Freestyle vs Folkstyle Wrestling

There are a variety of differences between freestyle wrestling and folkstyle wrestling. The rules, strategies, and techniques in these two styles differ greatly. Folkstyle is the style practiced within the United States, while freestyle is practiced around the world. There are advantages to both forms of wrestling, so it’s important to understand each so you can choose the one best suited for you.

In this article, we will be explaining what is folkstyle and freestyle wrestling styles as well as the differences between them.

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freestyle vs folkstyle wrestling

What Is Wrestling?

Wrestling is an ancient sport that involves grappling or “clinching” with another person. It has its roots in the ancient Olympic Games of Greece, where it was considered to be one of the most important disciplines. The modern sport developed in England and spread throughout the globe under the influence of British colonialism. Wrestlers have to learn a set of techniques and moves in order to be considered a master of wrestling or “grappling” as it is called by the pros.

What Is Folkstyle Wrestling?

Folkstyle wrestling is a collegiate sport that was developed in the United States. Many rules and terms are very different from those used in freestyle wrestling. Folkstyle has more of an emphasis on upper body attacks, whereas freestyle emphasizes leg attacks.

There are penalties for pushing, holding, or backing up further than two steps without engaging your opponent. Folkstyle wrestling is very popular in the United States.

What Is Freestyle Wrestling?

Freestyle wrestling also involves grappling or “clinching” with another person. The main difference between freestyle and folkstyle is that there are fewer rules allowing more freedom. Wrestlers have to learn a set of techniques that are allowed in the international freestyle wrestling federation.

Freestyle wrestlers are also more likely to shove their opponents out of bounds rather than win by pin. The aim is to they can use to score points and win the match. It also has more of an emphasis on leg attacks, whereas folkstyle emphasizes upper body attacks.

What Is the Difference Between Folkstyle and Freestyle Wrestling?

The main difference between these two styles of wrestling is that freestyle allows for much more physicality than folkstyle wrestling does. In other words, wrestlers can push, shove, and strike when competing in freestyle wrestling.

Folkstyle has more of a focus on upper body grappling techniques. Because the rules are different in each style, there is also a difference in strategy between folkstyle and freestyle wrestling. In addition, the instructors and coaches in each style of wrestling may have a preference for which they would like you to learn. Folkstyle tends to be the more popular form of wrestling in the United States, while freestyle is practiced around the world.

What Are the Similarities Between Them?

Both forms of wrestling are considered as part of the amateur wrestling group. Also, both require physical exertion, strength, endurance, and the ability to work as a team or unit with your partner. Both types of wrestlers need the discipline to follow rules and train hard. There are also some moves that are used in both styles of wrestling.

Which Is Better?

As with anything else, both forms of wrestling have their pros and cons. Folkstyle is a fall-back for wrestlers that want to compete domestically. If you are from the United States, then folkstyle is likely your best bet if you’re looking to wrestle competitively at the collegiate level.

On the other hand, freestyle wrestling has stricter rules and more of a focus on leg attacks. A simple folkstyle takedown move would not be allowed in the highly physical international style. For this reason, freestyle wrestling is a great choice for those interested in competing at the international level.

Which Is Better for Self-defense?

Although neither style of wrestling is ideal for self-defense, freestyle wrestlers would be better prepared than folkstyle wrestlers if they were forced to defend themselves. Wrestling at the international level requires more skill and physicality than wrestling at a collegiate level. Even though folkstyle isn’t as heavily regulated as international freestyle, it still has rules that make it less applicable for self-defense situations.

Which Style Is More Intense?

As mentioned in the difference between folkstyle and freestyle, international freestyle wrestling usually involves pushing, shoving, and striking which makes it a more intense and physical competition than folkstyle.

Folkstyle rules focus on upper body techniques whereas international rules allow for knee strikes, kicks, and other more intense fighting techniques. This makes international freestyle wrestling much more intense in competition than folkstyle.

Which is More Popular?

Folkstyle wrestling is still very popular in the United States. In fact, most colleges that have a wrestling program run folkstyle programs due to the popularity of this style of wrestling. International freestyle, on the other hand, is less prevalent in the United States. Because of this lack of exposure, folkstyle has more recognition and popularity than international freestyle amongst collegiate wrestlers in America.

Which Is Harder to Learn?

Freestyle wrestling can be a bit more difficult for wrestlers who are used to folkstyle. Folkstyle has stricter rules and more techniques that focus on the upper body and head attacks whereas international wrestling is less regulated and open to head and leg attacks. Because of the addition of strikes, foot sweeps, and other legal moves in freestyle, many freestyle wrestlers consider it to be more difficult to learn than folkstyle wrestling.

Which Has More Takedowns?

International freestyle wrestling tends to have a larger range of maneuvers that wrestlers can use in competition. Folkstyle is generally just head, arm, and upper body takedowns whereas international wrestlers are allowed to utilize a much wider range of takedowns including leg attacks. This makes freestyle wrestling more highly regarded for its use of takedowns and throws.

Equipment Differences

There are very few equipment differences between folkstyle and freestyle wrestling. Both wrestling styles require quality wrestling gear in order to be able to train at serious places. For example, singlet, headgear, an undergarment, and wrestling shoes are the main parts of the required gear. Most wrestlers wear kneepads as well as ankle supports to prevent injuries during training and competition.

Although there is no real need for chest protectors in either style of wrestling (unlike other combat sports such as judo and boxing), many wrestlers choose to wear chest protectors during practice because of the risk of injury.

Is High School Wrestling Freestyle or Folkstyle? 

Folkstyle wrestling is the more popular and competitive of the two styles of high school wrestling, although some states have recently begun to incorporate international freestyle wrestling into some of their high school state tournaments.

What Style Is Participating in the Olympics?

Freestyle wrestling or Greco-Roman is generally what you see when you watch the Olympics. It’s less regulated with more focus on the upper body and head attacks than folkstyle which allows for a much more intense and dynamic competition than in high school or college.

So, Which Should I Choose?

It really depends on what you want to get out of your experience with competitive wrestling. If you’re looking to compete internationally, then freestyle may be a better option than folkstyle. On the other hand, if you’re just looking to wrestle in college and you’re from the United States, then folkstyle wrestling is likely your best choice for competition.