How the Wrestler Prepares for the Military

1st Lt. Daniel Miller, a member of the All-Marine Wrestling team, gets behind his opponents back to score two points during a match at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials (Photo By: Cameron Storm)

When preparing for the military, there are some sports and activities that lay a solid foundation of fitness and mental toughness for the candidate or recruit. One of the best, in my opinion, is the wrestler. Wrestling combines weight training, high repetition calisthenics for strength and muscle stamina, running and high intensity intervals for superior cardiovascular endurance. In addition, it adds the intangibles of mental toughness as it pits one opponent against another.

Wrestler Strengths for the Military Recruit (Intangibles)

Mental Toughness – Wrestling practices require a high intensity mindset with the ability to push past exhaustion in a variety of the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) type workouts and mental and physical challenges of basically fighting another person. Typically, lots of sweating and getting beat up for a few hours after school every day is common. The weight loss that is associated with some wrestler’s in order to meet their weight class takes mental toughness to another level with an added element of hunger, dehydration, and hard workouts on an empty stomach. “Finding the Fuel When the Tank is Empty” is the very definition of mental toughness and a daily mantra for the wrestler typically. The one meal a day at Ranger school is typically not that challenging for the wrestler that is used to cutting weight and working hard on empty.

Competitor / Teammate – Wrestling is a one on one competition event, but you do not get there without your teammates. Wrestlers join the military with a mindset to be a competitor, but also a teammate. Being a helpful supporter to fellow teammates, recruits, and other members of the military is engrained in the wrestler’s history of practice and wrestling meets. Being a good supportive team player with fellow recruits is a must for new military members.

Wrestler Strengths for the Military Recruit (Tangibles)

Hybrid Athlete of Strength and Muscle Stamina – Wrestlers are Hybrid Athletes. They have a remarkable cardiovascular endurance so running is typically not an issue. They have incredible upper body strength and muscle stamina making PT tests easy. Wrestling gives you a unique combination of strength from lifting weights as well as higher repetition calisthenics and lifting people. Workouts mixing in carries, crawls, lifts, bodyweight exercises, and short and fast running create a high level of anaerobic endurance and general physical ability needed during many events like obstacle courses, group PT, and shorter runs. Pushing anaerobic threshold is tough and builds a strong and tough athlete.

Injury Prevention / Foundation Building – The solid foundation of muscle stamina, and endurance and pound for pound strength enable the wrestler to move quickly and typically without being susceptible to typical overuse injuries other athletes may receive from higher miles of running, higher repetitions of calisthenics, and load bearing events.

Obstacle Courses – Wrestlers do VERY well with obstacle courses as long as tend to have good technique from doing rope climbs with very long lasting grip strength. In fact, the all-time record of obstacle course of SEAL Training is from a collegiate wrestler.  

Wrestler Weaknesses for the Military Recruit

Specifics – Depending upon the branch of service, as long as the typical wrestler does not need to swim, he will do quite well in the military. However, at schools like SEAL training, it has always been said that “a wrestler does very well at BUD/S IF he can swim.” Sometimes that is a big IF.  See the discussion video for more details on the wrestler preparing for SEAL Training.


Motivated young men and women who are preparing for a career in today’s military give me hope for our future. Regardless of your athletic background, becoming a tactical athlete requires taking your current strengths and molding them to the service requirements and focusing on current weaknesses that could be detrimental to the new recruit or spec ops student. If you are a current wrestler, keep it up. When in the off season, get specific to the branch of service that you are considering. You may need to add in some rucking, swimming, more running, and perhaps lifting so the load bearing events of rucking, boat carries, or logs do not crush you.  But for the most part, the wrestler, bring many of the strengths needed to master military training programs.

Related Video Discussion As the Wrestler Prepares for SEAL Training

Previous Athletes Discussed:


Cross Country Endurance Running Athlete

Swimming Athlete

Powerlifting Football Athlete

CrossFit Athlete


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