The Mental Game

Cary Kolat discusses the strategies he used to keep calm and composed in high-stress situations.  Cary believes that he wrestled his best during his last 5 years of competition. Over time he discovered what worked. This allowed him to better understand the mental aspect of wrestling. During his final 5 years of competition, he had more poise on the mat. He also had better focus and was able to wrestle through and overcome injuries.

The Power of Rituals

Cary still had nerves and fears going into big matches but over time was able to learn to control and overcome those nerves. His first step was to always be as confident and prepared as possible in his training. If you aren’t confident in your training you won’t be able to carry that confidence into a match. On top of being fully prepared, Kolat had specific things he did before every match to clear his mind and get fired up to compete. Every time Cary stepped on the mat he refused to allow his chance at victory to slip away because he was locked up by fear of defeat. If he allowed that to happen, the time he spent preparing for each opportunity would be wasted effort. This mindset didn’t happen overnight, he had that fear-driven out of him by talking to coaches and watching other people compete.

Observational Learning

Cary explains the best demonstration of true mat poise and self-control. For him, it was when he watched Kevin Jackson win a world title at the 1995 World Championships. Kevin Jackson, a three-time World Champion, was known for his control on the mat. He had a consistent style that worked for him. Many people didn’t appreciate Jackson’s style as it was usually low scoring and controlled the entire time. The 1995 World Championships was Cary’s first exposure to that level of competition. Kevin Jackson’s gold medal match was tight, having scored early most of the match. It by with him leading by a single point. He stayed in the position’s he was comfortable in and knew he would do his best wrestling. It taught Kolat a lot watching Jackson’s poise live and in-person.

Training Vs. Competition

John Smith, who was the head coach at Colorado, offered for Cary to train with one of his wrestlers. That wrestler was Jamill Kelly. After training with him, Cary Kolat asked how many NCAA titles and All Americans he had. His answer was none. Kolat was stunned because he had just seen his wrestling and couldn’t believe someone so good hadn’t accomplished either of those. After the fact, he realized that Kelly had two sides to him, a practice side and a competition side. As an athlete, you have to avoid that. Kelly wasn’t able to control his anxiety going into a match and it adversely affected his wrestling despite his skill. Later in his career, after spending time with Kolat in Sydney and gaining more experience he was able to better control his poise and stay in positions where he was successful. Eventually, he won an Olympic silver medal.

Where to find Ask Kolat:

RUDIS Wrestling Podcast on YouTube