West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

on the "Drill Work" at Practice

Jack London wrote:

Although this novel is about a dog, the astute sports enthusiast sees an anology between Buck's ability and the skills of a great wrestler, and all outstanding athletes. So how do these superior sportspersons possess the same spontaneous skills as a dog named Buck? Allow me to explain.

The answer to such athletic abilities is so simple, but hated by all athletes, myself included -- "drill work." Practice in all sports entails the perfection of moves, which can only be accomplished by drill, drill, drill, and then more drill. Ask legendary coaches of every era if you doubt my words.

The best wrestling example I can share with my readers involves a matman of yesteryear named Mike Johnson. I had the privilege to observe his skills in person as a high school and freshman wrestler at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mike was a four-time Pennsylvania state champ from Lock Haven (1958-1961), who perfected the "duckunder" takedown as a scholastic grappler. As a freshman at Pitt, Mike Johnson competed at the prestigious Wilkes Tournament during the Christmas holidays. Mike wrestled his way to the finals of the competition. His opponent in the final match was an fantastic senior EIWA champion from, would you believe it, Pitt.

What you must totally understand at this point in the column, Mike and his senior matmate have practiced together on a daily basis for at least two months. Thus, his senior practice partner, the Pitt varsity wrestler, knew his every move.

In the championship finals of the Wilkes tourney, Mike lost to his senior Pitt matman, 4-3. But what is so ironic, Mike Johnson did score a takedown. Guess what it was -- a duckunder!

My point, drill work is the key to success. It is the simple formula to perfecting a move in wrestling or skill in any sport you can imagine. Ask any great athlete.

In closing, the best way to explain why my "drill work" assertion is so very important in athletics or life can only be demonstrated as follows. If a coach, in any sports contest, has to yell to his athlete what to do -- it's too late!

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