How To Wrestle The Perfect Match | Nick Gwiazdowski Visualization Training

Nick Gwiazdowski is a 2x world bronze medalist, Pan American Games gold medalist, 2x Pan American Championship gold medalist, 2x NCAA national champion, a NCAA national runner up, 3x ACC gold medalist and a 3x NCAA All-American. The man’s ability to go on the mat and prove how good he is is clear. The performances speak volumes. Nick goes on the mat and defeats his opponents time and time again.

He is currently the best freestyle wrestler in the 125 kilogram weight-class in the United States. He is good. Real good.


For the past few years, Nick has been receiving his sports performance strength training from Garage Strength. We know Nick pretty well from working with him for years at this point.


Sitting down with Nick, he had this to say about the role visualization plays in his success and how he goes about envisioning the perfect match, gold medals and the intensity of the challenge on the mat against the stiffest competition in the world.

What Nick Said

Visualization is a big part of ascending to the upper echelons of sport according to Gwiz.


Gwiz has read a lot about visualization and has spoken to professionals. He says, “The more times you put yourself in a position, your brain really can’t tell the difference between you physically wrestling or you thinking about the match.”


Let that sink in: the brain can’t tell the difference between the imaginative aspect of the act and actually performing the act! In that manner, visualization is still repetitions in the brain.

“The more times you walk yourself through doing the move the correct way, when you’re in that moment [wrestling on the mat, for instance], you’re more likely to do the visualized move the correct way.” That happens, because as Gwiz says, “Your brain has thought about performing the move so much.”


For instance, laying in bed and trying to get some shut eye, the mind starts to wonder, “You’re thinking, going through the movements again and refining all these things.” This part of the visualization leads to bonus reps.


But it doesn’t just end at the performance on the mat. Visualization is multifaceted. Gwiz raps further, stating, “Visualizing and sitting down and going through everything: warming up, walking to the mat, boom there’s my opponent, match starts, hand fighting clear this time, on my time, move him, where I close, the whistle, no finger fight, start again. Boom! Go again.”

And on and on this will go, running through the entire match. Gwiz will envision, “Single leg, pulls my head outside, where am I going with my head? I pull my head outside; I pivot my foot up; I start driving through.” Next thing, the opponent is responding in Gwiz’s mental role-play, “He turns his hips,” and Gwiz counters dropping, “back in on the inside single. I pivot my foot; I run the corner.”


Not only does Gwiz formulate scenarios and run through solutions, he states, “That’s where I would literally go in the match.”


Guess what? Gwiz’s body didn’t move one bit while laying there in the morning on the couch or still in bed, but he reveals, “My brain went through the entire match,” and he didn’t get winded at all. Still, even though his breathing and heart rate aren’t elevated like the match he is thinking, “about every inch of the match.” It is important to relax and not get tense during the mind rehearsal.


From there, visualization exercises can get time domain specific. “Ten seconds left, where am I going?” Gwiz will ask himself, responding instinctually, “Shuffle back in. I’m circling left; he’s the right lead--I’m circling away from that. I block my head, he comes, he shoots, block the head, snap, circle, back to the middle, hand on the mat, match is over, hands in the air.” Victory!

Visualization is very valuable. It will teach you that there are things that have no conscious thought interlaced with them, but it goes and flows, or as Gwiz humbly states, “There’s people that are smarter than me that have studied it, and they’re like it works.”


Even if visualization only creates a miniscule, teeny-weeny, tiny bit of an edge, that may be the difference, especially at the highest levels of performance.


But what about being under fatigue? Tired?


Gwiz has an answer for that as well. “When you’re doing conditioning and stuff like that,” role play scenarios. “All right, 30 seconds left and it's like, you know, throw yourself in that olympic trials finals, that match at the olympics or wherever you’re aiming to be,” and try not to get hyped. According to Gwiz, “I get a little pop in my step. I can go a little bit longer. There’s a little more fire in my shot or, you know, a little more attention to detail of what I’m doing,” upon enacting live action scenarios.

Preparation is important. Feeling strong on the mat, putting the work in the training room and in the weightroom is valuable. “The feeling of preparation, the feeling, especially around competition, I feel good, everything, you know? I feel light, everything moves well and that usually means the strength is where I need to be.”


Only wrestling 20 matches a year (maybe), Gwiz knows, “I have the ability to make sure every time I step on the mat I feel ready to go.” It’s not the same in college and high-school. As Gwiz puts it, “You wrestle two times a week maybe. Maybe a dual meet during the week and another on the weekend or a tournament.” This means it is different for high school and college wrestlers versus a professional at the pinnacle reaching for the acme of the sport. High school and college wrestlers, “May not feel their best every time out. But it is important to have that day of rest or lighter day, so that when stepping out there, the excitement in the brain, in the head are givens, but when you move things are fast and crisp.” In turn, feeling fast and crisp creates, “An amount of confidence,” to execute at a higher speed.

Recap

Preparation is important. Feeling strong on the mat, putting the work in the training room and in the weightroom is valuable. “The feeling of preparation, the feeling, especially around competition, I feel good, everything, you know? I feel light, everything moves well and that usually means the strength is where I need to be.”


Only wrestling 20 matches a year (maybe), Gwiz knows, “I have the ability to make sure every time I step on the mat I feel ready to go.” It’s not the same in college and high-school. As Gwiz puts it, “You wrestle two times a week maybe. Maybe a dual meet during the week and another on the weekend or a tournament.” This means it is different for high school and college wrestlers versus a professional at the pinnacle reaching for the acme of the sport. High school and college wrestlers, “May not feel their best every time out. But it is important to have that day of rest or lighter day, so that when stepping out there, the excitement in the brain, in the head are givens, but when you move things are fast and crisp.” In turn, feeling fast and crisp creates, “An amount of confidence,” to execute at a higher speed.


DANE MILLER

Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

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