Wrestling Basics



A match is made up of three 2-minute periods.

The first period starts with both wrestlers standing (Neutral). At the end of the first period, the official determines which wrestler gets to choose how to start the second period. If it is a dual meet, this protocol is decided before the first match, and the teams alternate who gets the choice. In a tournament, the athletes wear colored ankle bands to help the officials and scorers identify athletes. The official flips a colored disc, and the wrestler with the winning color gets the choice.

The wrestler with the choice at the start of the second period has four options. Athletes can choose to defer the choice to their opponent so they can make the choice they want in the third period. They can choose to start in the neutral position, both wrestlers standing. They can choose to start down so that they can escape or get a reversal while they are still fresh. Finally, they can choose to start in the top position so they can work to get the fall, again, while fresh.

A match is over if one wrestler achieves a pin (officially named Fall). Matches are also stopped if one wrestler gets ahead of the other by 15 or more points, a technical fall. Disqualification for misconduct, stalling, or other severe violations of the rules also stop a match. Note:  any hold or maneuver applied with the intent to injure the opponent is prohibited.


During the match the referee will use various hand signals to show what is happening in the match. The referee will have two bands one on each wrist (one red and one green) which correspond to the anklets worn by the wrestlers competing. If the wrestler with the red anklet scores a point(s) the referee will raise his arm with the red wristband and show the number of points earned with his fingers.  The referee will raise the corresponding colored armband to indicate other actions in the match also.

Here are the most common referee hand signals used:


There are five ways to score points in a wrestling match:

There are several ways a wrestling match can end: