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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Rex Holman added to this discussion on March 5, 2013

I read ESPN magazine analytics issue this past weekend and it is hugely interesting and leads me to further develop ideas to which they describe and allude.

Of particular interest are stats which they have for basketball and baseball. There are a lot of stat geeks which break the game down to better understand it and forecast on what may come to pass.

Two examples. Putting the best team available out there to compete although it may go against convention. Dallas Mavericks beat the Heat in the Championship a couple years ago by using second tier players with outperforming historical averages against Heat players(their play stylistically matched up better). Also, in this most recent issue they pointed out the difference between one player's shooting efficiency after a 1 dribble versus a two dribble. So, the team went after that player with the strategy of pressing him and making him dribble twice. Guess what his shot percentage dropped as it historically did.

Basketball and baseball are not wrestling nor is there enough historical data to determine such things in wrestling, right?

Wrong answer. You just have to know the variables which determine outcome which is tricky and you have to go about it in a clever way, but it is somewhat doable.

If I were to name a couple variables which determine outcome (which are behaviors and can be objectively measured), shot/finish ratio, amount of time to score after commitment, counter to a shot ratio, stall called, rate of attacks and stalemate after opponent shot.(truthfully I did not think through this list extensively but am fairly sure that I could have proprietary stats for wrestling if I were to meditate on it all day.

These terms objectify everything and give a coach a way to set more specific goals for an athlete and address issues within a particular wrestler’s game. If your shot/finish ratio sucks, guess what? you need some adjustments to your game and part of preactice is spent on that skillset. Practice goes from a unnavigated work hard platform to a methodical approach for improvement.

I think this approach to wrestling really has the potential to develop a wrestler with a complete game so that training becomes efficient and goal based upon what really matters.

How frustrated do we get when we see a wrestler stall in his development or even worse regress all the while we know that wrestler has been working his ass off? This happens at the collegiate level way too often but does not affect kids in high school as much due to a very undeveloped game.

An aside, I would love to see Kenny Courts compete at Big Tens and NCAAs. His game is off the chart in some things and variables which mean a lot to me. These variables heavily influence outcomes. I think there is a high likelihood that Ken Courts is going to be a NCAA finalist multiple times. He just needs to clean up some areas of his game which btw influence outcome as well.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Mark Niemann added to this discussion on March 5, 2013

Mind...Blown!!!

Excellent stuff, Rex.

You mentioned high school wrestlers and their underdeveloped game...

I created a YouTube channel for our team. After every match, I would upload the videos. I would watch each video, formulate a few important pieces of the puzzle (did you take a shot? If yes, what was your set-up? Or did your opponent take a shot? If yes, were you able to defend it? If yes, with what?), along with "developing strengths/exposing weaknesses" portion.

Some of the key bits of information I found... The vast majority of kids don't care. The number of "views" is diplayed. Usually it was 1. (That was me.) Also, the vast majority of kids don't care. Even after repeated attempts at "fixing" a particular problem, the same question repeatedly arose from my wrestlers: "Coach, do you think Batman could defeat Superman if they weren't allowed to use all of their superpowers, but only their three most-used?"

It is moments like these - heck, days - weeks - months!!! that make me wonder why I continually upload videos, because OBVIOUSLY Superman would win!!! He's the man of steel. Faster than a speeding bullet! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Whatever, dude.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Rex Holman added to this discussion on March 5, 2013

Mark-
I get you. To some kids you are the proverbial gym teacher throwing out the gym ball and saying play. But for every 5 kids like that there is a Shakur Laney who wants to be great and cares.

Part of the reason analytics has arisen is the interest and money which pro sports generates. Also, part of it is the attempt to gain advantage in forecasting outcome or influencing outcomes.

I am really interested in the part of influencing outcomes and making for efficient development of wrestlers. Wrestling at the higher levels is so competitive and the small advantages in training and development make a difference.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Mark Niemann added to this discussion on March 5, 2013

I readja. And wouldn't you know... All of Shakur's videos had roughly 30+ views!!! Somebody was studying!

Great stuff either way.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Hank Kornblut added to this discussion on March 5, 2013

Rex: Have you read "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell?



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Rex Holman added to this discussion on March 5, 2013

I have read all his books; recently read Signal and the Noise by Nate Fisher. In that book it mentions Halabros Voulagaris sp? who is a professional sports gambler. He has an article in the ESPN issue as well. Winning is in the details and by paying close attention he can typically gain advantage in forecasting who will win.

Everything regarding competition is about gaining an advantage. I was at banquet tonight where it was stressed that summer competitions, open mats, and lifting where necessary to win next winter. Truth. It is all about trying to gain advantage. People can slice, dice, and euphemize how they want about preparation, working hard and training but at the end of the day it is an attempt to gain advantage over an opponent.

So back to working hard. I propose that unless a practice is directed toward some end which addresses the specific need of a wrestler, then it is not the most efficient use of time.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Hank Kornblut added to this discussion on March 6, 2013

Rex: When I was an assistant at Shaker, the head coach of our program used to have our team run a lot of sprints at the end of most practices. We were not unique in this regard but we probably did more of them than any other program. We'd give them a certain number of seconds they had to complete each set and make the whole team do them over if they failed to complete them in time. If the team had practiced well, there were usually not too many sprints. But if we'd practiced badly, the number grew.

I continued this practice when I took over. One day, we were at a scrimmage with several other teams. Some of my guys did ok. But many got blasted. At the end of the scrimmage, the coach running it had all the guys run sprints. My guys dominated. Even my less skilled wrestlers were typically near the front of most sprints. At that moment, it occurred to me that what I had trained my guys to do with all this running was simple--they were good at winning sprints. It didn't make them great wrestlers. But it was what I had trained them to do.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Mark Niemann added to this discussion on March 6, 2013

Hank: isn't there a little training for mental toughness in those sprints?

We do sprints as well but the emphasis is always to push passed tired. Why? Because no one is fresh in the third period. And if you can't give it your all when you're tired, it will be very difficult to come back if down by one, two, or even three late in the third.

I have found that after sprints it is advantageous to have them do a period of time or number of reps of their favorite or best takedown, stressing the importance of a solid stance, effective set-up, deep, penitrating shot, and a solid finish for the score. If you can do all of that while tired, your odds of scoring in the third should increase!



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Hank Kornblut added to this discussion on March 6, 2013

Mark: Yeah, that was our thinking. Guess what? I think it's a waste of time. There is nothing specific to sprints that will make your wrestler better. Mental toughness? That's an unproven theory. Drilling when you've just run sprints? You'll just drill badly. I don't think sprints are a terrible thing to do but they're done far too often and without a shred of evidence to prove that they accomplish any real purpose.

I think there are more wrestling specific activities that one can do to accomplish the same ends.

Reading books like "Freakonomics" and "Outliers" makes you realize how often we make decisions based on faulty assumptions.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Mark Niemann added to this discussion on March 6, 2013

Ain't hatin.

My brother and I have long held the position that sprints can be used for discipline or conditioning. However, the better way to condition is through position fighting (brawling), drilling, situational live, and live wrestling.

Does "Outliers" come in audio-book form?



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Rex Holman added to this discussion on March 7, 2013

Hank and Mark-
I think you are both right, sort of.

“ I propose that unless a practice is directed toward some end which addresses the specific need of a wrestler, then it is not the most efficient use of time.”

If you look at what sprints accomplish it is a conditioning tool for explosive movement.

The end of practice is typically when wrestlers are fatigued and position is compromised.

You need explosive movement when you are fatigued, however equally as important if not more so is the ability to stay in position while moving fluidly and having appropriate reactions.

In order to accomplish this; stance, motion and drills of downblocking, crossblocking, sprawling and penetration are necessary to reinforce habits into your wrestler when they are fatigued otherwise they will have a tendency to place a hand sloppily or misstep with their footwork(both are mistakes).

The particular phenomena of which Hank speaks regarding less than full effort given during wrestling practice is a behavior which affects a lot of undisciplined high school kids that are still undeveloped in terms of producing high quality effort.(that or they are just being lazy)

The only way to address this issue is with micromanaging the effort level until the kid understands and their behavior reflects the quality of effort which you expect out of them. I was lucky ;) in this regard as my dad played a prominent role in making certain that my effort level was there from a young age. Hence, he conditioned me to put forth the type of effort that you would expect from excelling performance.

Also, a conditioning tool and workout that we used while at Ohio State was the UBE and Fitron. It was a varsity mandatory practice a couple hours after wrestling practice which lasted for 40 minutes.

I always felt this workout was the one that gave me the conditioning edge and I now know why. It was brutally exhausting and painful. But what it did accomplish was a superior level of conditioning and pinpoint focus when fatigued.

Wrestlers lose for different reasons but 99% of the reason is doing the wrong thing at the wrong time (making a mistake).

This is a perceptual error due to 1) Attending to the wrong input 2) A wrong or delayed interpretation 3) A wrong and or delayed movement.

The UBE and Fitron workout ensured that my perceptual mechanism was accurately focused when I became fatigued which essentially does away with perceptual errors of fatigue. My game was strong enough that my ability to wrestle from positions were as good or better than the opponents I faced.

I am probably going to upset some people but oh well. Colt Sponseller is a wrestler that I have always been impressed with and I think he could have been a 4x AA had his approach to developing him as a wrestler been on small details to his attack and here is why. His motor and ability to generate attacks was off the chart coming out of high school. The matches he did lose during his career at OSU were predominantly close affairs. His motor running full bore and his subsequent generation of attacks caused him to slightly fatigue as the match wore on. The subsequent fatigue caused his hands to come out of position or to be a little slower in recognizing a position. Had his development detail been placed on the nuances of hand position or mat awareness and adjustments made to compensate for fatigue, I think that materially alters the match strategy and consequently outcome. I saw some changes in him as a senior with regards to his hand positioning which made a difference in his wrestling.

Here is the problem with coaching. As a coach you develop a template of how to do things based upon what made you successful or what you see made others successful. That interpretation is only part of the story and by focusing on those aspects you are weighting things according to assumptions which are only partially true. (sound familiar Hank?)

Coming full circle. The edge we gain in our preparation is part of numerous variables which play a role in outcome. It is within those variables that small details play a role in whether position is won or lost. Each wrestler is unique and the ability to identify what each wrestler needs is a function of not just knowing your wrestler but knowing what they need.

We try to reduce success into a formula and clichés but in doing so we just get part of the story, which is full of a lot of assumptions and oversights.

Also, I was really impressed with Collica and Thompson at the state meet, Kudos to you Coach DiGiovanni. Their rate of attacks were outstanding as were their skill positions. They were doing so many things right that any weaknesses that they may have were invisible.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Mark Niemann added to this discussion on March 7, 2013

If and when my brother reads the below quote, it will be an interesting conversation that ensues! GREAT STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for posting.

"The only way to address this issue is with micromanaging the effort level until the kid understands and their behavior reflects the quality of effort which you expect out of them. I was lucky ;) in this regard as my dad played a prominent role in making certain that my effort level was there from a young age. Hence, he conditioned me to put forth the type of effort that you would expect from excelling performance." - Rex Holman



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Rex Holman added to this discussion on March 7, 2013

I broke a rule and made a blanket statement, but it is the way I know how to condition behavior in an athlete.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Rex Holman added to this discussion on March 8, 2013

I have an addendum to the "Iron sharpens iron" quote.

-however, you needs special tools and processes if you want to hone that edge.



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Discussion Topic: Analytics and Wrestling
Mark Niemann added to this discussion on March 8, 2013

B1Gs are going on this weekend. I hope you uwatch them.

If I can't get on the mats, I'll be sitting in the stands. It's going to be great!!!

INTENSITY!!!!!!!!



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