman wrestling as an example here.  A lot of the scoring from the top position we see in high school and college wrestling today has many grassroots in the International Styles of wrestling.   I feel a lot of the tilts that are popular today can be linked and have a lot of correlations to gut wrenches in Freestyle and more prominently in Greco Roman wrestling.  Being able to roll across your own back to secure future back points is not always the easiest thing for a new wrestler to comprehend and be able to perform in a match situation.  In Greco Roman this is one of the main ways you can score points.  You have to conquer this fear and master the positioning of hips and leverage in order to score from the top position.  This in turn (Again, no pun intended), gives a wrestler a huge advantage over top competition nationwide.   These moves allow wrestlers to learn how to use proper leverage and momentum in order to expose your opponent.

I think the most common counter argument people pose to the so called negatives of Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling technique is seen in wrestling from the bottom position.  One of the more common bottom techniques in both styles is the “big bird” position.  In laymen’s terms, flattening your body out and moving your hips so you don’t get turned.  Which is actually a much more in depth technique to learn than it actually sounds.  If a wrestler were to do this in Folkstyle they would be warned/called for stalling.  In the International Styles of wrestling if there is no scoring from the Parr Tarre position the referee will blow the whistle and position both wrestlers back on their feet.  Wrestlers tell me all the time that wrestling on bottom promotes stalling and will never get me better on the bottom position in Folkstyle wrestling.  In reality the big bird position teaches wrestlers to adjust based on momentum and leverage the top wrestler is trying to use to turn you and expose your back.  This also correlates great into Folkstyle bottom wrestling.  BUT one of the more important aspects that the International Styles of Wrestling promote is a break from Folkstyle training.  It’s a good pressure release and allows good Folkstyle wrestlers to open up their minds and start to learn and get use to new or different positions.  I’ve seen terrible wrestlers on bottom in Folkstyle actually get better by not constantly practicing it.  Sometimes in order to see the proper gains your mind needs a break and needs to gear things in a different direction.  Sometimes it actually is better to not beat a dead horse.

  1. The Right Mindset:

The world of Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling offers our wrestlers with an opportunity to wrestle on the largest stage possible, the world levels.  Only in Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling do we have an opportunity to compete internationally.  Too many of our athletes look at section and state titles as the pinnacle of high school wrestling when, indeed, they should be shooting for much more.  The largest tournament (numbers wise) in the world today, on any level, is the ASICS/Vaughan Junior & Cadet National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota.  The tournament is better known as “Fargo”.  I will touch more on this tournament in my last point of interest.  Fargo is the #1 recruiting ground for college coaches.  The tournaments design has the nations top competitor’s battle it out over 2 to 3 days of grueling competition.  The grind of this tournament mimics many college tournaments, most comparing to the NCAA Division 1 National tournament.  The toughest and only the nations top wrestlers will rise to the occasion and come out on top of this kind of grind.   It now makes sense why this tournament is a college coach’s ideal setting for recruiting the future champions in college and of USA Wrestling.  The Freestyle and Greco Roman Nationals seem to be the best indicator of future success for young athletes. Don’t believe me?  Ironically enough, this video was just posted on with Zack Esposito:

For the top wrestlers in the country national titles are seen as a stepping-stone to compete at the world level.   I’m almost positive if we asked the majority of our wrestlers locally and even nationwide what the FILA Cadet Tournament is, the majority would not know.  The FILA Cadets is a national tournament held to determine what young USA wrestlers will represent their country in the FILA Cadet World tournament. FILA (Federation Internationale des Luttes Associees), in other words, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Style, is the world wide governing body of wrestling. The FILA Cadets saw a 14-year absence and was recently bought back into competition in 2011.  This gives our young athletes an opportunity to compete internationally on the largest stage possible in our sport.  Through Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling our athletes now have the opportunity to compete for a world title!  I believe the fact that the great majority of young wrestlers don’t know this is a major problem.   I feel it is extremely important for every wrestlers mindset to shoot for the pinnacle in any sport they participate in, as well as life.

  1. The Numbers Don’t Lie:

July 13, 2013 Fargo, ND- This geographic location is home of HS wrestling’s equivalency of the Super Bowl.  Nowhere else are you going to have 120+ wrestlers in a single weight class, 3,000 competitors under the same roof (dome is more appropriate here) battling it out for the convenient “Stop Sign”.  According to 50 out of 70 of the nations Top 5 wrestlers in each weight class are scheduled to compete in the 2013 Freestyle and Greco Roman National Championship.   If those numbers aren’t staggering enough, let’s say Folkstyle is your favorite go to style for wrestling.   Let’s say Division 1 All American and National Champion is the goal you wrote down all those years ago.  Here’s a statistic that will put your odds at achieving that goal much higher: Qualify for Fargo and compete in the ASICS/Vaughan Junior & Cadet National Championships…. Why you ask?  Because 83% of all U.S.-born NCAA Division I All-Americans from 2006-2013 also competed in Fargo, where as, 68% of them were Freestyle and/or Greco All Americans and have produced 75% of the NCAA National champions.

(Credit Willie Saylor from for some of these statistics and figures)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *