Alligator Wrestling | How to Wrestle a Gator and Escape With Your Life Like Steve Irwin

Do you ever daydream about being the victor in a perilous situation? I do. Every single day. I dream of saving orphans from burning buildings. Smashing the faces of perps trying to steal my beautiful girlfriend’s purse. I dream about this stuff too. I don’t normally ponder about taking on reptiles though. But recently John and I were talking about how we might fare in an alligator battle. So I’ve done my research, but not my practice. Here’s what I’ve learned about alligator wrestling.

The King of Alligator Wrestling: Steve Irwin

We’ve all been inspired by Steve Irwin. My man Steve was so cool and jolly. And he took on alligators and other crazy animals. I was in Tennessee when I found out he died. My friends and I were leaving for a whitewater rafting trip that morning. I convinced about a dozen people to hold a moment of silence for Steve with me in remembrance. Literally, seriously, no exaggeration: I was sad.

alligator wrestling an alligator

Why’d you have to leave us Steve?

Here’s what’s so awesome about Steve Irwin. The man was a total goofball but could take out an alligator. And probably dragons. If you ever get yourself caught in a fight with an alligator, here’s how to come out the victor in your alligator wrestling match.

(Just a note, Mr. Irwin spent most of his time jumping crocodiles, not alligators).

Step 1: Jump the Alligator

This is the most dangerous step. Steve Irwin started jumping big reptiles when he was only 9 years old.

You don’t want to come at it from the front or even the sides. You’ve got to come from above or behind. This will take some tree-climbing or other planning. If you’ve got a partner, you’ll want this person to be in front and get that alligator distracted so it doesn’t turn its eyes on you.

If climbing or creating a diversion isn’t possible, create a blindfold. This isn’t hard. Take off your shirt and get it wet (makes it easy to hit the target you’re aiming at and for it to stick). Toss your clothing right onto the alligator’s eyes.

Now, get behind it, and line yourself up from the base of its spine to its head. Get a running start and leap! Wrap your arms around its neck: in between the jaws and the front pair of legs. Steve Irwin says even at nine he learned to “grab it by the scruff of the neck, and secure its tail in between my legs.”

Step 2: Pin the Head

alligator wrestling an alligator

The dreaded death roll.

As soon as you’ve begun the alligator wrestling match, push down with all your might! Get that neck down and force the head to the ground. Steve says, “You tuck it in tight to your body, and that takes the sting out of its thrashing around.”

I learned in jiu jitsu that you don’t even want to give your opponent an inch. Seal any opportunity away from the gator to create space or leverage. You don’t want the reptile getting into a “death roll.” When it starts barrel rolling; you’ve lost control and may even drown. But if you push that head down, squeeze your body tight to the gator and try to force it down with all your might, you won’t be giving it any room to move and create momentum.

Know this: alligators open their mouths the same way humans do. The bottom jaw moves-not the top. If you pin the head to the ground, you prevent the jaws from opening and taking a bite out of you.

Step 3: Get Control of the Mouth

Remember, you’ve got this thing by the scruff of its neck. If you don’t have a good grip, just wrap your arms around that same location. Here you’ll be high on the alligator’s back. Your knees are touching the ground, but squeezing the animals sides as hard as you can (this will take out some of the work of your arms while helping you retain control).

If you’re long enough, or the gator is short enough, the lower part of your legs should be used to pin the rear legs to further prevent the “death roll.”

Now take your dominate hand (I’m a lefty) and cover then press down on the gators eyes as hard as you can. They can retract their eyes, and once they do, you’ll have a big upper hand while alligator wrestling. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t human-they want to see while fighting.

Then run your other hand along its jaw line. Remember you’re keeping the head pinned to the ground with your dominant hand and bodyweight. You don’t want the jaws opening. As your fingers run under the jaw, you’ll keep your fingers underneath and your thumb and palm on top. Grip as hard as you can. Then take your hand off the retracted eyes and run those fingers under the jaw line and clinch it as hard as you can.

Step 4: Alligator Tap-out

The only way you’ll win this alligator wrestling match is by submission. You haven’t scored any points so far.

alligator wrestling an alligator

It’s a small one, but this is a good example of form.

Lift the head off the ground and toward your chest until it’s nearly to a 90 degree angle. Here, the alligator can no longer fight back.

Imagine if you’re lying face down on the ground. If somebody lifted your torso up, while sitting on your back, even up to a 45 degree angle, you wouldn’t be able to fight back. Neither will this gator.

Step 5: Escape

Even though you’ve submitted you’re alligator doesn’t mean it fights fair. You’re alligator wrestling match isn’t over till you escape.

You’ve worn it down, you’ve gained control, but you haven’t really hurt it. Now you want to invert your previous steps and make your getaway.

  1. At no time do you allow any space between you and your opponent
  2. Put the head back down.
  3. Smash the eyes back down.
  4. Get one arm choked and in control around its neck, and then the other arm. Keep smashing its head into the ground, preventing its jaws from opening.
  5. Get your knees off the ground, feet on the ground. Remember-do NOT let the gator create space. Keep your inner thighs and knees pressed hard against its sides. You should be squatting on its back while having dominant control of its neck.
  6. It can’t bite you while you’re on top or behind it. And it will have difficulty biting you from the side.
  7. Throw the gator down and forward as you leap back as hard and fast as you can.
  8. Keep moving backwards, facing the gator, as fast as you can. It will likely turn around and snarl and hiss at its one-time master. Keep your eyes on it and move quickly backward. If it runs at you, run in a straight line. It will likely get tired and return to water. You’ve won your alligator wrestling match!
Alligator Wrestling Champ

Now you’ve escaped with your life, saved your friends, established your eternal place in the pantheon of fearless men, and beat a worthy opponent at alligator wrestling.


  1. I don’t think I’d have the guts to do something like this but if the need ever arises I at least know what to do now. I think the only way I could ever find myself doing this would be if I went golfing down in Florida. I hear a lot of the ponds around the golf courses in Florida have gators in them, that’s probably why I’ve never golfed in Florida either.

    • Todd Mayfield says

      You know, my 30th birthday is coming up, and I’ve been trying to think of something absolutely crazy to do. Now that I think of it, I wonder if there is a place where I can learn to wrestle a gator and do it the same day…

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