Individual combat sports have a huge appeal because of the potential for competition. Regardless of sports preference, there are very few spectacles that can compete for entertainment value with two equally matched warriors pitted against one another. The ultimate stage of hand to hand competition is of course the goal, but how do we best prepare combat sports athletes to get to the highest levels of competition and enjoy that pinnacle of preparation?
For developmental wrestlers I find that the most important ingredient to their continued development is a comprehensive and patient learning/training plan. In the USA, we tend to want much more competition than comprehensive training. This tendency is quite natural as we are a very competitive society and it would make sense that by competing more, we are becoming battle tested and ready for high levels of competition. I personally believe that understanding of development, as logical as it feels, could not be further from the truth.
Bodies and minds of wrestlers and families generally can't handle the endless grind of 100 plus match years and attrition sets in heavily. If wrestlers were robots, perhaps this could be sustainable, but they are not and we can't train or compete like robots. Therefore we need to formulate a great competition schedule that guarantees 30-45 matches per year for wrestlers who are intermediate and above. For younger wrestlers, 20-30 matches is plenty.
The important piece to any match is the lessons and development that takes place in the gym after competition has ended. If a wrestler can get valuable matches in, utilize training to learn from quality matches and stay mentally fresh and physically healthy, then we can make huge gains all year long. If we are constantly fighting fatigue, physical stress, injuries and travel conflicts, development will suffer as well.
As a quick reference this is my opinion, but I would shoot for the match count below based on experience level.
| Rookie (0-1 yrs. experience)
|| 12-18 matches
| Novice (1-2 yrs. experience)
|| 18-28 matches
| Intermediate (2-4 yrs. experience)
|| 28-38 matches
| Advanced (4 + yrs. experience)
|| 35-45 matches