Wrestling 101

How does Wrestling work? What are the basic fundamentals of the game? Get ready to learn about Wrestling 101. You don't need any prior knowledge to start learning.

The Basics

Wrestling is a competitive sport in which participation can take place on an individual or team basis. Each event is known as a match, and involves two athletes facing off against one another. The goal is to win the match by successfully pinning an opponent to the mat for a three-second count as determined by the referee. The duration of each match varies depending on the level (high school, collegiate or professional), although a majority of wrestling contests have a 20 minute time limit. If neither athlete manages to pin the other before time expires, the winner is decided based on the number of points assigned to each athlete by a panel of judges throughout the course of the match. Points are awarded for several successful maneuvers, such as taking the opponent to the ground.

Individual wrestlers compete to achieve the best personalized win-loss records over the course of a season. Conversely, the team variation of the sport involves a match between two teams. One member of each team is enlisted to compete against an opposing wrestler in the same weight class, and the team with the most cumulative victories by the end of the event is declared the winner.

Equipment and Gear

First and foremost, wrestling matches require a suitable venue. They are normally conducted on the floor of a gymnasium or arena, which is lined with a large padded mat (38” by 38” for high school, 42” by 42” at the collegiate level).

Wrestlers are required to wear singlets, which are tight-fitting pieces of outerwear that start at the thighs and extend up to shoulders. Singlets are worn to prevent wrestlers from bringing an opponent to the ground by grabbing a hold of their clothing. They are also engineered to allow for maximum mobility and zero restrictions, with thin shoulder straps allowing for free movement of the arms and shoulders.

Many leagues and tournament formats require participants to wear shoes that are specifically designed for the sport of wrestling. These shoes possess exceptional grip, keeping athletes from slipping and falling any time a sudden movement is made.

Protective equipment includes headgear and mouthguards. While the mouthguards are similar to those used in virtually every other contact sport, the headgear is unique in that it includes significant padding over both ears. In addition to concussion prevention, it helps to prevent athletes from experiencing ear deformities that would otherwise be caused by constant pressure against the mat.

Penalties and Rules

Many violations in wrestling fall into one of two subcategories. The first pertains to illegal forms of contact that represent obvious safety risks to the opposition. For example, forcefully launching an opponent into the air or taking them to the ground head-first is strictly prohibited.

Technical violations include exiting the mat (stepping out of bounds), failure to show up with proper safety equipment, intentionally grabbing an opponent’s clothing and demonstrating improper body position prior to initiating contact. For each infraction committed, the guilty party incurres penalty points, which are deducted from their overall score should time expire without a clear victor by way of pinfall.

Much like other sports, penalties are also assessed for unsportsmanlike conduct, which may include the use of foul language or complete disregard for the referee’s instructions.

Wrestling Positions

Wrestling Positions

While there are no player positions in wrestling, participants must align themselves in different ways throughout the course of a match. The two most common alignments are described below…

  1. Neutral Position: Participants are standing and directly facing one another.
  2. Referee’s Position: One wrestler begins on the ground with their hands and knees touching the mat, while the other is positioned squarely atop.

Generally speaking, neutral position is assumed by each wrestler at the start of every match, before the referee has signaled for the contest to begin and competitors have been given permission to execute any moves. Referee’s position can be observed during the heat of a match, and is most often used to reset the wrestlers following an assessment of penalty or bonus points.

Important Concepts

Listed below are some of the most important wrestling concepts…

  • Stances
  • Grappling techniques
  • Holds
  • Body position
  • Sportsmanship
  • Strength/cardiovascular training
  • Weigh-ins
  • Offensive/defensive strategy
  • Takedown/submission moves
  • Points awarded
  • Penalty deductions
  • Delay of game
  • Scoring system (i.e. two points for taking an opponent to the ground)

Wrestling 101 Terms

  • Level Change: raising or lowering the hips to gain a positional advantage over the opposition.
  • Takedown: successfully bringing an opponent to the ground
  • Penetration Step: the first movement used to execute an offensive attack
  • Reversal: a move that allows wrestlers to transition from being on the ground to being firmly in control over the opposition
  • Pinfall: pinning an opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a three-second count
  • Half Nelson: a technique in which a wrestler clasps their hands underneath the arm of the opposition, temporarily rendering them immobile.
  • Stalling: intentionally neglecting to initiate or participate in contact with an opponent to let time expire and secure a victory by way of point differential
  • Bridging: lifting one’s body off of the mat and leaving only the head and feet touching to avoid being pinned by an opponent.
  • All-American: a wrestler that has earned recognition for finishing amongst the top eight athletes in a particular weight class at a national tournament.