An Overview of the Wrestling Point System

By: Rebecca Li

For many high school and youth wrestling tournaments and meets in the United States, folkstyle (or collegiate) wrestling is commonly used for tournaments and dual meets. After the wrestlers check in with the table workers and put on their ankle bands, they start off by shaking hands with one foot on the line in the middle of the mat. Then, the referee yells “wrestle” and the match starts. 

Usually, the match has three 2-minute periods. Sometimes, for JV tournaments or if the tournament is running behind on time for some reason, they may choose to only give minute and a half or just one minute for the first period. 

How Do You Win? 

The goal of each wrestler is to put their opponents on their back, pinning them for at least two seconds (and win by fall). The referee will slap the mat to indicate that the opponent was pinned and stop the match. 

However, pinning is not the only way you can win against your opponent. 

Individual Points

This is the important part. The points that you, as an individual, can earn ultimately determine the outcome of the match (unless there was a pin).

Takedown (2 points)- From a neutral/stand position, a wrestler takes her opponent to the mat and gains control of her opponent. 

Escape (1 point)- The wrestler in the bottom position gets out of the top wrestler’s control and comes to a neutral position. 

Reversal (2 points)- The bottom wrestler switches position to gain control of her opponent without first coming to a neutral position. They do not get the escape point. 

Near Fall/ Back Points (2 points)- the top wrestler turns her opponent and holds them in a near fall position for 2 seconds. A near fall position is when 

  • A wrestler’s shoulders are controlled to be within around 4 inches of the mat or one shoulder touching the mat, or
  • One shoulder is touching the mat while another is at a 45 degree angle

Near Fall (3 points)- the top wrestler controls her opponent in a near fall position for 5 seconds. To score more back points, the top wrestler would have to return her opponent to their belly and try to near-fall them again (preferably with a different move or on a different side).

Stalling/illegal holds (1 point)- illegal moves or unsportsmanlike actions can cause the ref to give you a warning or one point to your opponent. To avoid this, do not try any illegal holds, be excessively rough, or stall the match.   

Team Points

At the end of the 3 periods, if neither wrestler pinned the other, the winner will be determined by points. This is kind of obvious, but whoever has more points at the end of the match wins. However, the different types of wins can score your team different amounts of points.

Fall (6 TEAM points)- If you win by pin, you earn 6 points for your team in a dual meet.

Technical Fall (5 TEAM points)- When one wrestler’s score exceeds her opponent’s score by 15 points, the match will end when the points are awarded. 

Wrestler’s vocab : This can also be used as a verb by saying that someone got “teched” or that they won/lost by a “tech fall.”

I don’t know if it is just for the guys on my team, but it seems that getting teched could be more embarrassing than a pin. Either way, though, you should be going for a pin if you can. 

Minor Decision/Decision (3 TEAM points)- A wrestler outscores her opponent by 1 to 7 points. If the two wrestlers have the same number of points at the end of the third period, then the match goes overtime.

Major Decision (4 TEAM points)- more than a minor decision, but not quite enough for a tech fall. A major Decision occurs when a wrestler outscores her opponent by 8 to 14 points. 

Forfeit/Default (6 TEAM points): A forfeit may not be the flashiest win of the day, but it gets the points. In the event your opponent team does not have a wrestler who is eligible to compete at a certain weight but your team does, they will forfeit the match. Other situations may include a wrestler getting too injured or disqualified from participating in the match.

What are the Three Positions in Wrestling?

Neutral: In the beginning of a match, both wrestlers stand facing each other and prepare to do a takedown.

Bottom: The goal of the bottom wrestler is to avoid getting put on their back or pinned while attempting to escape or reverse their opponent. Coaches may want their wrestler to start off in the bottom position because they can score 1 or 2 points with an escape or reversal. 

Top: A wrestler in the top position has control over the bottom wrestler. Her objective would be to break down her opponent and turn them to get a pin or back points. She also wants to prevent her opponent from escaping or reversing position, which will cause her to lose control of her opponent.

If the wrestlers were to reset at the beginning of the period or if the match had to be stopped (if there was potential danger or out-of-bounds), then the wrestler who had control would remain the top wrestler. She will start off by waiting for the bottom wrestler to get into position first and then will cover her spot after the referee gives the signal. In the referee’s position, top wrestler places one hand on their opponent’s belly and another near the elbow. 

Friendly reminder: As a wrestler on top, you will get a warning if you cover the bottom wrestler before the referee allows you to. So remember to stay put until the referee has told you to take your position. 

Optional start: This is a position that a wrestler in the top position can choose when the wrestlers reset. The wrestler makes a diamond shape and puts on their opponents back before the whistle blows. This position makes it much easier for the bottom wrestler to get on their feet. 

*In this photo, the guy on his all fours is in the bottom position and the guy in red is doing an optional start.

Your coach may ask you to do optional start if:

  1. You are not very successful on top (whether it is stalling or performing illegal moves like a full nelson or body locking) or you are having trouble turning your opponent.
  2. Your coach wants you to “cut” your opponent by letting your opponent back on their feet and taking them down again. You would be earning points since an escape gives your opponent 1 point but you earn 2 points for a takedown. 
  3. You can also hit a cradle as your opponent stands to their feet (ignore this reason if you have not learned this move in practice)

Here’s a video that you can watch that talks about the basic rules of wrestling:

*Fair Use Notice: Sisterhood of Wrestlers does not own these images. No copyright infringement is intended. Email for any concerns