If you’ve been watching competitive wrestling in recent Olympics or tournaments, you might wonder why often a lot of wrestlers appear to be short and stocky.
So why are wrestlers short? Here’s one quick theory:
Competitive wrestlers are short because the endomorph (short and stocky) body type is often the most powerful body to have for wrestling. It allows the wrestler to have a high strength to size ratio and maintain speed for shooting at their opponent’s legs.
But this is just my theory, as most wrestlers appear to be shorter.
There isn’t necessarily any easily measurable evidence for this, except that most wrestlers are shorter than the US average in height.
Let’s get into some more detail about it!
Is being shorter better in wrestling?
There is no advantage to being short or tall in wrestling. The average height of wrestlers is between 5’8 to 6’2. This height range is not considered tall in the USA, considering their 5’9 average size.
Unlike basketball or volleyball, wrestling has no such thing as a height advantage or disadvantage.
Wrestling doesn’t need you to jump and reach high things. You’re good to go as long as you have the strength, agility, and courage to perform tackles.
When a small wrestler fights a larger guy, they’re expected to be faster. But, their risk of getting overpowered and countered is higher, so the speed advantage is balanced.
Almost all combat sports don’t care how tall or short you are. Take, for example, Judo. Being short is not a problem because they have Judo throws for small guys.
Why does wrestling stunt your growth?
Some wrestlers are small because of the weight-cutting they do. Wrestlers must reduce nutrients, water and overall calorie intake to reach the desired weight class.
This wouldn’t affect your growth if you started wrestling in your adult years. This is because you’ve already reached your final height.
But for young wrestlers, cutting weight risks their growth capability. Not getting enough nutrients will slow their growth progress until they reach an age where it’s already too late.
Usually, fighters, not only in wrestling, go for weight classes way below their normal weight. This is to gain more speed and cardio because they’re lighter.
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After passing the weigh-ins, they will proceed to hydrate themselves. This will result in them being heavier when fight day comes.
What body type is best for wrestling?
The best body type for wrestling is either a mesomorph or endomorph. Having these body types will give you the right amount of strength, power, and speed that you need in wrestling.
A mesomorph body is what they call a perfectly built body. It has a low-fat percentage and high muscle mass.
Mesomorph wrestlers have a better metabolism than other guys. Because they have lower body fat, they can generate more speed because there’s less to carry.
A famous mesomorph wrestler is Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson. He also used this body type to gain success in his MMA career.
An endomorph body type can be described as “short and stocky.” Typically, endomorphs have the same shoulder and hip broadness.
Endomorphs have the ability to gain mass quickly. Along with that is a higher fat percentage compared to mesomorphs and ectomorphs.
Because they’re bigger, endomorphs are expected to be stronger. The negative side is that their speed and cardio might get compromised.
An excellent example of an endomorph wrestler is Daniel Cormier. Cormier is a six-time US World or Olympic Team Member. He is also a former UFC superstar.
Does size really matter in wrestling?
Size does matter in any combat sports. But that doesn’t mean that if you’re small, you’ll lose or vice versa. It still goes down to how slick you perform your technique and fundamentals.
There are a lot of accounts of small guys out-wrestling bigger opponents. It’s all about how you’ll handle the pressure and your presence of mind.
There are a lot of wrestling takedowns you can apply to counter a big man. At the same time, there are also moves to dismantle small wrestlers.
Yes, size does matter, but at the end of the day, it’s all up to you to use it to your advantage.
Notable successful short wrestlers
Multiple short wrestlers have ruled the sport for quite some time. Below are some of the best guys you might know.
Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier is an excellent example of an endomorph wrestler. Cormier was a six-time US World Olympic Team Member.
Aside from being an Olympic player, Daniel was a World Cup runner-up. He was also a Pan American Games gold medalist and a two-time Pan American champion.
Because of his endomorphic body, he wrestled in a higher weight class. His unbelievable speed and agility made him good, considering his size.
His skills captured a lot of the scout’s attention. He finished his college wrestling career with a 53-10 record.
Cormier would proceed to join the UFC and fight as a Light Heavyweight. Daniel fought taller guys and won with his wrestling and some slick dirty boxing.
Daniel was the first man to take Jon ‘Bones’ Jones down. He did this when they first fought at the main event of UFC 182.
Later in his career, he became one of the UFC’s few double champs. He did this by taking the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight gold.
Demetrious Johnson is a Two-time Tennessee State Champion during his high-school days. DJ stands 5’3 height. That’s also why he got his moniker, ‘Mighty Mouse.’
During his junior year, he played at the 112lbs weight limit. He ended his junior year with a clean 32-0 record and a bunch of titles.
DJ transitioned to 119 pounds during his senior year. Gaining 7 pounds didn’t compromise his skills as he bagged a jaw-dropping record of 41-1.
Mighty mouse had a final career record of 161-11. High school wrestling fans loved him because of his fast and explosive fighting style.
Johnson went to fight in MMA later in his life. He became one of the greatest wrestlers in UFC Flyweight.
Demetrious’ wrestling pedigree helped him snatch the UFC and One Championship Flyweight title.
Henry ‘CCC’ Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. Cejudo got his nickname by being the only MMA fighter to get two UFC belts and Olympic gold. He stands with a height of 5’4.
Henry Cejudo is a freestyle wrestler. He became a three-time Pan American Championships gold medalist during his wrestling days.
After winning gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Cejudo became the youngest Mexican-American to win at the Olympics.
Henry dominated his high school wrestling years. During that time, he got 1st Place at the AIA Arizona State Championship. Henry also took the 1st Place Fargo Nationals (2006)
Like any successful MMA fighter, Henry took his skills to UFC. He had a rough start after facing an L to DJ. But he got back and became the UFC Flyweight and Bantamweight king.
Thanks to his wrestling skills, he became the first male UFC fighter to defend two belts simultaneously.
Chad Mendes wrestled under Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, during his NCAA career. Chad is only 5’6, which is small considering the average height of Americans.
Chad had a mesomorph body type during his wrestling career. This helped him have a better speed and cardio advantage.
The people loved his technical yet explosive wrestling style. At the end of his wrestling peak, he had an impressive record of 64-14.
To top it all up, he was a two-time NCAA All-American honors at 125 pounds 141 pounds.
Chad was truly a wrestling machine back then. He decided to train in MMA and tried his luck in this brand-new sport.
Fortunately, he got signed in the UFC. He joined an MMA group called Team Alpha Male and Urijah Faber. In this promotion, he fought high-level guys with his wrestling and striking.
One of his notable opponents is Conor McGregor. He gave the Notorious a good fight when he wrestled him down for several minutes. But he got knocked out before the fight ended.
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Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.