Welcome to Wrestling

New to wrestling? Here's a primer on why it's awesome, why you should follow Penn State's program, and how to cheer at your first Rec Hall match.

Interested in picking up another Penn State sport? You're intrigued by the nut jobs on BSD who love wrestling, but you're not that familiar with the sport? You like cheering for champions, but you're not all that sure when or how to cheer? You, my friend, are in luck. The BSD Wrestling Team is accepting new members, and provides this handy FAQ below to answer all of your questions.

Part One: Why Wrestling Is The Most Awesome-est Sport In The World(s) of All Time(s)


1. Wrestling's the most physically challenging sport, and this is not debatable. It's more challenging than football practice. It's more challenging than military basic training. It's more challenging than Air Assualt or jump school. No workout or physical challenge gets you sweating and puking faster, with more consistency, than the first week of wrestling practice. And if you aren't in wrestling shape, then there are no longer minutes on this Earth than the minutes on a wrestling mat. Two minutes is like four hours.

2. It's mentally challenging because: a) you may just get your ass kicked right in front of everyone; and b) it's 24-hour-a-day discipline. Booze, food, party? Fughedabowdit. Oh you're hungry? The pizza and beer commercial on TV triggered a craving? Too damn bad, go run instead. You have to make weight.

3. Each match is a fight - literally. No, you can't (legally) throw any upper cuts or jabs. But you definitely can kick the hell out of someone. Try head-snapping yourself as you read this. Take your right hand, cup it, and whack yourself on the back of your neck just below your cranium with the bottom edge of your hand. Don't worry, it's an odd angle so you won't be able to do it very hard. But still - wakes you up a little bit,doesn't it? Now go do that to a male friend, but this time really wind up your arm and follow through. Swing hard, and try to get his knees to buckle.

Once his knees buckle, scoot around behind him and jump on his back until you crush his face into the floor. Congrats! You've scored your first takedown. That's worth 2 points!

Now grab his left wrist and pull it towards your waist. Once you have it back there, lift it up behind his back. Keep lifting! Try to get his hand above the back of his head. It will take a lot of strength because his joint isn't meant to move in that direction - but you can do it!!! Don't stop until he moans or, if he's a tough guy, his shoulder pops out. You'll know if this happens because it will suddenly get a lot easier to lift up. What you're doing is (sorta) called an arm-bar, and is a very common technique used to control your opponent and, in combination with another move or two, get him flipped over to his back.

If he fights back and tries to get his wrist away from you, flatten him out like a pancake on the floor, and then dig your chin into his spine. Turn your head a little to one side, so that you're using a pointy corner of your chin. Go ahead and try that now.

(....)

As it turns out, your chin is made of bone, and his spine is a very sensitive area. I bet it really got his attention, right? There are definitely a few nerves around that spine area.

Now one last fun trick: Let go of his wrist, if you still have it. Assuming he can move his arm, he's going to move it perpendicular to his head - like a pushup position - and try to get off the floor. When he does that, I want you to wind up your left arm like you're going to throw a punch, and then fire your left arm across his face and grab his right arm just below his shoulder. If you do this right, your left forearm should hit him really hard in the nose/mouth area. Pull his right arm towards you, and you'll collapse his face back into the floor. He'll groan, and he may spit a little blood - but don't worry, it's probably just from his lips cutting on his front teeth. It won't last long, nothing permanent. He shouldn't have had his mouth open, so it's his own fault anyhow. You've successfully used a "cross-face" technique for controlling your opponent. Combine it with a cradle, and it looks a little like this:

4. Wrestling has been around forever. Some dude named "Homer" had Odysseus wrestling in his little book, The Odyssey. Gilgamesh was a wrestler. Before killing zombies, Abe Lincoln was a champion wrestler. Recently, a Greek artifact dating to 100 A.D. was discovered which provides instructions on how to wrestle. That's right, it was a coach's manual written on papyrus, because even 2,000 years ago this shit was way too important for plain old paper. Gots to use the fancy stuff.

5. Polls don't matter one damn bit. There is no beauty pageant aspect to wrestling. No Lane Kiffin / Urban Meyer political stumping for votes. It all gets settled on the mat.

6. It's a family sport. Dad drops you and your brother off at practice so you can beat the hell out of each other there, instead of breaking things in the house. Your brother is your best drill partner because he'll go as hard as he can all the time to whip your ass. Mom keeps junk food out of the house because you've gotta suck weight. Your sister will make and eat cupcakes right in front of you, to help you keep your lunatic fringe attitude. Everyone can get in on the competition.

Part Two: Why You Should Follow Penn State Wrestling

1. You're a Penn Stater.

2. There's never been a better time to be a Penn State Wrestling fan. Penn State won a National Championship way back in 1953, and has (almost) always been a Top-20, if not a Top-10 program. But then in 2011, Penn State broke through and won a team National Championship - the first team east of the Mississippi to win it all since.....Penn State in 1953. And last year, Penn State repeated as National Champions, and did it in style, amassing the highest team point total (143.5) in half a decade. Of the 10 individual weight classes, Penn State placed Top-3 in six of them, with three individual champions. For wrestling's Hodge Trophy - the Heisman equivalent - Penn State had wrestlers finish 1st, 2nd and 4th in the voting. If that sounds stupid, it's because it is in fact stupid.

3. All of that notwithstanding, some folks think 2012/13 Penn State could be even better - including the greatest announcer in all of sport, Jeff "Ironhead" Byers, who covers Penn State's matches. Others think 2013/14 could be their best team of the bunch. In other words, by getting on board now, you'll have only missed the start of - knock on wood - a potential dynasty.

4. They're good kids. Of the 10 possible National Academic All-Americans, four were Penn Staters. In Cael Sanderson's three years as Penn State head coach, he's had 24 Big Ten Academic All-Americans. And last year the team won some award for most active in the community out of all the varsity teams at Penn State. So, you know....#culture'd.

Part Three: How To Cheer At Your First Rec Hall Match

1. It's Rec Hall, so automatically it's pretty awesome. It's packed, by the way. Wrestling matches are now Standing Room Only events. Plus, they kill all of the lights except for the one over the mat, which blacks out the gym, and makes it like a night game at Beaver Stadium. Quite awesome.

2. Practice screaming this sound: "..ooooooooo....". It will come in handy in a variety of situations, to wit:

a) Ed Ruth (.."Roooooooooooooooth")

b) You don't say, 'give our guy two points.' You shout "two-ooooooooooooooooooo!!!"

c) Quentin Wright likes to throw opponents. The throws happen so quickly that you don't have time to say 'wow, that was cool.' You only have time to say "ooooooo!!!!" See this video below:

d) You don't say, 'the other guy* is stalling! Make him wrestle, Mr. Referee!" You shout "Booooooooooooo!!!!"**

*On occassion, the rabid Rec Hall wrestling crowd has been known to boo its own wrestlers for stalling. It is, undoubtedly, an I-demand-constant-action fight crowd. Given our current lineup, it's highly unlikely you'll encounter this phenomenon, though.

** I can't stand people who boo our team at football games. Boo the refs? Cool. Boo the Miami Hurricanes as they make asses of themselves in pre-game warm-ups? Totally acceptable. I haven't seen an occasion that merits boo-ing our own squad in Beaver Stadium. I haven't seen that for wrestling either. But even if you're an anti-boo person like myself, you'll quickly learn it's acceptable to boo stalling in Rec Hall. Stalling occurs when the opponent is completely defensive, and doing his best to simply not get killed by our wrestler. He'll back away, flee the mat, never try any offense, and 'turtle-up' from the bottom position - i.e., suck in his arms, make no effort to escape - just trying not to get pinned. It blows. It sucks for our guy. It sucks for the guy doing it. Let him know that it is better to get his ass kicked while fighting back, than to get his ass kicked while playing dead.

Part Four: Your Basic Guide To Wrestling Scoring At a Rec Hall Dual

It's difficult to follow a sport if you don't know how the score is kept. Here's a quick breakdown for our new wrestling fans:

1. On a squad of 20 - 30 wrestlers, only 10 guys will wrestle a match, one at each of the NCAA-prescribed weight classes. This year the 10 weight classes are as follows, from lightest to heaviest: 125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184, 197, and Heavyweight (max of 285lbs.).

2. The winner of each of the 10 matches accrues points for his team. The loser gets zero points for his team.

3. Each of the 10 individual matches consists of three periods. The 1st period lasts 3 minutes, and always begins with both wrestlers standing, called 'neutral' - that is, neither has an advantage. The second period lasts 2 minutes. One wrestler must choose how to begin the 2nd period. He can: i) start 'neutral'; ii) start from bottom, with his opponent on top; iii) start from top, with his opponent on bottom; or iv) defer his choice to the third period. Everyone always defers his choice to the 3rd period. JoePa would be proud. At the start of the 3rd period - also 2 minutes long - the other wrestler has the same choice of starting positions: neutral, top, or bottom (except defer - there is no 4th period).

4. Most points are scored via takedowns. A takedown occurs when, from a neutral position, one wrestler, uh, takes the other one down. A takedown is worth 2 match points. Take a look at this video of a takedown.

5. If you've been taken down, or you start a period on bottom, and you get up and out, or break the control of your opponent, then you've scored an escape. That's worth 1 match point.

6. If you take your opponent down (2 pts), and use an arm-bar or cross-face to expose your opponent's back to the mat at a 45-degree angle, that's called a near-fall (an almost pin). If his back is exposed for 3 continuous seconds, it's worth 2 match points, also known as 'back points'. If his back is exposed for 5 or more seconds, it's worth 3 match points. If the opponent's shoulders both touch the mat for one second at the same time, then you've pinned his ass, and the match is over right then and there, and you've earned 6 team points. It doesn't matter what the score was in the match to that point - it's over.

Here's a video showing Quentin Wright getting back points in the first throw, and later, pinning his guy. This was in the 2011 NCAA Quarterfinals, against Grant Gambrall of Iowa, and it basically won Penn State it's first National Championship in 50 years or so.

7. Depending upon how decisively a match is won, a wrestler can earn four different point values for his team: i) regular decision - margin of victory is 1 - 7 points, earns 3 team points; ii) major decision - margin of victory is 8 - 14 points, earns 4 team points; iii) technical fall - margin of victory is 15 points, earns 5* team points; and iv) a pin (or fall or pinfall - all the same thing), is worth 6 team points. Team points earned in an individual match above the three for a regular decision are also known as 'bonus point' victories, signifying an extra 1, 2 or 3 points earned during the victory for your team.

*Yeah, I know there are two types of tech fall - but let's not get esoteric with the newcomers here. How many 4-point tech falls have you ever witnessed? Exactly. We're trying to keep them interested. Knock it out in the comments.

Add up your team point totals from each of the 10 matches, and the most points wins. Not too hard, right?

Part Five: One Last Note On Why You Should Get Interested

When I was a kid, I was briefly interested in lacrosse because Syracuse had these two twin brothers, Paul and Gary something or other, who made it look so easy compared to everyone else. I was also a fan of Mike Tyson growing up. Not just because he raped women and ate their children, but because he knocked out Michael Spinks and 14 other guys in 20 seconds. Total bad ass (kidding about the raping/eating aspect). Teri Zemeitas, Meghan Hodge - so bad ass I discovered women's volleyball.

My point? The current wrestling team has a couple of 'you-don't-see-this-very-often' type of bad asses. David Taylor won the Hodge last year, and has lost one match in two years. In last season's championship bracket, he pinned everyone he faced except for his opponent in the finals - and he tech fall'ed that guy. Ed Ruth has lost two matches in two years. Like Taylor, he too destroyed everyone in last season's championship bracket, and was your Hodge runner-up. They're both juniors going into this 2012-2013 season.

It is hard just to get a single takedown in a college match. Your opponent - especially in the Big Ten, which is better at wrestling than the SEC is at football and cheating, combined - is pretty damn good. Your opponent likely won a state title or two in high school, was a regional bad ass, and/or possibly an All-American. Yet Taylor and Ruth just dominate, seemingly scoring at will.

Oh, and the PSU Wrestling coach? It's this dude named Cael Sanderson. He never lost a match in college, and then went and won an Olympic Gold. Two years ago he decided to compete again for fun, and won a Bronze at the World Championships. And to help build the wrestling program, he's been driving the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club - which just helped its first Olympic Gold medalist, Jake Varner.

Anyhow - there's a lot to like. Hope to see you in the Open Threads this wrestling season.


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