The cradle is a basic technique in amateur wrestling. Its name refers to the move's similarity to the way a person holds an infant in their arms. The wrestler performs the cradle by grabbing the neck of his opponent with one arm, and wrapping the elbow of the other arm behind the knee of the opponent. The wrestler then locks both hands together. In that way, the cradled wrestler finds it very difficult to escape.
Types of Cradles
There are many ways to counter the cradle, and many variations to the cradle maneuver. For example, there is the near-side cradle that is done by a wrestler grabbing the leg of the opponent that is closest to him and then wrapping and locking that with the opponent's neck.
There are also a few other cradles. A few examples would be the "far side cradle", the "standing cradle", "clap cradle"; then there is the formidable "leg cradle". The far side cradle is executed by laying perpendicular to your opponent while he is lying belly-down, then take the hand closest the opponent's legs and plant it in between the opponent's legs and crossface him with the other arm, then scrunch him together in the two directions which allows your hands to grip together (this would be on the far side of the opponent, hence the name far side cradle). Then you dig your knee into your opponent's butt and lean back to get him to his back. Another thing you can do when performing a far side cradle is to dig your head into your opponent's head and squeeze the neck with your arms, dig your closest knee to the opponent, into their side, and then take your free leg and hook their free leg and pull it down to the mat (but not so it is potentially dangerous). Doing this during the far side cradle adds pressure and pain to the opponent so they do not put up as much of a fight.
Another one of the above cradles is the standing cradle. This is usually performed after taking an outside leg shot (outside sweep) and pulling the leg up, with your arms in between the knee, and you standing to the outside of them. Once you stand up with the leg, get your arm that is nearest the foot of the leg you have, and get it to the outside of the leg, so now both of your arms are parallel and touch each other. Now take your other arm, that you have done nothing with yet, other than taking a shot with, and let go of the leg with that arm and put it around their neck. Then start pulling your arms together so that they can form a grip, and once they do that, trip them backwards slowly. Once they hit the mat, you can perform the additional moves into this cradle, as it is now a far side cradle.
The clap cradle is just like the standing cradle, except more violent and faster. You perform the standing cradle all the way up to the part where you get your free arm around the opponent's neck, then you quickly clap your hands together to form a grip, and trip the opponent quickly to the mat, where you can perform the same moves to the head, side, and leg.
The last of these cradles is the leg cradle. This is a great move to watch, and once you put it on an opponent, there is almost no coming out of it, as your legs are the strongest parts of your body. To get to the leg cradle, you should get to a near side cradle position, and start pulling your arms in together for the grip to be set. But before you set your grip, throw your legs in on the sides that the leg corresponds to with the hand (you have your right hand on the head, put the right leg on the head, vice versa for the other leg and position). Once you get this, hook your feet together and lean forward. Now the rest is obvious, as he is on his back, and all you need to do is adjust for the pin.
With enough strength, fitness, and practice, a well-conditioned and keen wrestler executing the cradle can secure a pin. If the wrestler who cradles his opponent cannot get the pin, there is also the opportunity to gain two or three near fall (or back) points in collegiate wrestling. Given enough foresight and experience, a cradled wrestler can still exert much of his strength and energy to escape from the hold. This leaves later opportunities open for the cradler to gain an escape or even a reversal over his worn-out opponent. Wrestlers with long arms often have an increased chance of properly executing a successful cradle.