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Top 10 wrestling images

Wrestling - the hardest sport to photograph

There are many reasons why wrestling is the hardest sport to photograph.
  1. There is no start or finish line to focus on. Movement can go anywhere.
  2. Lighting is indoors and usually poor, resulting in small depth of field.
  3. Movement is quick so your reaction time must be quick also.
  4. Focus is constantly changing and in all directions.
  5. Backgrounds are usually distracting.
  6. When you think you have a great image, the referee steps in the way.
    (high school and college are even worse, they put 3 referees on the mat, kind of interferes with being a spectator sport.)

Scroll down to see my Top Ten wrestling images of 2018 United World Wrestling Championships
All are placers in just one tournament and this is not a complete list..

What wrestling & photography can do for you

  There are three things that have shaped my life other than family - Wrestling - Photography - World Travel. I actually started photographing wrestling back in 1968.  My wrestling experience started in 7th grade (1962) but my father was a college wrestling coach, on the NCAA rules committee, and in five Hall of Fames, so I guess I was born into wrestling. The better wrestling photographers I know have had wrestling experience.  This helps in anticipating moves and set-ups.


   My dad being an athletic director at a University, was always busy at some competition, so the only way I got to see him was to go to the events. Being bored I started to photograph sports, primarily football, basketball, and wrestling. I landed my first cover shot on Scholastic Wrestling News (now called Wrestling USA) in 1971. 


   1972, I was asked to be the head photographer for the Seattle Sonics. Unfortunately, I accepted a teaching position too far away, so I passed it on to my older brother who was also a professional photographer. Of course I got to shoot many games.  

   1973, I started a wrestling publication for the State of Washington where I started the state wrestling coaches association, the top ten ranking, and the coach of the year program. Was also the motivator to restore the Washington State Cultural Exchange Program. At that time, I took some family leave and turned things over to Jim Meyerhoff.


   Jim asked me to be the team leader for the 79 and 81 Cultural Exchanges. From that, the national office asked me to be the National Cultural Exchange Director, and then the National Public Relations Director where I was in charge of all publications and directing national and international tournaments.


   The first thing I noticed was that the AAU's publication was a piece of crap. There was no design or layout to attract the readers attention.  You could have put the information on rolls of toilet paper and had better readership. You need to be more than a writer.

   The first thing you have to do is have a great presentation to attract their attention. Next, you have to have some worthwhile interesting content. Images are the most important content because that is how humans communicate with theirselves.  Words are only effective if they create pictures. The latest neuroscience has proven that our brain works from seeing and to a much lesser degree the other four senses. I designed a sports Illustrated type of layout and any copy was honest, clear and to the point, just like a photograph should be.


  The publication was a big hit and the subscription went from 13,000 to 63,000 in five months. I left in 1983, just before AAU and USWF merged.


   However, states and countries were still asking me to set up cultural exchanges. I concentrated on the more difficult ones at the time; China and Soviet Union (now Russia).


   Things took a dramatic shift for me when the Soviet Union asked me to coordinate and direct several major events between Soviet Union and USA. Little things, like turning their country into a democracy by selling 51% of their assets to foreign companies through the 500 Days Plan (Yes that was offered to our President (1992) and it was turned down) ; turning their military parade into a peace parade (1991 & 92);  Bringing together the Congressional Medal of Honor recipients together with the Heroes of the Soviet Union (92); opening up churches to religious freedom (92); starting advertising on television (91); supplying 400 million dollars of medicine to children's hospitals and the list goes on.


    All these experiences were DIRECTLY possible because of my relationship with wrestling and photography. 

    Now, 2023 I am working on bringing back university wrestling to the State of Washington. It has been absent for over 30 years and we have a lack of wrestling coaches because of it.

   What if every mat room in the country and every wrestlers' bedroom was plastered with wrestling heroes  - our World and Olympic placers.  Perhaps we could generate enough enthusiasm and money to bring back wrestling to our colleges and universities.

    What if we worked on a way to lessen the teacher and coaching shortage by bringing back University wrestling. College wrestlers used to be "the major source" for high school coaches.

   What if we lessened the possibility of mental health problems in young people  of all sizes. Mental health is a result of lack of love. The people who made a difference in your life were the ones who got you involved. Don't let that involvement of our young be controlled by hate, drugs, abuse, and crime. Help them reach goals.


   You don't have to be a world placer to appreciate the living skills that wrestling teaches youth. I wasn't, but I learned Self-sacrifice, Courage, Commitment, Faith, Enthusiasm, Fortitude, Confidence, Perseverance, Discipline, Preparation, Ethics, and the list goes on.


   And now wrestling is just not for men, ladies wrestling is the fastest growing sport in the nation.  In fact Washington has one of the strongest programs in the USA. That eliminates the Title Nine reason all administrators gave to eliminate wrestling. Oregon has added 8 college wrestling programs recently, so there is competition near-by. Plus, Canada has programs.

    Want to be a part of the solution? Join our mailing list at . Just put "Wrestling" in the Subject title. And IF you have time tell us a little about you, but at least get on the mailing list. We won't bombard you with endless emails.

    Do as much as you can, as soon as you can. ~ RGT



So when photographing wrestling most photographers look for action. That is only one piece of the puzzle and unless you have eight cameras around the mat you can't guarantee you'll catch the best action, assuming that it does happen at all. A lot of that depends on the wrestlers. LOL Since you can not determine where on the mat action happens, look for things that can 
interfere with your position - referees, scorekeepers, coaches, fans, TV cameras, etc.


I like to choose a background that is not distracting. If it is, I tone it down by using a smaller depth of field with my f-stops or "burning" it down in post processing.


Have your camera up to your eye and finger on the trigger at all times. You never know when action happens. However, if you recognize a "set-up" a move follows. 


Viewers need to identify with something in addition to action. A face is very important, because people like to develop heroes. If you can't get a face, a name on the uniform is next best, followed by nationality. Or try to get all four.

There are more tips throughout the website, but here is what I do. Take my images and compare them to other images. When I find one better than mine, I ask the tough question, why is it better. If it is because I wasn't there, I can't do much about it, so I try to compare wrestling images from the same competition. I hope these tips help you out.

#10  Nick Gwiazdowski

#10 griz_RGT7466.jpg

#9 Adam Coon

#9 Coon_RGT9910.jpg

# 8 Mallory Velte

#8 Velte _RGT5025.jpg

# 7  Kyle Snyder

#7 snyder_RGT0657.jpg

# 6  Dave Taylor

#6 Taylor_RGT9901.jpg

# 5 Kyle Dake

#5 Dake_RGT9051.jpg

# 4  Tamyra Mensah-Stock

#4  Tamyra  _RGT3464.jpg

# 3  Jordan Burroughs

#3  Burroughs_RGT9483.jpg

# 2  J'den Cox

# 2 Cox_RGT8673.jpg

# 1 Adeline Gray

#1 Gray_RGT6988.jpg
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