Wrestling for dummies

Sports reporter

Despite being one of the world's oldest sports, dating back to ancient Greece, the sport of wrestling in America gets treated like a red-headed stepchild.

That's high school wrestling, not the chair-throwing, smack-talking kind on television.

Most fans at high school matches tend to be parents, or a few adults who wrestled in high school. It doesn't attract the packed gyms and stadiums like football, basketball, or baseball.

One of the main reasons — the average person doesn't understand how it works.

The basics

Like more popular sports, wrestling has its rules only the most die-hard fans know. However, the sport can still be understood — even without knowing all the rules. But for the most part, the sport is pretty basic.

There are 14 weight classes ranging from 103 pounds to 275 pounds.

Each weight class has one wrestler who competes against another for three two-minute periods, or until a wrestler is pinned. Every time both wrestlers go outside the circle on the mat, time is stopped, and the wrestlers re-start in their last position in the center of the mat.


Scoring points come from two offensive and two defensive moves.

The most common offensive move is called a takedown. It's when, from the neutral position of both wrestlers standing, one wrestler gains control of the other on the mat.

When the wrestler "dives" at an opponent it is called a shot, and taking down the opponent is a successful shot. The takedown is worth two points.

After being taken down the defensive wrestler has two ways to score points. The first is called an escape, which is worth one point.

That is when the wrestler who has been taken down "escapes" from the opponent's grip into a neutral position and both wrestlers are standing again. So, if a wrestler was taken down, and escaped from the grip, he would be trailing 2-1.

Another scoring move for the defensive player is called a reversal. Sometimes the player who has control can slip up for a second, and the defensive wrestler not only escapes the grip, but gains control in one motion.

Now the original defensive wrestler has control of the other's limbs, and is awarded two points for reversing the hold.

After taking down an opponent the offensive wrestler is in good position to pin the other wrestler or gain more points.

A pin, (or in technical terms a pinfall) which ends the match no matter what the score, is when the controlling wrestler secures the other wrestler's shoulders on the mat for two continuous seconds.

No matter who is leading, the match is awarded to the pinning wrestler.

One final offensive move is called a near fall. That is when the offensive wrestler has the opponent's shoulders four inches or less above the mat for continuous seconds. Two points are awarded for two through four continuous seconds, and three for five or more seconds.

The final way to score points is a violation. If a wrestler fails to have the proper equipment, holds an illegal grip that constricts breathing, or performs an illegal move, a warning and then a point will be awarded to his opponent.

Every time a point is scored the referee will show it by holding up corresponding fingers. He wears a green wristband on one hand and a red on the other. The wrestlers have those same color bands on their ankles to signify who scored the points.

If neither wrestler pins the opponent, the winner will be determined by points scored. A victory by less than eight points is worth three team points. A victory from 8-14 is worth four, 15 or more (a tech fall) is worth five. A pin is worth six team points. The team with the highest amount of points after all 14 classes is the winner.

Watching from the stands

If all of that is too much to digest at first, keep them in the back of your mind while doing two other things.

The first is, watch the crowd and pay attention to the official. Both react to points being scored.

When you have that down, just listen to the crowd while focusing on the wrestlers. If both wrestlers continue to stay in the same position, points will not be awarded. Position changes, and putting wrestlers on their backs are good signs points are being scored.

The most recognizable action in a match is the pin. After the two seconds, the referee will blow the whistle and slap the mat with his hand. The match is over, and the crowd goes wild.

Understanding the sport

There will still be confusing moments, but you can always ask someone next to you what just happened.

If it still seems like one big confusing mess of tangled bodies, just remember these few things when watching your team on the mat.

If your wrestler is on his or her back, it's bad.

If your wrestler just jumped on his or her opponent and is now on top of them, it's good.

And if the referee just pounded the mat and your wrestler jumps up and screams, he or she, for lack of a better explanation, just hit a home run.