Thankfully very early on in my career I learned the importance of watching tape. Not only watching tape on my opponents to study their weaknesses and strengths, but more importantly tape of myself.
Watching tape of yourself helps you see what you can improve and what you are doing well. As I always told myself, “the tape doesn’t lie.” If something looks bad on tape, it is bad. If you don’t watch your matches, you would never notice a lot of things.
In high school I always had my father or brother videotape all of my matches. Regardless of whether I won or lost, I wanted to watch the tape that same night. If I won, I wanted to see in what areas I could improve more. In my ten-year career I never wrestled a perfect match and that was something I always strove to do. You can always get better. There is no limit on that. On the other side, if I lost I wanted to see the exact reason. What went wrong? How can I fix it? Did I not look like myself out there? Also if it is on tape and you don’t know how to fix it yourself, you can bring it to someone who does. You might meet Dan Gable at the supermarket…well probably not, but you get the point.
In my college wrestling experience watching tape was a key ingredient to my success. For instance, in the New England area we wrestled a lot of the same guys more than once. There are 15 teams in the conference and only the champion qualified for nationals outside of four wild cards. You had to beat the same guys over and over.
For example, during my junior season, the first time I wrestled someone, I beat him 9-3 and all of my takedowns came via the fireman’s carry. Three months later when I knew I would wrestle that same guy again, I watched the tape of our previous match. I realized that he would be expecting me to shoot my fireman’s carry in our second meeting. Therefore with that knowledge fresh in my mind from the tape, I decided I was going to use low singles first. When the match began he was completely unprepared for my low single attacks and I won easily. If I didn’t have that tape to review, I probably would have forgotten about a match I won three months prior and maybe in our second meeting I would have been unsuccessfully trying to score with a fireman’s carry. Perhaps I even would’ve lost the match.
I touched on this next example in Wrestling with Your Destiny. During my sophomore year of college while watching tape, I noticed that I got in deep on my takedown attempts, but had trouble finishing them. After watching this happen in a few consecutive matches I realized what the problem was. I was hesitating on my shots for a split second after I got in on my opponent’s legs. This gave him enough time to counter. I figured out that it was because of the way I drilled. I had been drilling my shots half way, without finishing them to the mat often enough. Once I saw that I hesitated at the exact spot where I typically stopped my shot, I corrected it in the practice room. When I started to drill my takedowns to the mat almost all of the time, I had no problem finishing my shots anymore.
And the kicker is, I highly doubt that if I did not have those matches on tape and that I watched those tapes, I would have corrected that mistake. If that happened my career would have turned out much more unfavorably than it did for me. I owe a lot to watching videotape of my matches and if you don’t do it already, I highly recommend you do.