What Are The Rules And Regulations Of Wrestling?

What Are The Rules Of Wrestling

Wrestling dates back as one of the oldest forms of combat, originating as far back as 15,000 years through cave drawings in France. Since then, the sport grew throughout Europe and was brought to the United States competitively in the late 1800s in a national wrestling competition held in New York City. Read on to learn about the rules and regulations of wrestling.


The objective of wrestling is to take down your opponent and pin them. In order to pin your opponent, you must pin part of both of their shoulders on the mat for two seconds. If neither you or your opponent is pinned for the duration of the match, the winner is determined by points. College wrestling matches are divided into three rounds, with the first round lasting three minutes and the two remaining lasting two minutes. Olympic wrestling features two three-minute rounds.

Playing Surface

The wrestling mat itself differs in size between high school competition and collegiate competition. The mat for high school wrestling is 38’ X 38’ with a minimum 28’ wrestling circle. For collegiate wrestling, the mat is 42’ X 42’ with a minimum wrestling circle of 32’. Another difference between high school wrestling and collegiate wrestling is the status of being in-bounds. For collegiate wrestling, a player is considered in-bounds when any part of the wrestler is on or inside the boundary line.

In high school wrestling, a player is considered in-bounds when supporting parts of the wrestler are on or inside the boundary line. So the key difference here is that for high school, you need multiple parts of the body inside the boundary line, whereas for college, you only need a single body part to be considered in-bounds.

Equipment Rules

For equipment, every wrestler must be wearing a singlet, headgear, lightweight shoes, knee pads, mouthguard, and wrestling bands. A singlet is a one-piece uniform that covers the torso of the wrestler. In team competitions, wrestlers will be wearing a singlet with colors that represent the school/team they’re playing for.

Wrestling headgear is necessary to protect the ears of the wrestler. Long-time wrestlers may develop “cauliflower ear,” where constant blows to the ear can damage its shape and structure. Wrestling headgear helps prevent that from occurring. Wrestling bands are used to help distinguish each player and make scoring easier when rewarding points. Generally, the bands are red and green and placed on the ankle of each wrestler.

Scoring Rules

There are five different ways to score points during a wrestling match:

  • Near Fall (two or three points)
  • Reversal (two points)
  • Takedown (two points)
  • Penalty (one or two points)
  • Escape (one point)

A takedown is simply taking your opponent down onto the mat and having control of them. An escape is recovering from a takedown and getting to a neutral position with your opponent. A reversal is gaining control of your opponent while down on the mat by going underneath. Only the defensive wrestler is able to score an escape or reversal.

A near fall is when a wrestler is close to pinning their opponent, but doesn’t quite get it. If the player is able to hold a near fall for two seconds, they are rewarded with two points, but if the player is able to hold the near fall for five seconds, they are rewarded with three points. A wrestler the majority time will win the match if they score seven or more points. Wrestlers can also earn points if their opponent commits a penalty.

Team Scoring

When two teams are facing off, points accumulate through the match and the winner is whichever team has gained the most points over the matches. Here is how the scoring looks for two-team wrestling competition:

  • Fall, Forfeit, Default, Disqualification (six team points)
  • Technical Fall (five team points)
  • Major Decision (winning a match by eight-14 points) (four team points)
  • Decision (winning a match by less than eight points) (three team points)
  • Tie (tiebreakers decide who wins)


Penalty points are a bit more in-depth. Committing a penalty will result in your opponent gaining points at your expense. Different types of penalties include:

  • Flagrant Misconduct
  • Illegal Holds
  • Incorrect Starting Position or False Start
  • Stalling
  • Technical Violations (grabbing of singlet, going out of bounds, etc.)
  • Unnecessary Roughness
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Illegal holds, technical violations, unnecessary roughness, and unsportsmanlike conduct will result in points being rewarded to your opponent without warning. Flagrant Misconduct is the most serious out of the penalties, where if committed, you will be ejected from the match and your opponent wins.

Your opponent will not be rewarded with points if you stall as a first offense. However, if you stall more than once, your opponent will then be rewarded points. Warnings also apply to incorrect starting positions and false starts, where you get two warnings before points are rewarded to your opponent.

Wrestling Rules Summary

  • The objective of wrestling is to score more points than your opponent or pin them to win the match.
  • Wrestlers earn points via takedowns, reversals, near falls, escapes, and penalties.
  • Players are scored both individually and as a team.
  • Teams are scored based on the outcomes of each individual wrestling match.
  • Penalties in wrestling include illegal holds, flagrant misconduct, unnecessary roughness, and false starts.
  • Penalties result in your opponent gaining a point or even possible disqualification.


What are the rules of wrestling?

The objective of a wrestling match is to pin or score more points than your opponent. Pinning your opponent involves holding both of their shoulders to the mat for two seconds. Points are scored in wrestling through takedowns, reversals, near falls, and escapes. The most common penalties in wrestling are flagrant misconduct, false starts, incorrect starting position, and unsportsmanlike conduct. Penalties result in the non-offending wrestler winning the point or a disqualification for the offending wrestler.