Closing the gap

Posted on Jul 29, 2010 in Practices, Technique

Many inexperienced wrestlers try to score while wrestling at an arms length or more away from their opponent. They may feel safer at that distance but their own offense inevitably suffers and they give up points on counter attacks. It’s a challenge to get them to close that gap safely and feel comfortable attempting scores from in close.

First, we need the wrestlers to work their way in with their feet and not their hands. When we tell young wrestlers to get closer, they usually reach out to grab their opponent exposing their legs and getting over extended. By working their way in with good footwork while maintaining a stance and keeping their elbows tight to their sides, they can close the gap safely and work for a control position from which to attack.

A nice reminder drill is to have wrestlers practice their stance, movement and closing the gap with tennis balls under their arms. It’s easy for the wrestlers to evaluate themselves and get a feel for the right approach.

Once they close the gap, our wrestlers have to be comfortable working for their control positions, creating motion and scoring from in tight. The closer our wrestlers are to their opponent, the less time he will have to react and the more takedowns they will score. We do a lot of drills to get them comfortable hand fighting and moving in heat-to-head, shoulder-to-shoulder and even chest-to-chest positions.

Once wrestlers get comfortable safely closing the gap and working for control in tight, they can start identifying set-ups and takedowns that best fit their style.