Wrestling - Rules & Regulations

Rules and Regulations

Bad Time and Advancement in Consolation Brackets Addressed


INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 6, 2014) — High school wrestling rules changes focused on changes in the definition of bad time and advancement of wrestlers in the consolation bracket.

Changes to Rules 5-1-1 and 10-2-9 were recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee at its April 14-16 meeting in Indianapolis. The committee’s recommendations were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

In addition to previous language in Rule 5-1-1, the committee agreed that bad time is wrestled with the wrestlers in the wrong position or the wrong wrestler being given choice of position “at the start of the second 30-second tiebreaker” and “at the start of the ultimate tiebreaker.”

The previous definition did not include situations where the wrong wrestler was given choice of position at the start of the second 30-second tiebreaker or the start of the ultimate tiebreaker.

Rule 10-2-9 previously addressed the protocol when two wrestlers in the championship bracket simultaneously could not continue the match but did not address a plan for advancement to the consolation bracket when points had been scored in the match.

The additional language will state that if the match is tied at the time of termination, the wrestler who scored the first point(s) in the match (first three periods, or first or second 30-second tiebreaker) will continue in the consolation bracket. If no points were scored, neither wrestler will continue.

“I am very proud of the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee’s work,” said Alan Beste, chair of the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. “Oftentimes, people think successful committee meetings are only accomplished when numerous changes are made. This year, the rules committee reviewed many aspects of the high school wrestling program and determined there was no need for a large number of rules changes. We will continue to monitor the annual NFHS wrestling rules questionnaire sent to state associations, coaches and referees to determine the need for future changes.”

Wrestling is the sixth-most popular sport for boys at the high school level with 270,163 participants in 10,488 schools during the 2012-13 season, according to the NFHS Athletics Participation Survey. In addition, 8,727 girls were involved in wrestling in 1,602 high schools.


Going out of the wrestling area by either wrestler or forcing an opponent out of the wrestling area at any time as a means of avoiding wrestling is a technical violation (Rule 7-3-1). There are many occasions when this happens and no call is made or a wrestler is called for stalling when the appropriate call would be a technical violation for fleeing the mat. There can be no technical violation of fleeing the mat if near-fall points have been earned.

One common scenario that occurs is often initiated from the offensive/defensive starting position in the center of the mat when both wrestlers work their way to their feet and the action goes out of bounds. It can be difficult to determine if the offensive wrestler is pushing the defensive wrestler out of bounds, if the defensive wrestling is running out of bounds to make it look like the offensive wrestler is pushing him/her out, or if it is aggressive action by both wrestlers. Another common scenario is when one wrestler has a single leg in the air near the out-of-bounds line, and the other wrestler tries to jump or spin out of the situation and ends up out of bounds.

In the above situations as well as similar situations where a wrestler may be using the edge of the mat to get out of a situation, judgment is required by the referee with the primary question being “Was the wrestler wrestling aggressively and trying to stay in bounds or using the edge of the mat as a means to avoiding wrestling?” If he/she was using the edge of the mat as a means of avoiding wrestling, a technical violation should be called. Good wrestling action requires both wrestlers to make an honest attempt to stay within the wrestling area.


Preventive officiating must be on every referee’s mind. One area of concern is injuries that occur during false starts from the neutral position. To avoid such injuries, the referee should stretch his/her arm(s) out between and parallel to the starting lines before blowing the whistle. By doing so, the referee can block either wrestler who false starts prior to the whistle, thus reducing the potential for injury to one or both wrestlers.


The jurisdiction time of the referee begins when he/she arrives at the site of the competition and concludes with the approval of the scorebook in dual-meet competition and after signing the bout sheet after the last match in tournament competition. In either dual meets or individual tournaments, when a referee is not on the mat working, he/she still has jurisdiction in the mat area and responsibility for enforcing NFHS wrestling rules associated with the mat area. The referee on the mat is responsible for his/her match, but other referees involved in the competition should offer assistance in the mat area when necessary. Referees are reminded that just because they are not officiating a match, they still have responsibilities for enforcement of rules that extend beyond officiating a match.


The NFHS wrestling rules define special equipment as any equipment worn that is not required by rule. Whenever a wrestler has hair that does not conform to the rule, a legal hair covering must be worn. Because of the physical contact in the sport of wrestling, hair that does not meet the rule is considered a safety issue as it may pose a risk to an opponent. Using a legal hair covering for hair that does not meet the rule helps to minimize the risk. 

Legal hair coverings must be made of a solid material, must be nonabrasive and must be attached to the wrestling ear guards. The attached legal hair covering may be worn either inside or outside of the wrestling ear guards. The attached legal hair covering must be brought to weigh-ins and inspected by the referee to determine their conformity to proper grooming with the legal hair covering on. The legal hair covering must be removed before the wrestler weighs in. If the referee does not conduct the weigh-ins, then the referee must check the legal hair covering prior to the meet.

The goal of wrestling is to have a continual match without interruptions except for normal out-of-bounds situations, the end of periods, etc. Legal hair coverings that are secured to the wrestling ear guards have less of a chance of coming off during the match than hair coverings that are not secured to the wrestling ear guards. 

The manufacturers of legal hair coverings and wrestling ear guards have been alerted a year in advance of this rule change and some have chosen to modify their legal hair coverings accordingly. This new rule will significantly improve the continuity of matches whenever a wrestler is required by rule to wear a legal hair covering.


Communicable diseases are a major concern in the sport of wrestling. It is imperative that ALL schools continually use best practices to control the spread of communicable diseases. A major aid in preventing the spread of communicable disease is to properly clean all wrestling mats and wrestling equipment.

Practice and competition wrestling mats must be cleaned prior to practicing or competing on them. Cleaning wrestling mats prior to use is highly recommended. An effective disinfectant is a solution of 1:100 chlorine bleach and water (¼ cup chlorine bleach to each gallon of water, or 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach to each quart of water). There is no advantage of using a stronger chlorine bleach and water solution than what is recommended above. Commercial disinfectant products are also available.

When cleaning wrestling mats, it is beneficial to walk backwards in an effort to minimize contamination from the shoes of the individual who is cleaning the wrestling mat. Be sure that any product used states that it is effective against viruses, fungi and bacteria. Typically, the label will state the cleaner is bactericidal, fungicidal and virucidal. Please follow the label directions closely for the best effectiveness.

Several items should be kept at wrestling mat side to effectively deal with blood or other body fluids, including disposable towels and/or gauze pads, spray bottles containing a 1:100 chlorine bleach and water solution or a commercially prepared disinfectant solution. Protective gloves and disposable plastic bags must also be readily available to clean up blood or bodily fluids.

Likewise, it is imperative to clean all wrestling equipment daily. All workout gear should be cleaned after each practice. This includes towels, clothing, headgear, shoes, knee pads and any bags used to transport this equipment. In addition to cleaning wrestling equipment and wrestling mats properly, a few basic steps must be taken by all involved in the sport in order to minimize the risk of spreading communicable diseases.

• Educate coaches, athletes, referees and parents about communicable skin conditions and how they are spread.
• Maintain proper ventilation in the wrestling room to prevent the build-up of heat and humidity.
• Emphasize to the athletes the importance of showering immediately after each practice and competition with antibacterial soap.
• Wash all workout clothing and personal gear after each practice.
• Perform daily skin checks to ensure early recognition of potential communicable skin conditions. Athletes cannot be allowed to practice or compete if an active infection is suspected, even if the infection is covered.
• Do not share towels or personal hygiene products (razors) with others.
• Refrain from full body (chest, arms, abdomen) cosmetic shaving.

Communicable diseases are preventable. Following these steps can certainly decrease the chance that these communicable diseases will be spread among the athletes in the wrestling room and/or during competition.

Printable Version - Print and place in your rules book for reference.

A. Weigh-in must be conducted shoulder-to-shoulder within the specified weigh-in period by a licensed referee who is officiating the varsity or JV match that day.

B. A student disqualified from a contest for flagrant or unsportsmanlike conduct is suspended from interscholastic competition for no less than the next competitive event (but not less than one complete game or meet).
C. An athlete who is ineligible for participation due to flagrant or unsportsmanlike conduct, athletic and/or academic code violations or is ineligible for any other reason shall not be allowed in uniform or to participate in pre-meet warm-ups or any pre-meet activity, including weigh-ins, during the period of ineligibility. Violation of this provision will result in the deletion of all individual and team points for that weight class and the wrestler will be subject to suspensions outlined in B (above).
D. A maximum of one pound allowance shall be granted for successive days of wrestling regardless of the number of successive events or number of schools.
E. Coaches are required to provide the referee a written line-up prior to weigh-ins. All actual weights are to be recorded by the referee on the line provided, and once recorded, can not bec hanged or deleted even if the wrestler does not compete. Anyone for whom an actual weight is not recorded is not eligible to wrestle.
F. Growth allowance will be two pounds on Dec. 25 and one additional pound on both Feb. 1 and March 1. 
G. It shall be considered unsportsmanlike to attempt to conceal a contagious skin condition. Any wrestler involved in such attempts shall not be allowed to wrestle that day.

H. Covering a communicable skin condition is not acceptable and does not make the wrestler eligible to participate. An on-site meet physician may override the diagnosis of the physician, PA (physician assistant) or an APNP (advance practice nurse prescriber) that has signed the physician's release form for a wrestler to participate. Also, an on site LAT (licensed athletic trainer) may make the final determination if a wrestler can or cannot wrestle, even if the wrestler presents a skin form signed by one of the above. An LAT cannot diagnose, but can determine if the condition is contagious.
I. The on-mat official for varsity competition shall make the final determination relative to skin condition concerns for varsity matches. The on-mat official for sub-varsity competition shall make the final determination relative to skin condition concerns for sub-varsity matches.
J. Seeding meetings shall not begin until weigh-ins are completed and all entries are identified by weight class.
K. The following modifications to injury timeouts will be used in all competition regarding injuries to the head and neck involving cervical column and/or nervous system:
1. In absence of certified medical personnel (physician and/or certified trainer), injuries to the head and neck involving cervical column and/or nervous system will be covered by the same time frame as other injuries.
2. When certified medical personnel are present, they have jurisdiction to extend the allowed time limit to a maximum of four minutes for evaluation of injuries to the head and neck involving cervical column and/or nervous system only, at which time the athlete would be required to prepare without delay for continuation or default the match.
3. A second occurrence of injury to the head and neck involving cervical column and/or central nervous system in the same match shall require the wrestler to default the match.
L. Teams with ONLY grade 9 students:
* The determination of weight classes for grade 9 competition shall be left to the discretion of participating schools, and it is strongly recommended that there be as many matches as available contestants.
* The maximum weight differential, regardless of the weight classes used shall be:(a) 10 pounds for all classes through 145 points, (b) 12 pounds for all weight classes over 145 pounds through 190 pounds, and (c) 30 pounds for any two wrestlers weighing more than 190 pounds. If the weight differential prevents a match over 190 pounds, there are not forfeit points involved.
* There are no certified minimum weight programs.
* Conferences may adopt a twice-a-season weigh-in procedure in place of shoulder-to-shoulder weigh-ins prior to each match. This procedure does not apply to nonconference matches.
* First period is one minute long and second and third periods two minutes long each. The second and third periods may be shortened in (a) dual competition by mutual consent, and (b) multiple-school meets by a majority sentiment.
M. Nonvarsity teams shall be allowed to wear old varsity uniforms which are now unapproved because of a recent NFHS uniform rule change provided participant safety is not in jeopardy.
N. Schools are required to follow the clean uniform rule.  Along with school names and/or mascots, all uniforms may be allowed to include the first and/or last name(s) of the athlete one time on the uniform.  Names must be displayed in a sportsmanlike manner and location.  In addition, no sayings, cliches, advertisements, etc., of any kind will be allowed on the uniform.  Manufacturer's logos and commemorative patches will be allowed as described by Rule 4-1-2 in the NFHS Wrestling Rules Book.  All commemorative patches must be approved by the WIAA and meet appropriate size restrictions.  Middle school wrestlers may wear gym shorts and a t-shirt.  This can be worn over the top of their singlet or worn with compression shorts or a tight-fitting undergarment.  If gym shorts are worn, they must be fastened around the wrestler's waist and t-shirts must be tight-fitting,

O.  There is no penalty associated with lowering of shoulder straps.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to Wisconsin 7 percent guidelines and state adaptations with respect to growth allowance dates, Federation rule 1-3-2a& b is not applicable.

2-3-4 Pt. Near-Fall – 2014 Interpretation

Part of this rule was created to not allow a defensive wrestler the opportunity to commit an illegal hold, technical violation, unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike act in order to negate possible near-fall points or a fall.

The interpretation of rule 5.11.2 is as follows: Whenever a match is stopped with a penalty to be assessed against the defensive wrestler that occurred during a NF situation, an additional NF point and a penalty point shall be awarded. Stoppage is defined as: (1) stopping the match due to a defensive penalty (the match need not be stopped unless the referee finds it necessary to do so to protect the wrestlers); (2) stopping the match to award the penalty when the defensive wrestler comes out of near fall criteria (this does not apply if the match is stopped due to the end of a period or going out of the wrestling area while the NF situation is still in progress); (3) or stopping the match due to the defensive wrestler bleeding or having an injury (the penalty point does not apply if the match is stopped due to a defensive wrestlers injury or blood time unless he also committed a penalty during the NF situation).

When NF criteria is imminent and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be two points for an imminent NF and one point for the penalty. If NF criteria has been met for at least 2 seconds but not five, they will be awarded three points for the NF  and one point for the penalty. If NF criteria is met for a period of five seconds, the award will be four points for the NF and one point for the penalty. If the referee is making a delayed penalty call and the defensive wrestler maneuvers out of criteria of course the referee is required to stop the match to award the penalty. The wrestler will also then be awarded the extra NF point as just described.

The intent of this language is to promote the philosophy that should a defensive wrestler be injured or bleed or commit an illegal act, then the opponent shall receive points earned plus an additional NF point. The idea is not to allow the defensive wrestler to profit from this type of activity.

There has been some confusion and misinterpretation in regard to the application of the rule. When the defensive wrestler commits an illegal act, it is is not the intent to take him off his back unless you feel it is necessary in order to prevent injury to either wrestler. Proper communication by the official to the wrestlers will usually avoid stopping the match during the NF situation. Should you have to take a wrestler off his back due to repeated unnecessary roughness or repeated unsportsmanlike conduct, the official could easily be justified in calling flagrant misconduct at that point.

The majority of time the official will not stop the match once criteria has been met. In other words, when the NF situation has ended, then the match will be stopped and the points will be awarded as described above. Just because you did not take the defensive wrestler off his back does not nullify this rule. They have earned and will be awarded the maximum number of points as described above. Again, the only time they will not earn that extra NF point is if the wrestlers go out of bounds or the period ends while the NF situation is still in progress. At least this is the current NFHS interpretation.    

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