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Cameron Smith

New Jersey wrestlers turn to hypnosis in push for more pins

Cameron Smith
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Wrestlers will try almost anything to gain an edge over an opponent. After all, when an athlete is committing to not eating and running in heavy sweats on the morning of a major event to make a weigh in, that athlete is about as committed to achieving a goal as possible.

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Of all the possible avenues wrestlers can take to gain a subtle edge, the unique training some are using in New Jersey is pretty revolutionary. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, New Jersey wrestlers have taken to hypnosis as a way to train their mind to expect success and, in turn, react without consciously planning their next move. Despite the reluctance one might imagine would come with the territory, the wrestlers have been boasting of the hypnosis' incredibly effect on their fortunes on the mat.

"I know what I'm going to do before it happens," Nick Lospinoso, a 140-pound junior wrestler at David Brearley (N.J.) High told the Star-Ledger. "I've already visualized the whole six minutes."

Lospinoso is just one of a handful of hypnosis clients who visit the office of Christine Silverstein to take part in the hypnotist's "Winning Ways for Wrestlers" program, which typically is split into eight different hour-long sessions at her office. Since starting the program, Lospinoso, the son of a longtime wrestling coach, has won 16 of 17 matches.

The Brearley star is just one of Silverstein's successful patients, all of whom seem to swear by the way her hypnosis helps train their mind on successfully using the wrestling skills they learn in practices every day.

"Your skills are in your subconscious mind," Silverstein told the Star-Ledger. "It's about releasing those skills. He's the expert. He knows how to do a single-leg takedown. He could do it in his sleep, could do it with his eyes closed. So how do you get the skill to release automatically? You go into the zone; you go into that space through hypnosis.

"With mental recall you're looking at positive experiences you've had, and you bring the same energy and same belief in yourself you had when you were successful."

While high school hypnosis predictably has more skeptics than acolytes, both Silverstein and other area hypnotists say they have seen more and more wrestlers each year, all of whom look to the mental training provided by hypnosis as a way to tap into their natural talent and training.

The reason why it works is simple, according to Silverstein. Even when forced to conceptualize negative aspects of an impending bout -- an opponent's size, for example -- a hypnotized wrestler will try to frame their disadvantages as challenges to overcome with their own strengths.

"We move in the direction of our dominant thought. If that thought is negative, we never make progress. Instead of saying 'He's bigger than me,' replace that with 'I'm going to score. I have muscles, too. I have more agility.'"

Silverstein, a certified hypnocounselor, said people allow their inner psyche to be clouded with worries and concerns rather than focusing on the task. The tension or stress felt, she said, should be converted into useful energy, a concept she shares with athletes of all sports with whom she works.

"It's not like you're blocking it out necessarily, you're just transforming it into something positive and useful for you," she said. "You have to make the commitment and say, 'I'm going to use my energy wisely.'"

For top wrestlers like Lospinoso, that change in mentality can be all the difference between a state title run and an exit in a district or regional championship meet, a shift in fortunes that makes the cost and odd looks associated with hypnosis well worth it.

"There's a difference between thinking you're going to win and knowing you're going to win," Lospinoso told the Star-Ledger. "When you go out there knowing you're going to do something, there's no pressure. It's all just reaction. Everything just falls into place for you.

"I feel like no one's going to beat me from now until March 6. I'm not going to lose another match."

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