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by Kelly Kusumoto 11 May 2020

Wrestling is easily recognized as a very male-dominated sport. Strength and other physical advantages such as height and speed correlate directly in an athlete’s chances of winning. But in recent years, the wrestling scene has seen a big shift as more young women are participating and competing.

Female athletes may find it extremely intimidating and difficult to wrestle boys out of fear of being thrown or getting hurt. It’s a very understandable fear because injury is more likely to occur when fighting an opponent who is much stronger than you. If they twist or compromise your body in a way that you are not strong enough to protect yourself against it can easily turn into a very dangerous situation. Girls may also have a difficult time asking their partner to “go easier” on them. If the strength level is extremely unequal, the safety of the weaker wrestler may rest largely in the hands of the stronger opponent.

I have trained on teams for the majority of my high school wrestling career in which I was the only girl among 15-20 boys. Women’s wrestling wasn’t as big as it is now so there wasn’t much choice in the matter. I wasn’t winning a lot at first, but eventually I was able to start winning maybe half of my matches. At the very least I found ways to give myself a fighting chance.

Just to be clear, the tactics that I mention in this article don’t necessarily just apply to girls trying to beat boys. It is for anyone trying to defeat an opponent who may be much stronger or athletic than you. You may use these tactics when fighting a girl who is much stronger than you. For men, you may also use these tactics for fighting other men who seem overpowering.

1. Do not fight their strength head on

If you know that you are not as strong as your opponent, that is not the place where you want to try and win in. This may mean that you don’t tie-up with your opponent as much. You also don’t try to force a technique that isn’t there. Try and use their own strength against them (easier said than done I know) but realize that when you are weaker you cannot force always force your opponent to move a specific way.

2. Focus on other skillsets such as speed or technique

Instead, focus on other areas that you might be able to gain an advantage. Perhaps you can move faster than your opponent. Even a strong opponent may have a difficult time stopping you if he/she cannot “catch”  you. Also, as the “weaker” opponent, having better technique will make a world of difference. You will be able to react more efficiently with less energy. You will be able to make the most of the strength that you do have to fight on more equal ground. Wrestling is not just about working harder, but working smarter!

3. Work the angles

Wrestling is not just a game of tug of war where movement is one-dimensional. Wrestling has many elements that allow you to pull your opponent off balance or catch them in a position where they cannot defend as easily. When fighting a stronger opponent it is really important to take advantage of this. Being able to fight your opponent when they are in a compromised position will give you a better edge compared to fighting them when they are alert and ready.

4. Find patterns in your opponent’s movements

Being able to see and take advantage of patterns requires some experience. But if you practice looking for them you will get better at timing your attacks. An example of a pattern may be something like, your opponent always fakes twice before he decides to shoot. Maybe they lead really heavy on their right leg. Perhaps they have a bad habit of reaching and overextending themselves. Taking advantage of an opponent’s patterns are also a great way to frustrate them. Even if they wanted to change their own pattern they may struggle because they have to change how they move and it may force them to change their game.

5. Do not give your opponent what they want

Let’s say that you don’t have the skill or the strength to truly outdo your opponent. I experienced this when I tried judo for a little bit. I didn’t really know what I was doing and I didn’t know any attacks. So instead of focusing on trying to win I put my attention on not giving my opponent what he wanted. If he liked a certain grip I would actively try to make it difficult for him to get it. In the wrestling sense, maybe he likes to tie up in a certain way. Maybe he likes to circle in only one direction or go for only one shot. If you are really at a loss on how to beat your opponent then at least disrupt their usual habits and make it difficult for them to take you down. You can at least walk away knowing that you gave them trouble.

6. Give yourself words of encouragement

If you’re anything like me, throughout my high school career I found it really difficult to believe that I could win against guys. Even though I was doing well against my teammates I put boys from other schools on a pedestal and just assumed they were so much stronger and talented than me. In those cases, I would encourage myself by looking at it like a game of chance. “Even if there’s only a 1 in 100 chance I can win, at least there’s a chance!” In reality my chances were probably a lot higher than that, but it was what I told myself in order to believe that there was some probability of winning. Psyche yourself up! Find out some way to encourage yourself to believe that you can win. Maybe you have a good luck charm, or you can just ask your coach on how you should handle this opponent. Either way, don’t go in believing you can’t win because then you’ll have lost before it even started.

7. Aim your attacks on weaker parts of the body

The weak areas that I am referring to are parts of the body with less muscle such as knees, ankles, and elbows. Attacking these areas require more finesse on timing and angles, but if you can get them you will be able to take them down with a lot less muscle. These types of attacks are also difficult to stop with strength alone. Your opponent must learn to fight you with other skillsets such as timing, anticipation, and scrambling.

8. Get Stronger

This might come across as the most obvious/unhelpful suggestion, but if you’re not that technical yet then maybe it’s time to start hitting the gym more. Continuously improve your strength so that you are getting muscled around less. It may take a while and you may or may not ever become stronger than opponent. But if you can become strong enough to assert yourself more and defend against their attacks that’s still a gain to be proud of.


If you do end up winning against a much stronger opponent, please don’t let it get to your head. All opponents deserve respect for spending the time to wrestle with you and help you become better. Wrestling is a sport that is very difficult to improve by yourself and this becomes much more apparent the better you become. Your partner will be your most important asset to your journey in becoming the best wrestler you can be. 

And if you lose, don’t let it get to your head either. Everyone loses sometimes. It’s ok. The opponent you lost to will inevitably find someone who they will lose to. What will be most helpful is just taking the time to reflect and see what you could have done to change the outcome. What do you need to work on? In what moments could you have done better? Survived longer? Practice improving those areas and then the next time you go against the same opponent see if you do better.


If you have any other suggestions on ways to beat a stronger opponent please leave them in the comment section below as I’m sure other readers will find your suggestions helpful.


Kelly Kusumoto

An artist at heart, Kelly is a San Jose based entrepreneur with a passion for wrestling. Starting wrestling as a sophomore, Kelly became a Girls' State Champion her Senior year in 2008. Her love for the sport has led her to create Distant Klash, an apparel brand to represent wrestling with fun comic-inspired visuals. Today Kelly is a one-on-one coach and is constantly creating new artwork for her fans.

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