Folkstyle vs. freestyle

USOEC athlete Liz Short vs. Czech opponent at the NMU Olympic Challenge MI, USA 2006

Female wrestling’s: U.S. States Olympic Education Center (2004-2012), NAIA, WCWA, & NCAA all train & compete in the Olympic style of wrestling also known as women’s freestyle wrestling.

All of the high schools in the USA, that have sanctioned wrestling state tournaments, compete & train in the style of wrestling created in the United States of America also known as folkstyle wrestling. This article briefly details each style, the benefits inherit for USA wrestlers, & future growth.


This style, typically offered for 3 winter months for most USA high school students originated from catch-as-catch-can wrestling over 100 years ago in England. In the US, folkstyle is the basic style used to teach the fundamentals for folkstyle, Greco-Roman, & freestyle wrestling.

Most male wrestlers who aspire to gain collegiate scholarships to further their education in the classroom and in the wrestling room learn and master this style. Other males who simply want to participate in college or junior college wrestling also learn folkstyle and apply to colleges while, perhaps, paying their own way for their education and to compete.

Male folkstyle wrestlers have many opportunities to wrestle for these major college organizations: NCAA (3 different divisions), NJCAA, and NAIA.  In fact, there are over 400 colleges for males (compared to around 80 colleges for females) who are seeking degrees & collegiate folkstyle wrestling to apply at.


This style has been contested in the Olympic Games, World Championships for over 100 years and is one of the styles the world agreed to participate in for the last mentioned international championships. Female wrestlers debuted in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and have been competing in freestyle wrestling World Championships since 1987.

The majority of aspiring Olympian USA male wrestlers typically transition from folkstyle to freestyle after they have completed their collegiate careers. Female wrestlers, in the US, transition from folkstyle to freestyle about 4 years earlier as most college programs for females compete in the Olympic style of wrestling or freestyle.

High school is the last time most female wrestlers will wrestle folkstyle if they are aspiring Olympians or want to compete in major collegiate women’s programs because both routes compete in freestyle wrestling.  The Olympic Games has 2 competitive styles i.e. Greco-Roman (men only) and freestyle wrestling.   Males, choose one or the other if they aspire to be Olympic Champions.

Other styles

There are several other styles of wrestling that have world championships and these styles are not competed in the Olympic Games. Some of the more popular styles around the glode are grappling, sombo, plus jiu-jitsu and these forms of wrestling have world championships only. (Judo is a style of wrestling and has annual world championships and is competed in the Olympic Games.)


Wrestling, in general, offers a wide variety of fitness benefits and movements that participants must master in order to have success. Once these skill movements are mastered, the aforementioned collegiate opportunities are available when high school athletes reach college age.

Young masters of wrestling are afforded the chance to be awarded scholarships, tuition waivers, & financial aid if they also meet the requirements of the educational institution of choice. These days college is expensive and financial aid or partial/full scholarships to offset costs of tuition may be needed.

Freestyle or the Olympic style of wrestling, typically offered in the spring & summer, also offers worldwide travel to compete in the various continental and world championships contested annually and semi-annually.

The Olympic Games (and Youth Olympic Games) are held every 4 years and World Championships for freestyle wrestling are held every year for: cadet (ages 15-17), junior (ages 17-20), and senior (ages 17 & older) wrestlers.

Pan American Games are also held every 4 years for senior wrestlers while Pan American Championships are held every year for cadet , junior, and senior level wrestlers. Freestyle collegiate wrestlers also compete in the U23 World Championships, World University Games, & World University Championships.  Freestyle participants of all age groups also have the added benefit to attend International training camps.

There are many psychological benefits of wrestling and they include and are not limited to increased self esteem, self confidence, self motivation, and learning how to set and achieve goals.

Mastering the basic skills of freestyle wrestling (in the USA) generally starts with mastering the basic skills of folkstyle wrestling and when both styles are mastered, wrestlers have a sense of accomplishment and a belief they can set & attain goals in wrestling which has direct carry over value for believing they can accomplish goals in life.

Setting & accomplishing goals develops character plus discipline which again has direct carry over value for many of life’s endeavors.

Physical & physiological benefits that are gained include increased strength, flexibility, body awareness, lean body mass, & nutritional awareness that directly affects foodstuffs ingested into the body.

When all of those benefits are added up and complimented, wrestlers tend to have quicker, faster, & more powerful sport specific skill movements while enhancing productive lifestyle fitness habits. In other words, the benefits of being in wrestling, and specifically freestyle wrestling for females, enhances not only sport specific skills but also skills used later on in life like everyday exercising and eating nutritionally sound diets daily.

Social benefits of wrestling start with team building, developing communication and interpersonal skills, developing leadership/cooperation skills, creating lasting friendships, accepting responsibilities, & learning how to deal with winning/losing. These skills also have direct carry over value for most avenues of life that wrestlers will travel down.

Again, once high school girl wrestlers enter college and wrestle the Olympic sport of freestyle, the next step is to continue this social development to enhance life skills which will definitely become applicable during college and after college in the real world.

Final words

At this moment, there are roughly 21,000 high school girl wrestlers (compared to 240,000 high school boy wrestlers) who train and compete in folkstyle wrestling in the various high schools of the USA. Many of these athletes (and their parents) may be unaware that the majority of wrestling programs in college, for women, is in the Olympic style or freestyle. (High school coaches and administrators may be unaware of this too.)

Also, at this writing, there were only 21 states that have sanctioned high school state wrestling championships for girls (49 for boys). Those statistics speak for themselves and a purpose for this paper was to provide information regarding the wonderful opportunities for female freestyle wrestlers, to stimulate productive change with regard to growth, & to develop female wrestlers in the USA.

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn, All rights reserved


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