Working on the Whizzer

Ted Witulski/National Coaches Education Program

A whizzer involves pushing and pulling click here to see an example.

"Drill the whizzer!" was the command from the coach of the middle school aged wrestlers. As the kids slowly began to mill into their regular spot on the mat and without much effort, or energy started into the task, one of the wrestlers turned to the coach, "What kind of whizzers should we drill?" The answer from the coach was quick and meant to avoid the question, "More drilling, less talk".

The question from the wrestler was sincere. He was looking for specifics on how to drill the move. When coaches can get their own wrestlers to analyze and break down a move than the wrestlers are really beginning to understand the complexity of the sport. Coaches really need to take the time to dissect a move like the whizzer into specific components so that the wrestlers will see the many ways it can be used in a match. A whizzer can be much more than a basic counter, eventually coaches should be able to teach that a whizzer can be used as a powerful offensive weapon in an upper-body contact.

The whizzer is as near to a universally accepted term in the sport of wrestling than any other phrase. Its application is usually considered a counter to a shot such as a single-leg or double-leg. The action is the deep over-arm hook wrapping around the attacker's outside shooting arm. For example, if a shooter attacks his opponent's right leg. The defender would over-hook the left arm while pulling up and hipping in.

The wrapping of the arm is the whizzer. But as most coaches know, if a wrestler is going to successfully apply that technique a lot more needs to happen for the whizzer to succeed.

What's your free hand doing? How about your head position? What about your elevated leg? You're hopping on one foot, but how are you hopping? Where are your hips? Helping wrestlers to understand the dynamic complexity of the whizzer will open up doors for them to pay attention to total body control while using other techniques as well.

Coaches should want their wrestlers to ask, "What kind of whizzers should we drill?" In fact, virtually every technique can be segmented and drilled to help wrestlers improve their control over different parts of their body. So, the answer from the coach might in the future be, "Let's drill whizzers for distance, and work on the rear leg elevation of our opponent."

When wrestlers first learn the power of the whizzer, they are often taught that is a counter to an attacker's shot. "If he shoots you've got to sprawl, and hit your whizzer." For most wrestlers the whizzer starts out as only a counter. The most basic way to drill a whizzer is to teach wrestlers its application to square-off with an opponent after their shot. (Click here to view a wrestler squaring off against a shot.)

The technique is very simple. The pressure and power of the whizzer driving the shooter forward pulls the shooter off of his attack, in this case a single leg. With the shooter's grip loosened the defender continues his whizzer pressure, further driving the shooter's head forward. With the shot defended the shooter completes the counter by squaring off to a front headlock position. The defender caps his opponent's head, safely moving his hips away from the attack or shot.

Also, notice in this example that the defender with the whizzer is being returned to the mat with a leg trip. As wrestlers advance in the progression of skills with the whizzer they will use it less as a counter and more as an attack. But, in its basic application a whizzer counters a shot, and moves the defender's hips away from an attack.

Next, as wrestlers advance in their skill with the whizzer, instead of waiting for an opponent to return them to the mat they will take a more offensive and combative posture. When a wrestler's leg is forcibly elevated, his goal must be to whizzer his opponent to the mat. The whizzer no longer acts as just a counter but really becomes a technique to move and control an opponent. (Click here to view a whizzer where the defender takes his opponent to the mat.)

Notice that off of the opponent's shot, immediately the defender is working on head pressure. When a wrestler is looking to square off, a key to good head pressure with the whizzer is the press of the head down and away. (Click here to view a still picture of head pressure.) Pushing the head down and away gives the wrestler room to perform the next advance skill, limp-legging out of the attack. (Click here to view a still picture of the limp-leg.) Wrestlers first learn to limp-leg, scissors, or hip-heist from a low-level or mat contact position. As wrestlers advance in the skill the coach should encourage the wrestlers to practice and drill the limp-leg from a high-level position, where neither wrestler starts in close contact to the mat.

Ultimately, with the added skills of head pressure, and limp-legging from the high level the defender should be able to control the defense of the shot more effectively. Wrestlers should learn to quickly and aggressively take the shooter off of his feet and return him to the mat. The whizzer at this point has become a more aggressive counter, now it can be used to really move and control an opponent, even from the feet.

As wrestlers become more advanced with the whizzer, coaches really can improve their athletes by teaching them about hitting a whizzer for distance. A wrestler who can hit a whizzer with distance opens up the possibility of scoring back points off his takedown. Also, in a tight match a wrestler who can move his opponent over an extended distance can use the edge of the mat to his advantage. Although many people decry edge wrestling it is still an important tactical skill the wrestlers need to be aware of. No coach would like to see his wrestler give up a takedown on the edge when a wrestler could whizzer his opponent out of bounds.

Lincoln McIlravy has a tremendous arsenal when it comes to countering his opponent's shots. One of his most effective moves is a hard driving whizzer that takes his opponent across the mat. (Click here to view McIlravy hitting a whizzer with distance.)

The key components to hit a whizzer for distance is the fast hard rotation of the hip into the opponent's body, the hop and drive off of the free or non-attacked leg, and the use of the rear-elevator by the leg that has been shot on.

As McIlravy, was attacked, by Igali of Canada, in the center of the mat, he quickly drove his hip into his opponent, using his opponent's momentum he turned with him tightening up the whizzer. Immediately, McIlravy exploded into his opponent by hopping and driving off of his free leg. To keep Igali off-balanced and in a poor position to finish his shot McIlravy used a rear-elevator technique with his near leg. This technique, also known as a mule-kick, raises the opponent's hips. In freestyle, elevation points and exposure points can be gained with the use of the rear elevator leg. (To see an example of the rear elevator leg in action from behind click here.)

Coaches need to present their wrestlers with a variety of ways to drill. Too often wrestlers are told to hit a move over and over again, but are given limited space to work with. In order to drill whizzers for distance it is important to give athletes space. Coaches can move all of their participants to one end of the practice room, have a wrestler shoot on a defender, and then have the defender whizzer for distance by attempting to take the shooter across the mat. In order for wrestlers to properly understand the technique they need to hit this maneuver in a wide-open space, far different then the small confined area that too often makes up the drilling space in a crowded wrestling room.

Eventually, coaches should see their wrestlers progress to high elevation of their opponent's hips. A wrestler who is skilled at the whizzer can use the distance technique in conjunction with the rear-elevator and take their opponent down for back points. (Click here to see McIlravy take Igali over for a point because of the high arch and loss of contact with the mat.) The maneuver of lifting the opponent with the leg instead of the arms is a spectacular score in freestyle.

When wrestlers advance in skill instead of looking to square-off they will be comfortable leaving their hip in tight. In this position wrestlers can use their whizzer and then hip-contact to turn an opponent's shot into a whizzer followed by a hip toss. (Click here to view a hip toss initiated by a whizzer.)

Finally wrestlers can be taught to use the whizzer as an attack from the upper-body position. Often, the circular hop is used by wrestlers from Eastern-European nations. The attack requires an athlete to turn their hip into their opponent, while applying the whizzer. Then, the attacker places the rear-elevator leg in position. After this is done the wrestler with the whizzer starts his attack, while continually elevating his leg between his opponent's legs and hopping into the whizzer, the attacker will take his opponent in a circle.

The goal of the attack is to off-balance the opponent, while tightening the whizzer. The attacker also will gain a far-arm over or under-hook to pull the opponent under him. As the wrestler hops, in he leans and throws his opponent, in an attempt to gain the takedown and back points. (Click here to view John Kading of the Oklahoma Sooners work this technique for a takedown.) This takedown is even more impressive knowing that Kading's large knee brace was needed to protect a totally torn ACL. Kading was able to place second in the nation that year with a badly injured knee.

Once perfected through drilling wrestlers will have advanced the whizzer into a lethal upper-body throw, far removed from the simple squaring off technique that most wrestlers start with.

Wrestling is a complex sport, which requires total body awareness and control. Although, the whizzer might look like a simple technique that uses an arm, much more goes into a successful use of the whizzer. All aspects of the move should be taught to wrestlers and perfected by drilling. Once the coach takes the lead in detailing the complexity of the whizzer and other moves as well, "The command will no longer be drill whizzers." Wrestlers will follow the lead of the coach into a much more detailed understanding of the techniques involved in the sport.

Drills to consider in application of the whizzer (from simple to complex):

Squaring off
Limp-Legging on the mat (low-level)
Limp-Legging from the feet (high-level)
Taking the opponent to the mat with a whizzer
Drilling a whizzer for distance
Drilling a whizzer off a shot to a hip-toss
Drilling a whizzer for amplitude with the rear-elevator leg
Drilling a whizzer with the circular hop attack

This article was provided as service by the National Coaches Education Program. If you are an active wrestling coach and are not certified by the National Governing Body of amateur wrestling please contact your state chair about receiving Copper or Bronze certification. If you have further questions about NCEP please contact Ted Witulski by e-mail at