To put it simply— Wrestling is exactly what youth football players should be doing during the football offseason. I was a dedicated wrestler for 15 years and recall how much that sport impacted my path from Walnut, Iowa to the University of Iowa.
I was in an Iowa State dorm one night attending summer wrestling camp with some junior high buddies. Football was always my first love, but I had wrestled (and played basketball) since kindergarten and was approaching the 9th grade decision between the mat or the court. With football on my mind, I knew I needed to wrestle. If your kid loves football as much as I did, he should wrestle too. Here’s why:
Requirements Of Wrestling.
Strength. Endurance. Leverage. Balance. Hand-fighting. Takedowns.
Dedication. Hard Work. Toughness. Discipline. Guts.
Read those again…
The physical and psychological demands of the sport apply directly to the football field. The wrestling mat provides more opportunities for up close & personal combat with a guy that you’re trying to physically dominate, just as you would attempt to do on the gridiron. As a result, participation in wrestling is especially helpful for young linemen—the fundamentals to succeed on the mat and in the trenches go hand-in-hand. Mentally, it’s a sport that teaches boys the things they’ll need to know to become men some day.
Football Coaches Recruit Wrestlers
The story I’m told is that Iowa wrestling coach Jim Zalesky noticed a 215-pound sophomore wrestling for Atlantic at the 2003 Iowa high school state wrestling tournament. He thought my body type and ability suited a football player and reportedly notified Coach Ferentz’s office. I’ve never confirmed the story, but soon after Iowa’s great OL coach Reese Morgan started visiting my school on his recruiting trips.
I would run into a lot of my future Hawkeye teammates on the wrestling mat. My bracket that sophomore year contained Mike Humpal (2x State Champion) & Matt Kroul—Matt & I both won state championships at different weights the following season, warming up together in the basement of The Barn (Vets Auditorium). There were more ex-grapplers in the locker room in Iowa City—state champions from Iowa, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania.
Football coaches know the value and makeup of a wrestler. They know the physical and mental requirements to compete and how closely those apply in football. It’s no coincidence that football players who wrestle wind up on college recruiting radars.
If you need more convincing, check out the article and coach quotes below.
Wrestling Can Help Make Football Safer
This is my belief. Wrestling bridges a gap between flag football and tackle. A wrestler learns to feel the strength and weight of an opponent. He learns to take an opponent from his feet to the ground in a controlled manner, how to get inside hand control in a tie up, and to keep his head up—a foundation of USA Football’s Heads Up Movement. Wrestling requires incredible endurance, strength, and other physical traits that could lead to safer football play in youth. It acts as a natural transition into contact sports.
If you want to improve your football skills, wrestle. Doing so will raise your level of physicality and your give you a big mental edge. Being a multi-sport athlete is critical toward developing into an elite athlete in any sport. Wrestling and football compliment each other as well as any two sports. And if you live in Iowa, I don’t need to explain to you the importance and level of wrestling in our state. There’s no better opportunity to improve your football game in the offseason than to wrestle.
“I draft wrestlers because they are tough. I have never had a problem with a wrestler.” –Joe Gibbs, Hall of Fame football coach
“I would have all of my offensive linemen wrestle if I could.”-John Madden, Hall of Fame football coach
“Wrestlers make coaching football easy. They have balance, coordination, and as a coaching staff, we know they’re tough.” –Tom Osborne, College Hall of Fame football coach-University of Nebraska
“I have never seen a good wrestler turn out to be a bad football player.” – Kirk Ferentz, National & 2x Conference Coach of the Year, University of Iowa
Notable NFL players who wrestled: JJ Watt, Ray Lewis, Bo Jackson, Teddy Bruschi, Warren Sapp, Bruce Smith , & many, many more.