Benefits of Freestyle and Greco Wrestling

Stay Sharp

The international styles of freestyle and Greco-Roman are most popular during the spring and summer months. This is because most of their competitions immediately follow folkstyle season. During the spring and summer, some wrestlers still train folkstyle. You will have the option to do so. However, the best wrestlers in the country are usually training and competing in these other styles during the off-season. Although you will be learning a new style of wrestling, much of what you have already learned in folkstyle can be used in freestyle. You will learn techniques in both of these styles that can be used successfully during the scholastic and collegiate seasons.

Using the Upper Body

To become an outstanding wrestler in any style, you must at some point acquire the skills necessary to be able to use your upper body effectively. The basic positioning taught in Greco-Roman is invaluable, and there are many technical aspects of upper body wrestling that you can only learn through this avenue. Even if most of your offense comes off of leg attacks in folkstyle, understanding how to control and set up takedowns using your upper body will greatly increase your effectiveness. Wrestling Greco will force you to build your upper body strength.

Using the Boundary

In freestyle and Greco, you are not allowed to attempt to escape a hold or maneuver by stepping out of bounds. Each time a wrestler does this, his opponent is awarded one point. This is why most wrestlers on the international circuit use the boundary to generate an offense. This rule directly relates to the “fleeing the mat” rule in folkstyle. Freestyle and Greco will give you a better sense of awareness of where you are on the mat, and will help you learn how to use the boundary of the mat more effectively.

Using the Boundary

The opponents you will face during the freestyle/Greco season may be tough for many reasons, but one sticks out from the rest: They have the drive to want to be there, and the desire to succeed. Wrestlers that compete in the international styles tend to be better because they care about their success much more. Often times these wrestlers have aspirations of becoming a national or world champion in freestyle or Greco at some point in their careers. Also, the amount of time you spend on the mat will undoubtedly help you improve as a wrestler.


The freestyle and Greco season means different things to different people. Many wrestlers take the competition seriously, and use these styles as a way to improve their all-around abilities. However, most would agree that competing in these styles is more enjoyable. Many scholastic and collegiate coaches use freestyle and Greco as tools to indirectly help teach folkstyle skills. Thus, there is less emphasis on competing to win and you will find that there is less pressure because of this.

Five tactical benefits freestyle wrestling can provide folkstyle wrestlers

from Teague Moore, Head Coach at American University

  1. Front Head Lock Offense: This position is crucial to a successful freestyle career, if you can score every time you control your opponent’s head, your scoring potential becomes much better. This position is usually taken after defending an opponent’s leg attack (defensive FHL position).  The Russians have mastered the offensive FHL by snapping wrists to clear inside ties and snapping collar ties from neutral.
  2. Head inside single, from contact: Most youth wrestlers in the U.S. learn from collar and elbow position so it’s a natural offensive leg attack to attempt while clearing the collar.  In the freestyle setting the finish to this offense forces a clean and “backside” finish that transitions easily to a leg lace offense.  Young wrestlers that learn a quick “swing single to lace” offense will naturally develop a solid folkstyle technique because by it’s very nature the swing single to lace forces you to control an opponent’s hips, which eliminates the typical “funk” defense that is popular in folkstyle.  The learned freestyle skill helps to develop a very proficient folkstyle takedown artist.
  3. The backstep and backarch: It’s a basic technique for freestyle athletes to learn and should be one of the seven basic skills that every wrestler learns. The headlock, lateral drop, and body lock throws all utilize its skillset but folkstyle doesn’t appear to be emphasizing it with younger wrestlers.  An athlete that learns to properly backstep and backarch usually adds a deadly element to their offense in folkstyle, with a five-point move.
  4. Bottom offense: On the surface, bottom offense in freestyle doesn’t seem to offer much to a folkstyle wrestler; but, in fact, the freestyle bottom position teaches a vital element to the folkstyle wrestler.  Bottom freestyle demands a wrestler to learn a position to maintain a strong base.  Positioning is not one dimensional in freestyle. A wrestler must learn how to position to defend a gut wrench, which is very similar to defending a tight waist in folkstyle.  Defending and moving from an ankle lace attack can quickly teach a folkstyle wrestler how to reposition to defend an ankle ride in folkstyle. Although the bottom position in freestyle appears to happen with little movement, the reality is that it teaches a folkstyle wrestler how to reposition themselves and hold a strong base, which is a key element for younger wrestlers to learn.
  5. The top position: Freestyle top position offense teaches a wrestler the importance of hip control. The wrestler on top in freestyle has to expose their opponent’s shoulders to the mat for points, but most of these scoring opportunities are presented after you open the bottom wrestlers hips. In a gut wrench, you must learn to properly lock and drive, but without popping the bottom wrestler’s hips, exposure can remain futile. Another common freestyle technique is the figure-four leg ride, or bent leg turk that allows you to hip your opponent over for exposure. This turn can be done exactly identical in folkstyle so this technique is a great way to transition the technique between both.  If a wrestler properly learns how to control an opponent’s hips, cheap tilts, leg rides, and dominance in top position become easily transitioned.

and other reasons from our sports leaders…

Terry Brands, a two-time Freestyle World Champion and 2000 Olympic Bronze Medalist (one of our sport’s greats) said “Freestyle wrestling really teaches the fundamentals of the sport, The more skills you master in any style of wrestling, the better wrestler you can become. Training and competing in freestyle wrestling puts you in positions and in experiences you are not in during the folkstyle season,” Brands explains. “It helps you deal with different kinds of pressures. It helps develop a new set of skills that maybe your opponent doesn’t have. And if he does, it will teach you how to counter different skills that opponent may be using. This is the time of year to work on something new. Freestyle is a great way to advance as a wrestler, become a more complete wrestler.”

AU head coach and NCAA National Champion Teague Moore said that while he was competing for legendary head coach John Smith, (six-time freestyle World Champion and a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist) it was Smith’s ability to teach freestyle skills—and incorporate how they crossover into folkstyle that played a huge role in Moore becoming an NCAA champion and three-time All-American. “When training in freestyle, an athlete must have total body awareness and control,” says Moore. “With proper positioning, a wrestler can execute with minimized exposure to defense. The best executed offense eliminates an opponent’s defense. The best example of this is the (Jordan) Burroughs double, it secures a takedown and potentially secures back exposure while eliminating the opponents’ quick front headlock defense or crotch lock defense.” Although this is only one example, it can be applied to many other scoring positions. The athlete that trains to execute an offense that completely eliminates their opponents defense will excel in folkstyle because of this laser-like precision offense.”