Have you had the chance to ever watch the movie Vision Quest? Well, if you haven’t you might want to, as it does help one visualize the reality that wrestling is a mental sport, as much as a physical one. As a runner in high-school and college I had a chance to meet many wrestlers, you see wrestlers cannot maintain their physical conditioning without lots of running, wind-sprints, and stadium steps. So, they run, and they run, and they run.
I remember times being 6-7 miles away from the college and there was a wrestler out jogging and then like Rocky sprinting between telephone poles. Mind you they still had to run all the way back! It gave me great respect for wrestlers, and even to this day, I hold them in a class of their own, well, beyond other athletes in fact. Still, the running part is not the only reason, rather it was their pursuit of excellence, unwavering strength of character, and mental toughness that impressed me. They were as much into their game as I was into mine, and on the track team I felt more mentally tough than almost anyone.
There is a very good research paper to read on this topic titled; “1988 U.S. Olympic wrestling excellence: I. Mental preparation, precompetitive cognition, and affect,” by Daniel Gould, Robert C Eklund, et al., published in; The Sport Psychologist, Vol 6, 4, Dec 1992, 358-382. This paper is cool because the team;
“Interviewed all 20 members of the 1988 US Olympic Wrestling Team about their performances in the Seoul Olympics – mental preparation strategies, precompetitive cognition, and affect were examined by having the wrestlers respond to a series of questions about their all-time best match, worst Olympic match, and most crucial Olympic match. Considerable consistency was found across wrestlers’ responses regarding all-time best and worst Olympic matches whereas striking differences were found between the best and worst matches.”
Another very interesting research piece was published in the Journal of Physical Fitness and Performance, titled; “Physiological and performance responses to tournament wrestling,” William J. Kraemer, et. al. which discusses weight loss psychology, trying to make weight, and the emotional stress along with performance, training, and athlete psyche.
In hindsight after all those years of observation now, I see my experiences in watching the top wrestlers were spot on, I was right to admire their dedication and human spirit. Now then, what does this mean for you as a wrestler? Well, it means if you want to win, you have to consider the mental game as much as the physical one, because apparently that’s where the matches are won or lost, not just on the mat, but inside you head. Today, well, I can see that mental toughness is needed more than ever in our society, not just in Olympic sports.
Of course, sports teaches you a lot about life and how to achieve, more folks ought to consider that, as the mind is the great equalizer helping you overcome adversity, press on, and eventually win. Okay so, please consider all this and think on it.