Youth Wrestling




Do You Lack Foot Speed? - Try Perfecting the Low Single

One of the first lessons I learned when instructing technique was the pitfall of trying to get wrestlers to adapt to my style of wrestling. Each wrestler is individual and possesses different strengths and weaknesses.  They could be genetic, physical and even psychological.

Wrestling gives athletes the unique opportunity to be competitive regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.  If you don’t posses speed, there is little chance you could become a world class sprinter.  But in wrestling, a person who lacks speed could excel as a wrestler with the ability to be a good scrambler.  A weaker wrestler could rely on leverage; a short wrestler could parlay strength and the ability to work in close for success.


For wrestlers who lack speed, the low single could be just the ticket they need…

I’ve seen a big increase in the use of the low single over the past several seasons.  The problem is most of the low singles being used are poorly executed (using both hands instead of one) and leave the wrestler in a lousy position after the shot (off balance, flat on their stomach, head in the mat and hanging onto the leg for dear life). It looks more like the wrestler executes a “fall and a sprawl.”

The most effective technique for the low single is courtesy of non other than John Smith - Olympic, World Champion and head wrestling coach at Oklahoma State

The reason why the John Smith low single is so effective has just as much to do with successfully completing the takedown as it does with failure.  That’s because, with proper technique, you are never in a bad position with the low single.  Here’s why:

When executing this move correctly, low penetration, head up, foot directly underneath you and shoulders above your hips, you maintain a very balanced state.  In other words… you’re never in a bad position.  So let’s break down the John Smith low single.

Setting up the Low Single – Pre-shot, the wrestler needs to know which leg to attack. For right handed wrestlers, this usually means using their right leg for the penetration step. In this case, the opponents left leg is the attack leg.

The offensive wrestler then needs to adjust his shot distance.  The best window for attack with the low single is to have your opponent’s head arm’s length away from you.  Think of it as being able to palm your opponents head with your arm extended. Then change levels by dropping down until your head is below your opponent’s waist.

Penetration Step – If set up properly, the low single uses a very compact penetration step and that’s the reason why you don’t have to be quick on your feet to execute this move effectively.  “Proper execution will make you quick.” – John Smith


From a staggered stance, stay low and fire off your trail (left) leg and attack the opponent’s lead (left) foot with your lead (right) arm and stop. Your goal is to cup your right hand behind your opponent’s heel, immobilize the leg and position your head below your opponent’s knee.  To do this effectively, your forearm and elbow must remain flat on the mat. If your elbow is off the mat, you’re doing it wrong and giving your opponent the opportunity to counter the shot simply by sprawling. You’re trailing leg and your free arm should be posted to the side to stabilize your position.

Remember, the most effective execution of the low single requires that you remain balanced, with your shoulders above your hips and your head up.  That’s why the first part of the move requires that you stop.  If you continue driving forward, you’re head and shoulders are no longer above your hips.  You quickly become extended, off-balance and vulnerable.

Low Single Finish - With their leg trapped, your opponent will try to rotate their hips clockwise in an attempt to sprawl and get separation.  This makes them extremely unbalanced.  This is when you bring your post arm up to the knee of their free leg and drive into your opponent by pushing off your trail leg.  At the same time, position your head at or just below the knee and buckle the trapped knee by driving forward.

As your opponent falls to the mat and bellies out, you can finish with a turk to a pinning combination or simply cover the waist and elbow and get your takedown.

I’ll post a short video clip of the low single as soon as I can glom it online.

By: Rick Contrata

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