Can You Start Wrestling In College?

285 lbs Kyle Snyder (Ohio St.) DEC Adam Coon (Michigan), 3-2

Have you recently fallen in love wrestling and found yourself on the wrong side of 18? Don’t worry just because you didn’t wrestle in high school does not mean you have to give up your dreams of wrestling in NCAA competition.

Can You Start Wrestling In College?

You can start wrestling college with no experience. Your chance of starting depends on how athletic you are and how competitive your college is. You will have little chance of wrestling at a top Div 1 NCAA school but could certainly walk on to schools from weaker associations (JUCO, NCAA Div 2 & 3, NAIA).

Wrestling is not an easy sport to learn but there is no reason you can’t get good after a couple of years of dedicated training. While your chance of wrestling at a Division 1 powerhouse like Iowa or Penn State may be a little beyond your reach many colleges are more than happy to boost their rosters with young eager new recruits.

It will not be easy wrestling in college with no experience. You will be going up against many wrestlers who have spent 1000 + hours on the mat training some from the age of 5 and nearly everyone will have at least a couple years of high school experience. 

This should not discourage you but you need to be prepared as your first season is going to be particularly difficult. You will need to be determined and develop a never quit attitude as you will be dominated in most of your training sessions and in the matches you do manage to get. 

However, if you can get through your first season you will start seeing more and more success and may even be able to compete for a starting position. 

How To Get Good At Wrestling Without Training In High School?

The secret to starting wrestling in college and succeeding is to get into great shape, train as much skill development as possible and really learn the intricacies of the sport. You have to become a student of wrestling and become an expert in all the little tricks.

Wrestling is an extremely tiring sport. You need a combination of strength, power, speed, flexibility and endurance. If you want to win a starting college wrestling position you need to work on all these physical attributes.

If you come from another sport hopefully you already possess some of these attributes. 

Wrestlers need strong arms, legs, core, neck and backs. To develop these body parts you should be doing pull ups, rope climbs, sit up variations, ab wheel, neck bridges. These exercises should be performed 3 to 4 times a week. You can perform these at the end of every wrestling workout.

Have you seen how fast and explosive wrestlers are? If you want to be snatching your opponent’s legs and finishing your shots with lightning quickness you need to develop your speed. To build speed perform bounding broad jumps, 10m and 20m sprints, tuck jumps, bounding jumps on one leg and box jumps. Speed work should be performed twice a week.

Everyday after your training you should perform 15 to 20 minutes of static stretching to build your flexibility. Focus on your shoulder, hip, groin, hamstring and ankle mobility. Wrestlers should ideally be able to perform the splits.

Building physical preparedness is only half of the battle in wrestling. As you have no wrestling experience the majority of your training should be devoted to developing your wrestling technique.

As you are playing catch up with wrestlers who already know hundreds of moves and have spent countless hours drilling them you will need to do a lot of drilling. Regular training will not be enough for you. 

If we estimate the average college wrestler has spent 1000 hours training wrestling (4 years of high school X 250 hours of training per year) to catch up you will need to train 3 hours a day, 6 days a week for the whole year.

To get in this extra training you will need to grab a training partner and drill before/after your standard sessions and scheduled off days. The drilling doesn’t have to be intense but you need to be constantly learning.

Make sure you find a training partner who is highly skilled but is also motivated and a great teacher. If you can find someone who is willing to give you extra training you should see your wrestling skills soar through the roof.

Can You Walk On A College Wrestling Team?

You can walk on a college wrestling team with little or no experience. Most college wrestling programs have a thin roster and are always looking for good training partners to fill their squad. Your chance of starting depends on the competition level, your athleticism and how quickly you learn the sport.

Walking on a college wrestling team is not nearly as hard as you think it is. Most college wrestling teams are not Iowa or Penn State where everyone on the squad is a multi time state champion. Many college wrestling programs are lacking in numbers and will be more than happy to have an extra training squad member. This is true of many NCAA Div 2 & 3, JUCO and NAIA schools.

Now while walking on and making the wrestling team is not difficult at most colleges, winning a starting position is another story. Even at small colleges the starting positions will usually be filled by successful high school wrestlers who have years of experience.

If you have no previous experience you face an uphill battle but if you work really hard and squeeze in extra training sessions there is no reason you can’t win a starting position in one of your later college years.

If you are a heavyweight or a 125 pounder you have a much better chance of starting as these weight classes tend to have limited participants.

Will Experience In Other Sports Help Me Wrestle In College With No Experience? 

If you are athletic and have had success in other sports your chance of wrestling in college without experience goes up significantly. If you were a good football player, gymnast, BJJ or Judo athlete you are likely to learn wrestling quickly and have a good chance of making the team.

Gable Steveson of Minnesota (rear) takes down Mason Parris of Michigan en route to an 8-6 decision in the 285-pound final bout at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships at the RAC in Piscataway, N.J. on Sunday, March 8, 2020. (Andrew Mills/NJ Advance Media) Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media for

A wrestler’s success is greatly influenced by his speed, power, strength, flexibility and endurance. If you have already developed these athletic attributes in other sports your chance of having success in wrestling is much higher than untrained wannabe wrestlers.

If you are a particularly good athlete you may even be able to immediately win a starting position and win matches through just your athletic ability.

For example if you are a great high school football player and you wrestle in the heavyweight division you could overwhelm many of your competition by just using your speed, power and football tackling skills to score at will against your opponents.

If you come from a sport similar to wrestling such as BJJ and Judo you also have a great chance of becoming a starter on your college wrestling team. 

BJJ and Judo athletes already know many of the techniques used in wrestling and have some of their own sneaky techniques that could catch wrestlers off guard. BJJ and Judo athletes also are similarly conditioned to wrestlers and understand how to manipulate and control an opponent with different grips and off balancing techniques.


You can start wrestling in college with no experience. Many college wrestling teams particularly Division 2, 3 and JUCO squads are looking for new recruits to fill their empty rosters. However your chance of making the team at a Division 1 powerhouse is very slim.

Your success will depend on your athleticism, how quickly you learn the sport and how competitive your college is. If you train hard and dedicate yourself to the sport of wrestling there is no reason you can not start on your college wrestling team in your senior year.

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