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College Wrestling Explained for Dummies, Newbies, Parents, & Fans

If you’re new to the sport or just want to get back into it, you may need college wrestling explained to you. And that’s okay!

Whether you need a refresher or a complete masterclass in the sport, this article will explain college wrestling basics in addition to scoring rules and top teams to know.

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    The Basics

    The ultimate goal of a wrestling match is to put an opponent on his back for a pin, or, at the very least, score more points than an opponent.

    Wrestling Styles: Freestyle vs Folkstyle

    There are multiple styles of wrestling, including men’s and women’s freestyle, Greco-Roman, and folkstyle. While the international style of wrestling for Team USA is freestyle and Greco-Roman, college wrestling is folkstyle wrestling.

    You can watch all styles of wrestling via FloWrestling.

    Teams & Divisions

    There are multiple divisions in college wrestling: Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA, JUCO, and even club. For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on the highest level of wrestling in the sport, D1, in which there are 78 teams.

    Weight Classes in College

    There are 10 weight classes in college wrestling: 125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184, 197, 285. There have been many weight changes over the years, but these ten have remained the same since 1997.

    What are the Positions

    In all levels of wrestling there are three positions: neutral, top, and bottom. A wrestling match starts with both wrestlers in the neutral position. If a wrestler takes his opponent to the mat, then he is in the top position while his opponent is on bottom.

    How Many Periods are There?

    Similar to hockey, there are 3 periods in wrestling. In college, the first period is 3 minutes, the second is 2 minutes, and the last is 2 minutes.

    Overtime Rules

    If the score is tied at the end of regulation, the match goes into a 2 minute overtime period in which the first wrestler to score wins. If the score is still tied, the match goes to two 30 seconds sudden victory periods where each wrestler has a chance to score in the position of his choosing.

    Whoever has more points or more riding time after two cycles through the overtime periods wins the match.

    Example: 1st period (3 minutes), 2nd period (2 minutes), 3rd period (2 minutes), OT (2 minutes), SV1 (30 seconds), SV2 (30 seconds).

    Wrestling Scoring Explained

    Scoring is broken down into three parts: match points, team scoring, and tournament scoring.

    Scoring Match Points

    There are multiple ways to score points in college wrestling. The most basic scoring position is scoring a takedown (2 points) by taking an opponent to the mat from the neutral position and maintaining control.

    A wrestler in the top position will attempt to turn an opponent to his back for near fall points (2-4 points), while the wrestler in the bottom position will look to escape (1 point) back to neutral or hit a reversal (2 points).

    If a wrestler pins his opponent’s shoulder blades to the mat or if he scores more than 15 points on his opponent, the match ends.

    How to Win

    A wrestling match can end in multiple scenarios (below).

    • Decision: win by less than 7 points
    • Major Decision: win by 8-14 points
    • Technical Fall: win by 15+ points
    • Fall: pin opponent’s shoulders to the mat
    • Forfeit: opponent forfeits
    • Disqualification: opponent is disqualified
    • Medical Forfeit: opponent forfeits pre-match based on medical issues
    • Injury Default: opponent is unable to continue during a match

    In the case of a technical fall or a fall, the match ends immediately. You may hear the phrase “bonus points.” If a wrestler wins by major, tech, or fall, he scores bonus points for his team.

    Changes from High School to College

    Other than the elite nature of college wrestling, there are several rule changes from high school to college wrestling. For instance, a college wrestling match is seven minutes long (periods of 3, 2, 2).

    The most significant rule change is “riding time,” in which a wrestler secures one point for riding out his opponent on top for longer than one minute. Another differing rule is near fall points. In high school, you can receive a max of 3 near fall points for putting an opponent on his back, while in college you can receive 4.

    One more rule change is the “danger” position in college; this rule is a bit more complicated, but you can check it out in the video below.

    Team Scoring

    A college wrestling dual meet is scored based on the outcome of each individual match.

    Worth the most points for the team is a pin (6 points), then a technical fall (5 points), major decision (4 points), and regular decision (3 points). Furthermore, a forfeit, injury default, or disqualification is worth 6 points.

    Example: if the 125 lbs wrestler wins his match by a fall then the 133 lbs wrestler wins by decision, the team will have 9 points.

    Tournament Scoring

    College wrestling tournament scoring can become a bit more complicated. But in simplest terms, a wrestler gains points for his team by winning/advancing, placing, and scoring bonus points.

    At the NCAA Championships, wrestlers receive 1 point for advancing through the championship rounds and .5 points for advancing through the placement rounds. He scores bonus points with a fall (+2), tech fall (+1.5), or major decision (+1).

    Additionally placement points are as follows:

    • 1st (16 points)
    • 2nd (12 points)
    • 3rd (10 points)
    • 4th (9 points)
    • 5th (7 points)
    • 6th (6 points)
    • 7th (4 points)
    • 8th (3 points)

    Top Teams & Wrestlers

    Who is the Best Team?

    This is widely debated. If you’re an older fan getting back into college wrestling you may think Oklahoma State or Iowa are the best teams. While those teams are still powerhouses, Penn State has produced the most NCAA Champions and team titles over the past decade.

    Best College Wrestlers

    As far as individuals, Spencer Lee and Yianni Diakomihalis are the biggest names in the sport right now as they are seeking their 4th NCAA titles in 2023. They are two of the top pound-for-pound best college wrestlers right now.

    More Resources for You

    Welcome to Fanco Wrestling. We are a community built of the most loyal fans to college wrestling, and we enjoy weekly discussion about the sport on YouTube.

    Since you’re new or looking to get back into college wrestling, here are a few resources you may enjoy:

    New to college wrestling or want to get back into the sport you once loved? Become a college wrestling fan by entering your information in the form below. We’ll send you everything you need to know about the top teams, best wrestlers, and wrestling news.


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