Wrestling Styles: What Are the Different Types of Wrestling?

Explore the different styles of wrestling, here are the rules and types of wrestling that are popular today.

Wrestling Styles
Wrestling Styles

Wrestling is an age-old combat sport that fits two individuals against each other in a match. The objective way of winning wrestling is to pin your opponent flatly on their back.

Players use various fighting styles like takedowns, clinches, grappling, and holds to compete against each other and determine who is superior. Wrestling is undoubtedly one of the most demanding and toughest sports. Let’s look at the brief history of wrestling.

A Brief History of Wrestling

Wrestling is an old sport from when the ancient Greeks were training their warriors in hand-to-hand combat. These training sessions were very rigorous and brutal.

After defeating the Greeks, the Romans borrowed the Greek wrestling style but eliminated most of its barbarity. Afraid that the true origin of this sport might be lost, the Greeks decided to name this new form of wrestling Greco-Roman.

Wrestling became popular in royal palaces in France, England, and Japan. This tradition was later brought to America by settlers, only to discover that the sport was already popular among native American tribes. During the early years of wrestling, it was solely done as an activity of the military or at carnivals; these days, wrestling has become a popular and exciting sport both for players and the audience.

The FILA developed the techniques of modern wrestling standards and regulations and also divided the sport into two categories; international and folk. It is also considered an important component of sports such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Read on to find the types of wrestling that are played around the globe.

Freestyle Olympics Wrestling

Freestyle wrestling is one of the two wrestling styles represented during the Olympic games. It is very popular worldwide due to its straightforward techniques and scoring methods.

In freestyle wrestling, the players grab opponents under the waist and use their legs for attacking and defending moves.

Men and women can compete in freestyle wrestling during the Olympics. The sport is played at various weight levels, including welterweight, lightweight, flyweight, and heavyweight, and also incorporates the Sambo and traditional wrestling elements.

Freestyle wrestling has been featured in the Olympics each year except 1896 and 1912.So far, the three best nations are the US with 110 medals, the Soviet Union with 56, and Japan with 45 medals.

Freestyle Wrestling
Freestyle Wrestling

The Objective of Freestyle Wrestling

The main objective of freestyle wrestling is to bring an opponent down and place their shoulders firmly on the ground for a few seconds, which is called a ‘fall.’ This usually results in victory, though there are other ways to win against an opponent.

Scoring Method

Freestyle wrestling uses a very distinct form of the point system. Complex and hard moves have more points than simpler moves. There are also points for taking an offensive approach towards an opponent. Here’s a breakdown of the points earned in each move:

  • Reversal: 1 point
  • Out of bound: 1 point
  • Penalty: 2 points
  • Exposure: 2-3 points
  • Take down: 2-5 points


During the Olympics, freestyle wrestling is played in two performances on an octagonal mat with a fighting circle in the middle. The players are required to have these clothing and equipment:

  • Uniform: A lycra single that provides players with maximum flexibility to approach or defend themselves from opponents.
  • Blood rag: This is simply a handkerchief used by freestyle wrestling players to wipe away sweat and blood while playing
  • Wrestling shoes: These are durable rubber sole shoes that are designed to provide grip to players
  • Headgear: Wearing a helmet during freestyle wrestling is optional, and many players prefer the freedom of playing without one.

Winning Methods

There are many ways to win the Olympics in freestyle wrestling. They include:

  • By pin: the most common way to win a freestyle wrestling is by pinning the shoulder of the opponent on the ground for some seconds
  • By technical pin: when a player achieves ten points more than their opponents, they’re declared the winner.
  • By default: this is when an opponent can no longer fight due to injuries or other reasons. The other player is then awarded victory by default.
  • By disqualification: when a player repeatedly breaks the rules and gets cautioned three times, they’ll be disqualified, and victory will be awarded to their opponent.

Rules of Olympics Freestyle Wrestling

Like any form of wrestling, freestyle has some rules guiding it. Here are the rules.

  • Players compete in bouts of three rounds, each consisting of three minutes.
  • Wrestlers can use the body below the waist for attack and defense.
  • Wrestlers are not allowed to do locking on a leg scissor move from any part of their opponent’s body except the legs and arms.
  • A player is declared the winner when they win two of the three rounds.
  • If wrestlers are warned three times for breaking the rules, they’ll be disqualified.
  • A passive wrestler is placed on a 30 second shot clock; if none of the players scores a point during this time, the opponent will be awarded a free point.

Greco Roman Wrestling

Greco-Roman wrestling is a popular amateur style of wrestling. This type of wrestling prohibits athletes from holding any part of the body below the waist, enabling wrestlers to put more effort into throwdowns.

It is considered as the most ancient competitive sport in the world. There are a lot of old cave drawings of wrestling athletes that date back to as long as 3000 BC.

The main objective of this type of wrestling is for a wrestler to put down their opponent and pin their shoulder on the ground. This type of wrestling is played in the Olympics, and it’s practiced in many nations around the globe.

While many mistook this type of wrestling to be the same as freestyle wrestling, the two are very different. Greco-Roman allows players to use their upper body for grappling and holding, while freestyle allows use of the lower body. Also, in freestyle wrestling, players can throw their opponents on the mat and lose hold of them, while in this type of wrestling, athletes must fall together with their opponents on the mat without releasing hold of them.

Like freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman can be played by males and females of different ages and weight classifications.

The Objectives of Greco-Roman Wrestling

The main objective of this amateur wrestling style is to bring an opponent down and pin them on their shoulders for a few seconds. It is also one of the ways to win a Greco-Roman wrestling match.


There are four classes of athletes that can play this type of wrestling based on age and weight. Athletes as young as 14 can play the game and are considered in the junior category.

From age 20 and above, they are categorized as seniors and have 7 weight categories ranging from 50kg to 120kg. Matches are conducted between players of the same weight to ensure fair play.

Scoring Method

In this type of wrestling, points are awarded to players based on the offensive and defensive moves they make. Here’s a breakdown of the points each move takes:

  • Exposures: 1 point
  • Out of bounds: 1 point
  • Takedowns: 1-2 point
  • Reversals: 1 point
  • Penalty: 1-2 points


Like any other type of sport, there is certain equipment that each player is expected to have to play this wrestling. They’re:

  • Singlet: It should fit the wrestler in a way that it won’t affect their mobility but also not too baggy to catch their arms and restrict their movement
  • Wrestling shoes: Getting the right shoes is very important for a wrestler. A good wrestling shoe is lightweight and will provide a player with adequate grip to avoid sliding on the mat.
  • Helmet: There are different types of headgear used in Greco-Roman wrestling. However, they all serve different purposes: keeping the head and ears of a player safe.
  • Mouth Guards and Groin Cups: The optional equipment helps provide additional protection. Groin cups reduce the risk of groin trauma, while a mouth guard is mostly used by players who have braces to protect their teeth.

Winning Methods

There are different ways players can win Greco-Roman matches. It can either be by bringing their opponents to the ground, having more points, or pushing them out of bounds.

The athlete with the highest number of points at the end of the match will be considered the winner.

Each match has three rounds, and if there’s no win by fall at the end of that time, the wrestler who wins two out of the three rounds is automatically the winner. 

Rules of the Greco-Roman Wrestling

  • Each Greco-Roman match has three rounds, each with two minutes of wrestling.
  • These rounds are divided into three classes; the first is one minute, and the players stand. The second and third sections are 30 seconds each. The wrestlers fight on the mat.
  • If a win by fall is not achieved by the end of the three rounds, the wrestler with eight points more than their opponent will be declared the winner.
  • If at the end of the three rounds, none of the Greco roman wrestlers wins by fall or pin, the athlete who wins two of the three rounds is considered the winner of the match.

Folkstyle Wrestling

Folkstyle wrestling is also known as collegiate wrestling. It is a popular style played in American high schools and colleges.

When taught in colleges, it is referred to as collegiate wrestling, while it is referred to as scholastic wrestling. However, both are types of folkstyle wrestling.

There are certain differences between the rules of the two types of folkstyle wrestling, but they’re minimal. Collegiate wrestling gives its players the greatest wrestling and grappling skills they’ll need in other mixed martial arts sports.

The Objective of Folkstyle Wrestling

The main objective of folkstyle wrestling is for an athlete to pin their opponent to the ground. It is also known as a fall, and it’s one of the ways that a player can win a match.

Positions in Folkstyle Wrestling

There are three distinct positions in folkstyle wrestling, and a player can only be in one of these positions at a time. They’re:

  • Offensive Position: This is the best position a player can find themselves in. It is when an athlete is on top or behind their opponents and has full control over them. Once a player can turn their opponents on their back toward the mat at an angle of 45°, they’ll gain the point of a fall.
  • Defensive Position: This is opposite to the offensive position and is considered the worst position to be in. When a player is under their opponent’s control and under their influence. While in this position, players try to escape or score a reversal as much as possible.
  • Neutral Position: Both athletes are on their feet, and neither controls the other. In the neutral position, the players are either standing or on their knees facing each other, trying to score takedown points.

 Scoring Method

Apart from winning by the objective of the match, a player can also win by scoring more points than their opponents. Here’s a breakdown of the point each move carries:

  • Escape: 1 point
  • Penalty: 1
  • Takedown: 2 points
  • Reversal: 2 points
  • Near fall: 2-4 points


Here is the equipment a player will need to play freestyle wrestling.

  • Singlet: Like in any wrestling, a player needs a comfortable fit singlet made from lycra or spandex to play. In freestyle wrestling, one player wears a blue singlet while the opponent wears a red one.
  • Wrestling shoes: College wrestlers wear these shoes to increase their flexibility and mobility while fighting without losing grip.
  • Handkerchief: Normally kept in the singlet, this is used when excessive sweating or bleeding makes it difficult to play comfortably.
  • Headgear: It is worn around the ear to reduce the risk of developing cauliflower ear. However, it is optional.

Winning Methods

There are different ways a player can win over their opponent in freestyle wrestling. The general way is to pin your opponent to the ground while playing. However, athletes can also win by scoring points. If a player is ahead of their opponent by 15 points at the end of a match, they’ll be declared the winner.

Rules of Freestyle Wrestling

  • To win by pin, players must hold their opponents on their back for at least two seconds.
  • Players can only lock their hands while trying to takedown or break their opponent.
  • A match will end when one athlete achieves technical superiority, beating their opponent by 15 points.
  • Wrestlers will lose points for fleeing from the mat during matches.

Sumo Wrestling

Sumo wrestling originated in Japan, the only place where it is practiced professionally and considered a national sport. Sumo is considered part of the gendai budo ( the Japanese martial arts).

This game has an old history, and most traditions are preserved today, especially the rituals performed before the sport.

The Japan Sumo Association highly regulates the lives of sumo wrestlers. Most of the players live in sumo houses where everything about their lives, from food to the mode of dressing, is dictated by the laid down rules of the game.

The Objectives of Sumo Wrestling

The main aim of sumo wrestling is for a player to touch the ground outside the circular ring with any part of their body or touch the ground within the ring with any body part excluding the soles of the foot.

Players try to achieve this by constantly outwitting, striking, tossing, and pushing their opponents while trying as much as they can to avoid illegal moves.

Scoring Method

There’s no point scoring in sumo. It’s a straightforward win-or-lose format without tied bouts. However, a sumo wrestler will go from one level to the next depending on their ability, and they’re divided into six divisions in which promotion is done each year.

Wrestlers are awarded points depending on how they perform during the main sumo tournament, which affects their ranking.


Unlike the wrestlings mentioned above, with similar equipment types, the ones used in playing sumo are different. Check them out:

  • Dohyo (competition place): The wrestling place is called the Dohyo, made from rice straws. It is about 15 feet in diameter, mounted on a square platform made from clay, measuring 6.7 meters across and about 14 inches high.
  • Mawashi (Wrestlers garment): The attire of sumo wrestlers comes in different designs and colors. It has a length of about 30 feet when held straight. A player can grab the mawashi of their opponent to pull them off balance while playing; that’s why most sumo wrestlers uniquely wear this attire.
  • Wrestling mats: are usually spread on top of the Dohyo to prevent injury. They’re optional and are not used in professional sumo tournaments.
  • Sand and Brush: The sand is spread around the dohyo ring to let judges know when a player has stepped out of the ring. Since sand can easily get disorganized, a brush is used to put it in place before each match.

Winning Methods

There are many ways to win sumo wrestling. You can win by grabbing your opponents and forcing them out of the ring by pushing them. You can also push your opponent to the canvas or out of the ring to win the game.

Also, a match can be won by the disqualification of an opponent or when one of the players isn’t fit enough to continue.

Rules of Sumo Wrestling

  • Sumo matches occur in a ring with a diameter of 15 ft and are raised on a clay block known as Dohyo.
  • A sumo match must begin with the ritual of throwing salt into the ring of the players. Once they’re done with the ritual, the players will face each other, waiting for the referee to give them the go-ahead.
  • Players must kneel with fists on the ground until the referee orders them to start the match.
  • Punching, striking of ears, hitting the groin, and pulling hair are prohibited.
  • If a contestant uses a prohibited technique or gets their belt lost, they’ve lost the fight.
  • The match is over once the opponent is pushed out of the ring or pulled down to the ground.

Catch Wrestling

Catch wrestling is another popular type that has significantly impacted Mixed Martial Arts. Also referred to as can wrestling, it is grappling wrestling that was created in the late 1800s by John Graham.

It is considered to be the parent of freestyle and folkstyle wrestling. Though not as popular as before, catch wrestling is slowly returning to trend as competitive grappling is becoming more popular.

Catch wrestling is also considered a traditional wrestling style and a brutal art when compared to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is known as gentle art.

The Objective of Catch Wrestling

In this type of wrestling, the object is to force the opponent onto the ground making the two shoulders touch the floor simultaneously. It’s almost the same thing as freestyle wrestling but with few modifications.

Scoring/Winning Method

Catch wrestling can be easily won by submission or pin. However, the most popular way to win is by pinning your opponent. Some matches don’t even consider submission a way of winning the match.

Wrestlers use many techniques to win matches: wrist lock, hammerlock, arm bar, Japanese arm bar, top wrist lock, e.t.c.


Here are the clothing and equipment used by catch wrestlers:

  • Shorts: Tight-fitting shorts are permitted. Players must make sure the shorts fit them in a way that they can wrestle comfortably.
  • Wrestling shoe: Players are to wear durable wrestling boots, but they’re also allowed to play barefooted
  • Mouth Guards: It is up to a player to wear a mouth guard for additional protection or not.
  • Headgear and knee guard: These are optional, but a referee has the right to stop a catch wrestler from putting them on if he feels they should. They are possibly used against the other player.

Rules of Catch Wrestling

  • Ankle lock, hand lock, wrist lock, front face lock, spine lock, and neck lock are allowed.
  • Biting, kicking, punching, grabbing clothes, pulling hair, and eye-gouging are not allowed.
  • Talking during a match can lead to the disqualification of a wrestler.
  • If there’s no pin or submission at the end of the match, the referee will choose the winner based on who has been the dominant fighter.
  • Once a match starts, there’s no break or rest period unless in the event of injuries.

Professional Wrestling

Professional wrestling, also known as pro wrestling, is broadcast on television mainly for entertainment. This type of wrestling is scripted to look like real combat wrestling.

The outcomes of the matches are pre-planned before the performance. Professional wrestling has a lot of catch wrestling attributes but with more acrobatics, athleticism, and striking attacks. While many confuse professional wrestling with being the same as amateur wrestling, the two are entirely different.

The Objective of Professional Wrestling

Pro wrestling aims to win over an opponent by a fall. Wrestlers are generally expected to stay within the rings, but getting out of the ring doesn’t cause disqualification. Most times, matches end outside of the ring.

Winning Method

The general way of winning the professional sport of wrestling is by pinning the opponent’s shoulder on the floor for three seconds or more. However, a player can also win over their opponent when the opponent spends a long time outside the ring, is disqualified, or is forced to submit.

However, modern pro wrestling matches have devised more ways of winning, including the ladder match.


Unlike other forms of wrestling, pro wrestling offers its players a wide range of clothing. But here are the most common ones:

  • Singlet and Shorts: The most common cloth worn by pro wrestlers is a tight-fitting singlet and shorts that allow a player to comfortably fight their opponent
  • One-piece: This is worn by both female and male wrestlers. Like the singlet, it has to be tight but comfortable.
  • Wrestling boots: Pro wrestlers must wear professional shoes to have a more standardized look. However, we’ve seen a lot of wrestlers wearing sneakers.


There are no governing authority rules for professional wrestling. However, standard rules have been developed over time. They include:

  • Matches are held within rings, and a player is not expected to stay too long outside the ring.
  • The winning method is falling and pinning an opponent to the ground for three seconds.
  • When one player is disqualified, the other automatically becomes the winner.


The types we see at the Olympics and on television aren’t the only types of wrestling. Different types of wrestling are played in different countries around the world. Wrestling is enjoyed by both the young and old, being a competitive sport with history.

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