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High School and College Wrestling – Differences

Posted by Jeffrey Pape on

If you’re about to graduate and are planning to continue your wrestling career in college, you might be wondering what to expect. Here we’ll walk you through some of the similarities and differences of high school and college wrestling so that you’ll be ready for your first college practice.

What Stays the Same?

Folkstyle high school wrestling evolved from collegiate wrestling, so the sports are very closely aligned with just some modifications. The season runs the same for both disciplines, from approximately October to March. General practices regarding appropriate behavior, such as shaking hands with your opponent and displaying utmost respect and sportsmanship, do not change at the collegiate level.

Your equipment won’t differ either. You’ll still need an excellent pair of shoes, such as Nike Inflict wrestling shoes or Jordan Oliver wrestling shoes, a quality singlet, the appropriate headgear, like custom Cliff Keen signature headgear, and a wrestling gear bag to hold all your supplies. You may also choose to use mouthguards, knee pads, or elbow pads if you prefer.

Some Differences in Rules and Regulations

When you advance to college wrestling, you will notice some changes to the rules and regulations you’re used to. For example, in high school you were required to wear a suitable undergarment under your singlet if you did not wear tights. There is no corresponding rule for this in college wrestling. Similarly, the high school regulation stating that facial hair is allowed if covered with a legal face mask does not exist in college wrestling.

You’ll notice differences in weight classes and weigh-ins as well. While you had 13 weight classes in high school, in college there are only 10 classes, beginning at 125 and ending with the heavyweight class at 184-285 pounds. Weigh-ins are conducted in a more restricted way, in a private, secure area with limited people involved.

Changes in Practice Sessions

Expect practices to last longer, to be more intense, and to extend year-round. Your strength and conditioning regimen will become more rigorous, and your coach may demand more out of you than you’re used to giving. This is true across the board for college, so make sure you’re ready for it. You’re going to be juggling harder academic classes and living on your own all at the same time, so you’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for these new challenges and give your all in practice.

How Matches Are Different in College

Your high school matches consisted of 3 periods lasting 2 minutes each. In college matches, your first period will be one minute longer, for a total of a 7-minute match instead of a 6-minute match. When overtime was necessary during your high school matches, you competed for one 2-minute period followed by a 30-second tiebreaker as needed. In college, overtime matches consist of a sudden-victory period that is a maximum of 2 minutes long, with the same 30-second tiebreaker period if necessary.

You’ll also see changes in penalties, with stricter rules in college matches. For example, if a wrestler exhibits behavior that exceeds unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness, he will suffer the penalty of disqualification from the match and cessation of wrestling, and his team will have a point deducted from their overall score. In high school, this rule did not exist. You’ll notice, too, that the difficulty of college matches exceeds that of high school by far. Only the best high school wrestlers get to continue with the sport in college, and that means that at each match you face top opponents. There are no easy matches in college, so you have to be prepared to perform at your best every time.

Overall, the sport is not all that different between high school and college. As long as you respect your sport, your team, your coach, and yourself, your transition to college wrestling should go smoothly. Be ready to learn from your new environment and be humble, and you’ll be on your way to a successful college wrestling career.