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When watching a wrestling match the first few times, you may wonder why in the world the Referee keeps raising his hands in the air and the score keeps changing when nothing really seems to be happening.  You are not alone.  Not many people who don't come from wrestling families understand right off the bat how wrestling matches and the scoring work.  Below are some basics that will hopefully help.

Wrestling Match Basics

Wrestling matches consist of three periods

Periods can vary in length from one minute in duration for younger age groups, to as long as three minutes for college wrestling

Either wrestler can win the match at any time if they are able to pin their opponent or develop a lead of more than 15 points

There are only two positions from which referees start, or continue a match. The first is neutral position, with both wrestlers standing and facing each other. The other is the referee’s position, where one wrestler starts on his hands and knees down on the mat, and the other starts on top, behind and in control.

The first period always begins in the neutral position. Each wrestler has their choice in one of the remaining periods to choose to start from top or bottom referee’s position, or in the neutral position


The number of points someone receives for specific actions are included below.  If your wrestler is wearing the green anklet and the Referee raises his hand with the green band, then the points are awarded to your wrestler.  If he raises his hand with the red band and your wrestler's opponent is wearing the red anklet, the points are awarded to the opponent.



Takedowns (when from a neutral position one wrestler is able to bring the other to the mat and gain control)



Escapes (when the bottom wrestler is able to break free from the top wrestler and revert back to a neutral position)



Reversals (when a wrestler on the bottom is able to reverse the control so that the opponent is on the bottom)



Back points (also called near fall) are awarded when one wrestler comes close to pinning the other (i.e., exposing the other wrestler’s back)

2-3 (depending on length of time the opponent's back is exposed)

Penalty Points can be awarded when the opposing wrestler performs illegal moves or is penalized for excessive stalling

1 the first time, 1 the second time, 2 the third time, and then disqualification