With the rise in popularity of BJJ where the tap out gesture is used to signal to an opponent and referee to end the match wrestlers are questioning whether this signal is also used in wrestling.
Can You Tap Out In High School Wrestling?
The tap out gesture is not a formal signal in high school wrestling. However, it can be used to let the referee know that you are injured, forfeit, or in a dangerous position. The referee can then decide whether to conclude the match, stop it for injury time or let the action continue.
You won’t find the tap out gesture in any high school wrestling manual and it has no formal meaning. This is in contrast to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu where tapping out is an accepted and formalized part of the sport.
All BJJ athletes know when they are caught in a submission to tap out and slap their hand repeatedly against their opponent. Athletes know to release the submission when they feel this tap and referees are trained to identify it and quickly stop the match.
Wrestling is a little different. In wrestling when an athlete is injured, caught in a dangerous position or wishes to forfeit they are expected to signal to the referee in any manner. Typically a wrestler will cry out in pain or say stop or some other variation.
Some wrestlers who are unable to speak because they are caught often in a choke hold with start tapping. Most wrestling referees will understand the meaning of the signal but it is not a part of the high school wrestling rules guide or manual.
Once a wrestling identifies that a wrestling is tapping to signal they are in distress they are not obligated to stop the match like in BJJ. They can choose to take one of the following 3 options. They can let the match continue, they finish the match or pause it and call an injury timeout.
What action the referee chooses is up to their own discretion. The most common course of action is to pause the match and call injury timeout. The referee will award the attacking wrestler a point and check on the potentially injured athlete. The athlete then has time to recover and return to the match.
Wrestlers will sometimes tap out when they are being choked and can’t tell the referee. It is up to the referee to determine if the choke is legal or they need to call an injury timeout. In wrestling, you are not legally allowed to choke your opponent but if you have a tight head arm, a legal technique you can render an opponent unconscious.
Dave Schultz was famous for choking opponents unconscious with his tight head and arm lock. It was not uncommon for opponents to wake up as they were being pinned by the legendary wrestler.
If a referee determines you are using a legal technique to intentionally choke out your opponent they penalize you by calling unsportsmanlike conduct or potentially dangerous. However, if you are using the move to score then referees with let it go.