Ankle picks are very technical. Done right, it can be very effective and low risk. While executing an ankle pick, you are virtually never at risk of being in a bad position or of being put in a guillotine. However, the technique can be difficult to learn at first as there are many parts that need to be done right in order for the ankle pick to work. First, here’s how you perform an ankle pick. There may be some variations of this, but here is an example to start with.
Ankle Pick Mechanics
- Get into a collar tie.
- While pulling your opponent’s head down, drop your knee towards the ankle that you are going to attack.
- When your hand reaches the ankle, push your opponent’s head backward by using your collar tie arm.
- Chase your opponent down if necessary and cover their body to finish the takedown and gain control.
- Possible variations include:
- -Using a different set up for the ankle pick (underhook, two-on-one, elbow control, overhook, etc.)
- -Dropping your other knee to the mat.
- -Finishing the ankle pick like a single or double leg.
That’s how you execute your basic ankle pick. To fully understand the ankle pick, you need to understand set ups and finishes too.
Most ankle picks are set up in one of three ways. You can pull the target leg forward, pull the non-target leg, or execute an ankle pick from open space.
Pulling the target leg is the most common way of hitting an ankle pick. When the target leg steps forward, you can execute this takedown. When the opponent’s weight is being pulled forward, the opponent will be unable to pull their leg backward. At the higher levels, this set up becomes easy to predict and you’ll eventually benefit from learning the other set up variations.
Pulling the non-target leg is the most common set up at the highest levels of wrestling. This set up works because when the opponent’s non-target leg is being pulled forward, the target leg is stuck on the mat and unable to move. This set up is effective because you don’t need to wait for your opponent’s leg to reach the mat before execution.
Open shot ankle picks are harder to execute because your timing with the collar tie and your attack arm has to be great. Since you are not forcing your opponent to move while executing an open shot, open shot ankle picks become harder to set up. If the only ankle pick set up in your repertoire is the open shot, you will become far too predictable after your first ankle pick attempt.
Finishing the ankle pick depends on the opponent’s reaction. The three main finishes are the basic finish, the single leg finish, or the double leg finish.
The basic finish is ideal. Your opponent falls backward and all you need to do is cover your opponent to secure your takedown.
Sometimes your opponent doesn’t fall backward, and your opponent returns to standing position. If your head is on the outside of the opponent’s body, you can finish your ankle pick by converting to a double leg takedown. This is usually the case with stronger opponents.
If your head is on the inside of the opponent’s body, you can finish your ankle pick just like you would with a single leg takedown. This is less common with the standard ankle pick and more common when you execute the cross ankle pick (see David Taylor below).
Examples of Ankle Picks From Wrestling Greats
Cael Sanderson is known for his ankle pick. A 4-time NCAA champion, Cael Sanderson is the only American wrestler to go undefeated in his collegiate wrestling career. All of his opponents knew that he had an ankle pick but ultimately, none of them were able to stop it. That is true mastery. At the 2004 Olympic games in freestyle wrestling, Cael Sanderson won the Olympic gold medal. In the semifinals of that tournament, he beat eventual UFC superstar Yoel Romero, who competed in freestyle wrestling for Cuba at the time.
David Taylor is a rising star on the international freestyle wrestling circuit having won the World Cup and the prestigious Ivan Yarygin tournament in Russia. Unsurprisingly, he was coached by Cael Sanderson at Penn State University, where he was a 2-time NCAA champion. In his collegiate career, he only lost three wrestling matches. David Taylor hits the cross ankle pick variation. While Cael Sanderson dropped to his left knee for his ankle picks, David Taylor drops to his right knee. Both variations are effective but as you will see, the set ups and finishes are slightly different. However, the principles behind the ankle pick are the same.
Elbrus Tedeev, like Cael Sanderson, was an Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling in the 2004 Olympic games. Instead of using a collar tie variation , he uses elbow control instead.