Wrestling - Rules & Regulations

Rules and Regulations

INDIANAPOLIS, IN  — At its April 6-8 meeting in Indianapolis, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee added another maneuver to the list of potentially dangerous holds in high school wrestling.

The new potentially dangerous hold occurs when a wrestler, from a standing position, is placed in a body lock with one or both arms trapped and then is lifted and is unable to use his arm(s) to break the fall.

“The rear standing position with a trapped arm should be considered potentially dangerous and should be monitored very closely by the referee,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services and liaison to the Wrestling Rules Committee. “Coaches, officials and competitors should be aware of the potential for injury in this situation if the defensive wrestler is returned to the mat and has no arm available to break the fall.”

The committee also approved a change in Rule 5-11-2 that will award penalty point(s) to the offensive wrestler in situations where the defensive wrestler exhibits inappropriate behavior in order to avoid being pinned.

Rule 5-11-2(i) will now read, “. . . when a defensive wrestler commits a technical violation, applies an illegal hold/maneuver, commits unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike act during an imminent or near fall situation, the offensive wrestler shall be awarded a penalty point(s) in addition to the near fall points in accordance with (subarticles) f-h at the next stoppage.”

“The committee felt that when the defensive wrestler uses unethical techniques to avoid being pinned, the offensive wrestler should not only be awarded the near fall or fall points, but should be awarded the appropriate penalty point(s) for that transgression at the next stoppage of the match,’ Hopkins said.

These rules changes recommended by the Wrestling Rules Committee were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

Wrestling ranks No. 6 in popularity among boys at the high school level with 258,208 participants, according to the 2014-15 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey. In addition, 11,496 girls were involved in wrestling in 2014-15.


5-11-2i: Clarified when a wrestler shall be awarded penalty point(s).

7-2-2g,h: Clarified an additional potentially dangerous hold when an arm trap is applied.

2016-17 Points of Emphasis

  1. Communicable Skin Conditions and Skin Checks
  2. Control
  3. Arm Trap
  4. Sportsmanship/Good Sporting Behavior

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

2-3-4 Pt. Near-Fall – 2016-17 Season

The logic of the rules clarification is to not allow a defensive wrestler the opportunity to commit an illegal hold, technical violation, unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike act in order to negate a possible fall or near-fall. This supports the philosophy that the defensive wrestler should not be able to profit through this action.

Whenever a match is stopped, the addition of a near-fall point(s) and the penalty point shall be awarded. Stoppage is defined as: 1) stopping the match due to the penalty (the match need not be stopped during the near fall unless the referee finds it necessary to do so to protect the wrestler); 2) going out of bounds; or 3) period ends; 4) the near fall situation has ended.

When near-fall criteria are imminent, and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be two points for imminent near-fall and one point for the penalty. Should near-fall criteria be met for a period of 2-4 seconds, and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be three points for meeting near-fall criteria and one point for the penalty. Should near-fall criteria be met for a period of five seconds and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be four points for meeting the five-second count and one point for the penalty. Also, if the referee is making a delayed penalty call and the defensive wrestler maneuvers out of criteria (such as bellying down) or the offensive wrestler continues on to earn a two or three-point near fall, the penalty point is to be awarded, as is the additional near-fall point.


The offended wrestler may receive a minimum of two near-fall points and a penalty point, three near-fall points and a penalty point, or a maximum of four near-fall points and a penalty point for a total of five points. Should the penalty sequence come into play, the offending wrestler may also be disqualified.


Near Fall Points – Rule 5-11-2 – The NFHS interpretation of this rule has changed a number of times over the last 3 years. As a result, this has caused some confusion and misinterpretation.  Keep in mind that it is not the intent of this rule to take the defensive wrestler 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 near-fall 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.

If wrestling is stopped just prior to near fall criteria being met, then the offensive wrestler has earned a 2 point NF in addition to the penalty point (3 points total).  If wrestling is stopped once criteria has been met for 2-4 seconds, then the wrestler has earned a 3 pt. NF in addition to the penalty point (4 points total). If wrestling is stopped after a 3 pt. NF has been earned (five second count), then a 4 point NF will be awarded in addition to the penalty point (5 points total).

The majority of time the official will not stop the match once criteria is met. In other words, when the near fall 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. The defensive wrestler may have profited from this action, no matter how minutely it may have been.    

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