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Film study aiding wrestling programs

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Tony Gwynn, a Hall of Fame baseball player, helped pioneer the use of film study in Major League Baseball. Gwynn, who passed away in 2014, took a portable video cassette player on the road, a practice that began in the early 1980s. He went on to collect 3,141 career hits in his career and earn eight batting titles.

While technology has evolved greatly since Gwynn’s early MLB playing career, the use of film study has become increasingly widespread in virtually every sport, including wrestling.

“Just the knowledge gained from watching film is huge,” said George Mason head wrestling coach Joe Russell. “It’s plentiful. The information is out there. You don’t have to look hard to find it.”

At Stanford University, like many wrestling programs across the country, every match is filmed. The matches are uploaded online and wrestlers can view their matches on their own or with a coach. Film study, while encouraged, is not mandatory at Stanford. Coach Jason Borrelli leaves it up to each individual athlete.

“We leave a lot of that up to our athletes, kind of ask them and have that discussion,” said Borrelli, who competed collegiately at Central Michigan University for his father Tom Borrelli. “We share our beliefs on the power of it and how we think it can be good. Some of our athletes prefer not to watch a lot of film. Others really, really engage in that process.”

Borrelli believes studying opponents on film can help wrestlers alleviate anxiety in competition.

“I think there is something to be said for having seen someone on film,” said Borrelli. “When you walk out there you may not have as much anxiety. It’s not as unfamiliar. You walk out onto the mat. You’ve seen the guy on tape before. You’re familiar with his tendencies. So there’s not as much of the unknown. I think that can be very powerful.”

Film study can also help wrestlers understand an opponent’s strengths, according to Borrelli.

“It helps you be aware of his very best positions,” said Borrelli. “If you watch enough matches of an opponent, I think you can find out maybe his one or two best positions. That can help you either just be aware when you’re in them, or avoid them altogether. I think that’s huge.”

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