Amateur Wrestling

Amateur Wrestling Program

Amateur Wrestling is the most widespread form of sport wrestling. There are two international wrestling styles performed in the Olympic Games: freestyle & Greco-Roman. Both styles are under the supervision of United World Wrestling (UWW; formerly known as FILA, from the French acronym for International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles). A similar style, commonly called collegiate (also known as Scholastic or Folkstyle), is practiced in colleges and universities, secondary schools, middle schools, and among younger age groups in the United States.

Where the style is not specified, this article refers to the international styles of competition on a mat. In February 2013, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to remove the sport from the 2020 Summer Olympics onwards. On 8 September 2013, the IOC announced that wrestling would return to the Summer Olympics in 2020. The rapid rise in the popularity of the combat sport mixed martial arts (MMA) has increased interest in amateur wrestling due to its effectiveness in the sport and it is considered a core discipline.

  • Scoring

    Greco-Roman & Freestyle differ in what holds are permitted; in Greco-Roman, the wrestlers are permitted to hold and attack only above the waist. In both Greco-Roman & Freestyle, points can be scored in the following ways:

  • Takedown:

    A wrestler gaining control over their opponent from a neutral position.

  • Reversal:

    A wrestler gaining control over their opponent from a defensive position.

  • Exposure or the Danger Position:

    A wrestler exposing their opponent's back to the mat, also awarded if one's back is to the mat, but the wrestler is not pinned.

  • Penalty:

    Various infractions (e.g. striking the opponent, acting with brutality or intent to injure, using illegal holds, etc.). (Under the 2004–2005 changes to the international styles, a wrestler whose opponent takes an injury time-out receives one point unless the injured wrestler is bleeding.) Any wrestler stepping out of bounds while standing in the neutral position during a match is penalized by giving their opponent a point.

  • Scores only Awarded in Collegiate Wrestling

    As in the international styles, collegiate wrestling awards points for takedowns and reversals. Penalty points are awarded in collegiate wrestling according to the current rules, which penalize moves that would impair the life or limb of the opponent. However, the manner in which infractions are penalized and points awarded to the offended wrestler differ in some aspects from the international styles. Collegiate wrestling also awards points for:

  • Near Fall:

    This is similar to the exposure (or danger position) points given in Greco-Roman and freestyle. A wrestler scores paThis is similar to the exposure (or Danger Position) points given in Greco-Roman & freestyle. A wrestler scores points for holding their opponent's shoulders or scapulae to the mat for several seconds while their opponent is still not pinned.oints for holding their opponent's shoulders or scapulae to the mat for several seconds while their opponent is still not pinned.

  • Time Advantage or Riding Time:

    On the college level, the wrestler who controlled their opponent on the mat for the most time is awarded a point; provided that the difference of the two wrestlers' time advantage is at least one minute.

  • Escape:

    A wrestler getting from a defensive position to a neutral position. This is no longer a way to score in Freestyle or Greco-Roman.

Period Format

In the international styles, the format is now two three-minute periods. A wrestler wins the match when they were able to get more points than their opponent or 10 points lead in two rounds. For example, if one competitor get 10–0 lead in first the period, they will win by superiority of points. Only a fall, injury default, or disqualification terminates the match; all other modes of victory result only in period termination. 

This format replaced the old format of three two-minute periods played best two out of three. One side effect of the old format was that it was possible for the losing wrestler to outscore the winner. For example, periods may be scored 3–2, 0–4, 1–0, leading to a total score of 4–6 but a win for the wrestler scoring fewer points. 

In collegiate wrestling, the period structure is different. A college match consists of one three-minute period, followed by two two-minute periods, with an overtime round if necessary. A high school match typically consists of three two-minute periods, with an overtime round if necessary. Under the standard rules for collegiate wrestling, draws are not possible; this rule is sometimes modified for young wrestlers. 

Victory Conditions in the International Styles

A match can be won in the following ways:

  • Fall:

    A fall, also known as a pin, occurs when one wrestler holds both of their opponents' shoulders on the mat simultaneously.

  • Technical Superiority:

    A form of mercy rule where the match is declared over when a point differential is achieved. In American Folkstyle Wrestling the point difference is 15 points, in freestyle it is 10 points, and in Greco-Roman it is 8 points. Folkstyle terms this a technical fall and freestyle and Greco-Roman refer to it a technical superiority.


  • Default:

    If one wrestler is unable to continue participating for any reason or fails to show up on the mat after their name is called three times before the match begins, their opponent is declared the winner of the match by default, forfeit, or withdrawal.

  • Injury:

    If one wrestler is injured and unable to continue, the other wrestler is declared the winner. This is also referred to as a medical forfeit or injury default. The term also encompasses situations where wrestlers become ill, take too many injury time-outs, or bleed uncontrollably. If a wrestler is injured by their opponent's illegal maneuver and cannot continue, the wrestler at fault is disqualified.

  • Disqualification:

    Normally, if a wrestler is assessed three Cautions for breaking the rules, they are disqualified. Under other circumstances, such as flagrant brutality, the match may be ended immediately and the wrestler disqualified and removed from the tournament.

  • Victory Conditions in Collegiate Wrestling

    While having similar victory conditions with Greco-Roman and freestyle, such as wins by fall, decision, injury, and disqualification, victory conditions in collegiate wrestling differ on some points from the international styles:

  • Fall:

    A fall, also known as a pin, occurs when one wrestler holds any part of both of their opponent's shoulders or both of his opponent's shoulder blades (scapulae) in continuous contact with the mat. The fall must be held in collegiate wrestling for two seconds in high school wrestling matches and one second in college wrestling matches. A win by fall is worth six team points in a dual meet.

  • Technical Fall:

    If, at any break in action, one wrestler leads the other by 15 points and a pinning situation is not imminent, the match ends. The winning team is then usually awarded five team points. On the college level, five team points are awarded if the winner in the course of the match received points for a near fall; four team points are awarded if the wrestler did not score near fall points.

  • Major Decision:

    In collegiate (scholastic or folkstyle) wrestling, a decision in which the winner outscores their opponent by eight or more points is a "major decision" and is rewarded with four team points in a dual meet.

  • Decision:

    After the three wrestling periods have expired and the winning wrestler possesses a difference of one to seven in points, the wrestler is given a "decision", and the team is awarded three team points in a dual meet.

  • Default:

    If a participant cannot continue wrestling for any reason during the course of the match (e.g. illness, injury, etc.), their opponent wins by default, worth six team points in a dual meet.

  • Disqualification:

    For flagrant misconduct or for a certain number of penalties assessed, a wrestler is disqualified from the match, and their opponent is declared the winner. In a dual meet, this victory is worth six team points. Rules for how penalties and disqualifications are determined vary somewhat in collegiate wrestling from the international styles.

  • Forfeit:

    If one wrestler fails to appear on the mat at the start of the match for some reason, and the other wrestler appears on the mat, the wrestler on the mat at the start of the match is automatically declared the winner. The winning team in a dual meet is then awarded six team points. If during the course of a tournament, a wrestler wishes to no longer participate because of illness or injury, then their opponent wins by medical forfeit, worth the same number of individual and team tournament placement points as a forfeit.

Illegal Moves

Amateur wrestling is a positionally-based form of grappling, and thus generally prohibits the following:

  • Biting

  • Pinching or poking with the fingers, toes, or nails, including fish-hooking the nose or mouth

  • Gouging or intentionally scratching the opponent – eye-gouges especially are grounds for disqualification and banned status in most amateur wrestling competitions

  • Strikes using the hands, fists, elbows, feet, knees, or head

  • Joint locks, including armlocks, leglocks, spinal locks, wristlocks, and small joint manipulation.

  • Chokeholds, strangling, suffocating, or smothering

  • Spiking, or lifting and slamming the opponent head-first to the mat (though other forms of slamming are generally allowed in the international styles; in collegiate, slamming per se is illegal)

  • Grasping or holding the opponent's genitals

  • Using a triangle scissors (where one knee is bent at a 90° angle and placed behind the other knee) on the head. Scissors can be used on the body or limbs, while the figure four has been made completely illegal as of 2011.

  • Most types of amateur wrestling also discourage or prohibit the use of one's own or the opponent's clothing for grasping or performing any type of hold.

  • Full nelson, when both arms are under both opponent's forearms or arm and both hand are behind his neck or head, although, it is now legal in Junior and Senior, if it is done to the side and the head is not bent down.


While there is not much equipment that a wrestler wears, it is still highly specialized. A warestling singlet is a one-piece, tight-fitting, coloured, lycra uniform. The uniform is tight-fitting so as not to get grasped accidentally by the opponent and allows the referee to see each wrestler’s body clearly when awarding points or a pin. Women wrestlers wear a higher cut singlet usually with a sports-bra underneath. 

Wrestling shoes are light, flexible, thin-soled, ankle-high sneakers that allow maximum speed and traction on the mat without giving up ankle support. The current rules call for laces (if any) to be covered so that they do not come untied during competition. 

In American high school and college wrestling headgear is mandatory to protect the ears from cauliflower ear and other injuries. Headgear is made from molded plastic polymer or vinyl coated energy absorbing foam over a rigid hard liner and strapped to the head tightly. In the international styles headgear is optional.

Wrestling is conducted on a padded mat that must have excellent shock absorption, tear resistance, and compression qualities. Most mats are made of PVC rubber nitrile foam. Recent advances in technology have brought about new mats made using closed cell, cross-linked polyethylene foam covered in vinyl backed with non-woven polyester. 

Canada Pro Wrestling School: WFPC, Calgary