Although the number of middle school wrestling teams and clubs continues to grow, most wrestlers get their first taste of the sport in high school. Some choose to wrestle because that’s what their friends are doing, while others wish to find an alternative to the usual basketball, hockey, and swimming options. ┬áNo matter how a wrestler discovers the sport, once he gets into that singlet, dons the headgear, laces up his shoes, and steps onto the mat to face down an opponent, he’s hooked.

If you’re thinking of trying out for your school’s wrestling team next month, brushing up on the basic rules will give you some idea of what the matches are like and how winners are determined. To help you out, we’ve put together this quick overview of the very least you need to know.

Weight classes

Unlike other sports where a kid who is 6’2″ and weighs 200 pounds can be pitted against a much smaller adversary, wrestlers only grapple with someone in the same weight class. This serves to level the playing field and give everyone a fair chance to win. Currently there are 14 different weight classes, beginning at 106 lbs. and increasing in various increments all the way up to Heavyweight (more than 225 lbs.).

Uniform

A wrestler’s uniform is minimal when compared to other sports. He must use a singlet and special wrestling shoes, as well as headgear to protect the ears. Some wrestlers also opt for kneepads, but these are not mandatory.

Mat

Each match takes place on a padded mat with markings to indicate the center ring and out-of-bounds areas.

Match length

Scholastic matches consist of three 2-minute periods, for a maximum length of 6 minutes.

Starting positions

The 1st period begins with both wrestlers in the neutral position; in the 2nd and 3rd periods the wrestlers themselves can decide which position to start from (neutral, top, or bottom).

Object and scoring

The object of the match is to pin your opponent’s shoulders or shoulder blades to the mat for two seconds. When this happens, you win and the match is over. If neither wrestler can pin the other, the one who has scored the most points will be declared the winner.

You can score points in any of five different ways:

  • Escape. One point is awarded when you escape from your opponent or get to the neutral position after having been down on the mat.
  • Takedown. Two points are awarded when you drop your opponent to the mat and maintain control over him.
  • Near fall. Either two or three points are awarded for a near fall, depending on how long you hold your opponent in the position. A near fall is when your opponent is almost pinned. This occurs when one shoulder is in contact with the mat and the other is at a 45-degree angle; when both shoulders are 45 degrees off the mat; or when you hold your opponent back on his elbows or in a bridge.
  • Reversal. Two points are awarded if your opponent has you down on the mat, but you’re subsequently able to come up and gain control of him.
  • Penalties. Either one or two points are awarded to your opponent if you commit a penalty such as an illegal hold, unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct, stalling, a flagrant misconduct, a false start or a technical violation for something like grabbing the opponent’s headgear or wrestling apparel.

In dual team meets, wrestlers score points for their team based on how they win individual matches. For example, pinning your opponent will net your team 6 points, while winning by regular decision will earn 3 points towards the team’s overall score.

These are a few of the most basic rules you should be aware of before you try out for your wrestling team. Your coach won’t expect you to be an expert right off the bat, so don’t worry about takedown techniques and things like that just yet. As long as you show up on time with the right singlet, shoes, and headgear, give 100% on every drill, and have some idea of what the sport is about you’ll have a legitimate shot of making the team.