Wrestling explained: Formats, scoring system and repechage

AP Photo/Manish Swarup


There are two styles of Olympic wrestling, both of which will be present at the Asian Games 2018 -- freestyle, the more popular one, and Greco-Roman.

The primary difference between the two lies in the holds allowed. While in freestyle -- also the only form of women's wrestling -- it is permissible to use the legs in offence and defence, to trip the opponent over, grasp the legs of the opponent and use the legs to actively perform any action.

It is forbidden to grasp the opponent anywhere below the waist in Greco-Roman.


Each bout is broken into two three-minute halves with a 30-second break in between. The scoring is cumulative so the points scored over both periods are added to determine a winner. In case the scores are tied in wrestling, the winner is the wrestler to have scored last.

A wrestler can win a bout outright by pinning the opponent's shoulder blades to the ground or through technical superiority. The threshold for victory through technical superiority is a ten-point lead in freestyle and eight-point lead in Greco-Roman. Points are awarded for moves and holds based on the difficulty of their execution.

A reversal, or turning a defensive position into an attacking one, is awarded one point. A takedown can fetch a competitor anywhere between two to five points and normally involves at least three points of contact, two arms and a knee. Two points are scored for taking the opponent down on the mat and controlling him/her while throws executed from a standing position are awarded five points.


A wrestler who is evasive, doesn't execute any holds or is satisfied with just neutralising the opponent's holds can be given a verbal warning by the referee on the first offence and on the second infraction in freestyle wrestling, the passive competitor is put on a 30-second shot clock. If neither scores even at the end of the period, the opponent is awarded a point while the passive wrestler is handed another warning.

In Greco-Roman, the passive wrestler's opponent can choose whether to continue the bout in standing or par terre (ground) position and continuing passivity violations can award the active wrestler points.


Borrowed from the French term repecher which can be translated to mean 'rescue', repechage offers wrestlers who lose in the early rounds an opportunity to compete for the bronze medal if the opponents they were defeated by go on to make the final.

The deeper into the competition that a wrestler loses to the finalist, the lesser number of bouts he/she would have to play for a medal. So for instance, if he's lost to the finalist in the round of 16 he would have to play three bouts, in case of a quarterfinal loss two and a semifinal defeat would need just one bout. India's Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, and Sakshi Malik won their bronze medals via repechage at the 2008, 2012 & 2016 Olympic Games respectively.