How Tough Is College Wrestling?

Do you have dreams of wrestling in college or are you just curious how good these athletes really are? Then you are in luck! We are going to perform a deep dive into the difficulty and the skill level of college wrestlers.

How Tough Is College Wrestling?

College wrestling is tough as athletes wrestle 30 + matches over 4 months and throughout that period have to stick to a Spartan diet to maintain their weight and push themselves through grueling 2 hour + practices.

College wrestling is definitely a difficult endeavor as coaches expect you to commit hours and hours every week to training. These training sessions can often be twice a day, once early in the morning and then again in the afternoon/evening.

Juggling this tough wrestling training with your school work and social life is something that requires significant amount of discipline. Many college wrestlers feel like they are training just as much as professional athletes but aren’t receiving the compensation and also have to worry about passing classes.

However, your experience as a college wrestler will greatly depend on your goals and the school you attend. Many athletes who attend wrestling powerhouse schools such as Iowa, Penn State and Ohio State are essentially majoring in wrestling and minoring in everything else. These athletes are eating and breathing wrestling and have goals of winning national titles and wrestling internationally.

The situation is different at smaller programs especially at the DII and DIII level where most athletes aren’t on scholarships and are wrestling mostly as hobby. At these programs the time commitment and the intensity is laid back making it easier for wrestlers to focus on school and their social life.

The academic reputation of your school will also play a role in how difficult it is to wrestle in college. For example if you go to a school like Stanford which is a strong DI program but is also renowned for its tough academics then trying to succeed in a highly competitive wrestling and classroom environment at the same time is going to be extremely tough.

Especially if you compare it to less academically rigorous schools like Oklahoma State where the athletes are their to wrestle and passing classes is a formality.

Is It Hard To Go D1 In Wrestling?

It is very hard to wrestle at a D1 college as only 80 schools in the whole country have a team. With 10 weight classes that means there are only 800 starting spots up for grabs.

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

Make no mistake about it DI wrestlers are elite athletes and represent the top of the food chain. With so few universities having a varsity wrestling team earning a spot on the squad is no easy feat. With over 350,000 wrestlers and only 800 starting spots, DI wrestlers represent the top 0.22% of American wrestlers.

Most DI wrestlers at top programs such as Oklahoma State, Iowa, Penn State were absolute studs in high school and were state champions in the toughest high school wrestling states (Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey).

While starters at less competitive programs were often state placers in these top wrestling states or champions in less competitive but still respectable regions.

Can You Walk On A D1 Wrestling Team?

You can walk on a D1 wrestling team. The school will hold and series of tryouts where they will test your athletic skills, fitness and wrestling ability. If you impress the coaches you can win a spot on the team.

All college sports including wrestling are mandated to have open tryouts where all students can tryout. Coaches are obligated to treat all students fairly and give everyone an equal chance of making the team.

The great thing about wrestling is that good training partners are incredibly important and due to the difficulty of the sport many wrestlers aren’t interested in being bench athletes.

This gives walk ons a great shot of making the team. Of course unless you are very strong wrestler winning a starting spot is going to be incredibly unlikely but making the team is not out of the realm of possibility.

Once you are on the team you can work closely with the starters and the expert coaches. Then after spending a couple of years of being training in a DI program you can put yourself in a strong position to challenge for a starting role.

Obviously your chance of winning a spot on the team depends on the strength of your competition. Walking on at a tiny DI program which barely recruits and doesn’t send any athletes to NCAA National Championship is going to much easier than walking onto Penn State where you have former top high school recruits riding the bench.

How Many D1 Wrestlers Are There?

There are approximately 2400 DI wrestlers, representing 80 different schools. There are 800 starters competing in 10 weight classes.

As you can see just making a DI wrestling squad makes you an elite wrestler. And winning a starting spot means you are the elite of the elite.


Nobody what anybody tries to say you can’t argue against the numbers. Securing a spot on a DI wrestling team makes you a top wrestler and puts you in the top 0.7% of US wrestlers. However, making the team is only the first step.

College wrestling is incredibly tough as student athletes have to train like professionals for hours everyday and sometimes twice a day while also balancing their social lives and their university studies. Many athletes can not handle it and often quit the wrestling team because they are unable to pass their classes. It takes a special type of individual to excel both in wrestling and academically at the college level.

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