Think wrestling is all about brute strength? Think again

Classical music lover, accomplished team leader and survivor of truly terrifying odours at the worst possible time — learn why wrestler Hong Yeow gets more impressive the more you find out about him.

  • 2 Aug 2022

Lou Hong Yeow, Team Singapore Wrestling Captain

Hong Yeow isn’t just a SEA Games Bronze medal champion and the Team Singapore Wrestling Captain. He’s also managed to achieve all this athletics prowess and excel at his intriguing full-time job, plus gain a spot at the 2022 Commonwealth Games — all at the age of just 27.

We sat down with this go-getter, fresh from a video interview where he grappled with comedian Rishi Budhrani (literally!) to find out more.


Apart from your intense athletics career, you also work as a physiotherapist — seems like an appropriate job for a wrestler! How do you balance staying committed to those two worlds?

I think being an athlete is more of a passion, where you train because you want to train rather than you have to. But you do need a high level of dedication.

So since being a physio is your day job: after you defeat an opponent, do you ever offer them some free health services?

[Laughs] Not really! No, when I step on the mat I shed that side; I have a different identity when I compete. 

What would you say are three skills that make for a good wrestler?

Resilience, discipline and adaptability.

How does adaptability play a part?

Every opponent is different. You never know who you’re wrestling against. They might not be what you’re expecting. You can’t wrestle the way you want to – you need to take your opponent’s style into account.

You mentioned in our video that one of the strangest moments of your career was when, mid-match, an opponent farted in your face. Can you shed a little more light about that hair-raising story?

It actually happens quite a few times in matches. It’s not uncommon. So if you’re just drilling and training, you can tell your partner “Ugh, that’s gross” and walk away. But if you’re in a match, you just wrestle on man. It sucks, but you still have to beat your opponent.

That’s definitely some added pressure, mid-grapple! So when that happens, do you need to shift into a tactical breath holding situation?

Nah, just continue wrestling.

Hong Yeow showing interviewer Rishi Budhrani some wrestling moves

Do you think everyone in Singapore should learn how to wrestle? And if so, why?

Should everyone in the country learn to do what I do? Yes, but only if they want to! It would help them to learn values like discipline, hard work, grit. These are skills that are transferrable in other aspects of life, like when you feel under pressure at work or school.

What's something that you think people don't understand about the skill it takes to wrestle?

Most people think it’s just about brute force. But there's a technical aspect. You need to use tactics over raw strength to pin your opponent. It doesn’t mean if you’re stronger you’ll win — that’s a common stereotype.

So the muscle of the brain is as important as the muscles in your body.

Yeah totally — at the end of the day, wrestling is like physical chess.

Give us an inside scoop: what’s favourite wrestling move to use?

High crotch to double leg takedown is one of my preferred moves. It’s quite a common move, and it’s my go-to usually. I think it’s the one I find the most success using.

How do you get into the zone, so you’re in an ideal mental state before a match?

Really interesting question. It's always quite intense before a competition. Generally what I like to do is relax, do my warm-ups, and when I’m on the mat — it’s go-time. For me a key thing is not to get into the zone too early, but only when I step onto the mat.

Is there a preferred pre-match routine that helps you achieve that state?

Sometimes I listen to motivational speeches, but I think the most common one that calms me down is classical music, like the piano or guitar. Helps to ease the nerves, you know? And focus on what I need to do.

Who would you say has been a role model who helped spur you on in the wrestling world?

Definitely my mixed martial arts coach when I was younger. He was the one that boosted my budding interest in competitive sports. What was special about him is that he had a way of making competition sound very chill. For him, it was a way of improving your craft — you just get out there and try, rather than it being about always needing to win.