What style should you train in the off season?

Off Season Wrestling, Freestyle or Folkstyle? What style should you practice?

Coming up as a youth wrestler there was two styles. Growing up in the 90’s you did folk style in the winter and freestyle in the spring and summer. In the mid two-thousands there was a major shift due to ‘competitive’ clubs not really understanding the importance of this “less important” style and what having two distinct seasons means in the mind of a youth. Hack coaches who fancy themselves great would encourage kids to stay in folkstyle training year round with the idea they would be a competitive edge. I remember being a high school state champion as a junior and going to my first freestyle event of the year and wrestling a state champion from another division, only three weeks after we were both on top of the podium. My mindset? 

Donnie Pritzlaff of Rutgers teaching the leg lace at a Camp we hosted.

Why Wrestling needs to vary and be fun to keep your interest


Fun. If we had been wrestling three weeks prior our anxiety, nerves and pressure would have been through the roof. Instead, we put on a very entertaining 5-6 match, I lost. And came off the mat smiling. The next weekend I wrestled a three time state champion from another division, again, I lost 10-11. We were cracking jokes the whole match, and had the entire gym watching. I later tech falled the first state champion 10-0. And in the state freestyle finals, I wrestled a 3x finalist and 1x champ, I was up 8-0, and guess what? I lost again. 


If we are wrestling folk style, I might not take those matches. During the folkstyle season the four of us never wrestled. At Freestyle states? All of us could be in the same bracket. We FINALLY got to wrestle the competition we needed. I finally got to lose and learn from that and get better. I remember those three losses in a very positive mind frame, why? Because it was ‘freestyle’ and I placed less pressure on myself but was actually wrestling at a much higher level. The level I needed to be competing at. 

How Freestyle can be better than Folkstyle for Wrestling
Wondering why I was happy to lose.

The Mental Break is So important, why?


The mental break an athlete gets by switching styles is immeasurable. In a world where I see burnout weekly, kids who are super stars throw in the towel or fall apart at high school states. Why? Because they are wrestling one style year round. Most parents have never wrestled year round, and most coaches have not either. When you split the styles, its much like track; you have an indoor and outdoor season. It feels like two different sports and this prevents long term burnout. My good friend Jake Herbert, 2012 Olympian, says this about Freestyle and Folkstyle as two distinct seasons “ get a quote from Jake on this”


I am not saying folkstyle should not be taught in the summer, my Vermont Summer camp is focused on all technical progression in Folkstyle. But there is something fresh about getting back on the mats after winter time states and having to relearn a gutwrench.

World Champion Kurbanaliev having fun play wrestling with NCAA Champion
World Champion having fun vs NCAA Champion. Wait, fun? Yes.


Missing skill development Missing mental break

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