Dubuque RTC ‘Wrestling’s Basic Truths’ Part I: First Contact

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This is the first in a four-part series of Greco-Roman wrestling positions and drills that has been written and formatted in its entirety by 1995 World Champion, ’96 Olympic silver, and ’94 World bronze Dennis Hall. It should be noted that although these concepts are closely-associated with Greco-Roman, they are indeed applicable to folkstyle and freestyle, as well.

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Hall — who is the Head Women’s Coach and Men’s Assistant Coach for the University of Dubuque — originally produced this material in ’20 but it has not seen publication until now. Hall’s motivation at the time was multi-faceted. He had grown increasingly frustrated with what he perceived as a lack of positional understanding and discipline across all wrestling styles in the United States. If you were to ask him, he would tell that you this is still the case. As such, Hall aimed to produce a free resource for coaches and wrestlers, of all ages, that they may reference at any time, regardless of skill-level. In addition, he had desired for his contribution to first become availed in literary form as opposed to video. While it may not be common knowledge, Hall is an excellent writer who understands quite well how to approach narration as well as structure, which is why Wrestling’s Basic Truths should prove valuable for readers no matter where they are in their wrestling journeys. You needn’t possess a trophy case full of medals to relate to the steps and explanations henceforth being presented.

Dubuque RTC ‘Wrestling’s Basic Truths’

PART I — First Contact
PART II — Stance
PART III — Level Change
PART IV — Lifting


Base of Support (BOS): Refers to the area beneath an object or person that includes every point of contact the object or person makes with the supporting surface. These points of contact may be body parts (e.g. feet or hands).

Center of Gravity (COG): The point at which weight is evenly dispersed and all sides are in balance. A human’s center of gravity can change as he takes on different positions; but in many other objects, it’s a fixed location.

Body Lock: The ability to recruit as many muscles in the body as possible at any critical moment of execution.

Leverage: Using a relatively smaller amount of exertion to gain a disproportionately greater advantage through controlling your COG while exerting force.

Part I: First Contact

Making first contact in the correct positional stance is absolutely critical. If you are not in the correct positional stance, you will more than likely be front-loaded and have a much weaker BOS. A weak BOS occurs because wrestlers learn to make first contact by reaching for their opponent, which creates instability by placing them out of their COG. When a wrestler reaches for their opponent, they are relying on their opponent for stability instead of their own body structure.

When making first contact, a wrestler must start from a correct positional stance. Correct positional stance is starting with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take one step out to the side with each foot. This is an athletic stance. The dominant leg will step forward (right-handed wrestlers will lead with their right foot and left handed wrestlers will lead with their left leg). This is a staggered stance. It is staggered because your feet are in a stride position.

It is also unlikely the BOS will become unstable when you have a lower center of gravity (COG). Along with a larger BOS, a lower COG is essential for stability. As you step forward, you must change your level. Your COG is near your hips; as you step forward, lower your hips (bend your knees) to create a 135 degree angle in your knees. This is a half-squat position. Note that your chest is behind your lead knee. Any time your chest is over your lead knee, you become front-loaded, which makes you unstable. Your COG is outside your BOS in this situation. This creates instability. You now become vulnerable to an attack from your opponent.

Correct first contact demands that a wrestler must move by adhering to the correct positional stance until their temple reaches their opponent’s temple. Right-handed wrestlers will have their right temple on their opponents right temple. When your temple is in place, your left hand (thumb part of your hand) hooks high on the back of your opponent’s right triceps (almost to the armpit). Once your hand is in place, create downward forward pressure on your opponent’s arm and have your feet heavy into the mat.

At this point, your right arm can go up to your opponent’s left arm in the same place — or two other places. One is the front part of your opponent’s left shoulder, or the second is their wrist. When getting your inside tie-up with both arms, you need your elbow inside and pointed down as you grasp for your opponents arms, shoulder, or wrist. Once you are controlling your opponent’s arm, forward movement in your stance with downward pressure will incite your opponent to move. As this happens, your opponent will become defensive, so you will have to see any blocks and clear them before taking a shot or attempting an attack.


1. Start in correct positional stance.
2. Take three or four steps forward while in your correct positional stance. Don’t forget to leverage the ground while moving in your stance.
3. Imagine you and your opponent are temple to temple; now turn your temple into theirs (e.g., I am using pressure from the left foot into the mat to create more pressure with my temple into my opponent). Repeat five times.
*NOTE: This drill is designed as the true First Contact. By practicing this drill, you learn to control your head position and break your opponent’s position.


1. Start in correct positional stance with leverage into the mat and temples touching. If you are by yourself, angle your head into where it would be if a partner were present.
2. Both of your arms should have around a 90 degree angle at the left elbow.
3. With your left hand (the thumb part of your hand), drive your elbow in and up until you can hook your hand on your opponent’s right arm. Once this position is achieved, hook and drive hand-down while level changing with your left leg. Your arm should look like a meat hook at a meat market.
4. Immediately after contact with the left hand, your right hand jabs the opponent’s left shoulder with the butt of your hand. Your right hand is lifting your opponent’s left shoulder. Notice how both of your hands are creating different directional pressures. Leverage from pressuring into the mat will give you more power and you will definitely get a response.
5. If doing this drill with a partner, both wrestlers perform 10 repetitions. After both wrestlers are done with 10 repetitions, both wrestlers are trying to gain a dominant tie-up for 10 repetitions. This is to increase the speed of your hands while in proper position leveraging the ground.

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