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WRESTLING FOR NEW PARENTS: Tournaments, Brackets, Bouts, Scoring Explained.

Updated: Mar 22, 2022


Wrestling is very different from most other sports that your child has tried. It can be quite confusing at first. Throughout your wrestler's first year, you will become familiar with scoring, tournaments, brackets, and weight classes. The purpose of this article is to help you better understand the sport of wrestling and answer many commonly asked questions.

Our Best Advice Is To ALWAYS ASK!

Wrestling can be a challenging sport to figure out, so don't be intimidated. There really is no silly question. After reading this article no one expects you to go to your first practice, meet, or tournament and be an expert. You will learn more from asking questions than anything else! Besides learning, asking questions will also allow you to get to know the coaches and parents, thus strengthening the team's ties. You'll soon know all the parents and cheer for their children on the mat. No other sport develops close bonds like wrestling.

Clothing and Uniforms

A wrestler wears shorts, a t-shirt, and wrestling shoes during practice.

Wrestlers must wear wrestling shoes, headgear, a singlet, or the newest trend in wrestling uniforms, compression clothing like shorts, along with a shirt at meets and tournaments. Make sure you know the uniform requirements for your team.


Each wrestler will be assigned to a bracket, which is a grouping of wrestlers of similar weights and ages. A wrestler who places first through fourth in his bracket will typically receive a trophy or medal. There are some Novice tournaments that award medals to all wrestlers in a bracket. Each tournament requires registration (online, by mail, or at the tournament), a registration fee, and an admission fee is charged at the door. Typically, these events are fundraisers for the club hosting the tournament. Most tournaments are held on Saturdays or Sundays.

In the passage above, you may have seen the word "Novice". This is a specific type of tournament for first, second, and third-year wrestlers. You will likely want to focus on this type of tournament as a first-year parent. Novice tournaments typically consist of first- and second-year players. There are some "True Novice" tournaments, where only first-year wrestlers are allowed to enter. The Novice classification is based only on experience. Novice tournaments can be entered at any age, as long as you have the required experience (your first, second or third year, depending on the tournament). In Novice, you are still categorized by weight and age. Additionally, most Novice tournaments will not allow you to enter if you have placed first, second, or third in an Open tournament. Please note, the clubs and organizations that run novice tournaments have varying rules, so you will need to review the registration form closely before entering your child.

Open tournaments are more popular. Anyone may participate. Most Open tournaments are extremely competitive, and there are typically many more entrants than in Novice tournaments. Wrestling weigh-ins are required in most Open tournaments. While some tournaments allow weigh-ins the morning of the tournament, most require it 2-3 days in advance so brackets can be accurately created. On the registration form, you will have to enter your wrestler's current weight. In advance, if they don't make that weight, they will usually allow you to change weight classes (sometimes for a small fee). Typically, if your wrestler does not make weight on the day of the weigh-in, you will be disqualified. Whenever possible, weigh-in in advance. Many tournaments hold "satellite" weigh-ins two or three days before the tournament begins.


A tournament bracket is a diagram of "who wrestles who." Brackets can be drawn for 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, or more contestants.

Round-Robin Bracket

Generally, your child will be assigned to a bracket of four, five, or six wrestlers. Every wrestler in the bracket will meet the other wrestler once. A wrestler with zero losses typically Is awarded first place, a wrestler with one loss places second, a wrestler with two losses places third, a wrestler with three losses places fourth, etc. Occasionally, the standings may not turn out as planned, and wrestler A could defeat wrestler B, wrestler B could defeat wrestler C, etc. When this occurs, and wrestlers have a tied record (in the above case, all wrestlers have a record of 1-1), the rankings are determined by a series of tie-breakers. There are usually tie-breakers such as head to head, total points (pin is 2 points and a major decision is 1 point), quickest pins, etc. Each tournament's tie-breakers may differ.

In Round Robins, it is not uncommon to see the Madison Weight System used. The tournament organizer will split the weights in each weight division based on the number of wrestlers in each bracket instead of grouping wrestlers by size (e.g. 55lb, 60lb, 65lb, 70lb, 80lb...). If, for example, there are wrestlers who weigh 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, and 51lbs, and the tournament wants four-man brackets, then 44, 45, 46, and 47 would be in Bracket A, and 48, 49 50, and 51 would be in Bracket B, and it would go on like that for all wrestling competitors in each division. In a Madison bracket, wrestlers usually have an allowance for how far apart their weights can be. As an example, if wrestlers were only allowed to be 4 lbs apart in brackets, Bracket A would consist of 44, 45, 46, and 47 (since 48 is 4 lbs heavier than 44), Bracket B would consist of 48, 49, 50, and 51, and 52 would be pushed to Bracket C. In this way, no wrestler will be matched against someone too big for them. Therefore, no Madison Weight Bracket tournament will ever have a "perfect setup" where all brackets have the same number of wrestlers.

Double Elimination Bracket

Wrestling brackets can range from four wrestlers up to 32, but it is much more common for there to be eight to sixteen wrestlers. Under Double Elimination, there are essentially two brackets: Championship and Consolation. All Wrestlers start in the Championship bracket, but if they lose, they drop to the Consolation bracket. Losing in the consolation bracket (their second loss) eliminates them from the tournament. The championship bracket will result in the championship match, where the winners and runners-up will be determined. The consolation bracket results in the consolation final, which determines the third and fourth place. There is the possibility that a wrestler may end up in the consolation bracket, but fight their way back into the championship bracket (however, this is not very common). There are usually fixed weight categories in double-elimination tournaments.

Age Divisions

In youth wrestling tournaments, wrestlers are matched by weight and age. There are typically four age groups or age divisions at the youth level. Be aware that the groupings and divisions are entirely determined by the state in which you reside and the tournament director, so be sure to read the registration form carefully.


During the first year, it can be confusing to understand how a wrestling bout is scored. But it's much simpler than you think. The main goal of wrestling is to pin your opponent. Wrestlers can also earn points by executing specific moves. If a pin isn't achieved, the wrestler with the most points at the end of the third period wins.

Wrestlers can be in one of three positions during a bout: offense, defense, or neutral. Offensive wrestlers tend to be in control and usually on top of defensive wrestlers. The defensive wrestler is fighting to become the offensive wrestler by gaining control. In neutral, neither wrestler has control yet (no one is clearly offensive or defensive). All bouts begin with both wrestlers in a neutral position.

Takedown - 2 points - Scored when a wrestler gains control and becomes the offensive wrestler from the neutral stance. Control is defined as getting behind the opponent and taking them to the mat or taking them directly to their back without getting behind them and becoming the offensive wrestler.

Reversal - 2 points - Awarded to a wrestler when they switch from the defensive position to the offensive position and take control away from the opponent. If a wrestler is on the bottom and gets to the top without an escape, they are awarded a reversal.

Escape - 1 point - Scored when a defensive wrestler escapes from the offensive wrestler and becomes neutral. This happens most often when a wrestler chooses to start on the bottom in the 2nd or 3rd period.

Near Fall (3 seconds) - 2 points - When you have your opponent on their back, and their back is at an angle to the mat of 45 degrees or less, the referee will start waving their hand to signify a count. If the angle is sustained for 3 seconds, the offensive wrestler is awarded 2 points.

Near Fall (5 seconds) - 3 points - Same as a 3 second near fall, but the 45-degree angle must be sustained for a 5-second count. After a 3 point near fall is awarded, no more near falls will be awarded until the defensive wrestler gets off their back, and then is moved back into a new near fall.

Penalty - 1 point to the opponent - A referee can award an opponent a penalty point for several reasons. Locking hands is the most common penalty, and you will observe the referee clasp their hands together in the air before they award the penalty. Another penalty is termed, Stalling ( when a wrestler is not being active or passive, not trying to get a pin, not trying to gain control). "Potentially Dangerous" involves kicking, scratching, biting, hitting, body slamming, or bending any body part beyond its normal range of motion.

How The Score Is Kept

Your child will put on a green or red velcro ankle band on the mat before the bout begins. The referee is also wearing two wristbands, green and red. When a wrestler scores points, you will see the referee raise their hand with the matching color of the wrestler’s ankle band. The referee will hold up the number of points scored with their fingers. The table has two scorekeepers, one who runs the scoreboard, and one who tracks the bout on the scorecard. Green and red scores will always appear on the digital scoreboard, and the person running the scoreboard will adjust the score based on what color wristband the ref is holding up and how many points he is indicating.

Types Of Victories

A victory can be categorized in different ways depending on how the bout is won.

Pin/fall - This can happen at any time during a bout. If both shoulders of the defensive wrestler are touching the mat, the wrestler is pinned and the bout is over.

Technical Fall - When a wrestler takes a 15 point or greater lead, the bout is over and the wrestler is declared the winner.

Major Decision - Only awarded after the match is over, awarded when a wrestler wins by eight to fourteen points.

Decision - Only given at the end of the match when a wrestler wins by 1-7 points.

Forfeit - A forfeit victory occurs when a wrestler does not have an opponent to wrestle against (usually because his opponent failed to show up or is injured).

Disqualification - A wrestler wins by disqualification if the opponent is disqualified because of too many penalties or if the wrestler is injured by an opponent's illegal hold and cannot continue.

Bout or Matches

A bout at the youth division almost always consists of three one-minute periods. You will see this indicated as "1-1-1" on tournament registration forms. Junior High bout length increases to three 1.5 minute periods. And High School bouts have three 2 minute periods. Make sure to read the registration form carefully. If you are a first-year parent, you can bet ALL of your child's bouts will be 1-1-1. In the case of a tie, the bout will proceed to a “sudden victory” over time. Both wrestlers will start neutral in this overtime and the first one to score will win.





Ask, ask, ask! The second best advice is patience. You will not understand wrestling instantly. When you do, it's somewhat enthralling. It is equally a great feeling to transition from a parent asking questions to one answering them. Parenting a wrestler is a major undertaking, but if you make that commitment, we can promise, it will be worth it! Your sharing, comments, and subscriptions are appreciated.

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