One of the most difficult, important and overlooked skills to work on is how to remain relaxed while maintaining 100% intensity. It’s counterintuitive since many equate high intensity with a menacing grimace, but being tight and intense slows you down and tires you out; fast.Being relaxed in mind and body allows you to focus everything to the task at hand. Speed equals power and being relaxed is the best condition for speed.
The best conditioned athlete will tire quickly if too tight. Usually this starts with getting stressed out before a match (and they’re often stressed out about knowing that they’ll be getting tired during their match). It becomes a viscous cycle of mental tightness followed by physical tightness and then fatigue.
The problem with being relaxed and intense at the same time is that it doesn’t come naturally. It’s an acquired skill that requires practice. A wrestler must train this way and maintain an awareness of it while drilling and wrestling in practice until it becomes second nature. Tight wrestlers telegraph their moves while relaxed ones can be very explosive and “deadly”. Some kids get it quickly while others take years, but it’s a constant goal either way.
Some of the keys to this crucial foundational skill is to maintain good position (with particular attention paid to the feet, in my opinion, with both pointed in the direction of your opponent - and not the back foot pointing off to the side like many do - and being really light and springy able to instantly move in any direction), breath in a controlled manner, constant motion and staying focused. A great example is boxer Alexis Arguello. The biomechanics get a little complex, but the feet are a good place to start.
It’s always important to warm up and stretch and take a step back to shake it off when you start to tighten up. One of the best, if not the best, ways to gain confidence is to know that you can go full tilt without getting tired.
In my opinion, too, it’s important to think of moves not in terms of arms and legs, but to focus movement on the core of the body. One’s center of balance is the lower stomach area so that should be your “axis of movement” from where power originates. This connects the body as one very powerful well-grounded unit rather than a bundle of independent limbs.
Don’t give up if it becomes frustrating. Again, it’s counterintuitive and might not make sense at first. You’ll know they’re “there” when they’re able to maintain this skill while under extreme pressure from an overpowering opponent as they stay in proper position, move to the side a bit and then explode into a well executed technique. It’ll all come naturally as they won’t have to transition from “tight” to “movement” as they’ll already be ready to rumble in good position both physically and mentally.
Also, don’t overlook the extreme importance of running. The best training for wrestling is wrestling, but a simple running program 3 or 4 days per week is essential (with alternating easier runs with ones of higher intensity - rarely or never 2 hard runs in a row).
And strength training is critical. I tend to keep it extremely simple with basic bodyweight exercises 2 or 3 times per week. Definitely mix it up and evolve by adding or replacing exercises over time.
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