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.


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.

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.    

Facebook    Twitter    YouTube    RSS

Wisconsin Interscholastic
Athletic Association
5516 Vern Holmes Drive
Stevens Point, WI 54482-8833
Phone (715) 344-8580
Fax (715) 344-4241
Mon-Fri: 7:30 AM - 4:00 PM