One of the most difficult aspects of being a freshman in college is adjusting to the lifestyle of a college student. As a sophomore in college, I believe this is true, but what I believe is even more difficult is adjusting to this new lifestyle while also being a new student-athlete, particularly as a female wrestler. When I arrived at East Stroudsburg University (ESU), I needed to learn new workout regimens, time management techniques, and eating habits. The largest difference, however, was having to learn a completely new wrestling style. Not only did I go from Folkstyle to Freestyle, but I also had to master the Freestyle scoring system.
Folkstyle was the only style of wrestling I was aware of for the first seventeen years of my life. I didn’t learn about freestyle wrestling until the summer of 2020. Here are some important distinctions I’ve discovered during the last three years. Women’s Folkstyle ranges from beginner to high school level. In this method, it is more important to try to control your opponent while on top, while your opponent on the bottom is attempting to escape. Locking your hands in specific positions is prohibited in Folkstyle and will result in a point being deducted from your score. It is generally not advisable to throw your opponent, but it is prohibited to suplex, or arch your opponent over your head.
Another way to lose points in Folkstyle is by passive wrestling, sometimes known as stalling; you get a warning and then lose points after the second call. I believe the largest distinction exists between the various scoring systems/periods for each style. Folkstyle wrestling consists of three two-minute bouts. One point is awarded for an escape, two points for a takedown or reversal, and two to three points for a near fall. Three team points are awarded for a decision (1–7-point difference), four team points for a major decision (8–14-point difference), five team points for a tech fall (15-point difference), and six points for a pin (opponent’s’ shoulders are flat on the mat).
Meanwhile, women can be seen competing in Freestyle from college to the Olympic level. The main goal of this style is to expose your opponent’s back while remaining on the bottom and avoiding being turned/exposed. Unlike Folkstyle, it is permitted to lock your hands at any point throughout the bout when wrestling freestyle. One cool feature is that you may toss your opponent, whether it’s a simple move like a lateral drop or a complex move like a suplex. Instead of stalling and giving up points right away, in freestyle, one wrestler is placed on a thirty-second shot clock, and if neither athlete scores any points during that time, the non-shot clock opponent is granted a point, and the other passive wrestler is cautioned.
The scoring system/periods for freestyle are more intricate; you wrestle for two three-minute periods separated by a thirty-second break. You get one point if you push your opponent out of the circle or reverse them. You get two points if you take them down to their elbows or knees. You also get two points for exposing the opponent’s back using techniques like a leg lace. You get four points if you take down your opponent from their feet to their back. Lastly, you get five points if you throw your opponent using complex moves like a suplex. Even team score differs significantly—for a team score, you score three team points for a decision (1–9 -point difference). There are no major decisions in freestyle; instead, a tech fall is a ten-point differential worth four team points, and a pin is worth five team points. One important team score distinction is that if you score a point at any point during the match, you receive one team point even if you lose the match. I enjoy freestyle wrestling because there is no opportunity for passive wrestling, which makes it more entertaining to watch, and if you are not good on the bottom after fifteen seconds, you are placed back on your feet.
Some not-so-complicated changes for me were that in high school, we normally practiced once a day, with a lift occasionally added. Meanwhile, we train/work out many times every day at ESU. We have a lift in the morning or at night twice a week, followed by a later practice. On other days, we practice in the morning in the room or pool, then practice later in the day. Even if we only have one practice, I will try to get in two or three sessions, whether cardio or lifting. Because I work out several times a day, time management is essential in my life. Because I just practiced once a day or had matches barely an hour away in high school, I had plenty of time to finish my homework or study. Meanwhile, in college, I’m juggling numerous classes, wrestling, preparing for matches that are at least two hours away, and now clinical hours for my degree. I spend many nights at the library, which is not fun, but you got to do what you need to do. The most significant lesson I learnt was the importance of eating a well-balanced diet. Because many of the matches I wrestled in high school were Madison style, making weight was not a problem. In college, my freshman year, I lost so much weight quickly by eating a balanced diet and working out that I always weighed at least one pound under my weight class. Despite everything, I grew into a better version of myself.
As I speak, if you are uninformed of what is going on with Sanction PA, there are currently 100 high school girls’ teams who have exceeded the PIAA requirement to be voted for sanctions as of February 14, 2023. We now have the ability to hold formal state finals similar to the ones held in Hershey, Pennsylvania for boys. Every day, I am grateful to be a part of this drive for sanctioning, as well as to all of the people I have met through this sport. I’m even more thankful for the lessons I’ve learned in the last two years at ESU. Wrestling in college requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and many sleepless nights, but it is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have. My high school coaches, college coaches, and parents have always informed me that “wrestling is wrestling” no matter what.