You may have noticed that a lot of your favorite wrestlers are below average height. Is being short and excelling at wrestling connected or is it just a coincidence? We will explore the relationship between height and wrestling.
Why are wrestlers short? Wrestlers are not short their height depends on which weight class they compete in. Wrestlers who compete in below average weight classes will be shorter than the average man as wrestlers need to be muscular and strong. However wrestlers who compete in heavy weight classes will be taller than the average man.
Weight Vs Height Statistics
The average male is 5ft7 (171cm) tall and weighs 137 pounds (62kg)
If we look at the 4 Freestyle wrestling medalists at the Rio Olympics who competed in the 65kg weight class (closest to the world’s average male weight) we will wrestlers are in fact average height. Gold medalist Soslan Romanov is 5ft9 (174cm) tall, silver medalist Toghrul Asgarov is 5ft7 (170cm) tall, bronze medalist Frank Chamizo is 5ft7 (170cm) tall and bronze medalist Ikhtiyor Navruzov is 5ft6 (166cm) tall. 2 athletes are average, 1 is slightly above average and 1 slightly below with an average height of 5ft7 (170cm)
The average US male is 5ft9 (175cm) tall and weighs 197 pounds (89kg).
If we look at the 4 Freestyle wrestling medalists at the Rio Olympics who competed in the 86kg weight class (closest to the US’s average male weight) we will find wrestlers who weigh the same as the US average are in fact taller than the average US male. Gold medalist Abdulrashid Sadulaev is 5ft10 (178cm) tall, silver medalist Selim Yaşar is 5ft11 (180cm) tall, bronze medalist Sharif Naidhajavovich Sharifov is 5ft11 (180cm) tall and bronze medalist J’den Cox is 6ft0 (183cm) tall. All of the wrestlers are taller than the average american with an average height of 180.25cm.
What Is The Best Body Type For Wrestling?
What is the best body type for wrestling? The best body type for wrestling is a mesomorph who has a thick frame and more muscle than fat. Wrestlers ideally have thick necks, visible abs, defined arms and shoulders strong backs and highly developed legs. All these muscles are used extensively in wrestling.
The back and legs are placed under a lot of stress when a wrestler stands and moves in an optimal wrestling stance. A wrestling stance feel likes a wall sit where your leg muscles are constantly working. A wrestler’s legs are further taxed when they push off the ground to shoot for takedowns.
To prevent being snapped and having their head caught in a headlock wrestlers need strong necks. A strong neck is a muscular neck so it is common to see wrestlers with heavily muscled and thick necks. A thick neck also allows a wrestler to bridge where they place all of their body’s weight on their neck to avoid having their shoulders pinned to the mat and losing the match.
Controlling your opponent using grips such as headlock, under hook, over hook and two on one are extremely important. These grips can be used to set up and defend against takedowns. To establish these grips requires strong arms and shoulders. Also a lot of wrestling takedowns particularly upper body throws require strong arms and shoulders to establish a body lock and control a resisting opponent. This is why you will often see wrestlers with muscular arms and shoulders.
All wrestling movements from attacking, defending and moving engage the abs. Throughout the entirety of a wrestling match the abs are being worked. This combined with the fact that most wrestlers have a low body fat results in a lot of wrestlers having visible abs and a clear 6 pack.
Ideal Body Type
There is an ideal body type in wrestling. You see many wrestlers conform to a specific type of body. Wrestlers tend to have thick necks, defined shoulders and arms and highly developed backs and legs. All these muscles are worked strenuously during wrestling training and are further developed when wrestlers work these muscles during strength and conditioning. Wrestlers tend to be thick and compact.
Genetics also play a role. Athletes who are naturally muscular particularly in these muscle groups will be more likely to excel in wrestling therefore they will be scouted and encouraged to wrestle. Athletes who aren’t muscular will struggle to compete and will be unlikely to manage to compete at a high level unless they transform their bodies.
There are some noted exceptions to this ideal body type. Buvaisar Hamidovich Saitiev considered to be the best freestyle wrestler of all time had an unusually lanky and rangy physique. Standing at 6ft0 (183cm) and competing in the 73kg class he had long legs and slender arms. He stood out as his competition were often much shorter with much greater amounts of muscle. However this extra muscle didn’t help his opponents as Saitiev won 3 gold medals and 6 world championships.
Is Being Tall A Disadvantage In Wrestling?
Is being tall a disadvantage in wrestling? No, being tall is not a disadvantage in wrestling. You just need to find your ideal weight class to compete in and develop a style which is suited to your tall stature. Tall wrestlers often excel at throws, trips, front headlock and upper body attacks. Tall wrestlers need to be careful of being caught in leg attacks.
If you want to see a tall wrestler in action then you should study Buvaisar Saitiev.
Here is some footage of Saitiev training
Saitiev was often much taller than his opponents. Saitiev was a master of the O Soto Gari throw, go behinds from the front headlock position and attacking from the two on one position, notably using a trip to attack an opponent’s lead leg. Despite his tall statute Saitiev also had a fast effective single leg and was able to get low and successfully snatch his opponents’ legs.
As Saitiev had very long legs for his weight class his opponents often were able to grab his legs. However his balance and defense was amazing and his opponents were very rarely able to finish takedowns and score once they had established control over his legs.
If you are a tall wrestler you should look to Saitiev for inspiration and incorporate some of his techniques into your wrestling arsenal.
Here is more footage of Saitiev in action
Height And Its Effect On Wrestling Style
Your height will determine how you wrestle. Short wrestlers and tall wrestlers grapple very differently. A heavyweight match will often look completely different to a light weight contest.
Short wrestlers stand in a much lower stance than tall wrestlers. A short wrestler will often be able to touch their hand on the mat at all times. Short wrestlers are often lighter and have better mobility. These factors allow them to maintain a low stance throughout a match.
If a tall wrestler tries to maintain a low stance for the whole match they will often fatigue their legs and back. Tall wrestlers will often stand much more upright. This leads to a famous saying that heavyweight matches often resemble Greco-Roman contests.
Short wrestlers are much more likely to favor leg attacks than tall wrestlers. Short wrestlers find it much easier to change levels and shoot leg attacks. Their low stance is suited to both attacking and defending leg attacks. Leg attacks require speed and mobility which short wrestlers have in abundance.
Short wrestlers use a higher variety of attacks. They are much better at mixing their offense. Short wrestlers even though they favor leg attacks will expertly mix in upper body attacks to keep their opponents guessing.
In contract tall wrestlers prefer attacking the upper body. If they do attack legs often it will be set up by an upper body grip. It is much harder to attack the legs when you are standing upright. This is why taller wrestlers will often focus on grip fighting and then from there transition into an upper body takedown.
Here is a video showing the frenetic pace of wrestling matches
Short wrestlers will attack much more frequently than tall wrestlers. Short wrestlers have higher scoring matches and have better defense. Short wrestlers have better cardio allowing them to attack continuously the whole match. Short wrestlers are much more likely to get into high paced scrambles where the athletes are moving rapidly across the mat, suddenly changing directions and chaining together multiple attacks in quick succession.
In contrast tall wrestlers wrestle at a much slower pace. The matches are usually very low scoring. Typically a single takedown will often be enough for a tall wrestler to win a match. Tall wrestlers are much less mobile and therefore their defense against takedowns is not strong.
That results in the first good takedown attempt being enough to score. However tall wrestler’s are very strong so if a tall wrestler attacks his opponent when they are balanced and in a strong position they will typically give up a go behind. Tall wrestlers will often stall and wait until they have the perfect opportunity for launching an attack because they know if they get it wrong they could be countered and that may well be the end of the match as scoring opportunities are few and far between.
Wrestling Is For Everyone
The great thing about wrestling is that no matter your height or weight you can find a weight class that suits your body type and compete against similar athletes. As there are so many different effective wrestling techniques you will have no problem finding some that work for you whether you are tall or short.
It may seem like wrestlers are short due to the amount of weight classes which allows wrestlers of all sizes to compete. However when you compare the heights of wrestlers who weigh the same as the average global male and the average American male you can see that wrestlers are as tall as the average male and in fact taller than the average American male. Wrestlers who compete in the lightest weight class are shorter than the average male and wrestlers who compete in the heaviest weight class are taller than the average male.