Why Football Players Should Wrestle

Why Football Players Should Wrestle

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What do you think about when hear the word wrestling? If WWE Smackdown is what first comes to mind, your thoughts about the sport of wrestling are probably a bit skewed. Amateur and Olympic wrestling are very different from what you see on TV.

Football players should wrestle because, wrestling enhances balance, control against resistance, leverage, positioning, and the ability to move an unwilling opponent, skills that are essential for all football positions.

In fact, wrestling at the amateur level is one of the fastest growing sports in America as high school wrestling participation increased at a record-setting pace last season. With the popularity of this sport growing, many amateur football players should consider wrestling as well.

Hall of Fame and Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden once said, “I would have all of my offensive linemen wrestle if I could.” But wrestling may not just benefit offensive linemen.

If you are a football player considering the move to wrestling, read on to learn more about the sport and how it can be beneficial to football players.

Why is Wrestling Growing in Popularity?

It is hard to pinpoint why wrestling is growing in popularity for amateurs, but there are a few factors that may contribute. Some believe that the increase in the number of schools offering the sport as well as the COVID-19 pandemic may be two reasons why the sport is growing.

In an article on flowrestling.org, it is reported that more schools are adding wrestling to their list of sports offered because it allows for boys and girls of all shapes and sizes to compete.

In football, a 135 pound freshman may have a hard time competing against seniors who weigh close to 200 pounds. However, in wrestling, that same kid may be able to compete against other players in the same weight class.

Also, in the same article, USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender believes that pandemic actually positively impacted the sport of wrestling.

While social distancing and wrestling don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, Bender believes that the sport did not sink during the pandemic because the same health standards that the whole world began to employ already existed in the sport of wrestling.

For example, he claims that skin and viral infection inspections were always prominent in the sport, and he also states the culture of the sport already valued sitting out when sick in order to show respect for the opponent.

How Can Wrestling Help Footall Players Improve Hand and Footwork?

Good wrestlers know how to use their hands and feet to gain leverage over their opponent. This is similar to the way linemen use their hands and feet to block or to shed blockers.

Also, skill positions such as wide receivers and defensive backs also need to have good hand and footwork to create separation on offense and to maintain good positioning on defense.

Even running backs could benefit from wrestling because the sport requires one to maintain a low center of gravity, much like what is required to power through tacklers. Running backs also do their fair share of blocking in pass protection, so having quality hand placement is key.

Wrestling can also help defensive players like linebackers and safeties improve their tackling. The goal in wrestling is to pin your opponent on the ground, and this does not just happen by pure force. There is technique involved.

The same goes fo tackling where using the proper technique is crucial to get opponents to the ground and to keep yourself as safe as possible. Wrestling teaches these players how to be forceful but also technical.

How Can Wrestling Help Football Players Improve Strength?

Weightlifting in the offseason is the most popular way for athletes to gain and maintain strength in the offseason, and that will likely never go away.

However, wrestling can be another great way for football players to work on applying that strength in a competitive setting. Instead of just letting all of that added strength sit there and not be used, wrestling offers football players a way to put it to good use.

Also, wrestling is a weight class sport, meaning that participants must maintain a certain weight. So if a football player wants to maintain a specific weight in the offseason, wrestling gives them more motivation to do so in a way that will also help them improve their strength.

How Can Wrestling Help Football Players Improve Agility?

Wrestling is not just about being the strongest person on the mat. It is about being quick as well. A wrestler who is both strong and quick is difficult to beat, much like in football.

Wrestling can help football players improve their agility because the sport helps train their hands and feet to react quickly. Wrestlers must maneuver around in a tight area on the mat, making them learn to be agile.

For undersized offensive linemen, this skill is crucial because what they may lack in size can be made up for in athleticism and quickness. Therefore, wrestling can be a great way for smaller linemen to gain an edge on their opponents.

Which NFL Players Wrestled in High School?

There are several current and former NFL players who wrestled in high school. Ray Lewis, Roddy White, Ricky Williams, Tedy Bruschi, and Bo Jackson were all high school wrestlers. Lewis, the Hall of Fame linebacker, was a two-time state wrestling champion in Florida.

Also, retired NFL player Lorenzo Neal was an All-American wrestler for Fresno State where he attended college and is second all time on their rushing yards list. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints and played for eight different NFL teams from 1993-2009.

Perhaps one of the best football players/wrestlers of all-time is offensive lineman Stephen Neal (not related to Lorenzo). Stephen was a four-time All-American wrestler at Cal State Bakersfield where he won the 1999 National Championship defeating future Pro Wrestler Brock Lesnar.

Stephen Neal went on to win several wrestling championships and played in the NFL for nine years for the New England Patriots winning three Super Bowl rings. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012.

Which Pro Wrestlers Played Football?

Wrestling has long been an avenue for retired football players. Pro wrestlers such as Brock Lesnar, Bill Goldberg, and, of course, Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson all got their start in football before transitioning to wrestling.

Lesnar grew up playing football and decided to pursue those dreams in 2004 by going to training camp with the Minnesota Vikings. He played in some preseason games on the defensive line but was let go before the season started.

Goldberg was drafted by the Rams in 1990 after starring as a defensive lineman at the University of Georgia. He never played for the Rams but joined the Atlanta Falcons from 1992-1994 until his football career was derailed by injuries.

Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson is most known for his WWE career and is now in the spotlight thanks to his acting and business ventures. However, Johnson was a successful football player for the Miami Hurricanes in college winning a National Championship in 1991.

Johnson never actually played in the NFL. His only professional football experience occurred in a short stint in the Canadian Football League.

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