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Wrestling Etiquette for Competition

Wrestling is a sport grounded in respect. There are many rules, both written and unwritten, that have become rather standard. All wrestlers must follow these rules during competition out of respect for both the competitors and the sport itself. Such rules can be described as “wrestling etiquette.” If you are a new wrestler, knowing these basic rules and practices is an absolute must!


Shaking Hands

You must always shake your opponent’s hand before the start of the match and after it has finished. This hand shake should never be a hand slap, high five, etc. A respectful, sincere handshake is always required.

It is understandable that you may not always be enthusiastic about shaking your opponent’s hand. However, no matter how you may feel or what the outcome brings, be respectful of your opponent and shake his hand correctly. If you show any signs of unsportsmanlike conduct, both you and your team may be penalized.

Respect for the Ref

In freestyle and Greco-Roman, it is also required for you to shake the referee’s hand before and after the match. For larger competitions — typically state, national, or international competitions — you must also shake the judge’s and mat chairman’s hands once your match has concluded. Shaking the referee’s hand in folkstyle competitions is not required, but it’s a sign of great respect and humility to the authorities.

The Opposing Coach

A heated question has been raised in the last few years regarding whether or not a wrestler needs to shake the opposing coach’s hand. While shaking hands with an opponent’s coach is required in freestyle and Greco competition, it is optional in folkstyle. Most wrestlers, though, choose to follow the rule anyway. Any sign of respect to a coach is greatly appreciated, so long as it is sincere — if you don’t mean it, don’t do it.

After a dual meet , it is required for both teams to line up and shake hands. This is a chance to show respect and good sportsmanship, so give a firm and sincere handshake to your opponents. Make sure to shake hands with the coaches as well.

Don’t Block the Scoring Table

If you can avoid it, do not cross in front of the scoring table at the edge of the mat. The individuals behind the table are working the score and keeping the time; they may miss one of the referee’s calls if you obscure their view. Sometimes tournament conditions may be crowded and you may have no choice but to cross in front of the table. In this case, it would be okay as long as you do it quickly.

Don’t Block the Mat

A lot of wrestlers will want to sit mat-side to support a teammate. For spectators, though, this doesn’t do much for their view. To avoid blocking their view of the match (they came to watch it too!) and to prevent possible injury to spectators, wrestlers won’t generally be allowed to linger around the outside of the mat at the larger tournaments. If you are allowed to stay close to the mat, be aware of the people around you and consider that they are also trying to watch the match. It is typically best to sit down a few feet away from the mat, if you are allowed to do so at all.

Excessive Celebrations

It is okay to be excited after a win. However, it’s a great sign of disrespect to turn your excitement into an all-out victory celebration. Competition can get heated, and can evoke many emotions. It’s okay to show excitement, but over-the-top displays — flexing, back-flips, somersaults, yelling, etc. — are considered unsportsmanlike and will often result in penalties. Essentially, you should celebrate wins and accept losses in the same fashion while on the mat. By all means, when you step off the mat, celebrate your win! When you are in the eye of the public, however, do not disrespect your opponent or the sport by gloating in any manner.

Hot Tip: Exceptions to the Rule

Although excessive celebrations in wrestling are typically scoffed at, in special circumstance they are completely understandable. If you win a big tournament, such as a state, national, or international championship, it is your right to celebrate however you’d like. If you did all the work to make it to the top of the podium at a major tournament, no one will think less of you for celebrating.

Keep Your Straps Up

Wrestlers are not allowed to remove the straps of their singlet before stepping off the mat. This is thought to be a sign of disrespect, and officials may take disciplinary action against you and your team if you’re caught doing so. So make sure you are completely off the mat before you take the straps of your singlet off.

Listen to the Referee

Always listen to and follow the referee’s commands. There is no easier way to be called for unsportsmanlike conduct than to not following the referee’s instructions. The most common command that wrestlers disregard is being ordered to the center of the mat. If you step out of bounds and the referee orders you to the center of the mat, get there as fast as possible — don’t lag or lazily saunter towards the center. You may be called for stalling if you do not follow a referee’s directions immediately.

Listen to Your Coach

In folkstyle competition, you will be given the choice of your starting position in either the second or third round. Although it’s technically your choice, you should always look to your coach for your answer. While every team has a different policy on this decision, most will ultimately leave the choice up to the coach.

Know the Rules

While some rules have formal places as bylaws in competition, other practices are done more out of respect than obligation. Make sure you are aware of which rules are required for your competitions; it’s up to you to learn them all. Lastly, be clear about your team’s rules and understand what behavior is expected from your coach during competition. It’s important that you be respectful of the sport; represent yourself and your team in a positive manner. For more information on competition rules, check out the iSport Rules & Regulations page.

There are many written and unwritten rules that wrestlers follow during competition out of respect to the sport. Learn about some of the most important rules here.
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