skip navigation

How a Wrestling Match Works

By C. Cicora, 09/30/22, 1:30PM EDT


The objective in wrestling is to...

There are three styles of wrestling: Freestyle & Greco Roman as seen in the Olympics, and Folkstyle which is seen in college and high school wrestling. During the regular season, BHS focuses on folkstyle method of wrestling.

The objective in folkstyle wrestling is to gain control of your opponent by scoring points with maneuvers (wrestling moves) and to ultimately pin your opponent using holds to place opponents back (both shoulder blades simultaneously) on the mat for two seconds. Maneuvers (wrestling moves) score points. If a pin is not established during a match then the wrestler who accumulates more points by the end of the 3rd period wins.
Wrestling does not require brute strength to be effective, but rather the knowledge and ability to apply technique, force, energy, motion, and strategy.
Wrestling matches consist of three periods. These periods vary in length from one minute for
younger age groups to 2 minutes for our highschool athletes. Either wrestler in a match can win
at any time if they are able to pin their opponent or develop a lead of more than 14 points.
Otherwise the wrestler that can accumulate the most points by the end of the third period wins
the match. If the match is tied after three periods, it will go into overtime until one of the
wrestlers wins.
There are only two positions from which referees start, or continue a match. The first is a
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
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
Wrestlers earn points through takedowns, escapes, reversals, back points and penalty points.
Takedowns are worth two points. This is when a wrestler goes from a neutral (standing)
position and is able to bring the other to the mat and gain control. The double leg drop, single
leg sweep, fireman's carry, arm drag, and pancake are a few examples of takedowns.
Escapes are worth one point. This is when the bottom wrestler is able to break free from the
top wrestler and revert back to a neutral position. The stand-up, forward or granby roll, sit-out
turn-out, and sit-out turn-in are examples of escape maneuvers.
Reversals are worth two points. This is when a wrestler on the bottom is able to reverse the
control so that the opponent is on the bottom. The switch, side-roll, and peterson roll are
examples of reversals.
Back points (Near Fall) are worth two or three points depending on the length of time that the
opponent's back is exposed. Back points are scored when the top position wrestler can make
the bottom wrestler : 1) spring into a high bridge; 2) lean back on their elbows; 3) expose their
shoulders four inches or less to the mat; or 4) have one shoulder on the mat and the other 45
degrees or less above the mat. The half-nelson, cradle, three-quarter nelson, and armbar
series are near-fall maneuvers that can ultimately lead to a "fall".
In a Pin (fall), both shoulders are forced to the mat for a period of two seconds. When a
wrestler completes a fall, he scores 6 points for his team during the tournament. A fall
immediately finishes a match, and no additional points are needed to be scored.
Penalty points can be awarded when the opposing wrestler performs illegal moves or is
penalized for excessive stalling. An illegal hold is one example in which a wrestler would receive
penalty points. The best definition of an illegal hold would be "any maneuver that could cause
bodily harm intentionally or not." Illegal holds are penalized in the following manner: first and
second offense - one match point for opponent; third offense - two match points for opponent;
and fourth offense - disqualification from the match. Examples of illegal holds are: full nelsons,
over scissors, back bows, headlocks (without arm encircled), forceful trips, pulling thumb or less
than four fingers, holds that restrict breathing, and any holds that are used for punishment
Any intentional act that is hazardous to an opponent's physical well-being is considered
unnecessary roughness. Such perpetrations such as striking, kicking, butting with the head,
elbowing, and forceful tripping are examples of this. Typically the violator is punished as
follows: first offense - one point, second offense - two points, third offense - two points, fourth
offense - disqualification. If a referee deems an action "flagrant misconduct" at any time during
the match, the offender is immediately disqualified along with ALL team points earned for the
There are six types of technical violations in folkstyle wrestling. Offenders are penalized one
point for their first offense, one point for their second, two points for their third and they are
disqualified after their fourth infraction. These technical violations include:
1. "Leaving the Mat Proper" - No wrestler may completely step off the wrestling mat without the
permission of the referee.
2. "Intentionally Going Out-Of-Bounds" - When either wrestler goes out-of-bounds to avoid
wrestling their opponent for any reason (except when a near-fall is scored).
3. "Grasping of Clothing" - A wrestler may not grab anything except his opponent while
4. "Interlocking or Overlapping Hands" - The top wrestler may only lock or touch hands around
the opponent's body or both legs when they are scoring near-fall points or if the other wrestler is
standing up.
5. "Figure-4 Head Scissors" - This is a technical violation in the neutral position.
6. "Improperly Equipped" - This occurs when a wrestler reports to the scorer's table on the mat
they are going to wrestle without being prepared to wrestle.
Wrestling matches do not end in a draw or tie. If at the end of three regular periods, the match
is tied up, then the match goes into overtime to break the tie. During the overtime period, the
wrestler who scores the first point(s) will be declared the winner. There is no rest between the
regular match and the overtime period. The overtime period will begin immediately following the
three regular periods with both wrestlers starting in neutral position. If no winner is determined
by the end of the one minute overtime period, a second overtime period for 30 seconds will take
The 30 second period begins with the wrestler that scored first in the match choosing either the
top or bottom position. If there is no score, the referee will toss a disk to determine which
wrestler can choose their position to be top or bottom. The wrestler who scores the first point(s)
in this 30-second period will be declared the winner. If no score occurs during this final period,
then the wrestler in the top position will be declared the winner.
Competition is conducted in a manner to promote and require good sportsmanship.
Competitors are expected to show respect to opponents, officials and coaches regardless of the
outcome of their match. Both wrestlers are required to shake hands before and after the match.
It is also common practice for each wrestler to shake the hand of their opponent's coach after
the match.

Most Popular