What Is The Difference Between Folkstyle Wrestling And Greco Roman?

If you have seen the world championships or the Olympics you will have noticed they don’t wrestle folkstyle. Instead, they wrestle either freestyle or Greco Roman. Now, freestyle is pretty similar to folkstyle and many NCAA champions have successfully gone on to win international medals. However, Greco Roman is a different beast and Americans have continued to struggle in the sport. In this article we will look at the key differences between folkstyle and Greco Roman.

What is the difference between folkstyle wrestling and Greco Roman? The key difference between folkstyle and Greco Roman is that in Greco Roman you can not grab or trip the legs, only upper body takedowns are allowed. In Greco Roman there is no riding, instead there is par terre where a wrestler will face belly down and his opponent will attempt to turn or pick up and throw him.

What Takedowns Are Illegal In Folkstyle?

In folkstyle wrestling back arching throws where a wrestler goes feet over head over illegal. These throws are also commonly known as suplexes. They have been banned in folkstyle due to the concerns over injuries to the neck and spine.

In Greco Roman wrestling back arching throws are one of the most common takedowns. Greco Roman wrestlers are experts at these throws practicing them daily. The sport actually incentivizes back suplexes by rewarding wrestlers who perform them with 4 and 5 points compared to the standard takedown which only scores 2 points.

What Takedowns Are Illegal In Greco Roman?

In Greco Roman wrestling all takedowns that make contact with the lower body, including trips and leg grabbing techniques are banned. Due to this Greco Roman takedowns typically include arm drags, head and arm throws and back arching throws.

In folkstyle wrestling the main focus is on leg attacks. The most common takedowns in folkstyle are single leg and double legs. This focus on leg attacks is why folkstyle wrestlers are able to transition to freestyle but struggle to compete in Greco Roman.

Can You Trip In Greco Roman Wrestling?

Can you trip in Greco Roman wrestling? No, you can not trip in Greco Roman wrestling. All takedowns which make contact with the legs including tripping techniques such as an inside or outside trip which are common in freestyle are banned in Greco Roman wrestling.

What Is Difference In Stance Between Folkstyle And Greco Roman Wrestling?

Folkstyle and Greco Roman wrestlers utilize a very different stance when they are wrestling. As folkstyle is a leg attack heavy style of wrestling, wrestlers stand in a crouched position, back straight, legs bent, ideally so low to the ground that they can always touch the mat with their hand without dropping any lower. In folkstyle you will also sometimes see wrestlers who crouch so low their knees are on the mat. Zahid Valencia often uses this style of knee wrestling

The reason folkstyle wrestlers stand so low is because it allows them to effectively attack leg attacks. To successfully complete a leg attack takedown you need to get underneath your opponent and wrap up their legs. This can be done much more effectively if your body is level with their legs. The low stance also allows folkstyle wrestlers to effectively defend against leg attacks. The lower you stand the harder it is for your opponent to get a clean shot on your legs as you can use your head and arms to block the attack and your hips are lower to the ground making it easier to sprawl.

Greco Roman wrestlers do not have to worry about leg attacks and are only allowed to attack the upper body. This results in Greco wrestlers standing in an upright stance. A Greco Roman stance is more similar to a boxing stance than it is to a freestyle wrestling stance. A crouched wrestling stance makes it more difficult to attack the upper body and makes you more susceptible to the headlock position. To ensure Greco wrestlers don’t end up in a nasty headlock and have easy access to the upper body they stand in a very upright stance.

Where Is Greco Roman Wrestling Most Popular?

Greco Roman is most popular in Europe and central Asia, particularly in the countries of the Former Soviet Union such as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Uzbekistan. The Soviet Union leads the all time Greco medal list with 132 gold medals followed by Russia with 45 gold medals. Greco Roman wrestling is also popular in Turkey, Hungary and Poland.

Greco Roman was formerly very popular in Sweden and Finland who are 6th and 7th on the all time medal list, however in recent years the sports popularity has declined.

Greco Roman wrestling is not particularly popular in the USA as it is not taught in schools or in college. However, in recent years participation levels have been rising as more kids wrestle year round outside of school. This unfortunately has not translated to success as the USA failed to secure a single medal at 2019 World Championships in Nur Sultan.

Where Is Folkstyle Wrestling Most Popular?

America is the only country that trains and competes in folkstyle. It is a uniquely American style of wrestling. This has polarized people, as some wrestlers think America should abandon folkstyle and instead focus on freestyle to improve international and Olympic results. Other people think America should protect its traditional form of wrestling and without schools practicing folkstyle the sport would die.

What Are The Scoring Differences Between Folkstyle And Greco Roman?

  • Takedownsfolkstyle – 2 points – Greco Roman – 2-5 points, depending on amplitude and whether there is back exposure
  • Escapesfolkstyle – 1 points – Greco Roman – 0 points – escapes do not exist in Greco
  • Riding Timefolkstyle – over 1 min of riding = 1 point – Greco Roman – 0 points – no concept of riding in Greco
  • Reversalfolkstyle – 2 points – Greco Roman – 1 point
  • Step outfolkstyle – 0 points, no step out rule in folkstyle – Greco Roman – 1 point – if you force your opponent out of bounds you are awarded a point
  • Par Terre – folkstyle – 0 points, position does not exist in folkstyle – Greco Roman – 2 points for turning opponent, 4 points for lifting and throwing opponent

How Long Is A Greco Roman Match?

How long is a Greco Roman match? A Greco Roman wrestling match is 6 minutes long made up of two 3 minute periods. There is a 30 second break between the two periods.

In contrast a folkstyle wrestling match lasts for 7 minutes. It is made up of one 3 minute and period and two 2 minute periods. This 1 extra minute may not seem like a lot but when you are competing a high intensity sport like wrestling a minute can feel like an eternity.

Do You Wear Headgear In Greco Roman Wrestling?

No, headgear is not allowed to be worn in Greco Roman wrestling. Athletes may wear headgear in training if they choose to however, most do not. Athletes typically only wear headgear if they are suffering from cauliflower ear.

In contrast to Greco Roman wrestling folkstyle wrestlers must wear headgear when they are competing and training. This a rule mandated by the universities and school. Wrestlers will not be allowed to compete without their headgear. This rule was introduced to prevent athletes from getting cauliflower ear. However, a lot of athletes refuse to wear headgear during practice and if you look at the ears of many high level folkstyle wrestlers they have cauliflower ear just as bad as Greco Roman wrestlers.

Is There Over Time In Greco Roman?

No, there is no over time in Greco Roman wrestling. When wrestlers are tied Greco uses a system known as criteria. Criteria states that if two athletes have the same amount of points then the athlete who scored with highest point move is the winner. If both athletes have the same highest scoring move then whichever athlete scored last is declared the winner.

Criteria gets criticized because many fans do not like the idea of a wrestler who has the same amount of points as their opponent being declared the winner. However, criteria creates a lot of action during the match as at any given point during the contest one athlete is losing, forcing that losing athlete to attack to try and win the match.

Criteria is also beneficial to wrestlers competing in tournaments as they know exactly how long they will wrestle. Wrestlers do not have to worry about being involved in a 15 minute overtime fueled wrestling battle which will have a negative effect on their performance in the rest of the tournament. Instead Greco Roman wrestlers know that every time they step on the mat they will be wrestling for 6 mins.

Is There Over Time In Folkstyle Wrestling?

Yes, there is over time in folkstyle wrestling. Folkstyle does not use the criteria system, instead tied athletes have to win the match in overtime.

Folkstyle has the following overtime system:

  • 1 minute sudden victory – any score immediately wins the match, if tied they move on to next phase of overtime
  • 2 thirty second rounds – each wrestler will get a chance to start on top and whoever scores the most in their round where they start on top wins, for example wrestler A starts on top in round 1, he scores wins 3-0, in round 2 wrestler A starts on bottom and loses the round 0-2, wrestler A is declared the winner
  • If the wrestlers are still tied they repeat the 1 minute sudden victory round
  • If wrestlers are still tied they repeat the 2 thirty second rounds
  • If wrestlers are still tied whichever wrestler had the longest riding time throughout overtime is declared the winner


The key difference between folkstyle and Greco Roman wrestling is that in Greco Roman all tripping and leg grabbing techniques are banned. There is no riding concept in Greco instead there is par terre where wrestlers attempt to turn or pick up and throw their opponent. The scoring is different between the two sports with big throws in Greco being awarded more points than standard takedowns. Greco Roman wrestling is popular in Eastern Europe and Central Asia while folkstyle is only practiced in the United States.

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