There's a huge difference between a Pokemon battle and a 100m sprint. Poor comparison. Believe it or not you actually can write stuff down to help improve how you battle (or just memorise it). He still has to put it into practice but if he's go the strategy the execution comes naturally.
I watch YouTube videos of competitive battles and I've completely changed how I play over the past two years since I started.
Battling on the video games =/= battling in the anime. Ash is a more experienced trainer, using Pokémon he's had for longer perhaps that Sawyer's actually been a trainer let alone caught and trained his. Similarly Ash's style while it has a pattern isn't identical one eye battle so practice =/= natural execution. A great deal of skill is required. Knowing an opponent is helpful but it can't replace actual skill and strenght - and it's those two things that Sawyer has almost randomly been able to acquire that sit uneasily with me. At the very least it's inconsistency in narrative at worst it's undermining Ash and making him look like less of a trainer than he actually is.
If you didn't notice by the time Ash got to sceptile he was already completely off his game. The timing of his attacks were completely off and Greninja was'nt able to land a single hit on Sceptile. No matter how tough an opponent is Ash should at least be able to get a few hits in when he's focused. When you take into account how he was pushing the Champion in his last battle when he went Ash-Greninja it makes perfect sense he'd let that go to his head and get frustrated when he does'nt even get Greninja to transform this time. This match played to Ash's weakness and fear that Greninja might leave him. Of course he tried to shrug the loss off but that look Pikachu gives him should make it pretty obvious he's shaken up.
Though they were experinced trainers the fact remains they were able to knock Ash off his game by either overwhelming him or taking advantage of his arrogance. Sawyer is not like Trip his growth is actually believable, especially when you consider he's inspired by Ash's battle style. He's a bookworm I would think it makes sense he'd be able to adapt quickly to how Ash battle's. For example Ash prefers speed so using a pokemon that can take alot of hits like Clawretzier is the best choice to turn it around on him. He also knows three of Ash's pokemon are flying types so ice beam would clearly be the best choice.
Trip's growth was actually more believable because he started strong, maybe too strong, and increased strenght progressively throught out the series. Sawyer has really on developed in the space of 13 espidoes. Being a bookworm isn't training. Ash allowing things to go to his head or fearing Pokémon would leave him isn't entirely within character - I did not pick either of those things up the first time I watched it. The shrugging off I thought was genuine. This show has never been particularly complex or deep - It was fairly obvious Ash was upset after loosing to Paul. There's a line between putting your character though difficult situations and exposing their flaws and mistreating the character. Using a novice trainer who up to this episode had limited skill falls more to the latter than the former. This espidoe has less made it clear of the need for Ash to focus than it has made him look like a failure and made Sawyer almost irritating.