Is “Ducking” Bad?

Wasting no time Ben Askren jumps into one of the biggest stories from this weekend, a match that didn’t even happen. The main takeaway from the Northwestern vs Iowa dual wasn’t about any of the matches that actually took place, it was about the ones that didn’t. Neither Spencer Lee or Kaleb Young wrestled in this dual. Spencer Lee vs Sebastian Rivera was one of the most anticipated matches of the season. An explanation for these sort of absences in dual meets is seed protection. A wrestler is “ducking” another opponent in order to protect his seed. Askren does not like this strategy put forth by wrestling programs at all. If you’re healthy you should wrestle and not worry about the possibility of losing. Askren didn’t miss a single high school match and only one match during his entire college career.

Matt Dernlan understands what coaches like Iowa’s Coach Tom Brand’s is doing by making these choices. They can’t afford to put certain things up to chance and have to put their wrestlers in the best situation for the NCAA wrestling tournament. Askren counters that thought with the argument that getting another chance to wrestle a guy who you most likely will end up against at the end of the year can be really beneficial. This way you can figure out why and how they’re beating you so you can make the right adjustments for when it really matters. Dernlan talks about how the culture of wrestling is shifting towards stats and numbers but at its core its always been to just go out on the mat and settle it. So what does make up a true champion mentality? Getting the trophy at any cost, or wanting to wrestle every match no matter the opponent?

Calling Stalling by the Book

The norm this season with referees seems to be they’re not truly thinking about what a stalling call should mean. Askren watched the Lehigh vs Arizona State dual and was impressed with the referee. Instead of calling stalling on a wrestler who can’t move without putting themselves in a vulnerable position the ref called a stalemate. You can’t make perfect rules there are variables to every situation. So when you try to call the rules the way they’re written it doesn’t work. Askren and Dernlan think there needs to be a better avenue for communication between officials and coaches during a match. Sometimes a coach wants clarification on a call and they’ll receive a warning for asking for it which causes more frustration. Askren has an idea of possibly setting up a dialogue between coaches and referees after matches, to recap any questions or clarifications a coach might have.

Side Headlock

Another rule that has been bugging Askren is the calling of the side headlock stall. When an offensive wrestler applies a side headlock and fails to break down the opponent or execute any other offensive move within five seconds a stalling call is placed on the offensive wrestler. Askren believes this shouldn’t be the case. A side headlock is not every single thing that encompasses the head and arms.

Penn State’s Tournament to Lose

Dernlan believes this is the first time Penn State has had to deal with some complacency. It takes a different approach and mentality to wrestle with the mindset that you should win. It can be easier to be the hunter or challenger. Askren talks about not wrestling like there’s a target on your back. So far Penn State has shown that they haven’t changed the mentality and keep competing against their opponents but also themselves. If their teammate went out and tech-falled their opponent, they want to go out and pin theirs. Roman Bravo-Young is expected to miss 3-4 weeks after he suffered an injury during the Michigan dual. Askren believes with RBY getting back healthy around the BIG10 tournament Penn State is going to struggle at 133 lbs.


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Ben Askren and Matt Dernlan host the RUDIS Wrestling Podcast. Askren, World Champion, and Olympic Wrestler joins in official partnership as a content provider for all things RUDIS. Matt Dernlan joins from years of experience in D1 college coaching at Binghamton, Clarion, and Penn State University.

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