What Makes A Good High School Wrestler?

Are you currently or soon to be a high school wrestler looking to understand how to take your wrestling skills to the next level? We will break down what athletic skills and abilities you need to succeed in high school wrestling.

What Makes A Good High School Wrestler?

A good high school wrestler is technically proficient in the foundational positions of wrestling (neutral, bottom and top). They have a combination of go to/counter offense and solid defensive skills. They also have sufficient strength, flexibility and cardio to compete for the whole match.

There is a big jump in athleticism and skill when transitioning from middle school to high school wrestling. To succeed at high school wrestling young wrestlers will need to work on a number key areas. It is time to look at some specifics.

What Fundamentals Do High School Wrestlers Need?

High school wrestlers need to be fundamentally sound in neutral, bottom and when riding. They should have a number of offensive shots from neutral, a couple of escape techniques from bottom and understand how to ride for extended periods of time and turn opponents.

High school wrestling matches start in the neutral position with both wrestlers on their feet looking for takedowns. Wrestlers spend a lot of time in this position.

To be a top high school wrestler you have to be strong in the neutral position. You can break down the neutral position into attack, re-attack, defense and counter. 

Good high school wrestlers are skilled in all 4 of those neutral areas. If you want to improve your wrestling skills you should have 3 to 4 strong attacks, the most effective are double leg, head outside single and sweep single.

For defense you need a strong sprawl with the ability to get your hips to the mat quickly and put all your weight on your opponent. A good high school wrestler should also have a strong whizzer defense and a strong down block.

Counters and re-attacks are more advanced techniques but you will see elite high school wrestlers already have these skills. One of the most effective counters is a go behind off a sprawl. Another good counter technique to work on is a cradle after an opponent shoots a single leg.

You can not be a great high school wrestler if you can’t escape bottom. Being able to consistently and quickly escape bottom is the mark of a good wrestler. You should spend a lot of time in this position and find what specific techniques work for you. 

The main skills you should develop are separating your opponent’s hands, getting to your feet and turning into your opponent.

The ability to ride and turn opponents often separates an average high school wrestler from a great one. A good high school wrestler can quickly rack up points and score fast wins via pin by consistently turning his opponent when on bottom.

It isn’t just turning that good high school wrestlers excel at, they are also masters at staying glued to their opponents and riding out whole periods. The ability to ride for long periods allows a high school wrestler to control a match. 

If a skilled high school wrestler finds them winning a tough match in the last period, they can just ride out the entire period and secure the win. By using their superior riding skills they can give their opponent no chance of winning the match.

With the way takedowns and escapes are scored if you are able to consistently score late in the period and finish on top you can double your score. As instead of building a 1 point lead by scoring a 2 point takedown and giving up an escape you deny your opponent that escape point.

What Offensive And Defensive Skills Do High School Wrestlers Need?

High school wrestlers need to be able to shoot a high crotch, sweep single and double leg. They need a strong sprawl, whizzer defense, down block and ability to escape a front headlock. 

Strong high school wrestlers have both offensive and defensive skills. They are comfortable scoring points and preventing their opponents from scoring.

If you want to be an elite high school wrestler you should focus on developing these offensive techniques:

  • Double Leg – Jordan Burroughs is great to watch for this technique
  • High Crotch – Nathan Tomasello has a sick high crotch
  • Sweep Single – Sidakov is a master of this technique
  • Fireman/Dump – Spencer Lee and Austin Desanto have great dumps and firemans

All good high school wrestlers have a strong sprawl. The sprawl is less about technique but more about feel and reaction. It will take you a while to develop the reaction time but with enough practice you will be slamming your hips down on your opponents.

To make your sprawl extra effective you can throw in a whizzer and scoot your hips out to the side. This is an effective late stage defense when your opponent has got control of your leg and is starting to drive through you.

An effective early stage defence that all good high school wrestlers have is a down block. This is where you move your leg back while at the time touch the mat with your hand and lower your head. If you get good at this technique you will never have to worry about sprawling because no one will touch your legs.

What Strength And Conditioning Standards Should High School Wrestlers Achieve?

High school wrestlers should run a 40 yard sprint in 5 secs, run a 4X9m shuttle in 8.7 seconds, squat 1.3x bodyweight, bench press 1.15x bodyweight, perform 30 pull ups, complete 66 pushups in 1 minutes, 66 sit ups in 1 minute and have a body fat percentage of 10%.

Wrestling is an intense sport that requires a combination of speed, flexibility, endurance, power and strength. To be a good high school wrestler you need to be a well balanced athlete who excels in all these athletic attributes.

Mirzaei, B, Curby, DG, Rahmani-Nia, F, and Moghadasi, M (2009) studied the physical profiles of 70 elite Junior national freestyle wrestling team members from Iran.

Close to 100 wrestlers train at the Nategh Nouri gym in Tehran under the supervision of coaches such as Taghi Akbarnejad (not pictured). Mr Akbarnejad, a former Asian Championships gold medalist, volunteers at the gym in his free time,. He said: I live wrestling, breathe wrestling and when I go to sleep, I am still thinking about wrestling. Photo: Matthew Mohan

There are the averages of their results:

  • Body Fat Percentage – 10.6%
  • Body Mass Index – 25.6
  • Sit And Reach Test – 38.2cm
  • 4X9m Shuttle – 8.7 seconds
  • 40 Yard Sprint – 5.07 seconds
  • VO2 Max – 50.5
  • Sit Ups In A Minute – 66
  • Pushups In A Minute – 66
  • Pull Ups – 31.6
  • Bench Press – 1.15x bodyweight
  • Squat – 1.27x bodyweight 

Iran is one of the most successful wrestling nations in the world. If you are able to achieve the same results as their national level junior team members you will have more than enough strength and conditioning to dominate wrestling at the US high school level.


The difference between an average and an elite high school wrestler is technical skills particularly in the key positions (neutral, bottom and riding) and strength and conditioning. Elite high school wrestlers are faster, stronger and more explosive than average wrestlers and can perform a variety of foundational techniques with high proficiency.

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