Collegiate wrestling is the commonly-used name of the style of amateur wrestling practiced at the college and university level in the United States. Collegiate wrestling is sometimes known as folkstyle wrestling because by and large, it is the style that emerged out of the folk wrestling styles practiced in the early history of the United States. This style, with some slight modifications, is also practiced at the high school and middle school levels, and also among younger participants, where it is sometimes known as scholastic wrestling. The terms are used to distinguish collegiate wrestling from the styles of wrestling practiced in other parts of the world, and from those of the Olympic Games: Freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling.
Collegiate wrestling, like its international counterpart, freestyle wrestling, has its greatest origins in catch-as-catch-can wrestling and, in both styles, the ultimate goal is to pin your opponent to the mat, which results in an immediate win. Collegiate and freestyle wrestling, unlike Greco-Roman, also both allow the use of the wrestler's or his opponent's legs in offense and defense. Yet collegiate wrestling has had so many influences from the wide variety of folk wrestling styles brought into the country that it has become distinctly American.
Generally, rather than lifting the opponent or throwing him for great amplitude in order to win the period in the international styles, the collegiate wrestler most often seeks to take his opponent down to the mat and perform a "breakdown" (that is, to get his opponent in the defensive position flat on his stomach or side). With the opponent off of his base of support (that is, off of his hands and knees), the offensive collegiate wrestler would then seek to tire out his opponent by "riding" (controlling the legs and arms in the offensive position on top), for example. With strategies such as that, the collegiate wrestler is then more likely to turn his opponent over for a pin (or fall). The defensive wrestler could counter such attempts for a takedown, or when once taken down try to escape his opponent's control or reverse control altogether. In a last ditch attempt to foil a pin, the defensive wrestler could also "bridge" out (that is, pry both his feet and his back up and then turn toward his stomach). Overall, a collegiate wrestler in his techniques would most likely emphasize physical control and dominance over the opponent on the mat.
For most of the 20th century, collegiate wrestling was the most popular form of amateur wrestling in the country, especially in the Midwest and the Southwest. The 1960s and 1970s saw major developments in collegiate wrestling, with the emergence of the United States Wrestling Federation (USWF) (now known as USA Wrestling (USAW)). The USWF, with its membership of coaches, educators, and officials, became recognized eventually as the official governing body of American wrestling and as the official representative to the United States Olympic Committee, in place of the Amateur Athletic Union.
Today, on the collegiate level, several universities are known for regularly having competitive wrestling teams. The Iowa Hawkeyes (University of Iowa) wrestling team, the Oklahoma State Cowboys (Oklahoma State University) wrestling team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (University of Minnesota) wrestling team, the Iowa State Cyclones (Iowa State University) wrestling team, and the Oklahoma Sooners (University of Oklahoma) wrestling team are five of the most storied and honored programs in the country and have won the majority of NCAA wrestling team championships. Collegiate wrestling teams compete for the NCAA Wrestling Team Championship each year in each of the three divisions. The NCAA awards individual championships in the 10 weight classes, as well as a team title.
During a dual meet, the top varsity wrestlers usually compete against each other. There can also be junior varsity matches, such as in Iowa, which are rare, that would take place immediately before the varsity matches. Also, before both varsity (and junior varsity) competition, there can also be an exhibition match in one or more weight classes. The exhibition matches do not count towards the varsity (or junior varsity) team score, but such matches allow wrestlers, especially at the freshmen level, to gain more competitive experience. Wrestling matches usually proceed in each of the 10 weight classes. The order the matches occur in is determined after the weigh-ins either by a mutual decision of the coaches or by a random draw choosing a particular weight class to be featured first. In either case, the succeeding wrestling matches will follow in sequence. For example, if the 157 lb weight class competes first, the succeeding wrestling matches will follow until the heavyweight class. Then, beginning at 125 lb, the rest of the matches will follow until the 149 lb match.
Often, many colleges and universities in the United States will compete with their teams in what is known as a tournament. In the tournament, from eight, 16, 32, 64, or more individual wrestlers can compete in each bracket. This allows many schools to establish their rankings, not only for individual student-wrestlers, but also for college and university wrestling teams as a whole (e.g. a conference or regional championship, or the NCAA Wrestling Team Championship). A tournament committee usually administers the event and after individual and team entries have been verified, the officials then determine the order of the matches (called "drawing") by certain brackets (e.g. brackets of eight, 16, etc.). The tournament officials when doing this drawing take into account each wrestler's win-loss record, previous tournament placements, and other factors that indicate the wrestler's ability. With that in mind, wrestlers who are noticed as having the most superior records are bracketed so that two top-ranked superior wrestlers in each weight class do not compete against each other in an early round. This is called seeding. Tournaments are often sponsored by a college or university and are usually held on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or over any of two days within the weekend. Admission is often charged to cover costs and make a small profit for the host. A tournament begins with weigh-ins starting two hours or less before competition begins on the first day or one hour or less before competitions begins on any subsequent day. An allowance of one pound is granted for each subsequent day of the tournament.
With the drawing and weigh-ins completed, wrestlers then compete in two brackets in each of the 10 weight classes. If there are not enough wrestlers to fill up the bracket in a weight class, a bye will be awarded to a wrestler who does not have to compete against another wrestler in his pairing. After taking account the number of byes, the first round in each weight class then begins. Most college wrestling tournaments are in double elimination format. The last two wrestlers in the upper (championship) bracket wrestle for first place in the finals, with the loser winning second place. In other words, a wrestler cannot place higher than third if he is knocked down to the lower (wrestle-back) bracket by losing in the championship semifinals. This is largely the result of time constraints: one-day tournaments often last into the evening. If the winner of the wrestle-back bracket were allowed to challenge the winner of the championship bracket in the championship, the tournament could continue well past midnight before finishing.
After the first match of the round of 16 in a championship bracket in each weight class, the wrestle-back rounds would then commence, beginning among all of the wrestlers who lost to the winners of the round of 16. The winner of the wrestle-back finals would then win third place, with the loser winning fourth place. In tournaments where six places are awarded, the losers of the wrestle-back semifinals would wrestle for fifth place, with the loser winning sixth place. If eight places are awarded, the losers of the wrestle-back quarterfinals would wrestle for seventh place, with the loser winning eighth place, and so on. After the championships finals, the awards ceremony usually takes place with plaques, medals, trophies, or other awards given to the individual and team winners with the highest placements. Precise rules for tournaments may vary from one event to the next.
Each intercollegiate athletic conference or geographic area features two or three "elite" tournaments every year. These events are by invitation only. Hence, the commonly-used name for them, Invitationals. Tournament sponsors (which are usually colleges and universities, but sometimes other organizations) invite the best varsity wrestlers from their area to compete against each other. Many elite tournaments last two or even three days. For this reason, elite tournaments are often scheduled during the college's or university's winter break.
Between one season and the next, postseason tournaments and preseason tournaments are often held in collegiate wrestling and also in freestyle and Greco-Roman. The most active wrestlers often take part in those to sharpen their skills and techniques. Also, clinics and camps are often held for both wrestlers and their coaches to help refresh old techniques and gain new strategies.
The match takes place on a thick rubber mat that is shock-absorbing to ensure safety. A large outer circle between 32 to 42 feet in diameter that designates the wrestling area is marked on the mat. The circumference line of that circle is called the boundary line. The wrestling area is surrounded by a mat area or apron (or protection area) that is at least five inches in width that helps prevent serious injury. The mat area is designated by the use of contrasting colors or a two-inch wide line, which is part of the wrestling area and included in bounds. The wrestlers are within bounds when the supporting point(s) (the weight-bearing points of the body, such as the feet, hands, knees, buttocks, etc.) of either wrestler are on or inside this boundary line.
The mat can be no thicker than four inches nor thinner than a mat with the shock-absorbing qualities of a two-inch thick hair-felt mat. Inside the outer circle is usually an inner circle about 10 feet in diameter, designated by the use of contrasting colors or a two-inch wide line, although this is no longer specified by the NCAA Wrestling Rules and Interpretations. Wrestlers are encouraged to stay near the center of the mat within the inner circle, or else they risk being penalized for stalling (that is, deliberately attempting to slow down the action of the match). Each wrestler begins action at one of two one-inch starting lines inside the inner circle that is three feet long. Two one-inch lines close the ends of the starting lines and are marked red for the wrestler from the visiting team and green for the wrestler from the home team. The two starting lines are 10 inches apart from each other and form a rectangle in the middle of the wrestling area. This rectangle designates the starting positions for the three periods. Additional padding may be added under the mat to protect the wrestlers, especially if the wrestlers are competing on a concrete floor. All mats that are in sections are secured together.
A bout between two wrestlers of the same weight class is called a match. It consists of three periods totaling seven minutes, with an overtime round if necessary if the score is tied at the end of regulation.
The main official at the wrestling match is the referee, who is in full control in matters of judgment at the competition and is responsible for starting and stopping the match; observing all holds; signaling points; calling penalties such as illegal holds, unnecessary roughness, fleeing the mat, or flagrant misconduct; and finally observing a full view of and determining the pin (or fall). There can also be one assistant referee (especially at tournaments) that helps the referee with making any difficult decisions and in preventing error. Also, scorers are there to record the points of the two individual wrestlers. Finally, a match or meet timekeeper with assistant timekeepers are present to note the match time, timeouts, and time advantage and work with the scorers.
Each wrestler is called by the referee, steps onto the mat, and may put on a green (for the home team) or red (for the visiting team) anklet about three inches wide which the referee will use to indicate scoring. The referee then asks both wrestlers to shake hands, and blows his whistle to begin the first period.
The first period begins with both wrestlers in the neutral (standing) position. The neutral position has the two wrestlers facing each other on their feet with a slight crouch with their arms in from of them at or above waist level with neither wrestler in control. Each wrestler starts with a foot on opposite sides of the starting rectangle. The match commences with each wrestler attempting to takedown his opponent. The first period in college and university matches is three minutes long.
After the first period ends, one wrestler will have the choice of starting position in the second period. In dual meets, this is determined by the colored disk toss that took place before the meet began. In tournaments, the referee will toss a colored disk, and the winner of that disk toss will have the choice of position. There are a variety of choices. The wrestler could choose between the neutral (standing) position, or as is most commonly chosen to begin in a place called the referee's position. This is where both wrestlers begin action at the center of the mat with one wrestler (in the defensive starting position) on the bottom with his hands spread apart in front of the forward starting line and his knees spread apart behind the rear starting line with his legs held together. The other wrestler on the top (in the offensive starting position) then kneels beside him with one arm wrapped around the bottom wrestler's waist and the other hand on the opponent's near elbow for control. Most often, the wrestler with the choice chooses the top position in order to remain on the offensive. If the wrestler chooses the bottom position, it would be ostensible to score points for a reversal or an escape and subsequent takedown. The wrestler could also defer his choice to the beginning of the third period.
More recently, another starting position has been allowed, known as the optional start. After the offensive wrestler indicates his intention to the referee, the referee lets the defensive wrestler adjust and begin in the same manner as in the referee's position. The offensive wrestler then stands behind and places his both his hands on the opponent's back between his neck and his waist (usually in a diamond shape). When the referee starts the action by blowing the whistle, the defensive wrestler then has the opportunity to get back to his feet in a neutral (standing) position. Any of the starting positions may be used to resume action during a period when the wrestlers go off the mat, depending on the referee's judgment as to whether any or which wrestler had the position of advantage.
The second period is two minutes long.
The wrestler who did not choose the starting position for the second period now chooses the starting position. The third period is also two minutes long.
If no wrestler has won by the end of the two tiebreaker periods, a second overtime round starts with a one minute sudden victory period, and then two 30-second tiebreaker periods for each wrestler. The wrestler who did not have the choice of position in the first overtime round's first tiebreaker period has the choice of position in this round's first 30-second tiebreaker period. If the score remains tied after the two tiebreaker periods in this round, the wrestler who has one second or more of net time advantage from the two overtime rounds will be declared the winner.
If a winner still cannot be determined, overtime rounds that are structured like the second round of overtime take place until one wrestler scores enough points for the victory.
After the match is completed, regardless of the victory condition, the wrestlers will return to the center of the mat (on the 10-foot inner circle) while the referee checks with the scorer's table. Upon the referee's return to the mat, the two wrestlers shake hands, and the referee declares the winner by raising the victor's hand. Both contestants then return to their team benches from the mat.
The object of the entire wrestling match is to attain victory by what is known as the pin or fall. A pin occurs when a wrestler holds any part of both his opponent's shoulders or scapulae (shoulder blades) on the mat for one second at the college level. A pin ends the match immediately, and the offensive wrestler who held the pin is declared the winner. Pins can be attained in many different ways. The most common way of getting the pin is through the various nelson holds, in particular, the half nelson. Other techniques used to get falls are cradles, the headlock (head and arm), single or double armbars (bar arms), the "back bow" and the leg Turk, the reverse body lock, the guillotine, the leg split (also known as the banana split or spread eagle), the spladle, the figure-4 to the head, the straight body scissors, and the double grapevine (also called the Saturday night ride). On the college level in a dual meet (a competition in which wrestlers from two college or university teams face each other), the fall would be awarded with six points for the winning team.
A technical fall is also possible once a deficit of 15 points is achieved. A technical fall is very likely when one wrestler has great control over the other and is able to score near fall points. If the wrestler in control is unable to score a pin, the match ends once an imminent pinning situation is no longer seen by the referee or when the wrestlers return to the neutral position. On the college level in a dual meet, if the technical fall occurred with near fall points for the winner during the match, five team points are awarded. If the technical fall occurred with no near fall points for the winner in the dual meet, four team points are awarded.
If no fall or technical fall occurs, a wrestler can also win simply by points. If a wrestler wins by eight or more points, but under the 15 points needed for a technical fall, the win is known as a major decision. This is worth four team points in a dual meet. If the wrestler wins by less than eight points, or wins the first point in a sudden victory period in overtime without gaining a fall, default, or a win by an opponent's disqualification, the wrestler then wins by decision, worth three team points in a dual meet.
If for any reason, a wrestler is unable to continue competing during the match (e.g. because of injury, illness, etc.), his opponent is awarded victory by default, worth six team points in a dual meet. If a wrestler is barred from competing further in a match by virtue of acquiring penalties or for flagrant misconduct, his opponent wins by disqualification, again worth six team points in a dual meet. In the case of flagrant misconduct, an additional one-team point penalty is imposed. A wrestler also may gain a victory by forfeit, meaning that the other wrestler for some reason fails to appear on the mat at the start of the match. In a tournament, the wrestler could also win by a medical forfeit if for some reason his opponent becomes ill or injured during the course of the tournament and decides not to continue wrestling. A victory by forfeit is worth six team points in a dual meet. For a wrestler to win by forfeit or medical forfeit however, he must appear on the mat in a wrestling uniform. The existence of the forfeit condition encourages teams to have at least one varsity (and one junior varsity) competitor at every weight class. A medical forfeit is scored in the same manner as a forfeit in all tournament advancements. The wrestler who declared the medical forfeit is excused from further weigh-ins but is eliminated from further competition.
In a dual meet, when all team points are totaled, the team with the most points wins the competition. In all victory cases, if there are junior varsity matches, the junior varsity and varsity competitions are scored separately. If this is the case, it is entirely possible for one participating school to win the junior varsity dual meet and one participating school to win the varsity dual meet. On the college level, it is possible for a dual meet to end in a tie, except in certain dual meets that measure team advancement, where the tie is broken by one team point awarded to a team based on certain criteria. In a tournament, most of the points are scored on the team level of advancement. For example, a team winning a match in the championship bracket would be awarded one team advancement point; one-half of an advancement point would be awarded if a team won a match in the wrestle-back bracket. The corresponding team points also apply if a wrestler from the team gained a bye and then won his next match in that bracket. Two additional advancement points are for victories by fall, default, disqualification, and forfeit. One and one-half additional advancement points are awarded for technical fall victories with near fall points. One additional advancement point is awarded for technical fall victories with no near fall points and for major decisions. A team could then win a certain number of placement points if its wrestlers have placed individually in the championship and wrestle-back brackets. Thus, whole teams are awarded placements (first, second, etc.) based on their total number of victories.
Individual placement points are also awarded. For example, in a tournament scoring eight places, the winner of a quarterfinal or a semifinal in the championship bracket (where first and second places are awarded) would win six place points. The winners of first and second place would then win four additional place points. In the wrestle-back bracket (where third and fifth places are awarded), the winner of a semifinal match, for example, would receive three place points. The winners of third, fifth, and seventh place would receive one additional place point, and so on. A more detailed account of how individual and team points are awarded for tournaments is given on pages WR-60 to WR-62 of the 2008 NCAA Wrestling Rules and Interpretations
Also known as scholastic wrestling when practiced at the high school and middle (junior high) school level, collegiate wrestling is practiced with a few differences at the high school level. Scholastic wrestling is regulated by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). High school matches are shorter - not having college's three-minute first period. Additionally, college wrestling uses the concept of "time advantage" or "riding time," while high school wrestling does not.
According to an Athletics Participation Survey taken by the National Federation of State High School Associations, boys' wrestling ranked eighth in terms of the number of schools sponsoring teams, with 9,744 schools participating in the 2005-06 school year. Also, 251,534 boys participated in the sport during that school year, making scholastic wrestling the sixth most popular sport among high school boys. Scholastic wrestling is currently practiced in 48 of the 50 states; only Arkansas and Mississippi do not officially sanction wrestling for high schools and middle schools. Arkansas will begin sanctioning high school wrestling starting in the 2008-09 season.