Since the tragic passing of Billy Robinson a little over a month ago, it was uncertain how and in what form Scientific Wrestling -- the organisation Robinson had been the head coach for since 2007 -- would continue to operate and continue his brand of Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling.
Recently Scientific Wrestling founder Jake Shannon made the announcement that two time NCAA Division I champion and National Wrestling Hall of Fame member Wade Schalles had become the organisation's new head coach. Shannon spoke exclusively with Bloody Elbow on the announcement:
"After seven years at the business end of Billy's cane I've had a few things drilled permanently into my brain; a passion for catch-as-catch-can taught the Billy Robinson way, a commitment to learning how to learn, and a reverence for not just submissions but for pinning as well. If there is anything I know, I know that in the wake of his passing Billy would've wanted us to continue, to "do it again." You literally cannot do better than to learn catch wrestling the way Billy Robinson did and then add pinning with Wade Schalles to that. It is just so exciting to be part of Scientific Wrestling as we take catch-as-catch-can training to an even higher level than I had ever hoped."
Schalles' partnership has to be considered quite the coup. A living legend by those in the know when it comes to the history of USA Amateur wrestling, he doesn't have quite the fame of his peers such as a Dan Gable or Danny Hodge, though arguably he should. Where the Hodge Trophy in Collegiate wrestling is the sport's equivalent of Football's Heisman award for most outstanding athlete, there is the lesser known Schalles award given to the wrestler with the most pins in the season (one for college, and a junior one for high school, presented by WIN magazine). The award was named for good reason: Wade Schalles may be the best pinner in wrestling history, with Dan Gable reportedly having said he's the best pinner he's ever seen.
Just how good was Schalles? He has a place in the Guiness Book of World Records as "wrestling's all-time leader in victories with 821, and in falls with 530". Schalles had also defeated 36 national champions, pinning 17 of them, and defeated eight World titlists. Each total is considered a record (source: National Wrestling Hall of Fame). He's also credited with inventing the Spladle, and in some circles the Cement Mixer as moves used in wrestling and beyond.
Schalles has given Bloody Elbow the following statement on the new role he is playing in the sport of Catch Wrestling, the forefather of Scholastic Folkstyle and Olympic Freestyle:
"Being a part of Scientific Wrestling is a dream realized for me. Having an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Frank Gotch and more recently Billy Robinson is humbling at the most respectful of levels. With Black Belts in Judo and Sombo and a very extensive background in wrestling I’m confident that each of our training camps will be an experience you won’t soon forget."
Scientific Wrestling will of course continue to work with the assistant coaches that have been trained by Robinson to help maintain his legacy and continue sharing his knowledge and wisdom as best they can. One of the coaches who has spent the longest learning from Robinson in the modern era is Sam Kressin, who spoke candidly to me about the incomparable Catch Wrestling master and what his personal aims are from here:
"Billy Robinson was truly unique and special; he was the greatest coach I’ve ever known. I already had the experience of wrestling through high school, I had competed my way up to and earned a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and yet after I met Billy it felt like I knew absolutely nothing. It’s difficult to explain to people who never had the experience of training with him just how vast his knowledge was and how much he had to share and teach.
From the first time I met Billy Robinson forward I did everything I could to train with him as much as possible and both Jake Shannon and Scientific Wrestling did a lot to support me in my effort to do so. Billy is irreplaceable and there is no one on the planet as far as I’m concerned that can fill his shoes. Now that Billy is no longer with us, as one of his assistant coaches, I am left with the charge to show, those who are sincere in learning it, exactly what Billy taught me and how he wanted things done, as well as continue to develop myself with the absolute best wrestlers I can possibly find. I think that’s all anyone can do.
Jake Shannon and Scientific Wrestling have offered to bring me to as many camps and trainings as possible to help share Billy Robinson’s Catch Wrestling and I am more than happy to do so. In addition I am excited about our new opportunity to train with one of the greatest documented wrestlers alive, Wade Schalles."
This is big news for the sport of Catch Wrestling and brings further legitimacy to the art by having someone with the competition experience and technical brilliance of Wade Schalles on board, while Sam Kressin, Jake Shannon and others will continue to pass on the teachings of Billy Robinson.
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