Competitive Thoughts

By | May 19, 2022

Winning isn’t always about executing your most effective technique, it often comes down to stopping your opponent’s most effective technique.

Kyle Dake didn’t beat Jordan Burroughs to make the Olympic team as a result of his offensive prowess. He was in Beijing because he was successful at stopping Jordan’s legendary, and lethal, double leg. The genius behind it was simple. As soon as Jordan lowered his level to take a shot, Kyle would drop to his knees. Now, don’t mistake my use of these titans of the sport to make a point, both are two of America’s greatest but nothing plays havoc in a competitor’s mind more than the feeling of frustration at not being able to score with ones go-to move.

Decades ago now, I had to face one of America’s greatest wrestlers, a three-time NCAA Champion who was certainly capable in many ways. However, his go-to technique, like Jordan’s double leg, was multiple variations of a fireman’s carry.

Knowing this, I wasn’t interested in finding out how good he was with it. That was already obvious from watching the experiences of others. To counter that, as soon as the match started I put my left arm behind my back, the one he needed for his attacks. The fans thought I was crazy. They couldn’t believe I was willing to wrestle someone at his level of achievement with just one arm.

But in the end, I dominated what should have been an exciting and competitive match. It wasn’t that wrestling on my feet with one arm behind my back was a great idea, but it was really. It took away my opponents go-to takedown and what remained were far less effective attacks.

I told that story at an MMA clinic probably a decade ago now, and recently received this email.

Mr. Schalles . . . I thought that story you told us about wrestling with one arm was hysterical. And, I remembered why you shared it with us. So, I thought I’d write. Four years ago I was fighting Georgie from France. He was a European champion with a devastating double right sleeve, and right lapel grip that he would wind into a hari-goshi. He had beaten the Cuban World Champ and Asian Champion with it. When I had to go against him, I thought of your story and as soon as the match started I put my right arm behind my back. Georgie became frustrated and tried the throw me with just a double lapel grip. He landed on his face and I chicken winged him to his back and 30 seconds later the match was over. Afterward, my entire team wanted to know how I thought to do that. I just said Coach Schalles. Of course none of the judo players on the team ever heard of you, but I will never forget what you did for me.

The story I’m trying to share is; winning isn’t always about what you can do to your opponent, it’s what you can do to stop your opponent from executing on you.

First, you need to determine what you’re going to run into, and then, figure out how you’re going to stop it . . . preferably before the shot happens.

More recently, one of the young men I coach had to wrestle an opponent who would tie-up on the opposite side with a left hand collar tie. I could see the “what do I do now” look on his opponents faces as I watched him in matches.

Like Dake shutting down Burroughs double, it’s quite possible this young man won a lot of matches, not by his offensive prowess, conditioning, or tenacity, but through successfully stopping all of his opponent’s attacks before they happened, by his off-side tie-up.

Additionally, it should be noted, the greater a person’s go-to move is, which is a direct result of extensive drilling, the weaker his secondary shots are.

“So, what do I do,” Austin asked, regarding his match? “It’s simple,” I replied. “Don’t tie-up. Push him away when he tries to engage. Wrestle him from an open stance. You may limit your offensive capability some, but you’ll have totally eliminated his, and in the process, the frustration he used to dump in his opponents lap you’ll dump in his.”

What I’ve tried to convey here is illuminating options to challenges that for all of us at some point, might have seemed difficult to overcome. Winning isn’t always about who has the sharpest claws, sometimes it makes more sense to de-claw the opposition.

4 thoughts on “Competitive Thoughts

  1. David Macauley

    RBY of Penn State took to putting one of his arms behind his back when he wrestled Iowa’s DeSanto, who had a great upper arm grip that he would use to set up a fireman’s carry. At first it looked odd doing so and even seemed to be at a disadvantage for RBY, but it was a great counter to DeSanto’s go to move. And RBY when from losing to him twice to beating him 4 times in a row

  2. Wade

    Thank you for responding. Since I was the first serious wrestler to develop what was considered junk wrestling, which turned into funk wrestling, which is now considered mainstream wrestling, I had to deal with a hell of a learning curve. And just like Will-E-Coyote had to go back to ordering from Acme, so did I on more than one occasion. My wrestling had one serious flaw that Stan figured out way before I did and why he and I had so many great matches. I always threw caution to the wind knowing that I might give up 5 points but with my offensive power I would score 15 in the process. I know no one could stay with me. However, when I gave up the first point to Stan, he’d shut down and basically stopped wrestling. All my offensive came out of defensive scrambles. Unfortunately Stan’s defense was as good as mine and trying to “catch up” when he had a point lead was difficult at best. If I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I’d live by the play defense first, score the first point, and then have fun when my opponent opens up trying to catch up.

    1. Derek

      Thanks for the inside baseball.
      I watched you alot since you were a year behind me and Cleveland State Wrestled Clarion every year. I believe I wrestled in Midlands when you were there too.
      I just know that we always knew what mat you were on so we could watch in fascination. And that’s when you were still developing your style and then got better and better.
      I know now after watching 11 hours of your DVDs that I didn’t fully understand what you were doing as I do now.
      Funny how alot of what we now call Funk actually is Junk. It is not rooted in scientific technique as yours.
      It’s like eight-ball slop vs call your shot straight pool.
      If Guiness had a category The Most Misunderstood Wrestler it would be Wade hands down and I would have been guilty as charged.
      I know better now!!!

      Don’t ever change!!

  3. Derek

    I find this very interesting on a few levels. We have seen this recently with RBY and Austin DeSanto whose go-to move was a fireman’s from an overhook. I believe it was the year before last.
    RBY put is hand demonstrably behind almost resting his hand on his butt.
    Result: Complete befuddlement for DeSanto. He had no counter and to make matters worse he only ever and always shot it to the same side.
    Almost a true one-trick pony.

    Taking away the opponent’s strength is a strategy that frankly I am surprised is not used more often or maybe it is but not as salient and demonstrative as this example.

    Having not being able to find any bouts with Wade vs Dziedzic, I suspect this would also be another example after hearing Wade say of his nemesis, ” he wouldn’t wrestle me, good strategy.”
    Meaning, I think that Dziedzic did not try any outright leg attacks. According to Wade when I guy gets his leg, “that’s when they wrestling starts.”
    I hope to see more comments on this.
    Wade, nice to see you back or at least putting your toe in the water.



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