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Welcome To Wrestling, New Fan

New to wrestling? This guide is for you.

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Congratulations on your choice to click this link. Myriad reasons may have brought you to this point, to wit:

1. It's a Penn State football bye week.

2. You're frustrated by losing football scores and/or comment threads.

3. You're curious what the "wrestling" thing is about, and you'd like to learn more.

4. You enjoy cheering for Penn State champions.

5. You're bored at work and want to waste time while staring at your monitor, impersonating a productive employee.

Whatever the reason, you've chosen wisely.  Below we've shared a new wrestling fan FAQ which we hope brings you into our very fun, very entertaining and enjoyable BSD Wrestling community.  Failing that, though, we're certain that by reading, you'll at least be able to waste 15 minutes of your employer's time. Let's get started.

In the beginning - literally, in. the. beginning. - there was wrestling.  From Genesis chapter 32:

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day has broken." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

From this biblical text, we can assume that Jacob had a very strong "top" game, and worked hard for the riding time point (more on this later).  But that is only an assumption.  What we can know is that wrestling was pervasive, and important.

Here is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph of wrestling techniques.  Based on these images, we know that 7,000 years ago, Egyptians taught solid wrestling fundamentals (single leg in top right), but also "went for it", as illustrated by several different throws being diagrammed, including a suplex (bottom right).  More than likely, "stalling" was discouraged by Pharaoh, with the stalling wrestler being penalized by pushing large stones into the shape of a pyramid until he dropped from exhaustion, and was covered by more stones.  Pretty strict.

Considering that we have neither the time nor space to cover 7,000 years of wrestling history, let's move along.  You get the idea already - wrestling is old.

Wrestling is challenging, too.  It's the most physically challenging sport around, and this is not debatable.  It's more challenging than football practice. It's more challenging than military basic training. It's more challenging than Air Assualt or jump school. No workout or physical challenge gets you sweating and puking faster, with more consistency, than the first week of wrestling practice. And if you aren't in wrestling shape, then there are no longer minutes on this planet Earth than the minutes spent on a wrestling mat. Two minutes feels like four hours, and you wish you'd just die already and be done with it.  According to former Penn State safety Malcolm Willis:

"I went to one [high school] practice, and after one little sparring match, I was exhausted," Willis said. "So the athleticism that you have to have, the condition that you have to be in in order to wrestle, it’s amazing. Me? I could never do it. I could never be a wrestler."

Read more here:

Physically demanding?  Yes.  Mentally demanding?  Oh yes - probably more so.

Obviously, you're alone on the mat with your opponent.  Teammates, coaches, your friends and family, plus 6,000 other strangers are all watching you fight someone.  Fear - of getting your behind kicked, of embarrassment, of getting bent in half the wrong way - is something you have to overcome.  Stepping on the mat takes some courage.

The real mental hurdles come away from the mat.  Wrestling demands 24x7 mental discipline.  Booze, food, party?  Forget about it.  You see a pizza commercial on TV and get a craving for something cheesy?  Nope - go run 5 miles instead.  You have to make your weigh-in.

But back to the "fight" aspect - that's what this sport is, by the way.  It's a fight.  No, you can't throw an uppercut - not legally.  But you can beat the tar out of your opponent's head and neck, and twist appendages in directions that they're not made to go.

Try head-snapping yourself as you read this. Take your right hand, cup it, and whack yourself on the back of your neck just below your cranium with the bottom edge of your hand. Don't worry, it's an odd angle so you won't be able to do it very hard. But still - wakes you up a little bit,doesn't it? Now go do that to a male friend, but this time really wind up your arm and follow through. Swing hard, and try to get his knees to buckle.

Once his knees buckle, scoot around behind him and jump on his back until you crush his face into the floor. Congrats! You've scored your first takedown. That's worth 2 points!

Now grab his left wrist and pull it towards your waist. Once you have it back there, lift it up behind his back. Keep lifting! Try to get his hand above the back of his head. It will take a lot of strength because his joint isn't meant to move in that direction - but you can do it!!! Don't stop until he moans or, if he's a tough guy, his shoulder pops out. You'll know if this happens because it will suddenly get a lot easier to lift up. What you're doing is (sorta) called an arm-bar, and is a very common technique used to control your opponent and, in combination with another move or two, get him flipped over to his back.

If he fights back and tries to get his wrist away from you, flatten him out like a pancake on the floor, and then dig your chin into his spine. Turn your head a little to one side, so that you're using a pointy corner of your chin. Go ahead and try that now.


As it turns out, your chin is made of bone, and his spine is a very sensitive area. I bet it really got his attention, right? There are definitely a few nerves around that spine area.

Now one last fun trick: let go of his wrist, if you still have it. Assuming he can move his arm, he's going to move it perpendicular to his head - like a pushup position - and try to get off the floor. When he does that, I want you to wind up your left arm like you're going to throw a punch, and then fire your left arm across his face and grab his right arm just below his shoulder. If you do this right, your left forearm should hit him really hard in the nose/mouth area. Pull his right arm towards you, and you'll collapse his face back into the floor. He'll groan, and he may spit a little blood - but don't worry, it's probably just from his lips cutting on his front teeth. It won't last long, nothing permanent. He shouldn't have had his mouth open, so it's his own fault anyhow. You've successfully used a "cross-face" technique for controlling your opponent. Combine it with a cradle, and it looks a little like this:

Some Other Reasons To Love Wrestling

1.  AP polls, computer polls, selection committees - nope, nope, nope.  Wrestling gets settled on the mat.

2. It's a family sport. Dad drops you and your brother off at wrestling practice so you can beat the tar out of each other there, instead of breaking things in the house.  Mom keeps junk food out of the house because you've gotta suck weight. Your sister will make and eat cupcakes right in front of your face, to help you keep your lunatic fringe. Everyone can get in on the competition.

3. Action.  It's exciting.

4.  At Penn State, we have a team full of great kids off the mat.  Tons of Academic All-Big Ten wrestlers.  Awards for most community service among PSU sports teams.  Here's the squad conserving Mt. Nittany.  Cael does a great job in this area.

5.  Speaking of Cael Sanderson, PSU's head coach - he does a pretty good job on the mat, as well.  In six seasons, he's helped Penn State win 4 national championships, 4 Big Ten titles, 10 individual national champs, 40+ All-Americans, and a 82-14-2 dual record.  In other words, there's a lot of winning, if you're into that sort of thing.

6.  Wrestling crowds.  Penn State's sold out.  But if you can make it in to Rec Hall

or Bryce Jordan Center (PSU has two duals there this year)

it's a pretty cool vibe.  In any event, there are lots of good reasons to follow wrestling.  But if you don't know what's going on - how score is kept, etc. - then it makes it difficult.  So, on that note:

Basic Guide To Wrestling Scoring At A Dual Meet

1. On a squad of 20 - 30 wrestlers, only 10 guys will wrestle a match, one at each of the NCAA-prescribed weight classes. This year the 10 weight classes are as follows, from lightest to heaviest: 125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184, 197, and Heavyweight (max of 285lbs.).

2. The winner of each of the 10 matches accrues points for his team. The loser gets zero points for his team.

3. Each of the 10 individual matches consists of three periods. The 1st period lasts 3 minutes, and always begins with both wrestlers standing, called 'neutral' - that is, neither has an advantage. The second period lasts 2 minutes. One wrestler must choose how to begin the 2nd period. He can: i) start 'neutral'; ii) start from bottom, with his opponent on top; iii) start from top, with his opponent on bottom; or iv) defer his choice to the third period. Everyone always defers his choice to the 3rd period. JoePa would be proud. At the start of the 3rd period - also 2 minutes long - the other wrestler has the same choice of starting positions: neutral, top, or bottom (except defer, since there is no 4th period).

4. Most match points are scored via takedowns. A takedown occurs when, from a neutral position, one wrestler, uh, takes the other one down. A takedown is worth 2 match points. Take a look at this gif of a takedown.

5. If you've been taken down, or you start a period on bottom, and you get up and out, or break the control of your opponent, then you've scored an escape. That's worth 1 match point.

6. If you take your opponent down (2 pts), and use an arm-bar or cross-face to expose your opponent's back to the mat at a 45-degree angle, that's called a near-fall (an almost pin). If his back is exposed for 3 continuous seconds, it's worth 2 match points, also known as 'back points'. If his back is exposed for 5 or more seconds, it's worth 3 match points. If the opponent's shoulders both touch the mat for one second at the same time, then you've pinned him, and the match is over right then and there, and you've earned 6 team points. It doesn't matter what the score was in the match to that point - it's over.  Here's Penn State's Jimmy Gulibon getting back points on Iowa's Cory Clark at last year's dual in Bryce Jordan Center.  You'll want to have your volume on.

The roar you hear around the :15 second mark is 16,000 people calling for "two" - two points, for the takedown.  And just for fun, here's Garett Hammond scoring the winning takedown against Iowa's Nick Moore, at the same dual meet.  Again - turn your volume on, even if you risk getting fired for being lazy at work.  It's worth it.

7. Depending upon how decisively a match is won, a wrestler can earn four different point values for his team: i) regular decision - margin of victory is 1 - 7 points, earns 3 team points; ii) major decision - margin of victory is 8 - 14 points, earns 4 team points; iii) technical fall - margin of victory is 15 points, earns 5* team points; and iv) a pin (or fall or pinfall - all the same thing), is worth 6 team points. Team points earned in an individual match above the three for a regular decision are also known as 'bonus point' victories, signifying an extra 1, 2 or 3 points earned during the victory for your team.

*Yeah, I know there are two types of tech fall - but let's not get esoteric with the newcomers here. How many 4-point tech falls have you ever witnessed? Exactly. We're trying to keep them interested. Knock it out in the comments.

Add up your team point totals from each of the 10 matches, and the most points wins. Not too hard, right?


Let's recap, since this has been a pretty lengthy post.

1. Wrestling is good.

2. If you like watching Penn State win, you should watch Penn State wrestling.

Thank you for clicking.  Hope to see you in the comments this season.  It's gonna be a fun one.