So you want to be the best wrestler in Iowa? Well, lucky for you Dan Gable and Mark Ironside, a pair of Iowa wrestling hall-of-famers, have offered up their coaching strategy to CSNChicago.com that can hopefully help the 672 wrestlers competing in the state tournament in Des Moines. Each of these guys have won multiple state titles and went on to great success at the collegiate level and beyond.
So what’s the best strategy to have in the hours prior to the opening match?
Gable: Whatever you do normally for your best performances stick with that. If you try to change something, except for maybe just being aware of a couple little things, then you’re going to get off course. You don’t want to get off course.
Ironside: If I was a coach the main thing I would be concentrating on is keeping my athletes relaxed. Relax, relax, relax. You’ve got to stay calm. It’s too easy to get too worked up and caught up in the emotion of it all. Then you get on the mat and you’ve already drained yourself. You’ve already used all of your energy before the match even started. Or you wrestle so hard that first period and all of a sudden you’ve got nothing left. You’ve got to stay comfortable and collected and you don’t get into it until it’s your time to get into it. That’s obviously a lot easier said than done.
So stay the course and keep calm. Got it. What about the crowd and competing in the big Wells Fargo Arena?
Gable: You’re already off course when you walk into that arena. When you’re used to a high school gym with maybe 500-1000 people watching and now you’re going into a crowd of 15,000. You have all of the banners and you have all of the grand marshalls and the mats.
Ironside: As soon as you walk in the building, especially the night of the semifinals and finals, it’s just a feeling that kind of overcomes you. You’ll be able to feel exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a very unique feeling and situation. It’s something these kids will remember their whole lives.
This is going to be quite the atmosphere. Better stay focused. My hands are shaking and I’m pretty sure my heart is going to jump out of my chest. Have any more advice?
Gable: It’s like the nerves can beat a wrestler. I’ve had a couple. When you lose your focus or you lose your nerves you just aren’t going to be the same wrestler. That’s the bottom line. You don’t change a whole lot from what you normally do, except at the time be a little more disciplined in your lifestyle. That’s about it.
Ironside: There’s a fine line to walk. As far as being smart and aggressive. It’s a smart aggressiveness. You want to be aggressive, but it’s got to be a controlled aggressiveness. You don’t want to start taking shots without setting them up and trying to finish in a way you shouldn’t be finishing and getting out of position. It’s good to be offensive and on the attack, but you have to be smart about how you do it. You can’t cut corners and get lazy.
Any final tips?
Ironside: It’s also easy to get caught up in watching your teammates and watching kids from other schools because there are so many other matches. A good coach will concentrate on making sure the athlete is ready to go for their match and not really worry about them watching their teammates’ matches before them. Keeping them in the back. Keeping them relaxed. Then when they’re done get them out of there because a lot of times there isn’t a lot of down time between matches or rounds. By the time you get back to your hotel and you get your fuel back in you and your nutrition, you’ve got to go back and warmup again. You try to get some rest and prepare yourself as best you can for that next match and by doing that you have to take that athlete out of that arena so that they don’t get caught up in the big spectacle of everything. That way they can concentrate on what they need to do from a personal standpoint.
Alright. Thanks for the advice gentlemen!
Best of luck to all of the wrestlers competing the next few days. Hopefully getting some coaching advice from Dan Gable and Mark Ironside will serve you well before your first match.
A reminder to fans that the 2017 Iowa high school wrestling state finals will air on CSN at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday. It’s also be live streaming on CSNChicago.com via the NBC Sports App for CSN subscribers. Gable and Ironside will be on the call for CSN's coverage of the championships.
More Iowa high school wrestling coverage: