Wrestling - Rules & Regulations

Rules and Regulations

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (April 27, 2015) — A more standardized pre-match procedure requiring referees to perform skin checks or verify that skin checks had been completed on-site by an appropriate health-care professional was approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee at its April 8-10 meeting in Indianapolis.

This clarification of the skin-check rule for dual meets and tournaments, along with one other change recommended by the committee for the 2015-16 season, were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

Under Rule 3-1-4a, the new pre-match procedure further clarifies the duties of wrestling referees before a dual meet begins. A new rule (3-1-5) will add the same inspection requirements before tournaments. The actual requirements were not changed, only written in clearer, more specific language.

 “The skin-check rule has always been in the NFHS Wrestling Rules Book, but the committee felt it needed to be clarified and specified that this needed to be done,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine and liaison to the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee. 

Alan Beste, executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association and chair of the Wrestling Rules Committee, said there continues to be national concern about communicable skin conditions in wrestling. Some of those conditions can pose significant health risks that may have lifelong effects.

“The two major rules changes reflect the committee’s feeling that it is important to emphasize this concern and give referees, who are the impartial parties at every competition, more responsibility in determining a wrestler’s readiness to compete safely,” Beste said.

The other rule change was to Rule 10-2-9, regarding a situation where two wrestlers in the championship bracket simultaneously cannot continue a match and the score is tied. A new criterion was added to the rule. The new criteria states, “the wrestler whose opponent has received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at any time during the match will continue in the consolation round.”  If neither wrestler received an unsportsmanlike penalty, then the previously set criteria will be used to determine advancement to the consolation bracket. The committee added this new criterion to emphasize sportsmanship during competition.

“I think it’s a good change,” Colgate said. “It puts more emphasis on sportsmanship in wrestling, which the committee feels is very important.” 

A complete listing of the wrestling rules changes is available on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page, and select “Wrestling.”

According to the 2013-14 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, wrestling is the sixth-most popular boys sport nationwide with 269,514 participants. There were 9,904 girls who participated in the sport as well.


This press release was written by Ben Sieck, a spring semester intern in the NFHS Publications and Communications Department and a junior at Butler University.

About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 16 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,000 high schools and 11 million participants in high school activity programs, including more than 7.7 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; offers online publications and services for high school coaches and officials; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, speech and debate coaches, and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org.

Communicable skin conditions continue to be a major concern in wrestling, in part because of recent MRSA and Herpes Gladitorium outbreaks. If a participant has a suspected skin condition, NFHS Wrestling Rules require current, written documentation from an appropriate health-care professional stating the athlete’s participation would not be harmful to an opponent. Cold sores are considered a skin lesion and are subject to the communicable skin condition rules.

The NFHS has developed a form that can be used for that documentation, and several state associations have adopted similar forms for use in their states. Regardless of the form used, it is imperative that ALL coaches perform routine skin checks of their wrestlers and require any wrestlers with a suspect condition to seek medical attention and treatment.

It is also imperative that ALL referees perform skin checks – or verify that skin checks have been done by a designated, on-site meet, appropriate health-care professional – as part of their pre-meet duties prior to EVERY dual meet and tournament. If there is a suspect condition, the wrestler or coach MUST present the proper clearance form at the weigh-in for any dual meet or tournament in order for the wrestler to be allowed to compete.

The only exception to the requirement of the proper clearance form would be if a designated, on-site meet, appropriate health-care professional is present and is able to examine the wrestler either immediately prior to or immediately after the weigh-in. The designated, on-site meet, appropriate health-care professional has the authority to overrule the diagnosis of the appropriate health-care professional who signed the proper clearance form presented to the referee at the weigh-in.

One of the keys to preventing the spread of communicable skin conditions is for coaches and referees to fulfill their responsibilities professionally. It is, however, only one of the keys.

The other and equally important key is proper prevention. While prevention can be complicated, in most cases it only requires that a few basic steps be taken by ALL involved in the sport.

• Educate coaches, athletes and parents about communicable skin conditions and how they are spread.
• Clean wrestling mats daily with a solution of 1:100 bleach and water or an appropriate commercial cleaner.
• Maintain proper ventilation in the wrestling room to prevent the build-up of heat and humidity.
• Clean all workout gear after each practice including towels, clothing, headgear, shoes, knee pads, etc.
• Require each wrestler to shower or use a body-wipe after each practice and competition. Do not share bars of soap. Use individual soap dispensers.
• Perform daily skin checks to ensure early recognition of potential communicable skin conditions.
• Refrain from sharing razors or other personal hygiene supplies.

Covering an active infection does not meet the requirements of the NFHS wrestling communicable skin condition rule for competitions. An active infection shall not be covered in practice either.

It is a coach’s professional responsibility to ensure that skin clearance forms presented by his or her wrestlers are legitimate and reflect the athletes’ true conditions. Coaches and referees all play a vital role in controlling communicable skin diseases. They must err on the side of what is best for the health of all involved in the sport when dealing with communicable skin diseases.

Referees are the last line of defense in keeping wrestlers with communicable skin diseases off the mat. The safety of all who step on a competition mat is at stake. Coaches must realize that referees would not be placed in a position to make difficult participation decisions if coaches would perform skin checks on all of their wrestlers each day.
NFHS Wrestling Rule 3-1-4a states that “Before a dual meet begins, the referee shall perform skin checks or verify that skin checks have been performed by a designated, on-site meet, appropriate health-care professional.”

NFHS Wrestling Rule 3-1-5a states that “Before an individual, combination or team advancement tournament begins each day, the referee shall perform skin checks or verify that skin checks have been performed by a designated, on-site meet, appropriate health-care professional.” The skin checks should take place by referees or a designated, on-site meet, appropriate health-care professional at weigh-ins whenever possible.

In reference to multiple-day competitions, communicable disease “skin checks” shall take place at weigh-ins each day. Checking skin on the first day only is not an acceptable practice regarding the communicable disease detection procedure.

NFHS Wrestling Rules 4-2-2, 3, 4, 5 are very specific concerning a contestant who is suspected of having a communicable skin disease. It is the responsibility of the contestant, parents, coach and referee to identify a possible communicable skin disease and then have an appropriate health-care professional evaluate the condition if possible. Similarly, it is everybody’s responsibility (coaches, referees, appropriate health-care professionals and tournament administrators) to ensure that all wrestlers are competing in an infection-free environment.

For more detailed information, refer to the “Skin Conditions and Infections” chapter in the NFHS Sports Medicine Handbook. Also, please refer to the following two NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) documents: “General Guidelines for Sports Hygiene, Skin Infections and Communicable Diseases” and “Sports Related Skin Infections Position Statement and Guidelines.” Both of these NFHS SMAC documents can be found on the Sports Medicine page on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org.

If, in the opinion of the referee, a wrestler bites his opponent, it will be deemed intentional biting and will be called flagrant misconduct (Rule 5-12-2c). Referees do not have to see the bite in order to call biting. Furthermore, any claim of biting must be brought to the attention of the referee immediately. One should not assume intentional biting has occurred if only one set of teeth marks is present on the skin.

If the referee did not see the alleged bite, he/she should look for the presence of marks from both the upper and lower teeth. Incidental contact with an opponent's open mouth can result in what appears to be a bite; however, the presence of both upper and lower teeth marks is more likely to be the result of an intentional bite than from incidental contact with the teeth.

Referees should pay close attention to a cross-face applied to the area of the mouth, especially when the mouth is open. If teeth marks are present after the cross-face is applied to the mouth, the referee should only call biting if he/she believes the wrestler actually bit down on his/her opponent.

Slams are extremely dangerous and every attempt must be made to prevent slams by reminding wrestlers of their responsibility to safely return opponents to the mat. It is the responsibility of wrestlers, coaches and referees to avoid slams. A slam is defined as lifting and returning the opponent to the mat with unnecessary force. A slam may be called on wrestlers in the neutral, top or bottom position.

Wrestlers can be called for a slam from the offensive or defensive position, regardless of whether they have control of the opponent, when and if they are responsible for the unsafe return of the opponent to the mat.

Referees must call slams without delay. Coaches bear the responsibility of teaching their wrestlers the proper techniques for lifting and returning their opponents to the mat safely. Wrestlers must never intentionally bring an opponent to the mat with unnecessary force. If the referee believes the slam was an intentional act intended to cause physical harm to the opponent, it would be considered flagrant misconduct and the wrestler committing the slam shall be disqualified from the match.

The ultimate tiebreaker presents a different format when it comes to stalling. The referee should take into account that the offensive wrestler does not have to score to win, and can win by controlling the defensive wrestlers for 30 seconds. If the defensive wrestler scores, the match is concluded. This could be by an escape, reversal or through a penalty point(s). If the offensive wrestler scores, the match is also concluded. If neither wrestler scores, the offensive wrestler will be awarded one point and declared the winner.

To ensure that the offensive wrestler does not take advantage of the 30 seconds by just grabbing onto a body part(s) and holding on, a stalemate should be called immediately after determining that the offensive wrestler has grabbed onto a body part(s) solely in an effort to prevent the defensive wrestler from scoring. Wrestling will resume from the offensive starting position on the mat; if the offensive wrestler uses a similar tactic again, stalling should be called and penalized accordingly.

The Body Scissors has been a part of wrestling for decades. Although the maneuver is a legal hold in wrestling, referees should be very vigilant of it when applied. If the offensive wrestler is utilizing the body scissors to improve his/her position or to secure a fall, the maneuver is being properly executed. However, if the body scissors is applied solely to inflict pain, the referee must be prepared to break the hold immediately and penalize the offender for an illegal action, according
to Rule 7-1-5u.

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

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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