If you have been around wrestling as long as I have, you realize that wrestlers are some of the most superstitious and quirky people in sports today. I actually have told people that if you were to sit down and test wrestlers, they would have most likely have the highest percentage of people with obsessive compulsive disorder. My reasoning is that the ridged training schedule and constant monitoring of weight coupled with the general anxiety associated with being an athlete, feeds right into OCD.
I was talking with several of my wrestling buddies and without knowing it, we all had similar, if not, the same routines, habits and odd behaviors. Let’s see how many of you have done these things or something similar.
Have you ever been at a friend’s house and opened the refrigerator? Not because you were hungry or thirsty, but just as a conditioned action from years of weight management. Conditioned by the years you just opened your own fridge to look at the ice cold Gatorade that you couldn’t drink until after weigh-ins. I have seen wrestlers that would wear their headgear all day at a tournament without ever taking it off. I have observed guys that wouldn’t step on the crease in between the 3 sections of mat, even someone that made a cheat sheet with everyone in his weight class and the scores of their matches with common opponents. That was he knew how much he such win by.
I learned the hard way about coming up from behind and touching Adam Frey on his shoulders before a match. I had my own quirks; I always ate a half turkey sub from Tony’s pizza after weigh-ins. I had a pair of argyle socks I stole from my dad’s dresser that I wore for every match and a pair of Red Ohio State Wrestling shorts that I had won for taking down Kevin Randleman while his hands were tied behind his back at wrestling camp up at St Lawrence University. I loved to listen to long progressive rock songs while I warmed up, you know the epic 12 minute tracks with long guitar and drum solo’s. That allowed me get outside of my thoughts and just focus on stretching and breathing instead of nervous thoughts.
By the time I was in college I eased up on a lot of my other eccentric behaviors partly cause of maturity and partly cause I had to much else to think about that I couldn’t remember who I sat next to on the bench the last match. But it got me thinking how many other wrestlers had routines and how important are those routines to there mental preparation. I decided to ask some of the top wrestlers about there routines and get a little insight into their pre-match preparation.
What do you listen to warming up?
- Kyle Dake/Cornell – I don’t listen to music,
- Jordan Burroughs/Nebraska- It depends on whether I am sitting on the bench or actually warming up. When I am jogging and breaking a sweat I like to listen to up-tempo music like rap and rock. But when I’m sitting on the bench I listen to slow jams to keep my heart rate down and keep me relaxed.
- Helen Maroulis Ranked Freestyle – I like a lot of rap and upbeat music. Remixes and such.
- Rob Morrison/Rider- Hells Bells by ACDC- kept the same from high school!
- Josh Dziewa/Iowa- I don’t listen to music while warming up. Over time I’ve come to realize that I like to think about my up-coming match more so then music.
- Matt Valenti U Penn Ranked Freestyle- I don’t listen to music when I warm up… It’s never really been my thing.
- Ryan Mango/Stanford – This varies pretty much on a match to match basis so it’s hard to be specific, but some common artists are Lil Wayne and Wiz Kahlifa.
- Scott Giffin/U Penn- I don’t listen to music when I warm up. My midget coach never let us listen to music and said it was a distraction.
- Wynn Michalak Cent Michigan/ranked Freestyle- In my warm up I usually listen to a variety of things but I always make sure to listen to “the realest sport” by tp & esco and “we ready” by archie eversole.
- Matt Cathell Kent State- I don’t listen to music warming up, but i have to while cutting weight and I usually listen to classic rock and rap.
- Jordan Beverly/Rutgers- Rap and house…anything with a good beat…mostly biggie and tiesto.
- Destin McCauley/ Apple Valley- When I warm up I listen to mainly rap music, but there will be the occasional rock song.
- David Zabriskie Iowa St/Ranked Freestyle - I actually don’t listen to music while warming up, but during practice I like anything that has a good beat to it.
What is your usual post weigh-in meal & drink?
- Dake – Blueberry bagel with cream cheese, banana and granola bar for a drink I’d have to go with a Gatorade.
- Burroughs - Usually have a granola bar, banana, two Gatorade’s, apple sauce, and a Gogurt, I like to be a little hungry when I step out on the mat.
- Maroulis - I have a re-hydration plan, pedialyte is amazing after weigh ins, post weigh-in meal is normally something with lots of carbs.
- Morrison - Within an hour from weighing in I’ll be only around 5+ over so nothing fancy.
- Dziewa – Peanut butter & jelly on a bagel, either pedialyte or Gatorade 16-20 oz.
- Valenti - My post weigh-in meal is pretty simple. Water, a little Gatorade, a light jelly sandwich and some fruit.
- Mango – Post weigh in I usually have a bagel with peanut butter/cream cheese, yogurt, and some sort of Gatorade/water mix.
- Giffin - Turkey Sandwich.
- Michalak- After weigh-ins Carbs keep it light.
- Cathell - I usually gain 7-8 pounds after weigh-ins. I always drink strawberry milk and lemon lime Gatorade with chicken noodle soup, chocolate chip muffin, and oats and peanut butter granola bars.
- Beverly - Bagel, pedialite, and hulk juice Gatorade (blue and yellow mixed).
- McCauley – After weigh in I always have a Gatorade and chocolate milk to drink. To eat I have pb and honey sandwiches and subway.
- Zabriskie – Usually a trip to Olive Garden now that I weigh-in the day before, but in college usually a Gatorade and half a sandwich.
What is your usual post match meal?
- Dake – See above
- Burroughs – It depends what my teammates are doing; we usually like to eat together. I usually like to have something filling like a steak and some potatoes, with a big vanilla milkshake.
- Maroulis - Post match meal is some type of energy bar.
- Morrison – Anything not picky.
- Dziewa - Probably different every time.
- Valenti - Nothing specific
- Mango - Well, in an effort to keep my weight under control I usually just go back to my dorm and cook something for myself so I know it is healthy, but still satisfies my hunger. When on the road whatever the team wants is what I go with.
- Giffin - After matches I usually like to get dinner with my parents if they attend or if not I’ll get a wawa hoagie.
- Michalak – I enjoy going to Olive Garden and getting chicken fettuccini alfredo and obviously the endless breadsticks. Another necessity is a glass of coke with lots of water.
- Cathell – Nothing specific always changes.
- Beverly – Something with some protein to recover like a steak or some chicken.
- McCauley - Post match meal I always like to go get some cookie dough ice cream.
- Zabriskie – Post match I like to go out to eat, so usually a nice steak or some BBQ.
Do you have any lucky clothing you wear in your warm up or during matches?
- Dake - Yep, black socks, red Cornell shorts, black Cornell long sleeve shirt, gray Cornell sweatshirt, red team warm-up top, and a white knee pad.
- Burroughs - I wear the same pair of underwear underneath my singlet every match.
- Maroulis – Sometimes I wear mismatched socks for good luck
- Morrison - no lucky clothing.
- Dziewa – Nope.
- Valenti - I don’t have any superstitions or pre-match rituals. I’ve always been of the opinion that those types of things are a chink in the armor.
- Mango - Though I don’t wear anything specific, I feel lucky any time I wear Stanford Gear. It’s a privilege to be part of and representing such a great community of people.
- Giffin - I usually wear the same Penn issued underwear, shorts, 2 t-shirts, and hoodie.
- Michalak – I don’t have any specific things I wear for warm up or matches anymore. I generally warm up with. Sweatshirts on and just make sure I am comfortable throughout the day.
- Cathell - Yes, I have a pair of socks one gray, and one black that I try to always wear them ever since I won states in them.
- Beverly - Not much on clothing but I’ve had a can opener in my bag since 5th grade that my dad gave me to “open a can of whoop ass” haha.
- McCauley - No I don’t have any lucky clothing or anything, but I make sure whatever I’m about to wear has to be one of my favorite clothing for wrestling.
- Zabriskie - No. I don’t have any lucky socks or anything like that.
Do you have a special pre-match ritual?
- Dake - Slap my arms and legs to get pumped up and chest slap from Jeremy Spates 2 minutes before my match.
- Burroughs - I always shower right before I put my uniform on, even if I just shower before we left the hotel I have to shower before every match.
- Maroulis - I just remind myself to have fun.
- Morrison – Before every match i do 30 down in 5 increments of sprawls, squats, and push-ups.
- Dziewa – I like to take my shoes off in between matches, I don’t think that’s a ritual, but that’s about all I can think of. But i think it’s almost become habit because I’ve been doing it for years. Its almost as soon as I step off the mat I take them off.. And I don’t put them back on until I’m ready to warm up.
- Valenti - No habits. They’re mental weaknesses.
- Mango – I usually just listen to my Ipod and get some last minute words from Coach Borrelli.
- Giffin - As soon as I put on my singlet I pull up my straps. I will always start jogging 3 matches before my own and will drink water the entire time. At a match and 1/2 before mine, usually in the second period of the 157lb match I will run exactly 10 sprints. Then as our 165lber walks out on the mat I will watch his match. With about 20 seconds left in his match I undress. Before I step on the mat I take one more sip of water and put on my head gear.
- Michalak - I try to warm up the same every match. Drill, sprints, recovery. Pretty simple.
- Cathell - Not really.
- Beverly – I primarily warm up the same way every time. Jog, sprints, stretch out, stance and motion, and knee up jumps to get a sweat going.
- McCauley – I would have to say any rituals pre-match would just be when I start warming up and that I always have to re-run to warm back up.
- Zabriskie – I don’t think I have a “ritual”, but I do have a warm-up routine that I like to stick to. My routine takes about 10-15 minutes and I’ve done it enough that after I’m done with it I know I’m ready to wrestle.
Do you prefer getting psyched up or calm down before you wrestle?
- Dake – Both… I calm down like 40 minutes before and with like 15 minutes before my match I get psyched up (usually pacing).
- Burroughs - I like to stay calm; as long as my body is warm I will be ready to go. The higher my heart rate is the harder it is for me to focus, so I like to stay calm so I can be sharp.
- Maroulis – I definitely like to be relaxed before a match, i get too anxious to wrestle otherwise.
- Morrison – I prefer calming down before by talking and making jokes with one of my coaches.
- Dziewa - Psyched up. Getting smacked a little bit, getting into an attacking state of mind.
- Valenti - I prefer to be relaxed before I wrestle. I can get fired up in matches but I like to just preserve my energy and mentally focus on the task at hand.
- Mango – I would say its a mix of emotion. I am definitely excited to compete which may cause me to appear to have a “psyched up” demeanor, however I am still relatively calm and having fun.
- Giffin - I like being calm when I walk out on the mat. If I get too excited before I get nervous.
- Michalak – I feel like I prefer a happy medium of being pumped up ready to kill and staying calm. I try to get my body worked up in my warm up but us music and some meditation to keep my mind calm as matches approach.
- Cathell - I like to be calm and relax before I wrestle.
- Beverly- I like getting psyched up before I wrestle. I like to have a lot of energy on the mat.
- McCauley - I do kind of both. I like to get really psyched a couple matches before my match, then a match before I start to calm down so i can be relaxed when I wrestle.
- Zabriskie - Wrestling matches are always exciting especially when wrestling in Hilton Coliseum where crowds can exceed 15,000. I try to stay as calm as possible throughout the match until I’m about to start my warm-up. Then I let myself get psyched.
Are you a creature of habit and routine or does that not matter? (Sit in same seat on bus, watch same movie anything like that)
- Dake - Creature of habit… I do the same thing pretty much every time, and will only work out with one person during a tournament.
- Burroughs - I like to do things the same way each and every match. I eat the same meal, shower, put my uniform on the same way, warm-up the same, get off the bench at the same weight class every dual.
- Maroulis – Hmm, it depends I have cycles of repetition but mostly I just go with the flow.
- Morrison – Not too much. I always sit on the right side of the bus and always have a full workout a couple hours prior.
- Dziewa - Not in those examples. But I like to have the same routine in my warm up, cool down, packing my bag, stuff like that.
- Valenti – No habits. They’re mental weaknesses.
- Mango – I definitely am not a creature of habit. I just let things flow and react appropriately.
- Giffin – The only real habits I had are my post weigh-in meal, where I always eat a turkey sandwich, the clothes I wear to warm up, and my warm up itself.
- Michalak – Habits and rituals have become less important to me as I age, but I still like to have a routine at tournaments. My warm up and timing.
- Cathell - I always sit on the same bus seat but other than that it doesn’t really matter.
- Beverly - Defiantly a creature of habit. I sat in the same seat on the bus in high school since a freshman. Lucky seat number. I try to mirror what I did on my good days because I figure there has to be a reason why they were good days.
- McCauley – In a way I have the same routine, I always got warm up to music drill with the same person and stretch the same way. I have a specific play list I always listen to.
- Zabriskie - No real habits. Just my warm-up routine. That’s about it.
What do you like to listen to while working out?
- Dake - Pandora… Whatever the seniors want.
- Burroughs - I like to listen to mostly rap music.
- Maroulis – Whatever plays at practices, my teammates make some pretty sick mixes.
- Morrison – Rock and roll, metal, and classic rock….. Not too creative on that one.
- Dziewa – Creed, Linkin Park, Eminem.
- Valenti – I’m not picky about workout music. Our guys play some weird stuff but I’m usually too focused to even hear it.
- Mango – While working out I generally don’t listen to music in order to simulate competition. Just as there are distractions while you compete there should be the same when you work out.
- Giffin – I like listening to just about everything when I work out except for heavy metal. I especially enjoy songs that I know the words to so I can sing along.
- Michalak – When I am working I just like to have background music, anything with faster pace to keep my energy up.
- Cathell – When working out I like to listen to fast beat music, some new pop music.
- Beverly – I like to listen to anything with a good beat to get me moving. Again house music and rap are favorites.
- McCauley – I can really listen to anything when I work out, anything but country ha!
- Zabriskie -I like anything that has a good beat to it. Techno is always good or something fast pace gets my body going.
Do you get nervous before every match?
- Dake – Mostly excited, not too nervous.
- Burroughs – Sometimes, depends on what is at stake. But I am so confident in my abilities that I know if I wrestle like I do on a daily basis I will be extremely hard to beat. If I’m nervous, than my opponent is pooping his pants.
- Maroulis – Yes
- Morrison – Always get nervous/excited, even up to my last match.
- Dziewa – Maybe little butterflies. More nerves of myself to perform rather then nervous of my opponent.
- Valenti - I get nervous the night before any competition but I’ve learned to shake the butterflies before match.
- Mango – This is actually a pretty comical question for me. All the way until my sophomore year of high school I used to throw up before 90% of my matches as a result of nerves. It’s funny because now I never get nervous no matter what. I guess it was just a hurdle that I overcame at some point.
- Giffin - Yes I absolutely get nervous before every match. The unknown of what could happen is running through my head. As soon as I shake hands the nervousness subsides until I score the first takedown and then the nervousness is gone.
- Michalak – I do get very nervous before matched but I think that without some nerves I’m not prepared to wrestling a tough match every time.
- Cathell – I always get nervous before every match and that nervous energy usually helps me get through the first period.
- Beverly – I have some nerves before every match but their more butterfly kind of nerves…anxious to wrestle and compete.
- McCauley – No, I tend not to get nervous before a match, but I can always feel a little bit there.
- Zabriskie - Yeah, I think everyone does on one scale or another. But I know I’m always prepared. So the moment the referee blows the whistle it goes away and everything else becomes instinct from hours upon hours of practice.
Do you follow rankings and results during the season? Or maybe the opposite you completely stay away from the press clippings?
- Dake - I follow some results just to see how things are shaking out during season. I enjoy looking at what people have to say about me just for fun.
- Burroughs – I always like to look at the rankings and forums. They motivate me. For every fan there are 5 critics, so for those who continued to doubt me throughout the year despite all I’ve done in the past, thanks for the motivation.
- Maroulis – I don’t follow anything, if something comes up in conversation I’ll check it out.
- Morrison – Completely stay away from it. i even yell at my roommates for watching wrestling close to me.
- Dziewa -Eh, both I guess. The forums and rankings aren’t the first things I look at on the internet, but I don’t purposely avoid them. If I see wrestling in the paper, I’ll read it.’
- Valenti - I do follow rankings and results. I’m not exactly everyone’s favorite wrestler so I don’t get much respect nationally prior to competitions. I never have and I don’t expect I ever will. So in rankings, results, predictions, previews, etc I’m an afterthought (it happened in 2006 and 2007) — that all adds fuel to my fire.
- Mango – I follow the media a little during the season. It’s a nice break from schoolwork sometimes to read about/see results from something that you give so much of your own time to.
- Giffin – I follow results but not for every weight class. Upsets and good competition are exciting. I try to stay away from rankings because they truly don’t mean anything come the NCAA tournament.
- Michalak – I pay attention to tournament results a little bit but rankings mean nothing to me because they r just someone else’s opinion of who should win and in this sport u have to wrestle every match. there r no guarantees ever.
- Cathell - I don’t follow them but every once in a while ill check them out.
- Beverly – I have always looked at statistics my whole life so I’m never surprised at what I’m getting, but I’m trying to stay away from it as I get older because everyone is good in college. You just gotta wrestle your best and be prepared.
- McCauley – I like to follow rankings and results you know just to see how everyone else in the wrestling world is doing.
- Zabriskie – I’ll take a peak at the rankings just to see what is going on. I stay away from the message boards. They usually don’t have anything positive to say anyway.
Is there anything special or specific about your in season routine you want to share?
- Dake - Not really.
- Burroughs - I just love the sport of wrestling; I love the intensity and the grind and the thrill of victory. I like to keep things light to though and have fun, wrestling is a fun sport as well, and once you begin to have fun everything else is easy.
- Maroulis – I like to believe I’m special in my own way ha ha but no, no specific routine exercises.
- Morrison - I never liked wrestling fully fresh. I always liked to be 1 or 2 workouts before. it was a way to calm the nerves.
- Dziewa – I don’t look at the brackets during competition. I prepare better thinking I have the toughest kid every match and I don’t worry about certain kids doing certain things. I worry about me and me only, which is where I’m comfortable.
- Valenti - There’s not anything too special about my in season routines.
- Mango – Not really. I guess I just want to thank my coaches, parents, and supporters for everything!
- Giffin – I always found that it wasn’t the work that I put in the room during scheduled practice that made me the best but it was the extra workouts on my own that gave me the most confidence.
- Michalak – No not really I keep it simple.
- Cathell – Not really pretty laid back.
- Beverly – One thing I think a lot of people notice is the jump i do before I wrestle. I’ve done it since my first match; I guess to just make sure my body is up for the match. I hear i get a lot of height on it.
- McCauley – The one thing I like to make sure during my season is to keep my speed up at all times and that i make all my shots perfect so in a match it will come natural.
- Zabriskie – Wrestling seasons are always long, and I know that even if you are the best you are still going to have “off days” where you just aren’t feeling 100%. Those are days you have to work your hardest. The most important thing is to not let those days get you down. Train through them, but don’t let an “off day” dictate how you perform the following day or the rest or that week.