Freestyle and Greco-Roman Rules and Scoring Review

Those of us familiar with Folkstyle wrestling, the style we see in America in college and high school wrestling, can find the scoring of Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling a bit confusing at first. Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling involves a different set of rules and scoring. As the Olympic trials draw near, the oldest styles, and the international styles, of wrestling are about to take center stage.

A takedown can be worth between one to five points, depending on the level of danger an offensive wrestler places his opponent. Ties are sometimes broken with maneuvers called leg clinches or reverse lifts, or can be settled by which wrestler scored the last point or registered the highest-point value with one move.

The wrestler who wins the most periods – not necessarily the most points – wins!

To help familiarize yourself, or refresh your memory, of the differences, a quick review of the more important points is in order.

Match structure: Matches are broken down into a best-of-three period format with each period lasting two minutes. Any period that ends with a fall also ends the match.

Scoreless periods: Any freestyle period that ends scoreless goes to the leg clinch. An offensive wrestler in the leg clinch will be selected based on a ball draw. The referee will draw a blue or red ball from a bag and the wrestler wearing the corresponding singlet color will have the choice whether to select the offensive or defensive position. The offensive wrestler must score in 30 seconds to win the period. If there is no scoring, the defensive wrestler wins the period.

Scoreless periods after 1:30 in Greco-Roman go to the par terre or reverse lift position. One athlete is assigned the top position in the first period and bottom in the second. The third period goes to the ball draw to determine which wrestler is on top. The wrestler in the top position must turn his opponent in 30 seconds or the defensive wrestler wins the period.

Tiebreakers: If a period with points scored ends in a tie, officials first look at cautions. If one wrestler has been cautioned more times, the opponent wins the period. The next criteria is the highest value of points. (A three-pointer beats three one-pointers). The final tiebreaker is last point scored.

Technical fall: Unlike the 15-point mercy rule that stops folk style bouts, freestyle and Greco periods end when a wrestler accumulates a six-point lead.


Ball draw: After scoreless periods, the referee will reach into a bag to select one ball, either red or blue, to determine which wrestler receives the right to select a position in the tiebreaker.

Challenge block: The foam block thrown onto the mat by a coach desiring to challenge a call. Each wrestler is entitled to one challenge per match. If the refereeing body modifies its decision, then the wrestler can use another challenge again during the match. If the refereeing body confirms the decision, the wrestler loses the challenge and his opponent will receive one point.

Challenge tournament: The bracket leading up to the best-of-three final series.

Exposure: Wrestlers can score points by exposing an opponent’s shoulders to the mat.

Gut wrench: A popular hold used by a wrestler in the top position to turn an opponent for points.

Leg clinch: The freestyle tiebreaker used after a scoreless period. The offensive wrestler begins with a single leg and must finish a takedown or score a push out in 30
seconds to win the period.

Par terre: The ground position used after a takedown or in Greco-Roman after 90 seconds of scoreless wrestling. The top wrestler attempts to score points by exposing the defensive wrestler’s back to the mat.

Push out: A wrestler can score a point by pushing his or her opponent out of bounds.

Sit out: Term used to describe wrestlers who receive an automatic pass to the best-of-three final series.


Takedown: 1 point

Takedown with back exposure: 3 points

High amplitude throw: 5 points

Push out: 1 point

Reversal: 1 point

Exposure: 2 points for exposing the opponent’s back – the danger position – past 90 degrees when the wrestlers are in par terre.

Caution: 1 or 2 points.

SOURCE: “U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials 101,” by Andy Hamilton, Des Moines Register,

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