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Fan's Guide to Wrestling Rules and Basics Page 2 of 5 (Essentials)

wrestlers1- History & Object
2- Essentials (Scoring, Etc.)
3- Mat Diagram
4- Fouls
5- Glossary of Wrestling Terms

The Essentials

Game Length

An individual match can end in a few seconds if a wrestler is immediately pinned. If no wrestler is pinned, a wrestling match consists of three two-minute periods. To break a tie after three periods, a one-minute sudden-death overtime period occurs, and the first wrestler to score a point wins the match. A second 30-second overtime period is wrestled, if necessary.

Start of the game

After shaking hands with the referee and opponent, the wrestlers face each other and start the match standing in the neutral position. At the start of the second period, one wrestler chooses, as determined by a disk toss, to begin in the offensive starting position or defensive starting position of the par terre, the neutral position, or defer the choice to the third period. The other competitor receives the choice at the beginning of the third period.


Wrestling is all about control. The main objective is to establish total domination by pinning an opponent’s shoulders to the mat to earn a fall and victory. If no wrestler can pin his opponent, points are awarded to wrestlers as control changes. The wrestler with the most points at the end of a match is the winner. Establishing control from a neutral position is called a takedown and is worth two points. Almost pinning an opponent scores two, three, or four points and is called a near fall. A wrestler who is able to return to a neutral position after being controlled by an opponent earns one point for an escape. A wrestler who is controlled by an opponent and reverses control earns two points for a reversal. Points are also deducted for infractions of the rules. Points are posted immediately and in plain sight so spectators and wrestlers know the score. In order for the match to end, one athlete must score at least three points. A technical fall occurs and the match is ended when a wrestler establishes a 15-point advantage over the opponent.


A wrestling team may have many members, but only 14 compete in a typical meet, one from each weight class. Weight classes are established to ensure that opponents are approximately the same size and weight. Each weight class represents the maximum pounds a wrestler may weigh to compete in that class and are broken down as follows: 103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215, and heavyweights under 275 pounds. A random draw determines which weight will wrestle first. Following the first class, the next heaviest class wrestles. For example, if 189 is drawn, the competition progresses as follows: 189, 215, 275, 103, 112, etc.

Team Scoring

Wrestling is a team sport made up of many individual matches. The type of win for each match dictates different team points. The team with the most total points wins the meet. In dual meets, in which two teams face each other, the following point system is used:

Fall: (six points) Wrestler pins opponent’s shoulders to the mat for two seconds.

Forfeit: (six points) Awarded when the opposing wrestler fails to appear for the match.

Default: (six points) Awarded when the opponent is unable to continue wrestling, most frequently awarded after an injury.

Disqualification: (six points) Awarded when the opponent is disqualified for repeated infractions or flagrant misconduct.

Technical fall: (five points) Occurs anytime a 15-point lead is established.

Major decision: (four points) Wrestler wins by at least eight points.

Decision: (three points) Wrestler wins by one to seven points.

In addition to competing in dual meets, wrestling teams often compete in tournaments. In tournaments, as in dual meets, team points are awarded for the outcome of each bout (such as fall, default, forfeit, disqualification, technical fall, and major decision). In addition, wrestlers also earn points for advancement. For example, bonus points are awarded for advancing to the championship or consolation brackets. Points are also awarded for finishing as one of the top wrestlers for each weight class.


Equipment in wrestling is minimal. A wrestling uniform is a one-piece singlet, usually red for one team and blue for the other. The shoes are light and heelless and are laced tightly to provide firm support for the ankles. A protective ear guard must be worn anytime wrestling takes place, usually of two main styles: traditional and halo. Wrestlers must also bring a piece of cloth to the match to wipe sweat and blood.

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