West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on Creativity in Wrestling

"Discipline is not the enemy of creativity!" As a matter of fact, I wholeheartedly believe that discipline is the keystone to creativity, constructive creativity. There have been many individuals with creative actions and thoughts, but they lacked the training of disciplining themselves to control their creative ways. I can't speak for anyone else, but I do know my own experiences. Let me now explain why I totally believe in the abovementioned doctrine.

In 1955, I began to wrestle as a scrawny, determined, highly motivated third grader. In the beginning, I got my butt kicked. But my coaches always encouraged me, saying "You have to learn failure before you can truly appreciate success." I didn't give up. After all, my father would never allow it. He had nothing to do with excuses or alibis, being one of eleven children, fathered by an anthracite coalminer, and with a mother who stood up to his dad when she felt he was wrong.

So, for the next six years in elementary and junior high school, I learned the best wrestling techniques of the time and the importance of stoic-like discipline. I'm sure you're thinking that's the farthest avenue from creativity. You couldn't be further from the truth. I made the first team as a freshman. During my first and second year of varsity action, I began to experiment with a takedown series known as pancakes--upper body moves in which the opponent as driven to the mat on his back. They weren't taught to me; I just observed them in a few college matches, and liked what I saw.

By my junior year, I developed an inventive pancake takedown from the knees that involved a balance check maneuver. I never saw it; I just created it on my own. The move was very effective, and few opponents could counter it, even after practicing for days to block it before wrestling me. My astute coaches never discouraged me from using the move because the takedown was fundamentally sound and quite successful, catapulting me four to five points ahead at the beginning of the match--a lead that was extremely hard to overcome during a era when riding time was rewarded.

I also devised an unusual "sit-in and turn-out" maneuver and "reverse switch" from the defensive position that scored me many escapes and reversals. Again, I was never taught them during practice. And as before, my brilliant coaches said nothing, intuitively knowing that true individual creativity came from a disciplined background.

This same discipline-structured creativity has followed me throughout my life. Oh, I have made many mistakes and have lost my temper at times as a husband, father, teacher, and coach, but I immediately realized it. After these intense moments, I made no excuses, but instead apologized, whether accepted or not. The undisciplined, creative individual sees him- or herself as doing no wrong, and that is and will always be his/her ultimate demise.

In closing, I mentioned earlier that as a wrestler I was taught stoic-like discipline. This is true. But I must confess that even the most disciplined individuals experience emotion, be it internal or overtly observed during times of triumph. As for myself, I never showed much joy after my victories as a wrestler, but when I duplicated my brother's Pennsylvania state-championship feat, I hugged him and cried.

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Updated November 29 , 1997