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5 Questions for 2 of the Best Wrestling Coaches in Indiana

Who better to answer some questions about how wrestlers can make the best use of this time than 2 of the best coaches in the state of Indiana:


Jake O'Neill

-Wabash Head Wrestling Coach

-Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association President

-Back to Back Sectional Championships

-3 Straight County Championships


Eric Highley

-Northridge Head Wrestling Coach

-2019-20 Indiana Wrestling Coach of the Year

-3 Straight Sectional Championships

-Back to Back Regional Championships

As not only a coach but also a teacher, what is your advice for student-athletes while they’re out of school?

My best advice would be to make a schedule, start as early as you can and start with a workout. Plan a whole day, give yourself breaks, be reasonable, but productive for an extended amount of time.

-Jake O'Neill


My advice to my wrestlers is to find drills they can do at home along with film study. Right now with tournaments all canceled, technique is much more important than conditioning.

-Eric Highley


With wrestling easily being the toughest sport both mentally and physically (I might be a little biased), what do you want your wrestlers doing during this unstructured time away from school and sports?

I've been telling my wrestlers that the best time to develop discipline is when you don't have to. Developing your own schedule and workout regiment right now would set you apart from your competition next season. This is a unique time for this dynamic to really make an impact.

-Jake O'Neill


I want our guys to be watching what they view as their best 5 matches and their worst 5. In these matches, I want them to take notes on technique they need to improve on (or did well), but more importantly mental aspects they need to fix (or continue).

-Eric Highley


Are there any drills or exercises that you would like them to focus on?

Other than keeping your general fitness on point, cardio, strength, speed, quickness, power, agility, flexibility, and balance. Wrestling specific basics like stance and motion which include level changes, down blocks, sprawls, shots. More basics like back steps, back arches, hip heists, knee slides, stand up cut throughs, all can be done without a partner and without a mat. All are super important and you can't get enough reps of them.

-Jake O'Neill


As far as drills go, each kid needs different areas of focus. I have sent areas of focus for them to drill. We feel everyone needs to improve on their feet, but the specific drills vary on the kid.

-Eric Highley


Unfortunately, I’m sure that you’re concerned about some of your wrestlers/students that don’t have support at home. Without sports, how have you been trying to stay connected with these kids?

We don't get through to every kid, it's super challenging. I've emailed, texted, called, used social media, and we just can't reach some. It's tough. We use a range of methods to bring everyone together. Since we were unable to have an end of the year banquet, we are had an e-banquet. We put together an interactive video with the wrestlers, and then we released stats and pictures on social media along with the video. Other ways we've attempted to bring everyone together and engage them is through workouts that are pushed out through ISWA and USAW social media pages. Several wrestlers are in my strength training class, so they are assigned bodyweight workouts through an online app called Train Heroic. Again, we try to be available in every way possible through these times.

-Jake O'Neill


During this time along with my e-learning, I have set up a Google Classroom for my wrestlers and am working on getting everyone together to do a Google Meet. Beyond that, I and my coaching staff have been checking in on kids via text frequently.

-Eric Highley


With wrestling being a winter sport, and hopefully, all of this is far behind us at that point, what are you most excited about for next season?

We had a pretty good season last year, and we've got 11 starters returning. I'm looking forward to improving from last year and seeing what these kiddos are made of!

-Jake O'Neill


The thing that excites us the most for this upcoming season is stepping up to the challenge. We had a great season last year and want to improve on it. We will be competing at team state and want to come home with a 3A title along with winning our 5th straight conference title, 4th straight sectional, 3rd regional title in 4 years, and win a semi-state title. None of these challenges will come easy, but we look forward to the challenges in front of us!

-Eric Highley

Many high school athletes are facing the first break they've ever had from sports. Making sure that they stay active is important to reduce injury risks when they return to sports. Encourage them to move in a variety of ways and stay positive about the situation.

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