Wrestling on Top: Lifting Mat Return

The lifting mat return can help you maintain control when your opponent attempts a stand up from the bottom position.

With seconds left on the clock, you’re trying to hold on to your opponent from the top position. You have a one-point lead and can feel that victory is near.

But your opponent makes a last-ditch attempt to get to their feet with the stand up. If they’re successful, they can tie the score or even win the match.

That makes the lifting mat return an essential skill for wrestlers.

“The lifting mat return can be performed when the bottom opponent does a stand up,” Division I coach and former collegiate wrestler Kyle Borshoff says. “You can then use the lifting mat return to prevent them from escaping.”


You’ll perform this move as the top wrestler when the bottom wrestler attempts a stand up. You’ll begin by locking your hands around your opponent’s waist. Remember: This can only be done once your opponent’s hands are no longer touching the mat.

You’ll then:

  • Step to the side.
  • Lift your opponent in the air.
  • Use your knee to clear out your opponent’s legs.
  • Return them to the mat.

“The lifting mat return is a great way to prevent your opponent from escaping,” Borshoff says. “We can then continue to work for a near fall or even a pin.”

To control your opponents, you’ll want to work on a variety of skills from top position in practice. The chop and bump breakdown can push your opponent flat to the mat from their hands and knees.

If your opponent is flat on their stomach, you can use the gut wrench to score points. Each time your opponent’s shoulders touch the mat, you can add two points to your score.