Wrestling Basics


Objective: The primary objective in folkstyle wrestling is to gain control of your opponent and to ultimately pin your opponent by holding them with their back (both shoulder blades simultaneously) on the mat for a period of at least two seconds.

Match Basics: Wrestling matches consist of three periods. Periods can vary in length from one minute in duration for younger age groups, to as long as three minutes for college wrestling. In high school the typical length is 2 minute periods. Either wrestler can win the match at any time if they are able to pin their opponent or develop a lead of more than 15 points. Otherwise, the wrestler that can accumulate the most points by the end of the third period (or after overtime in the case of a tie) wins the match.

There are only two positions from which referees start, or continue a match. The first is neutral position, with both wrestlers standing and facing each other. The other is the referee’s position, where one wrestler starts on his hands and knees down on the mat, and the other starts on top, behind and in control. The first period always begins in the neutral position. Each wrestler has their choice in one of the remaining periods, to choose to start from top or bottom referee’s position, or in the neutral position. If the action must be stopped before the end of a period, the referee restarts the wrestlers in the starting position that best reflects the position the wrestlers were in when the action was stopped.

Scoring: The scoring system is rather simple. Takedowns (when from a neutral position one wrestler is able to bring the other to the mat and gain control) are worth two points. Escapes (when the bottom wrestler is able to break free from the top wrestler and revert back to a neutral position) are worth one point. Reversals, (when a wrestler on the bottom is able to reverse the control so that the opponent is on the bottom) are worth two points.

Back Points (also known as near fall) are awarded when one wrestler comes close to pinning the other (i.e. exposing the other wrestler’s back) and are worth two or three points depending on the length of time that the opponent’s back is exposed. If the bottom wrestler’s back is exposed to the mat for a 2 – 4 seconds, then the ref will award 2 points near fall. If the bottom wrestler’s back is exposed for a 5 count, then there will be 3 near fall points awarded. In addition, penalty points can be awarded when the opposing wrestler performs illegal moves or is penalized for excessive stalling. The scoring in wrestling is precise and both the spectator and wrestler alike can follow the progress of the match.

Individual Point System – The following is the point system used:

  •  Takedown              2 points
  • Near Fall                 2 or 3 points
  • Escape                      1 point
  • Reversal                  2 points

Team Point System at a Dual Meet: In dual-meet competition, team scoring is based upon the results of each individual match as follows:

  • Fall or Pin                              6 points
  • Forfeit/Disqualification   6 points
  • Technical Fall                       5 points
  • Major Decision                    4 points
  • Decision                                 3 points                       

A decision is earned by the wrestler who has scored the greater number of points assuming no fall occurred. If the winner’s score exceeds the loser’s score by less than 8 points a decision will be the outcome. If the margin is from 8 – 14 point spread it will result in a Major Decision. If the margin is 15+ points it is a technical fall.        

Equipment: Basic wrestling equipment includes a headgear, wrestling shoes, and a singlet. Wrestling shoes offer more ankle support than the traditional shoe and are designed lightweight and tight to the foot to promote freedom of movement. Headgear can prevent outer ear injuries and bruises during practice and competition. The standard wrestling uniform, known as a singlet, is designed to fit snug to the body so that it does not restrict the movement of either wrestler. Kneepads are sometimes worn by choice.

Referee: It is the referee’s duty, among other things, to analyze the situation and signal the points t0 the scorer. They are also on the mat to ensure the safety of both wrestlers.

The sequence of a match:

First Both wrestlers come forward, shake hands, and step back to their designated red or green area in the center of the mat. The first period starts from standing or neutral position.

Next The referee blows the whistle and wrestling begins.

Now Each wrestler is trying to get control of the other by taking him to the mat with a “Takedown”.

Then The defensive wrestler (or bottom or “down”) is trying to ESCAPE or REVERSE and get a hold with which he can keep his opponent’s shoulders on the mat for 2 seconds – A FALL.

If at the completion of the first period there is not Fall (or pin) secured, the ref will start the second period. In the 2nd period the Choice of position is decided by the toss of a coin. The winner of the toss may choose either up or down in “Referee’s Position” or “Neutral Position” or “Defer” to the other wrestler. The match will continue with both wrestlers trying to secure holds and moves that will allow them to score points or secure a Fall.

If time expires again in the second period, the third period will choice of position is decided by the wrestler who did not win the coin toss or if the choice was deferred in the second period, the wrestler may choose up or down in the “Referee’s Position” or “Neutral position”. The winner of the match shall be declared by the wrestler who scores the most points or by a fall.


  1. Don’t be afraid to lose, have an offensive philosophy going in, and constantly use a proper attack.
  1. Make your opponent wrestle your style. Force the match and keep him off balance by attacking first and continuously.
  1. If you have reach, speed, or balance on a man, use these to your advantage. Mix them up in your attack, the odds favor you.
  1. If you are stronger, overpower him. If you are weaker, don’t fight his strength but instead concentrate on perfect technique. Technique will win over strength nearly every time.
  1. If you are in better shape, set a pace he can’t stand but don’t do all the work. Make him lift your weight every time possible.
  1. Keep a cool head and remain poised and confident. Never allow calls by the referees or actions by your opponent or the fans to upset your wrestling attitude or technique. Never make the referee mad at you.
  1. Never stop wrestling until the whistle blows. This includes not giving up a defensive move until the referee calls the points.
  1. Do not do anything in a match that you haven’t worked hard to perfect in practice.
  1. Never let your opponent know that you are tired.
  1. Be a “chain wrestler”, always performing a second move if the first doesn’t work. Use holds which blend together, either as a fake to set-up, or as a follow-up.
  1. A desperation move is risky and should only be tried at the end of the match when you “must” get points. Remember, a loss by one point is as bad as a loss by several points.

Definition of Terms:

  • TAKEDOWN – From a neutral position, a wrestler gains control of his opponent and takes him down on the mat.
  • ESCAPE – When the defensive wrestler gains a neutral position and his opponent has lost control.
  • REVERSAL – When the defensive wrestler comes from underneath and gains control of his opponent.
  • NEAR FALL – When the offensive wrestler has control of his opponent in pinning situation and both shoulders or scapulae of the defensive wrestler is held beyond perpendicular to the mat or when the defensive wrestler is in a high bridge or on both elbows for 3 seconds, 2 points are awarded and for 5 seconds, 3 points are awarded.
  • FALL or Pin – When any part of both shoulders or scapulae are held in contact with the mat for 2 seconds.
  • DECISION – Earned by the wrestler who has earned the greater number of points.
  • DEFAULT – Awarded when one of the competitors is unable to continue wrestling for any reason.
  • DEFER – A strategy that gives the original wrestler the choice in the final period.
  • FORFIET – Received by a wrestler when his opponent, for any reason, fails to appear for the match.
  • NEUTRAL POSITION – Position in which neither wrestler has control.
  • CONTROL – Situation in which a contestant exercises and maintains restraining power over his opponent.
  • POSITION of ADVANTAGE – Position in which a contestant is in control of his opponent.
  • REFEREE’S TOP POSITION – Position known as “Top”, is the control position where most pin (falls) occur. The top man is positioned after the bottom is set. The top man is required to grasp the bottom man’s elbow with one hand and the other hand to wrap around the bottom man’s waist.
  • REFEREE’S BOTTOM POSITION – Position of the man on his hands and knees on the mat. There are two parallel lines twelve inches apart. The bottom man is required to have his hands in front of one line and his knees behind the other.
  • Decision- 0 – 7 point spread of an individual match resulting in 3 points being awarded to the winning wrestler’s team.
  • Major Decision- 8 – 14 point spread of an individual match resulting in 4 points being awarded to the winning wrestler’s team.
  • Technical Fall – 15+ point spread of an individual match resulting in 5 points being awarded to the winning wrestler’s team.