As in every sport, wrestling has a unique scoring system. While baseball may be the easiest scoring system to understand with one run being scored for every time a batter rounds the bases and touches home plate, basketball is a bit more complicated with two point and three point baskets, supplemented by single point free throws. Football is even more complicated with six points for a touchdown, three points for a field goal, two points for a either a safety or conversion after touchdown and one point for a kicked point-after-touchdown.
But none of these sports comes close to the complexity of scoring a wrestling match. While the untrained spectator may recognize (or believe they recognize) a pin or fall (which ends the match,) many people take years to fully understand when and why points are scored in a wrestling match.
Basic Scoring for Wrestling
The following is a basic outline of how points are awarded during a match. If no pin occurs during a match, the wrestler with the highest number of points wins the match.
Takedown – when from a neutral position one wrestler brings the other to the mat and gains control – 2 points
Escape – when the bottom wrestler is able to break free from the top wrestler and revert back to a neutral position – 1 point.
Reversal – when a wrestler on the bottom is able to reverse the control so that the opponent is on the bottom. This can occur when the wrestlers are either on the mat or in the standing position – 2 points.
Near Fall – points are awarded when one wrestler comes close to pinning his opponent. This occurs when any part of both shoulders or scapula are held within 4 inches of the mat or less. It can also occur when one shoulder or scapula is on the mat and the other shoulder or scapula is within a 45 degree angle or less – 2 points if held for at least two seconds, or 3 points if this position is held consecutively for 5 seconds. ONLY THE WRESTLER IN CONTROL CAN SCORE NEAR FALL POINTS.
Penalty points can be awarded when the opposing wrestler performs illegal moves (examples include a full nelson, illegal locking of hands or an illegal headlock). A wrestler can also be penalized for stalling.
A pin or fall occurs when a wrestler holds both of his opponent’s shoulders or scapula on the mat at the same time for 2 consecutive seconds. When this happens, the referee will blow his whistle and slap the map.
The match is won by the wrestler scoring the most points or when a wrestler pins his opponent.
The referee has specific signals that he uses to indicate the scoring of points and/or conduct of the match. He will also hold up his fingers indicating the number of points awarded and usually wears red and green armbands to signal who receives the points (green for home, red for visitor).
Situations occurring near the out of bounds line can often be confusing for the spectator. High school wrestlers are considered to be in bounds if the supporting parts of EITHER wrestler are inside the boundary lines.
The referee may stop the match if he sees that one of the wrestlers is being placed in a potentially dangerous situation. Most referees are former wrestlers who are well trained to recognize and quickly stop situations which may result in significant injury. This normally occurs when a body part is forced beyond the normal range of motion.
The referee may also stop and then restart the match if neither wrestler can improve his position. This is referred to as a stalemate.
A complete wrestling rules book can be obtained by contacting the National Federation of State High School Associations at 317-972-6900 or www.nfhs.org. Cost is approximately $5.
When a wrestler wins a dual meet match, he scores points for his team. The following is the guide for team scoring.
Pin – 6 points
Tech Fall – Win by 15 or more points and match is stopped – 5 points
Major decision – Win by 8-14 points – 4 points
Regular decision – 3 points
Why wrestling is a Team Sport
While wrestling appears at first glance to be purely a one-on-one sport, it is every bit a team sport as well. In both dual meets and tournaments, a wrestler not only scores points and hopefully a victory for him or herself, they also contribute toward their team’s score. So while a wrestler is dependent only upon their own resources while on the mat, every wrestler has the potential to contribute to their team’s success as well.
All sports teams have their traditions and wrestling is no exception. When I was in high school, I started a tradition while on my high school wrestling team in Indiana. My tradition (silly as it seems looking back) was to warm up for matches with a blanket wrapped around me. It wasn’t particularly cold in the gym and I wasn’t trying to sweat off pounds. I just felt more relaxed carrying a blanket around my shoulders before a match. Before long, one of my teammates brought in his favorite blanket. Then another and finally most of the team had caught the trend. Pretty soon, we started seeing guys on other teams carrying their blankets. We knew we had started something
Then a change popped up.
In the state finals one year, one of the wrestlers entered the warm up mat wearing a bathrobe with his favorite stuffed animal tied around his waist. Since he was an exceptional wrestler participating in the state championships, his trend caught on. Pretty soon bathrobes and stuffed animals of all types were the warm up attire of choice. The blanket was out and the stuffed bunny was in.
Some traditions are team or coach instituted. Theses traditions often either involve the physical space of a wrestling room or take place in the wrestling room. My son’s school has just a couple of these traditions, because after 25 years of fielding a wrestling program, the school has never been able to find the space for a designated wrestling room. Finally, next year, just after my son graduates, the school plans to reconfigure some underutilized space and create the school’s first ever designated wrestling practice room.
Just like almost every school has a designated place to practice—a football field, a basketball court, a baseball diamond, tennis courts and/or a swimming pool—e very school with a wrestling team needs a designated wrestling room. The reason for this is that the wrestling room must contain wall to wall mats, padded walls and ideally a place for pull-ups, a training bike, a climbing peg board and similar equipment. Having a designated wrestling room does away with the need to roll out the mats to practice then re-rolling the mats at the end of practice. In addition to the time saving, permanent practice mats allow wrestlers and coaches easy access for off season practices—practices which dramatically improve a team’s performance during the season.
Since my son’s school has not had a designated wrestling room, our wrestling room traditions are limited to a board listing the names of previous year conference and state champions. Other schools may have team mascots or images of intimidating looking wrestlers on their team walls. Others may have inspirational wrestling related phrases on their walls. Some teams have unusual traditions such as tying the wrestling shoes or headgears of graduating seniors in the rafters.
I look forward to next year, when our school’s team can start its own traditions in its own designated wrestling room. I’m sorry that my son won’t be part of those traditions. But with his final season beginning next weeks, maybe he’ll come back to see his name on the wall of champions. Or maybe not.
But a proud father can dream.
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It’s one week till my youngest son’s senior year of high school wrestling season begins. I know it’s his final season because he’s a senior and has told me in no uncertain terms that he does not plan to wrestle in college. He’s a very good student studying challenging subjects, so I can live with that. So his final season is starting and…
Why afraid? Not that he’ll get hurt. He weighed 88 pounds and wrestled varsity 103 pounds his freshman year. If I wasn’t afraid of him getting hurt that year, I’ll never worry about that.
Afraid that he won’t succeed? In wrestling, I believe that a kid succeeds each and every time he walks onto the mat by himself to take on a guy (or girl) who wants to dominate him physically.
Last year, our son held out a reasonable belief that he would be a state champion. When he didn’t reach that goal, there was a lot of anguish and soul searching on his part. But his caring coach pulled my son aside and explained that he was putting too much of his sense of self-worth into whether he had his hand raised at the end of a match. The coach felt it was negatively affecting his performance. My son (and his parents) thought this over and agreed to adopt a more Zen attitude to expectations, wins and losses.
So I’m not afraid that he won’t achieve specific goals. Because if he works hard and gives his best in every match, the outcome is outside of anyone’s control. So whatever matches he wins or loses this season will be just fine with him and with his parents.
What I’m really afraid of is how fast this season is going to fly by.
Thoughts of a parent on senior of high school…a year of lasts
As the parent of a senior, my wife and I (along with other senior parents) are experiencing an entire year of lasts. Last first day of school, last back to school night, last cross country race—in the books last week. Last homecoming dance, last band concert, last Science Olympiad. Then last prom and last graduation (at least at his current school). You see these lasts coming from a mile away. They seem so far in the future and then BAM! They happen and are over in the blink of an eye. Some of the events I can live with. If I never watch another 2-mile track race—yes that’s eight long laps around the track—I’ll be just fine.
But wrestling is different
I wrestled in high school in Indiana, then refereed for a number of years. Marriage, jobs, relocations and children happened. Wrestling got left behind. But when our family moved from Chicago to Charlotte in 2004, our older son was a seventh grader and decided to try wrestling for the first time. His little brother tagged along to practices, camps and meets, taking it all in.
Then when younger brother hit seventh grade, he started in with his own team. For six years, he’s always been the smallest guy on the team. But he’s held his own on the mat. Now in his senior season, he’s a team captain. He’ll be leading the younger guys onto the mats, running warm-ups and walking out to meet the other team’s captain before every match. That will be fun to watch. But a little sad. Sad because every match will be his last of something.
So right now, one week before wrestling practice starts, I’m telling myself to take a deep breath, take it all in and enjoy every minute of this season. From watching the ends of practices, to getting up at 5:30 for Saturday tourneys, to sitting for hours in crowded smelly gyms, to eating the horrible concession stand hotdogs, to driving hours to little gyms in obscure country towns at twilight to watching the multitude of joys and heartbreak that accompany every wrestling meet. I’m reminding myself to stay in the moment to soak it all in and to remember why I’ve loved this sport for decades.
And here in October, I’m telling myself that we’ll be walking out of the state championship tourney in mid-February in what will seem like the blink of an eye. There are no roses to stop and smell in wrestling. But I’m going to think about this blog every time I toss my son his cherry-red Cliff Keen headgear over the next few months.
Wrestling season, like life, will be over faster than we think. I’ll try to be ready.
This past week, my wife and I watched the documentary Miss Representation . This 90 minute film shows the downside of the media portrayal of young women and uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America.
Miss Representation challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.
In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.
While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behavior.
My takeaway on the media portrayal of young women
My takeaway is that the plethora of unrealistic portrayals of women and girls has an insidious effect not just on the psyches of young girls, but also on boys who are bombarded with the same messages on a daily basis. While it is not realistic to expect media and entertainment streams to immediately correct the decades long misrepresentations of woman and girls, it is incumbent on parents to help filter what children watch in all medias and to provide context where little or none is provided in the media.
Responsible parents of both boys and girls must take a stand to insure that both genders grow up with healthy and realistic portrayals woman and girls – more than half of the people in our country.
While New York City is known for theater, Chicago is known for deep dish pizza and North Carolina is known for BBQ, the state of Pennsylvania is known as the hotbed of high school wrestling. Arguably, the most competitive amateur wrestling environment in the country, both participants and fans alike are passionate about this often overlooked high school sport.
High School Wrestling Movie
Takedowns and Falls is a documentary film that tells the story of a group of Pennsylvania teens and their relationships within a high school wrestling team on a journey to attain a state championship. It chronicles a season of the Central Dauphin Rams in Harrisburg, PA and highlights the sacrifice of its athletes, the commitment of their families and the dedication of its coaches.
I think this documentary is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the movie demonstrates the level of excellence and competitiveness that high school wrestling has achieved in the state of Pennsylvania. Second, the film shows that despite hard work, dedication and skill, one wrestler will always lose every wrestling match. Part of achieving satisfaction in a sport as grueling as wrestling is to accept defeat as well as victory. When the match is over, shake the winner’s hand and walk off the mat with your head held high. Learn from your mistakes, continue working hard and look forward to improving in your next match.
Fun facts about wrestling for those interested in wrestling and for readers of Reversal, a YA novel by Eric Linne.
Literary references to the sport of wrestling occur as early as in the Iliad, in which Homer recounts the Trojan War of the 13th century BC.] The origins of wrestling go back 15,000 years through cave drawings in France. Babylonian and Egyptian reliefs show wrestlers using most of the holds known in the present-day sport.
Modern Olympic Roots and Wrestling Styles
Greco-Roman wrestling became an event at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. Since 1908, the event has been in every Summer Olympics. In Greco-Roman style, it is forbidden to hold the opponent below the belt.
Freestyle wrestling became an Olympic event, in 1904. Women’s freestyle wrestling was added to the Summer Olympics in 2004. Freestyle allows the use of the wrestler’s or his opponent’s legs in offense and defense.
Collegiate wrestling (sometimes known as scholastic wrestling or folkstyle wrestling) is the commonly used name of wrestling practiced at the college and university level in the United States
One Great Wrestler
Arguably, the greatest American wrestler of all time, Dan Gable has become a legend in the wrestling community. During his high school and college careers, Gable compiled an unbelievable record of 182-1. He was undefeated in 64 prep matches, and was 118-1 at Iowa State. His only defeat came in the NCAA finals his senior year. Gable was a three-time all-American and three-time Big Eight champion. He set NCAA records in winning and pin streaks.
Lots of Motivation –
Dan Gable is also credited with some of the most memorable quotes about wrestling every uttered. Among them are:
“More enduringly than any other sport, wresting teaches self-control and pride. Some have wrestled without great skill – none have wrestled without great pride.”
“Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”
“The first period is won by the best technician. The second period is won by the kid in the best shape. The 3rd period is won by the kid with the biggest heart.”
Scope of Wrestling Participation
- Scholastic wrestling ranks 6th of all boys’ sports in terms of participation at the high school level with over 272,000 nation-wide.
- Wrestling currently has its high participation rates since 1980
- Since 2002-03, the number of high school wrestlers has grown by over 30,000.
- Over 10,400 schools sponsors wrestling, which is the largest number ever.
Growth of Female Wrestler Participation
- Since 1994, the number of women who wrestle in high school nationwide has grown from 804 to over 8000
- 22 colleges now sponsor a varsity women’s wrestling program
- Women’s wrestling is now a recognized Olympic sport
- Texas, Hawaii and Washington sponsor a state high school girls wrestling championship
- Females account for 2.9% of high school wrestlers nationwide.
Girl Wrestler is a poignant, informative documentary outlining many of the hurdles that girls face while participating in high school (or in this case middle school) wrestling. The movie follows a year in the life of 13-year-old Tara Neal, as she struggles with cutting weight, competing against boys, the opposition of certain wrestlers and coaches and living up to her parents’ expectations. When she gets together with a handful of other girl wrestlers at a tournament, the movie is particularly moving as the girls share their experience on and off the wrestling mat. The documentary, which aired on PBS, is an enlightening view into the experience of being viewed as an outsider in the physically demanding sport of amateur wrestling.
Message from the movie by Eric Linne about a teenage girl wrestler
“Tara’s story becomes a personal prism through which to view such broader cultural issues as the socially accepted views of masculinity and femininity, athleticism and eating disorders, teenage identity, gender discrimination in organized athletics, and the meaning and value of sports in American culture. Ultimately, GIRL WRESTLER reveals the many challenges and pressures faced by young girls today as they seek to carve out a place in a culture full of conflicting messages about what it means to be a girl.”