Collegiate Wrestling

Collegiate wrestling, sometimes known in the United States as folkstyle wrestling, is a style of amateur wrestling practiced at the college and university level in the United States. Collegiate wrestling emerged from the folk wrestling styles practiced in the early history of the United States. This style, with some slight modifications, is also practiced at the high school and middle school levels, and also among younger participants, where it is known as scholastic wrestling. These names help distinguish collegiate wrestling from other styles of wrestling that are practiced around the world such as those in the Olympic Games: freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling.

Collegiate wrestling, like its international counterpart, freestyle wrestling, has its main origins in catch-as-catch-can wrestling.[1] In both styles, the ultimate goal is to pin the opponent to the mat, which results in an immediate win. Collegiate and freestyle wrestling, unlike Greco-Roman, also both allow the use of the wrestler’s or his opponent’s legs in offense and defense. However, collegiate wrestling has had so many influences from the wide variety of folk wrestling styles brought into the country that it has become distinctly American.

Collegiate wrestling differs in a number of ways from freestyle and Greco-Roman. Some of the differences are listed below.
There are some scoring differences. For example, in collegiate wrestling, “exposure” points are not given to a wrestler for simply forcing the opponent’s shoulders to quickly rotate and be exposed to the mat. Instead, for example, a wrestler must control one of the opponent’s shoulders on the mat and have the opponent’s other shoulder forced to the mat at an angle of 45 degrees or less for two to five seconds to score. The points generated in this situation are called “near fall” points. This shows a difference in focus: while the international styles encourage explosive action and risk, collegiate wrestling encourages and rewards control over the opponent.

This emphasis on control was present in collegiate wrestling from its earliest days. Since 1915, collegiate wrestling officials have recorded the time that each participant had in controlling his opponent on the mat (known as “time advantage” or “riding time”). Early on, this was the major way to determine the winner in the absence of a fall. Over time, the significance of such timekeeping has declined, and now such “time advantage” only counts for one point in college competition at the most.[2] As in both of the international styles, a wrestler can win the match by pinning both of his opponent’s shoulders or both of his opponent’s scapulae (shoulder blades) to the mat.

In collegiate wrestling, there is an additional position to commence wrestling after the first period, and also to resume wrestling after various other situations. All three styles begin a match with both wrestlers facing each other on their feet with the opportunity given to both to score a takedown and thus gain control over the opponent. In collegiate wrestling, once a takedown is scored, the wrestler under control in the inferior (defensive or bottom) position remains there until he escapes the move, until he reverses the position, until the period ends, or until various penalty situations occur. The inferior position is similar to a choice for a starting position in the second and third periods, known as the referee’s position. The referee’s position is roughly analogous to the “par terre” starting position in the international wrestling styles. In the international styles, the “par terre” starting position is not utilized as often as the referee’s position is in collegiate wrestling. In the two international styles, the inferior position in the “par terre” starting position is now used to penalize a wrestler who has committed an illegal act.

In collegiate wrestling, there is a de-emphasis on “throws”, or maneuvers where the other wrestler is taken off his feet, taken through the air, and lands on his back or shoulders. This lack of emphasis on throws is another example of how collegiate wrestling emphasizes dominance or control, as opposed to the element of risk and explosive action. A legal throw in collegiate wrestling is awarded the same amount of points as any other takedown. In freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, points awarded for a wrestler’s takedowns increase with the level of explosiveness seen in the throws. Well-executed throws can even win a period in the international styles, especially when a throw is of grand amplitude (a throw in which a wrestler takes an opponent off of the mat and controls his opponent so that his feet go directly above his head). In collegiate wrestling, some of the throws seen in the international styles may even be illegal, such as a full-back suplay from a rear standing position. However, many collegiate wrestlers still incorporate some throws into their repertoire of moves because a thrown opponent often lands on his back or shoulders and thus in a position more conducive to producing near fall points or securing a fall.

Generally, rather than lifting the opponent or throwing him for grand amplitude in order to win the period as in the international styles, the collegiate wrestler most often seeks to take his opponent down to the mat and perform a “breakdown” (that is, to get his opponent in the defensive position flat on his stomach or side). With the opponent off of his base of support (that is, off of his hands and knees), the collegiate wrestler in the offensive position would then seek to run pinning combinations, or combinations of techniques designed to secure a fall. Failing to gain a fall could still result in an advantage in riding time and potential nearfall points. The defensive wrestler could counter such attempts for a takedown, or when once taken down try to escape his opponent’s control or reverse control altogether. In a last-ditch attempt to foil a fall, the defensive wrestler could also “bridge” out of his opponent’s control (that is, pry his head, his back, and both of his feet up from the mat and then turn toward his stomach). Overall, a collegiate wrestler in his techniques would most likely emphasize physical control and dominance over the opponent on the mat.

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