Dake: High school wrestling needs other sports

Updated: October 6, 2016

By Kyle Dake

Three-sport athletes are rare commodities these days, especially in a world of early childhood specialization. You hear about it all the time: young prodigies are opting to focus solely on one sport and that sport is usually one they can find easy access to on television.


We all know wrestling gets broadcast  maybe three times per year. Luckily, we have a growing on-line presence with FloWrestling and more coverage than we have ever had, but programs are getting dropped at all levels.

High schools are merging, junior high programs are being cut and local elementary schools are no longer offering wrestling practice. A lot of times this is happening because football coaches don’t want their players to get hurt while wrestling. They would rather the players spend all winter and spring in the weight room.

They feel this way most of the time for a couple reasons. First, so they get bigger. And second, so they don’t get hurt. It is much easier to get hurt in the folkstyle wrestling season than it is spending three days each week in the weight room. And this obstacle towards wrestling participation, if you will, doesn’t just exist between football and wrestling. The same could be said for a crossover between soccer, baseball, lacrosse and wrestling.

Wrestling needs to find a way to decrease the number of injuries so that other sports will be more willing to allow their athletes to wrestle. We need to build partnerships with other sports and the coaches so that we encourage kids to participate in more than one sport.

There are a couple different ways to look at this situation.

First, would be on a “micro” level. If the wrestling coach has the ability to step in and be an assistant coach for the football team, he will be able to get more and more of his players to join the wrestling team. The same holds true for baseball and soccer. Unfortunately, a lot of high school coaches don’t have the time or won’t commit the time to coaching more than one sport.

However, simply increasing the number of wrestlers on your team is not enough to incentivize coaches to pick up helping out sport in a coaching role. As a whole, if we could find a way to incentivize all high school wrestling coaches to coach another sport, we would see our numbers jump dramatically.

If we look at the “macro” level and look at wrestling in general, we could make several changes to make the sport more appealing to other athletes and coaches. One easy step would be to simply shorten the wrestling season. By doing that, there would be far less injuries because of less time on the mat. We all know wrestling is pretty unforgiving on the body. If we make wrestling a one-semester sport, and don’t start until after the New Year, we will see fewer conflicts of schedule with football and soccer as well as fewer injuries.

I know a lot of people will talk about how wrestling shouldn’t cater to other sports and how if we wrestle for less time we will fall behind as a country. I believe we should put more emphasis on freestyle wrestling in the spring and possibly make it a formally recognized sport. If we do that, we can get away with shortening the folkstyle season but still have the same amount of time on the mat.

Freestyle wrestling uses a much different set of muscle groups and will most certainly make you a more well-rounded wrestler. I believe there are fewer injuries in freestyle than in folkstyle because there is much less “funk” commonly used on top/bottom wrestling where you see guys get all twisted up.

I grew up playing every sport and it was because of those other sports I was able to become the wrestler I am today. Playing baseball and football allowed me to develop different skills and become more well rounded and in turn made me a much better wrestler.

And for those who say not focusing on wrestling will cause you to fall behind, I strongly disagree. Look at athletes whose only sport is wrestling from junior high to college. They were very good in high school but most fizzled out in college. Almost every coach would rather take a football player and wrestler over just a wrestler if all else was equal.

(Follow Kyle on Twitter/Instagram @KyleDake444)