By David McPherson
When it comes to explaining the world of freestyle wrestling, three-time Australian champion Connor Evans is your man.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch and appreciate the wrestling on the Gold Coast next year.
Wrestling is all about point scoring.
“Pretty much the aim is to get someone’s shoulders on the mat. We start from standing and then we look for various different takedowns,” Evans says.
“If you take someone from standing onto their hands and knees or flat on their stomach, you get two points for that. If you take someone from standing straight onto their back, you get four points for that.”
“If you take someone to their hands and knees on the ground and you can expose their back to the mat you get two more points every time you expose their back.”
Winning the Match
“There’s a couple ways you can win. If you can get someone both shoulder blades on the mat and hold it there, that’s classed as a pin and that would end the match.”
“You can also go 10 points clear or whoever has the highest score at the end of the two three minute rounds – that’s the last way you can win.”
Freestyle wrestling takes place on brightly coloured mats that feature a number of rings.
“In the centre of the mat there’s a ring that’s about a meter wide – that’s your starting circle. Each wrestler puts one foot on that ring and then the referee blows and you start wrestling from there,” he says.
“The outer ring on the mat, that’s called the zone. If you’re near the end of the mat the ref will call a zone and that way you know you’re about to step out.”
“If you step out of the mat while your opponent is attacking you, you lose one point. Then they’ll reset you at the centre circle again.”
While wrestling has somewhat of a lower profile in Australia, around the world it’s serious business.
“In Eastern Europe it’s probably the biggest. In places in Asia and America it’s pretty big as well. If you’re a champion in Eastern Europe you’re a celebrity and a sports hero,” Evans says.
“Some of their best wrestlers don’t have to work for the rest of their life after they retire because they make so much money during their career.”
“For example Russia – it’s their national sport. They get their cars and houses paid for by the government. They can get their family paid for to go through university as well.”
The Recipe for Success
Wrestlers are unique athletes that excel in a range of areas.
“You need to be pretty good at everything physically. With wrestling you need strength, speed, flexibility – the whole lot.”
“There’s a lot more tactically that goes on than people realise. It’s not just whoever’s physically the strongest.”
“There’s slight variations in a lot of techniques that make a massive difference when you’re wrestling. It can be the difference between winning and losing.”
If you want to be the best you have to train like the best.
“It takes a lot of hard work that people don’t see. For the world-class wrestlers they’re training at least six hours a day, six days a week. On top of that [they need] proper diet, proper recovery and nutrition, psychology and all that sort of stuff.”
“Right now I train about six days a week. I try and get one mat session a day on those six days which usually lasts an hour or two,” Evans says.
“The training session usually consists of a 20 minute warm-up – like just a basic warm-up and then you do all your stretching and stuff. We work technique for about an hour and then the remainder of the session will be a sparring session.”
“Also we have an hour or two to work on my own strength and conditioning every day. For me at the minute I’m trying to lose weight so I’m doing a lot of cardio training.”
“I run probably an hour or two each day just to try and keep my weight down. If I was trying to gain weight I would probably swap a lot of that for weightlifting or gym work.”
“Wrestling is pretty physically demanding. If it’s one of the big competitions you can have five or six matches within a twelve hour period. Early in the competition when there’s a lot of wrestlers still involved you’re looking at having a match every hour or so. As the day goes on there’s longer between matches.”
“On competition days you have to really focus on getting as much recovery in between the matches as possible. You need to make sure you’re eating pretty much straight after you compete, and stay warm and stretched as well.”
Evans will be looking to gain selection for the Commonwealth Games at the selection event in Melbourne on the 25th of November.