Don’t Forget Your Singlet

It’s that time of the year.

A few weeks ago in the United States, families gathered on a special Thursday to celebrate each other and what their thankful for in their lives. But the Friday that follows is just as important. No, I’m not talking about Black Friday shopping.

The day after Thanksgiving marks the start of winter sports for high schoolers in the US. For me, that means one thing: Wrestling season.

I wrestled for two years in high school. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t very good. I somehow managed to have an above .500 record and make it out of our district to compete in regionals. Even though I didn’t walk away from high school wrestling with a bunch of trophies and a story fit for Hollywood—a story about a Chilean underdog who changes the hearts and minds of New Jersey with his bravery and technique—All of those hours in the wrestling room have paid dividends over the years that followed.

Wrestling seems to wax and wane in popularity amongst BJJ guys. We know we should work on it, especially if we want to go into MMA, but only a few actually dedicate serious time to it.

I don’t blame you. Wrestling can be tough on the joints, and you can get injured if you are not careful with your technique and your training partner selection. Then again, the same hazards exist on the ground (perhaps minus the physics of two people falling from standing), but just as we learn to train safely on the ground, you can learn to train safely standing. When you learn wrestling skills, like being able to finish single legs, how to shoot a good double, or how to stay on top during a scramble, your entire game benefits.

These skills, even though we lump into the category of “wrestling,” are just as valuable on the ground. Single legs abound from guard, and learning to double leg and fight through scrambles is valuable for those chaotic moments when someone is trying to run from your sweep.

Part of learning wrestling is getting reps in with a qualified instructor, but taking the time to appreciate the sport and watch some live matches can help your training as well.

If you are a grappling fan, or an MMA fan, you owe it to yourself to make it out to a wrestling match this winter, whether is college or high school. You will see not only amazing takedowns, but epic scrambles, and turnover and pinning combinations that from time to time make it onto our BJJ realm.

Wrestling meets have an amazing format that might be confusing to an outsider. Here’s the overview: Each team fills 14 weight classes, starting at 106 and ending at heavyweight (weight cap in high school is 285). Each individual match result is added to the team score. A win by points nets you 3 points, a major decision whenever the point differential is between 8-14 nets 4 points towards the team score, a tech fall is reached whenever a wrestler’s point differential reaches 15+, and finally a pin will earn the most points at 6.

This simple system can make for some heart stopping moments during matches. My friends in NJ recently ported over this system into a BJJ duel meet between two schools. Sheridan BJJ and Max Athletics, I was there to ref and had the best seat in the house. Matches were set up for about 18 white belts, 8 blue belts and 4 purple belts. At the end of the day, about half of them got to compete for the first time.

As a spectator it was great to watch. They kept the scoring criteria simple. A submission gave a team 6 points. A win over 10 points 4, and 3 for a decision. It’s a simple way to set up matches between school, and a welcome change from your typical “in house” tournament. I invite you to make it to a duel meet this winter, and if possible port over this format to your own school.

Whether you’re looking at the technique of wrestling or the format, there’s a lot that us BJJ guys can learn from the folks in singlets.