A grippling technique in the middle of a freestyle wrestling match

What is freestyle wrestling: Rules, scoring, and Olympic styles

Freestyle is one of two wrestling styles contested in the Olympic Games. It origins from catch-as-catch-can wrestling, and also mixes Judo and Sambo techniques. This fighting style appeared in Great Britain and the United States in the first place. According to the International amateur wrestling federation, it is one of six styles of martial arts today.

Freestyle Wrestling: Rules And Scoring

Here is a brief paragraph about the rules of freestyle wrestling combat. There are many ways to win the fight, and we’ll get to know you with all of them. Plus, this article focuses on the Olympic styles of this discipline, the history of rule changes, and the comparison between traditional wrestling styles and Greco-Roman with a freestyle in the competitions.


The typical freestyle wrestling combat is divided into two three-minute periods, with 30 seconds of break between them. The period lasts for two minutes in under-15, cadets, and veterans competitions.

Two fighters are fighting on the special mats, and the goal of the combat is to pin the opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a short period. If a wrestler manages to keep the foe’s shoulder blades pressed towards the mats, the bout is over.

Ways To Win

This is not Greco Roman, so wins by fall are rare, as the opponent won’t let you control him on his back. Yet, there are many other ways to end the bout victorious. There are tons of throws and trips from a standing position that can bring you points.

When a fighter hurts himself, surrenders, or gets disqualified, the fight is also over. But maybe the most often way to leave the mat with your hand raised is victory via points. The different maneuvers and throws or takedowns bring 1 to 5 points, depending on their difficulty (arching throws or popular “grand amplitude throw” will bring the maximum number on judges’ scorecards). Throws with big amplitude should bring you at least three points. Please look at the instructional video below.

The reversal, or a change from the bottom to a dominant position, and keeping the opponent to the mat can also leave a better impression on the judges. Break the rule or do an illegal hold and the referee might sanction you with a penalty!

Sometimes a wrestler wins via decision. It happens when there was no finish or a ten-point lead. Then the fighter with the greater number of points scored leaves the hall victorious.

When one fighter leads by a ten-point lead, the match ends. It can happen in the first ten seconds, but it doesn’t matter, 10 points ahead on the scorecards means the fighter won the bout and the referee stops the match. The leader is declared the winner by the technical superiority.

What If The Points Are Equal At The End Of The Bout?

If the score is tied at the end of the fight, the fighter with the least number of cautions wins. When this parameter is the same, the mat warrior who scored the last point of the match ends up with his hand raised.

Olympic Wrestling

Only two styles of wrestling are allowed in the Olympics – Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling (which also allows competitions for women).

Fighters must wear a singlet (one-piece wrestling garment made of spandex), a special pair of wrestling shoes designed to boost flexibility and mobility, usually made with rubber soles, and a handkerchief in the case of bleeding. Usually, one competitor wears blue, while the other one is in a red one because of easier scoring. Headgear is optional, but fighters rarely wear it, despite it wears the potential of developing cauliflower ear.

Wrestling Rules Changed To Keep The Sport In Olympics

FILA’s bureau made significant rule changes before the 2020 Olympics to keep the sport in the Olympic family. Instead of three two-minute periods, the bout lasts for two three-minute periods, plus the cumulative scoring table replaced the two-out-of-three round system.

For example, now you can win the first round, do nothing in the second and lose the fight. When the matches lasted for three rounds, fighters who were up on the scorecards were stalling a lot in the third because of the dominant performance in the first two periods.

Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Types: The Difference Between Freestyle And Greco-Roman Wrestling

In Greco-Roman, fighters don’t tend to keep their hips so close to the ground and rather choose to grab their foes around the waist or neck. A more liberal ruleset gives more options to the freestyle wrestlers in the freestyle competition, so they can attack knees, thighs, even ankles, and feet.

Unlike Greco roman wrestling, fighters start the bout in a very low stance to defend their legs. In a classic Greco-Roman bout, the fighter cannot score points by grabbing the opponent’s legs as it will result in a penalty, plus a passive wrestler can defend on his stomach for a prolonged time. In freestyle, inactivity might lead to a sanction, judges don’t like stalling and doing nothing – bouts are way more dynamic.

But here is the one similarity – the fighters with the greater number of points win the battle. 🙂

Frequently Asked Questions on Freestyle Wrestling

Is freestyle wrestling real?

Of course, it is. If you think it’s a joke, try wrestling with a freestyle wrestler for one round. But don’t cry when he slams you on the mat and holds you down until the end or hurts you badly with a violent throw.

How many Olympic wrestling weight classes are there?

The weight classes for the male competitors in the Olympic Games look like this (upper limit): 55 kg (121.25 pounds), 60 kg (132.25 pounds), 66 kg (145.5 pounds), 74 kg (163 pounds), 84 kg (185 pounds), 96 kg (211.5 pounds), and 120 kg (264.5 pounds).
There were ten Olympic freestyle wrestling classes for women (50 kg, 53 kg, 55 kg, 57 kg, 59 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 68 kg, 72 kg, and 76 kg) for females who participate in the World Championships, but after the 2020 Summer Olympic games, there will be only six weight divisions (50 kg, 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 68 kg and 76 kg) in women’s freestyle wrestling.

What is the difference between wrestling and freestyle wrestling?

In Greco-Roman wrestling, you mustn’t grab the opponent under the level of his waist, whilst these moves are perfectly legal in the world of freestyle wrestling. There are minor differences in the scoring system and rules, as freestyle wrestling offers a more liberal rule set. But leg trips and throws are the most obvious for a newbie.

When did freestyle wrestling start?

Freestyle wrestling appeared in the Olympic games for the first time in 1904 in St. Louis. It was not a part of the Olympic family back in Stockholm in 1912, but after World War I, it has been present in every single edition of the games.

What is the difference between freestyle and folkstyle wrestling?

Folkstyle wrestling is more focused on bringing the opposing wrestler to the mat and controlling him until the end of the bout, while freestyle wrestling puts more focus on exposure points.
When you’re on your back in folkstyle wrestling, your goal is to get away from a bad spot. In a freestyle wrestling match, you’re trying to avoid being turned/exposed from the bottom position by any means necessary.

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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