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2016-2017 "Little Cats"

Benefits of Wrestling

  1. Foundation sport. Wrestling is the perfect foundation for all other sports. Wrestling is balance, agility, hand –eye coordination, flexibility, positioning, strength, speed, explosiveness, footwork, hustle, mental focus, mental toughness, core strength, concentration, competition, and endurance. Wrestling will make our youth better at all other sports.
  2. Fun. Wrestling is a game. It is the most basic and instinctual game. Toddlers wrestle. The sport of wrestling is the ultimate competition where two individual take their individual strengths and match them up against each other. Wrestling is a battle of wits, technique, speed, agility, flexibility, and toughness. No two wrestlers are alike. Fun stuff!!
  3. Exercise. Wrestling is one the world’s most premier physical fitness sports. Wrestling develops strength and endurance. Poor health is a major issue in our society today and wrestling will help develop a love of exercise and physical fitness in our youth.
  4. Self-confidence. Very little is accomplished without self-confidence. Wrestling teaches self-confidence like nothing else I know outside of religion and knowing that you are a child of God. Insecure people have the most difficult time learning from others and make progress even more difficult than it already is. Wrestling teaches hard work, self-improvement, sense of accomplishment, camaraderie of team, 1 on 1 aspect, and self-defense to name a few. These promote self-worth, respect and confidence.
  5. Self-defense. Although wrestling is not commonly considered a “martial art,” it is the #1 base discipline in the world of MMA. Wrestlers know how to defend themselves and neutralize threats quickly. Wrestling is controlling an opponent. If you want your kids to know how to defend themselves, put them in wrestling.
  6. Humility. Nothing teaches humility better than a 1-on-1 sport. Winning and losing in a 1-on-1 setting brings humility. There is nowhere to hide and no one to blame but yourself. All wrestlers will lose at some point and doing so in these conditions teaches humility. Hard work and discipline are two keys to success in wrestling and both teach humility.
  7. Respect. The challenges of being a wrestler teach you to respect yourself. After you learn to respect yourself you will learn to respect others. You learn to respect your team mates as well as your opponents. You learn to listen to and respect your coach. After you learn to respect others you are able to learn from them, a life lesson.
  8. Self-discipline. Wrestling is discipline. Repetition of drills, hard work, weight management, and continually doing the best thing instead of the easiest thing is discipline. Wrestling requires postponing instant “wants” to gain something more valuable long term. It takes discipline and focus to reach goals.
  9. Roadmap to success. Wrestling is the perfect example of what it takes to be successful in life. Goal setting, hard work, determination, focus, love of challenges, love of competition, confidence, being coachable, mental toughness, discipline, creativity, team work and accountability.
  10. Toughness. Wrestling is a physical, contact sport. You learn that sometimes you just get poked in the eye. Physical and mental toughness go hand in hand. You learn that a little pain or struggle is part of the process of doing great things.


Jordan Gundrum 160# State Champ West Bend East 2015 (former West Bend Wildcat)

The Road Map to Being a High School State Champ

 BY  APRIL 13, 2015


I am often asked a question like, “What can we do for Billy to take his wrestling to the next level and be a state champ in high school someday?” You would think that would be an easy question to answer and the same answer would apply to every kid in the club but it doesn’t. I will tell you this; the biggest factor in Billy taking his wrestling to the next level and position himself to win a state title is Billy himself. Does he want to and be willing to pay the metaphorical price to take that next step? “Wanting to” and “willing to” pay the price are two different things and there is typically a big disconnect between the two. I see all too often parents wanting success more than the kids and that imbalance usually ends with the parent pressing too hard, being wound too tight, crying kids in the practice room or at tournaments and eventually the kid burns out and quits wrestling around the 6th or 7th grade.

For the sake of this piece, however, let’s assume our Wildcat friend Billy does indeed want to be a high school state champion down the road and is extremely motivated and wants to pay the price to be a high school state champion and his parents are supportive and willing to do whatever it takes for him to accomplish his goals. Let’s also assume Billy has the engrained “fight” that is needed to excel in a combat sport like wrestling and has, from an early age, decent coordination and body control. Yes, these are big assumptions and Billy would truly be a special kid, but let’s be honest, that’s why it’s so hard to win a D1 state championship….these foundations need to be in place from the get-go. Below is a blueprint for Billy to follow that will put him in a position to win a state title for West Bend East or West.

  • At an early age, become a great athlete. Only great athletes win state. I read an article a while back where the author polled all the WIAA state champs from a given year and something like 95% of them could do a back hand spring, yes, even the upper weights. With this in mind, I believe at an early age, Billy should be involved with tumbling, gymnastics or parkour to build muscle strength, become coordinated, train the body to be flexible and understand his body mechanics. Back when the Soviet Union was around and even to this day in Russia, youngsters are in gymnastics first and then transition into wrestling. It sets the foundation for the wrestler physically and they are able to pick up on positioning and technique that much quicker.
  • Start wrestling at the right age. There are different schools of thought on when a wrestler should start wrestling. I believe you can start too early and it’s just a burden on the coaches and I certainly believe you can start too late where you won’t be able to catch up by your senior year. The perfect age to start wrestling is different for every kid. If the youngster is interested in wrestling, can physically handle himself, has control of his emotions and is coachable then he is ready to start wrestling. That could be 5 years old for one kid and maybe 9 years old for another kid.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of sacrificing long-term success for short term wins. Yes, we want Billy to start winning right away but we want him doing so in the right way. I’ve seen it over and over again a wrestler is somehow “introduced” to a head throw or a neck wrench at an early age and they continuously bum-rush opponents and hit this type of technique early and often in every match. It becomes “crack” to them and they do it all the time and they do little else. The problem is that it works in the young age groups against 65% of the wrestlers. For 3-4 years I see a wrestler being a one-trick pony and then they hit the 5th grade and guys they were pinning in years past with a head and arm are now beating them handily and they become discouraged and end up being burnt out. Be a student of positioning, movement and hand-fighting and seek to have a full understanding of the fundamentals of quality technique from an early age.
  • Put wins and losses into perspective from early on. Practice and wrestle to improve week after week, month after month and year after year. Look at competition as an opportunity to see what you need to work on in the practice room. If you live and die with every match and wrestler and parents are wound too tight, the wrestler will be burnt out well before high school. Parents, be supportive and provide encouragement and give your kids a feeling of calmed confidence….not nervous tension. Wrestlers, crying after matches and blaming the ref, coaches, or something else does not show you care, it shows you are not emotionally ready to handle competitions. If a wrestler becomes aware of and in control of his emotions from an early age on, they will be more likely to stick with the sport and be motivated to improve.
  • Don’t miss a Wildcat club practice and always get the most out of every practice. Future state champs put their time in and the time is well spent. They arrive early to receive extra coaching or get some drilling in and stay late to get extra pull-ups in. Parents, a lot of this is up to you….to not give them an easy out because it is convenient to not drive in the cold snow in January after a long day of work. It’s best to get on a routine and stick with it….make it a lifestyle.
  • During the season, get extra practices in on non-Wildcat nights. Yes, even little ones can train an extra night per week at Domination camps, AWA or Ringers to get different coaching and have different practice partners. When these wrestlers hit 6th grade or so, they should bump up to 2-3 extra practices per week so they have 4-5 nights of practices per week. Middle schoolers, with permission, can utilize high school practices to supplement Wildcat and academy practices. The more quality mat time, with more quality coaching with better practice partners will improve your wrestling exponentially.
  • Don’t let the extra practices slowdown in high school. Extra in-season practices should not slowdown in high school. Supplement regular high school practices with early morning, evening or Sunday practices either organized as private lessons or with a structured practice at an academy.  There is a rule of thumb that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Do the math: if you start wrestling at 5 years old and you are 18 years old your Senior year that’s 14 years of practice to work with. That averages out to 714 practice hours per year or just under 14 hours per week or 2 hours of practice, every day. That does seem like a bit much especially for youngsters, but in high school, if Billy is truly that motivated to be a state champ and is willing to pay the price, he would be putting in an extra 4 hours of training per week outside of regular high school practices to get his practice time up to 14 hours per week.
  • Always be coachable and be open to new technique. Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers tend to become “know-it-alls” and like to do things their way. They won’t become state champions with that mind set. Work the position and practice the technique the way it is being taught and don’t skip any steps. Be open to learning and absorbing all the coaching and have a positive attitude. Even if you don’t use it, you are experiencing it so you know how to defend it.
  • Compete just enough. I believe a wrestler can compete too much and not enough. When you compete more than you practice you aren’t going to improve and you will get physically, mentally and emotionally drained. If you don’t compete enough, you are limiting yourself to benchmarks within your own practice room. I believe as you get older, you increase your matches gradually. Bottom line, a wrestler who is motivated and wants to be a state champ is wrestling most weekends during the season, probably minimizing the “doublers”, and possibly taking a weekend or two off during the season to stay fresh.
  • Select competitions with a purpose. Our friend Billy should be going to competitions that challenge him and he is putting himself at the highest competitive level. The best should be wrestling the best. Go to competitions on all four corners of the state, go down to IL or over to MN, go to the elite national level tournaments and seek out “losses” if you are winning too much. If you are walking into regionals with under 5 losses, you haven’t tried hard enough to challenge yourself. Wrestling in Campbellsport, then West Bend, then Slinger, then Menomonee Falls, then Port Washington, then Kewaskum will NOT give you the exposure you need to be the best. If you want to be an elite wrestler, you need to compete with these guys where they are competing and when they are competing.
  • Video tape all your matches and study yourself. Video tape every match you wrestle, watch them. What did you do right? What did you do wrong? What tendencies do you have? Are you one dimensional? How is your movement? How is your hand fighting? How was your positioning? How were your set-ups? Did you flow from one move to the other? Did you put 3-4-5 moves together in a row without thinking? If you were your opponent, how would you wrestle against yourself? Take what you learn and use it to plan your practices, what clinics/camps you go to, what coaches or practice partners you need to work with.
  • Get stronger. Young wrestlers should have a daily routine of plyometric exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and squat jumps. Middle and High schoolers need to lift at minimum 3 days per week throughout the year focusing on big, explosive muscle exercises like squats, dead lifts, cleans, rows and bench press. Muscles should be fed with a high protein, low fat, balanced diet with a focus on unprocessed foods. Stay properly hydrated.
  • Select your practice partners with a purpose. Don’t choose your practice partner solely because he is your friend. You should select a partner that will give you a realistic feel when drilling and learning technique, works hard and will push you in live goes. Rotate with a variety of partners to give you different looks and feel.
  • Future state champs wrestle freestyle/Greco in the spring and summer every year. 13 of the 14 WIAA D1 State Champs in 2015 wrestled freestyle/Greco the previous spring. 15 of the 22 2015 WWF 00-01 Division state champs wrestled freestyle/Greco the previous spring (15 of the 16 weight classes below 170). This data cannot be ignored. Freestyle/Greco opens up your offense, makes you harder to score on, improves technique and positioning and gives you confidence. You must wrestle in the spring and summer to put yourself in a position to win state. Seek out academies like Domination camps, AWA or Ringers and practice and compete in the freestyle/Greco  state, northern plains and national series. If WI has a state dual team in your age level, you must try to make this team to practice, train and compete with the best. Spring/Summer wrestlers are the ones winning state year after year.
  • There is no off-season. To be a state champ in high school, wrestling needs to be a part of your life year-round. I’m not condoning sport specialization, but if you are competing in another sport or two, you still need to plan for mat-time and strength and conditioning for wrestling. It is what it is. It’s not easy to do but in order to be the best, you need to live it year-round and continue to live the lifestyle year-round. Go to an academy or go to “open mats” in the off-season.  Go to clinics and camps whenever possible to absorb new technique and hone your skills 12 months out of the year.
  • Be a fan of the sport. Obviously you must love the sport to be a state champ. Watch all the matches you can on TV or in person, watch old footage of the greats on youtube, keep up to date with wrestling current events on Flowrestling, USA Wrestling, Intermat, Badger State Wrestling, Wisconsin Wrestling Online, etc.
  • Be well-rounded. The best wrestlers have all aspects of their life in order. They are getting good grades, are respectful, they get along with their parents and siblings, are helping out around the house, are hanging around with friends that are positive and stay out of trouble and are making good choices.
  • Be consistent with the lifestyle over time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you do the steps above with consistency through elementary school, middle school and all the way through high school… will be well positioned to make a run at the state title. Notice I didn’t say you had to win youth state or make varsity your freshman year? Put in the time, put in the work, build and condition your body, be a student of the sport, seek out coaches and practice partners, compete against the best in all 3 styles and make it a lifestyle and you will be ready to make a run at that title and you will have no regrets.

To many, the aforementioned blue print will be considered extreme or over-the-top. To be honest, it is. But that is exactly why there was a 22 year time span in between state champs in the West Bend community. It takes a special kid, with all the tools, with all the support and all the motivation applied over 10+ years in an extreme and over-the-top way. Certainly not for everyone….just for a very few. I wonder who will be next. Is it you?

Brent Henschel



Why West Bend Youth Football Players Should Wrestle

I was asked recently by a youth football coach to reach out to the families his team to communicate the benefits of the sport of wrestling and how it is the #1 “off-season” training you can do as a football player. I’ve had the privilege of coaching several of the student/athletes on this team and every other youth football team in West Bend. Sitting in the stands watching all the East/West games a couple weeks ago it became clearly apparent of what wrestling can do for football players. We constantly heard wrestlers being called out over the intercom for long runs, making tackles for losses, touchdowns, sacks, etc. Every other name was a wrestler. Same thing for the East vs. West High School game, wrestlers from both schools are hammers on their respective football teams. This phenomenon isn’t unique to West Bend. Looking at the rankings for top football teams in the area, they are populated by high schools with strong wrestling programs.

There are countless reasons why wrestling benefits your performance on the football field, some are more obvious than others like speed, strength, conditioning, leverage, foot work, technique, hand fighting, etc. But from my observation, it’s the intangibles that are developed in wrestling that really take your football to the next level such as emotional intelligence, aggressiveness, personal accountability, being coachable, being humble and being a positive influence on your teammates.

If you are not in a sport following your football season, I highly recommend you consider signing up for the Badger Wrestling team and/or the Wildcat Youth Wrestling Club. My promise to you is that it won’t be easy and it’s not for everyone. Worst case scenario is that you try it out and you decide it’s not for you and you are a better person for trying something new. Best case scenario is you fall in love with the grind of intense training, get addicted to spirited competition, and become engulfed in a sport that will accelerate your football performance exponentially.

– Coach Brent Henschel



Why Football Players Should Wrestle – Matthew Wernikoff

Recently I was asked by a parent whether or not his son should continue to wrestle.  A Junior, for a good football program in NY, he was already receiving several scholarship offers from Division I football programs.  The father felt that his son benefited from wrestling but the son felt that he should just focus on the sport he was going to play in college.  The father asked me to outline the benefits of wrestling for football players and attempt to “prove” to his son that his scholarship offers would only increase if he continued to wrestle his last two seasons.  I happily agreed as there is no doubt that wrestling greatly benefits football players on all levels.

“I love wrestlers; they are tough and make great Football players.” –Mike Stoops National Championship Football Coach at Oklahoma University.



Physical Skills

Wrestling is one of the most physically demanding sports that any athlete can partake in.  It is a total body sport requiring athletes to be flexible, strong, explosive, agile; to have a great sense of balance; and have the level of conditioning that rivals any other endurance sport.  Wrestlers, through the course of their training and competition, are often subject to physical discomfort and pain at a level that far exceeds most sports.  These skills benefit football players at all levels, from the ability to move laterally, keep a man in front of you and close the distance quickly, to driving a 225lb running back into the ground and forcing the fumble.  There is no doubt that a wrestler’s physical-ness is a skill set desired by all coaches.

“Wrestlers make coaching football easy, they have balance, coordination, and as a staff we know they are tough.”  -Tom Osborne College Hall of Fame Coach for the University of Nebraska.

Stephen Neal- New England Patriots, 1999 World Freestyle Champion



Mental Skills

Weight management, the discipline to maintain a healthy diet for 6 months or more out of the year, the drive to give a 100% every practice, and the drive it takes to wake up early every day to get an extra run in are just some of the mental skills that it takes to be a successful wrestler.  But none compare to the mental toughness it takes to walk out on a mat, alone with no teammates to help you win and take on an opponent one on one.  Nothing compares to that feeling; whether  you have a broken finger, bruised ribs, strained or torn knee ligament, a wrestler knows that for 6 minutes nothing else matters but putting his opponent on his back and getting his hand raised in the end.  What football coach wouldn’t want an athlete on their team that is always going to give them 100%  An athlete that they never have to tell, “hit the weight room,” or “you should get extra laps in after practice?”  A true wrestler always wants to be the first to arrive and the last to leave.  A wrestler is self-reliant and will never blame his teammates for his loss.  Wrestlers are mentally tough.

“I draft wrestlers because they are tough, I’ve never had a problem with a wrestler.” –Joe Gibbs Hall of Fame Football Coach.



Physiological Skills

Hand eye coordination, proprioception and anaerobic conditioning are three skills that are vital to both wrestling and football player!  The definition of proprioecption is, “the ability to sense the position and location and orientation and movement of the body and its parts.”  It utilizes all of the senses in the body.  It is the ability to know where your body is in the space you are in, without having to look at your body.  In other words, when a wrestler is in a scramble and his head is stuck underneath his opponent and without looking he is able to move his whole body, all four limbs, often in different directions at the same time, while simultaneously keeping track of his opponent’s entire body and staying in-bounds to finish the takedown; this is proprioception.  On a football field an offensive linemen, for example, has to keep track of the man in front of him, his body, the bodies to his right and left and the quarterback behind him all at the same time.  A wrestler is forced to hone this skill every day in a competitive practice environment.  This repetitive practice can only benefit a football player.

“I would have all of my offensive linemen wrestle if I could.” –John Madden, Hall of Fame Football Coach and Broadcaster



Anaerobic conditioning is defined as as your ability to perform at a rate faster than can be met by oxygen supply.  Short bursts of intense exercise tax your anaerobic system.  Wrestling is a combination of Anaerobic and aerobic metabolisms however, it relies heavily on anaerobic conditioning within a match or tournament.  It is because of this that wrestlers are often saught after by football coaches because they are in superior shape to athletes who do not work their anaerobic system.



“Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” –Dan Gable Hall of Fame Wrestler and Wrestling Coach

Influence of Wrestling on the NFL:

12 Hall of Fame Members

43+ Multiple Time Pro-Bowlers

60+ Individual State Wrestling Championships

13 NCAA Wrestling Championships

3 Heisman Trophy Winners Wrestled

And currently: 63 RB’s, 23 LB’s, 2 QB’s, 66 Linemen, 6 DB’s, 1 K, all wrestled.


Which has this nice little bullet point list of reasons to wrestle and play football:

1. Agility–The ability of one to change the position of his body efficiently and easily.

2. Quickness–The ability to make a series of movements in a very short period of time.

3. Balance–The maintenance of body equilibrium through muscular control.

4. Flexibility–The ability to make a wide range of muscular movements.

5. Coordination–The ability to put together a combination of movements in a flowing rhythm.

6. Endurance–The development of muscular and cardiovascular-respiratory stamina.

7. Muscular Power (explosiveness)–The ability to use strength and speed simultaneously.

8. Aggressiveness–The willingness to keep on trying or pushing your adversary at all times.

9. Discipline–The desire to make the sacrifices necessary to become a better athlete and person.

10. A Winning Attitude–The inner knowledge that you will do your best – win or lose.


Once You've Wrestled Life is Easier

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