Folkstyle Wrestling 101

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Everything you need to know about Folkstyle Wrestling

Wrestling is a sport that dates back centuries in human history. You can find traces of wrestling events in ancient Greece, Mongolia, and Egypt, among others, where they were a part of religious celebrations.

Since then, the sport has evolved over the years, and now you have different variants of wrestling available in the modern world. These iterations include Europe’s Greco-Roman variant and the American freestyle wrestling, making their presence felt on various domestic and international circuits.

Furthermore, the introduction of wrestling events in the Olympics has attracted a global audience, making them one of the most-viewed sports worldwide. In fact, wrestling events have been a part of every Olympic program since its introduction in 1904, only missing out in the 1912 edition.

Among these present-day wrestling types, Folkstyle or collegiate wrestling is garnering more attention due to its popularity in universities and colleges across the United States.

So what is Folkstyle wrestling? How is it different from other wrestling types?

Today, we will learn more about Folkstyle wrestling and the rules and regulations attached to it. Furthermore, this article will also help you understand the difference between Folkstyle wrestling and other wrestling types.

What is Folkstyle wrestling?

Folkstyle or college wrestling is a common wrestling form practiced primarily at the university or college level in the US. You can even find this wrestling type at the high or middle school levels practiced by younger participants.

Folkstyle Wrestling Par Terre
Folkstyle Wrestling Par Terre

Wrestling practiced at middle or high school levels is a modified version of collegiate wrestling, also known as scholastic wrestling. However, both collegiate and scholastic wrestling follow Folkstyle wrestling with minor modifications to the rules.

Although Folkstyle wrestling has some similarities with Freestyle wrestling, it is very different from the latter. Additionally, Folkstyle wrestling is not a registered Olympic event, so it is not popular outside the United States.

However, practicing Folkstyle wrestling will help you familiarize yourself with Freestyle wrestling and will aid you while transitioning to a professional wrestling career.

In short, Folkstyle wrestling is the perfect learning stage for aspirants who want to develop their grappling skills for competing at professional levels.

Folkstyle Wrestling – History

Folkstyle wrestling takes inspiration from different wrestling styles with modifications to the rules and regulations to set it apart from other genres. You can also find inserts from Native American wrestling, as wrestling was common in Native American society.

Furthermore, European settlers also influenced Folkstyle wrestling as many experts believe that collegiate wrestling is more identical to the wrestling styles of the European nations, including Greco-Roman wrestling.

However, Folkstyle wrestling draws the most significant influence from catch wrestling, as many consider it to be the parent of modern Freestyle and Folkstyle wrestling.

Catch Wrestling and Folkstyle Wrestling

Catch wrestling or catch-as-catch-can officially entered the wrestling circuit in 1871. However, many experts believe that the art form is older than the registered period, dating back to the early 1800s.

This wrestling style incorporates different grappling styles with influences from the English Lancashire wrestling style and the Pehlwani Indian wrestling style. Since both these wrestling styles employ multiple catch techniques, you can associate Folkstyle wrestling with catch wrestling.

Catch wrestling became an instant hit in the US, as you could find traveling carnivals arranging local events filled with wrestling matches. Since everyone could participate in carnival events, catch wrestling became one of the main highlights of such events.

However, catch wrestling comes with a wide variety of submission attacks and is often brutal, especially for beginners. So in order to make this wrestling style more accessible for everyone, it underwent various modifications to become safer like other wrestling styles.

For instance, Folkstyle wrestling does not contain any submission attacks, including certain hand grips. Furthermore, Folkstyle wrestling comes with a point system, so participants can win a match even if they fail to pin down their opponents.

In short, you can associate Folkstyle wrestling with catch wrestling. However, Folkstyle wrestling is safer than the latter and comes with a point system and a set of new rules and regulations.

Development of Folkstyle Wrestling in the United States

Since England occupied multiple countries, including India, the English navy acquired different wrestling techniques from different countries. The navy implemented these fighting techniques into their training, developing a hybrid wrestling style.

As Europeans settled in America, they infused this hybrid wrestling with Native American wrestling to produce a new genre of wrestling, which we know as Folkstyle wrestling today.

In short, you can credit the English navy for developing Folkstyle wrestling, which is now a common event in most colleges and universities across the United States.

What are the benefits of practicing Folkstyle wrestling?

Practicing Folkstyle wrestling has numerous benefits and helps you a lot to understand the basics of professional wrestling. In short, it would be best to encourage your kids to take up this art along with their academic education.

Here are the benefits of practicing Folkstyle wrestling.

Physical fitness

Wrestling is a physically demanding sport that requires a lot of strength and stamina. So, it’s obvious that practicing Folkstyle wrestling will improve physical fitness and help wrestlers stay in good shape.

Furthermore, practicing Folkstyle wrestling can enhance stamina and make your body stronger, including your cardiovascular system.

Increases self discipline

Participating in any sport makes you disciplined, and Folkstyle wrestling is no different. Since wrestling requires physical strength and stamina, it can induce good habits and help you become more disciplined, especially with your work ethic.

Furthermore, Folkstyle wrestling can improve your confidence, which will help you in other areas other than wrestling.

Improve self-defense

Although wrestling may not be an ideal self-defense art, it will undoubtedly help you defend yourself when required. Additionally, Folkstyle wrestling improves your gripping abilities, which will help you learn specific martial art forms with minimal fuss. There is no doubt that there are benefits of learning wrestling for self defense.

Folksyle’s Transition into MMA, BJJ and Grappling

Since Folkstyle wrestling improves your strength, stamina, and gripping techniques, it will help you transition into professional wrestling with ease.

For instance, you can use many Folkstyle techniques in Freestyle wrestling, which will help you build your professional career. Furthermore, you will learn the basics of securing points and completing successful takedowns on the professional circuit.

Likewise, martial art forms like Brazilian jiu-jitsu employ a lot of grappling techniques. So advancing into such art forms can be quicker if you have experience in Folkstyle wrestling.

The professional MMA circuit is the perfect example of this transition, as most of the fighters competing in the competition often have a wrestling background.

Now that you know about the benefits of Folkstyle wrestling, let us dive deep into the rules and regulations associated with it.

What are The Rules of Folkstyle Wrestling?

The rules involved in Folkstyle wrestling might be different from other wrestling styles. However, the primary objective to pin your enemy down with your opponent’s shoulders touching the mat remains intact with Folkstyle wrestling.

Furthermore, the point system also varies in Folkstyle wrestling compared to Freestyle wrestling.

For instance, you can earn points for position control like reversals and takedowns and also secure points for escapes during a match. Likewise, you can also earn points if your opponent commits faults or breaks the rules.

In short, you can earn points in different ways in a Folkstyle wrestling match.

So what are the rules involved in a folkstyle wrestling match?

Folkstyle wrestling follows three different starting positions, where you have to select a starting position depending on your opponent’s stance.

For instance, a high school Folkstyle wrestling match consists of three rounds, each lasting for two minutes. The timeframe of the opening round changes in a college scenario where players get only one minute for the first round.

Here are the rules followed in a typical Folkstyle wrestling match.

Round 1

The rules for the opening round are straightforward, where each wrestler begins with a neutral position. In short, a wrestler will stand upright and try to pin down his opponent to secure points.

The opening bout of a Folkstyle wrestling match is also known as a neutral-position round due to its opening stance.

Round 2

After opening the match in a neutral position, the second round offers one wrestler an advantage. This rule means a wrestler can choose his position to start on the top, bottom, or neutral position.

In short, this rule gives an advantage to the wrestler as he can get a commanding grip on his opponent, which he can utilize to earn points. However, he will have to return the favor in the third round.

Round 3

The third round of a Folkstyle wrestling match is identical to the second round. The only difference is that the other wrestler can do the same by choosing their starting position.

Although points can dictate a match’s fate, a wrestler pinning his opponent will win the match without completing all the rounds. However, if none of the wrestlers secure a fall, the wrestler with the most points will win the match.

Folkstyle Wrestling – Starting Positions

Unlike other sports where a player starts with a defensive or offensive position, Folkstyle wrestling makes you fight in three different positions. These starting positions are mandatory, and each player will face one advantage and one disadvantage during a match.

Furthermore, points are also specific to certain positions, meaning you can earn them only if you fulfill the specific requirements. Here are the three different positions in Folkstyle wrestling.

Neutral position

The neutral position is often associated with the first round as both wrestlers have to stand upright without any control over their opponent. Wrestlers can also start on their knees and secure takedowns from this position.

Defensive position

Each wrestler gets the chance to choose the defensive position once in a match. Although wrestlers do not like this position as it offers a commanding position to your opponent, you can earn points for defensive movements.

For instance, a wrestler in a defensive position can earn an escape point if he defends against an offensive attack. Likewise, a wrestler also gets additional points if he prevents a near-fall. Furthermore, a defensive wrestler also gets points for successful reversals.

Offensive position

The offensive position offers a commanding stance for a wrestler. Each wrestler gets one offensive position in a match. So capitalizing the most while you have the offensive position is crucial to winning a Folkstyle wrestling match.

An offensive wrestler can choose between two top-starting positions, traditional or Freestyle, and indicate to the referee when he is ready. These starting positions are different from each other and offer contrasting results based on the wrestler’s experience.

Folkstyle Wrestling
Folkstyle Wrestling

For instance, in a traditional top-starting position, a wrestler places one or both knees on the mat. Furthermore, he has to grip his opponent around the waist with one hand and place his head on the defensive wrestler’s back.

Lastly, the offensive player has to use his other hand’s palm and touch one elbow to complete the grip. After an offensive wrestler confirms his hold, the referee will blow the whistle and resume the fight.

On the other hand, a freestyle top-starting position allows the offensive player to hold his opponent from the side or back with both hands placed on the defensive wrestler’s back.

However, the offensive player must confirm his choice (freestyle top-starting position) to the referee by touching his thumbs and raising both hands. Once the offensive player sets his starting position, he has to wait for the referee’s whistle to resume the fight.

A wrestler can choose to either start on top or behind the other wrestler, allowing him better control over his opponent. The primary goal is to pin your opponent (touching your opponent’s shoulders) on the mat or secure near-fall points.

If an offensive player pins down his opponent successfully, he wins the match. However, if his opponent evades or escapes his attempt, the opponent gets the point.

In short, the offensive position is crucial in a Folkstyle wrestling match, as it allows a wrestler to close the game by securing a fall.

Referee’s position

Other than these three positions, there is a referee’s position which a referee initiates based on the current match scenario.

For instance, if a referee feels that a wrestler is hurting his opponent legally or illegally, a referee can stop the match and return the wrestlers to their starting position. In short, the wrestlers will move to the mat’s center and take their starting position (neutral, defensive, or offensive).

Here are the steps followed when a referee stops the fight:

  •       Both wrestlers move to the mat’s center and resume their starting position.
  •       The defensive player puts his knees and hands down in parallel lines and maintains his shape till the offensive player takes his position.
  •       The offensive player then chooses his top starting position (traditional or Freestyle) and confirms when they are ready.

Folkstyle Wrestling – Point System

Although many wrestlers try to secure a fall to win a Folkstyle wrestling match, you can also rely on points scored to seal a game. Furthermore, going for points is the ideal approach for a wrestler, especially when facing a more formidable opponent.

Here is the distribution of points based on the moves you secure in a Folkstyle wrestling match.

Escape (1 point)

A defensive wrestler gets one point if he escapes from his opponent’s offensive control. However, he will have to get back on his feet and face his opponent to secure the point. Furthermore, a wrestler can only get an escape point if he starts in the defensive position.

Reversal (2 points)

A reversal is a point awarded to a defensive wrestler, which secures him two points. A wrestler earns two points when he powers his way to a commanding offensive position instead of choosing the neutral position.

If a defensive wrestler successfully completes a reversal, he becomes the offensive player with a commanding position. Furthermore, a reversal does not depend on whether a wrestler starts in an offensive or defensive position.

Takedowns (2 points)

Takedowns are common with most wrestling types and are one of the best ways to earn points in a Folkstyle wrestling match.

A wrestler earns two points if he is able to take down his opponent and secure commanding control. However, a wrestler must achieve this move from a neutral position to earn points.

Furthermore, a successful takedown ensures that the wrestler who completes it gets into an offensive position with secure control over his opponent. The wrestler can hold his stance or try to earn more points by securing a near-fall.

On the other hand, his opponent can try to secure an escape or even reversal to earn points.

Near-fall (2 to 4 points)

Folkstyle wrestling allows wrestlers to earn points from falls and near-falls during a match. While fall is the ultimate attempt to pin your opponent, a near-fall allows you to secure more points, depending on specific angles.

For instance, if a wrestler holds his opponent less or equivalent to 45 degrees, he will earn 2 to 4 points, depending on how long he held his position. However, you have to be in the offensive position to earn points from a near-fall.

Here are the points distributed for securing near-fall 2, 3, and 4:

  •       Near-fall 2 – An offensive player must hold his opponent on his back (45° angle or less) for 2 to 4 seconds to secure a near-fall 2 (2 points).
  •       Near-fall 3 – An offensive wrestler gets 3 points for securing a near-fall 3 if he holds his opponent for 5 or more seconds.
  •       Near-fall 4 – An offensive player can secure a near-fall 4 if his opponent pleads to stop a match after being held for 5 or more seconds. Furthermore, a referee can also decide to stop the match if he feels that the defensive player will get injured after the 5-second mark. In that case, the offensive player still receives 4 points for securing a near-fall 4.

In short, securing a near-fall is one of the best ways to stay ahead in a Folkstyle wrestling game.

Caution and Penalty Points

Besides earning direct points from reversals, escapes, and near-falls, a wrestler can earn points if his opponent commits a false move.

For instance, wrestlers can get points if their opponents break the rules, commit illegal moves, or put their opponents in danger. Referees give warnings before introducing penalty points, which can lead to disqualification if a wrestler commits a fourth penalty in a Folkstyle wrestling match.

The penalty chart indicates 1 point for the first and second penalties, while a third penalty will result in 2 points. If a wrestler gets a fourth penalty, it results in a disqualification, which will make his opponent the winner of the contest.

Here are the penalty and caution points associated with a Folkstyle wrestling match.

Locked hands penalty

In Folkstyle wrestling, a defensive wrestler can lock hands (around legs and torso) on his opponent. Likewise, a wrestler fighting in a neutral position can also use this tactic to counter his opponent.

However, an offensive player cannot lock hands (overlapping fingers) on his defensive opponent unless both are standing in a neutral position. If an offensive player commits this fault, his opponent gets a penalty point.

Locked hands (head)

Locking hands around the head is a penalty for every starting position in Folkstyle wrestling, especially when you don’t involve your leg or arms. Furthermore, even if you use your hands or legs, you have to ensure that your opponent can breathe freely.

If the referee feels that a headlock can be potentially dangerous, he can stop the fight and award penalty points to your opponent. Likewise, the referee can also initiate the referee’s position to resume the fight.

Caution points

In a Folkstyle wrestling match, a referee issues caution or award caution points to wrestlers if their opponent disobeys the referee.

For instance, a referee can caution a wrestler if he moves early before the referee blows his whistle. If the player gets three cautions, the opponent gets a caution point (1 point). Incorrect lining can also force the referee to award caution to a wrestler.

Folkstyle wrestling allows two caution points to each player. However, if a wrestler receives the third caution from the referee, his opponent gets one point.

Thankfully, caution points are different from penalty points and do not result in disqualification. However, wrestlers will have to ensure that they do not give unnecessary caution points to their opponents, which can cost them the match.

Differences Between Folkstyle Wrestling and Freestyle Wrestling

Although Folkstyle wrestling employs many techniques from the Freestyle technique, it is very different from the latter.

For instance, the pinning style in Folkstyle wrestling is a bit different from Freestyle wrestling. Likewise, the point system in Folkstyle wrestling does not resemble how wrestlers get points in Freestyle wrestling.

Here are the primary differences between Folkstyle and Freestyle wrestling.

Opponent pinning

Although pinning your opponent down remains the ultimate goal in both wrestling styles, there are subtle differences in the rules followed in Folkstyle wrestling.

For instance, in Folkstyle wrestling, a wrestler must hold his opponent’s back on the mat for at least two seconds to secure a fall. The referee will confirm the position and check whether an offensive wrestler has achieved this fall within the legal limits.

Once the referee confirms the pinning, the offensive player gets the point or even confirmed winner if he fulfills the criteria.

On the other hand, in Freestyle wrestling, a wrestler can secure a successful pin by holding his opponent’s back on the mat for one second. If the referee confirms that the wrestler completed the task within legal limits, he gets the point.


One of the most significant differences between Folkstyle and Freestyle wrestling is how wrestlers approach a match.

Folkstyle Wrestling Match
Folkstyle Wrestling Match

For instance, in Folkstyle wrestling, a wrestler spends more time controlling his opponent and securing points or a fall without giving penalty or caution points. A Folkstyle wrestler, especially in an offensive position, tries to control his opponent and close the game while he has the offensive position.

Furthermore, precise control while executing a near-fall or fall is crucial as the opponent can secure an escape or reversal if you lose your commanding position. A reversal can change the game’s perspective as you might end up in the defensive position after losing control over your opponent.

On the other hand, Freestyle wrestling is more about exposure points, where wrestlers don’t rely much on control.

Escape or reversal

When you are in the defensive position in Freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling, you only have one choice – Not to let your opponent turn you on your back. Freestyle wrestling defines this position as “Par Terre,” which has limited options.

On the other hand, Folkstyle wrestling offers more options in a defensive position. For instance, a defensive wrestler can secure points by initiating an escape from the commanding grip of the offensive player.

Likewise, the defensive player can also secure a reversal if he gets back on his feet or on top of his opponent. Furthermore, a reversal can also turn the stats and turn a defensive wrestler into an offensive player.

In short, you can score points or seal the match, even if you start in a defensive position.

Point system

Although Folkstyle and Freestyle wrestling follow similar guidelines for their point systems, the number of points awarded for certain moves can vary.

Here is a chart that will help you understand the point system better.

Moves Folkstyle wrestling Freestyle wrestling
Takedown without back exposure 2 points 1 point
Takedown (leg attack with back exposure) 2 points 3 points
Takedown (feet-to-back/throw with back exposure) 2 points 3 to 5 points
Near-fall (according to the referee’s count) 2 points (2 to 4 seconds) 1 point (if a wrestler holds his opponent’s back on the mat at a 90-degree angle for 5 seconds)
3 points (5 or more seconds)
4 points (if the referee decides to stop the fight)
Momentary near-fall (without referee count) No points 1 to 2 points
Reversal 2 points 1 point
Escape 1 point 1 point
Tech Fall (technical superiority) 15 points 6 points
Pushout No point 1 point
Pinning your opponent (fall) Up to 2 seconds Up to 1 second


By observing this chart, you can understand that Folkstyle wrestling awards more points in some areas while omitting points for others.

For instance, you can get up to 4 points for completing a successful near-fall or get more points for reversals. Likewise, a tech fall (technical fall) will award more match-difference points without having to win multiple tech falls like Freestyle wrestling.

However, you do not get points for pushouts or momentary near-falls, which is present in Freestyle wrestling.

For instance, Freestyle wrestling awards a wrestler 1 point if his opponent steps out without being offensive. Likewise, you can get 1 to 2 points if you turn the opponent’s shoulders without any referee count. These points are also available in the Greco-Roman format.

Furthermore, in Folkstyle wrestling, you will have to hold your opponent for at least 2 seconds to complete a successful fall. On the other hand, you need to hold your opponent for just one second if the other wrestler surrenders to stop the fight.

Declaring a fall

Folkstyle and Freestyle wrestling has unique ways to declare a fall.

For instance, in a Folkstyle wrestling match, if you hear “one one-thousand,” it means that the offensive player has completed a successful fall. The referee determines the conditions and decides the match results.

On the other hand, if you hear “tomber” in a Freestyle wrestling match, it means that the offensive player has successfully completed a fall. Furthermore, securing a successful fall can end a match in Freestyle wrestling. This process is also applicable in Greco-Roman wrestling.

In Conclusion

Folkstyle wrestling is a popular sport in universities and colleges across the United States. Although you may find some similarities between Freestyle and Folkstyle wrestling, they are different in many ways.

Folkstyle wrestling is the perfect stepping stone for venturing into the professional wrestling circuit, as it helps to build stamina and tactics to compete on the world stage. Furthermore, Folkstyle wrestling makes you disciplined and improves your wrestling skills.

However, ensure that you participate with proper clothing, wrestling shoes, mouth guard, and wrestling headgear to avoid injuries. Remember, Folkstyle wrestling is a physically demanding sport, and having the right equipment can help you get the best results.


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