College wrestling is competed across the country with NCAA D1 Wrestling Championships, D2 Wrestling Championships and D3 Wrestling Championships taking place every March. The heart of the sport has historically been the Heartland as Oklahoma State and Iowa have dominated NCAA wrestling over the years. However, that trend has taken a turn eastwards with Penn State becoming the premier wrestling college, claiming NCAA wrestling titles from 2011-14 and 2016-19. College wrestling is also a historic sport as the NCAA Wrestling Championships date to 1928, making it the third-oldest NCAA Championships after track and field (1921) and swimming and diving (1924).
A total of 302 schools sponsor wrestling teams with 258 of those being four-year institutions and the rest offering jr college wrestling.
- NCAA Division 1 Wrestling – 84 teams
- NCAA Division 2 Wrestling – 47 teams
- NCAA Division 3 Wrestling – 89 teams
- NAIA Wrestling – 38 teams
- Jr College Wrestling – 44 teams
Also, women's wrestling has been increasing in stature and development. Today, 60 schools, including those that participate in jr college wrestling, sponsor that sport. The NCAA has recently recognized these impressive developments, stating that Divisions 1, 2 and 3 should add it as an Emerging Sport. That means that women's wrestling, one of the country's fastest growing, may soon be at Championship Status, meaning that NCAA Wrestling Championships would take place for women too.
NCAA wrestling differs from high school wrestling in a number of ways. The most significant of these is the length of matches. High school matches consist of three two-minute periods. The first period in college wrestling lasts three minutes with the other two are also two minutes long. The number of weight classes differs too as high school wrestling consists of 14 categories while college wrestling has 10. Some scoring differences and how overtime matches are decided differ between high school and college. Additionally, some states such as New Jersey do not crown team champions in high school wrestling.
In order to compete at a wrestling college, you should have impressive accolades. Although these depend on a number of factors, most importantly the quality of your opposition, one is placement at your state tournament. Meanwhile, a college wrestling coach at the D1 level will generally want to recruit those who have won state championships or otherwise performed similarly. An aptitude for year-round work and possessing the physical and mental strength to succeed are also considered.
A top college wrestling coach will generally have around 30-35 wrestlers on the team's roster competing in a variety of college wrestling weight classes.
Competing at a wrestling college
Prior to competing for one of the best wrestling colleges, you should take into account everything that they have to offer you. The college wrestling recruiting process is all about finding the best fit, not just for the college wrestling coach but also for yourself. Will this coach get the most out of you and help you grow as a wrestler and as a person? Will the academic side of the school do the same? Will you be challenged in that environment but not overwhelmed? Will you be good enough to regularly participate in matches for the team?
So much goes into the decision. Do as much research as possible, and consider the opinions of those you trust before you and your family make the final determination of which wrestling college to compete at.
College wrestling season
The college wrestling season lasts four months. It gets underway in the first half of November while the end of the regular season takes place in late February. Most competitions are head-to-head duals although multi-team events such as the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational are sometimes littered throughout. March is when every wrestling college turns its focus to conference championships and, for the best, NCAA Wrestling Championships.
NCAA and NAIA wrestling championships
The reveal of the NCAA wrestling brackets is a significant moment in the season. For D2 wrestling and D3 wrestling, the NCAA wrestling brackets tend to be announced in late February. The same time frame applies for NAIA wrestling. Meanwhile, the top teams, those in NCAA D1 wrestling, find out what road lies ahead in the NCAA wrestling brackets for their athletes towards the middle of March.
In the NCAA Wrestling Championships, every wrestler is guaranteed at least two matches over up to three days of wrestling although a single defeat will eliminate them from title consideration. However, wrestlers who end the competition with just a solitary loss are guaranteed of finishing at least third. A second-place showing will result if that lone loss came in the championship match. Finishing highly is important as the top eight finishers earn NCAA Wrestling All-American honors.
The team title is determined by which college wrestling squad posted the highest college wrestling scores. These college wrestling scores are earned by high finishes in the various college wrestling weight classes, advancing in the tournament and the style of victories displayed.
Oklahoma State has been the dominant force at the D1 Wrestling Championships with 34 titles although the most recent one was in 2006. Iowa is next on that list with 23 trophies with its most recent title coming in 2010. Penn State has started storming up that leader board, winning its ninth title in 2019 after entering the decade with just one, which was claimed in 1953. It's now in the third spot.
Cal Poly and Cal State Bakersfield have both set the pace at the D2 Wrestling Championships with eight titles apiece although both schools are currently D1 sides. The leader on this list that's still in the D2 ranks is Central Oklahoma, coming in a tie for third with Omaha, which is also now a D1 institution. They have seven of these trophies.
The Midwest has been the epicenter of excellence at the D3 Wrestling Championships as Wartburg leads that list with 14 trophies while Augsburg is second with 13. Those schools, which have combined to win every national title from 1995-2019, are based in Iowa and Minnesota, respectively.
The best college wrestling teams at the NAIA Wrestling Championships have been Adams State, Central State and Grand View, all with eight titles through 2019 although Grand View has the momentum, having won the last eight.
College wrestling video coverage
Live coverage of the NCAA D2 and D3 Championships is available on NCAA.com while ESPN provides broadcast and online coverage for the NCAA D1 Championships. TrackWrestling offers coverage of the NAIA Championships up to the point that TrackWrestling passes those duties off to ESPN, which provides online broadcasts of NAIA's championship sessions.
TrackWrestling also offers extensive regular-season coverage. Additionally, FloWrestling is an outstanding resource for live coverage as FloWrestling provides access to live video for top wrestling matches throughout the season. FloWrestling also offers access to training videos and feature films.
NCAA wrestling news
Several wrestling news outlets provide information on this sport as the season progresses.
Major news outlets offer wrestling news as well. For example, ESPN recently posted an article about college wrestlers transitioning to MMA.
Also consider consulting forums such as a PSU wrestling forum or an Iowa wrestling forum. However, keep in mind that places such as a PSU wrestling forum and Iowa wrestling forum spread false information at times. Use them to find links to official sources.
College wrestling rankings
The best resource for college wrestling rankings is the National Wrestling Coaching Association. It provides college wrestling rankings in 12 categories, including college wrestling rankings for women's programs.
College wrestling camps
One of the best ways to prepare for college wrestling practice is by participating in college wrestling camps. Although not a perfect match by any means, it gives you an impression of what college coaches are looking for as well as what the overall culture is like in a university setting.
Wrestling camps tend to have one of two focuses: technique or intensity. The former is more mental in nature while the latter is more physical in nature although both aspects of your skill set are used in both.
Wrestling prospect, wrestling recruit and wrestling commit
As you navigate the college wrestling recruiting path, you're going to come across a few terms that will be used to describe you and your peers. It's important to understand these. For example, a wrestling prospect is one who is eligible to join a college wrestling team, a wrestling recruit is being recruited by wrestling schools, and a wrestling commit has come to an agreement with a school to wrestle there.
College wrestling recruiting
Do you want to be involved in Wisconsin Badger recruiting? How about Stanford Cardinal recruiting? Regardless of if Badger recruiting, Cardinal recruiting or Nittany Lion recruiting is in your present or future, you should do everything in your power to put yourself in the best light possible. For example, a great way to start to push yourself up the priority list with Badger recruiting is to make a highlights video.
You also want to get the ball rolling your freshman year. If you do that, you might end up utilizing the VMI Post View to apply for entrance at VMI or doing the same at a different institution prior to taking part in your first college wrestling practice.
You should also contact a significant number of wrestling schools until you narrow your list, a process that will be partly helped by you gradually getting a greater feel for the interest level of recruiters. "Should I engage in wrestling near me?" This is an good question to answer as "wrestling near me" could mean that you could leave college wrestling practice and be back home with family within 10 minutes, or it could mean home being a three-hour drive away.
Regardless of the specifics, give this decision a considerable amount of focus as where you wrestle and where you earn your college degree can have a profound impact on the rest of your life. This is where you're going to grow so much as an athlete and as a person.
College wrestling – Neutral opinions
If you want to participate in NCAA wrestling at the highest levels possible, it's important to learn what educated, neutral observers say about it. Are your college wrestling ambitions realistic? Of course, you should aim high, but you also want to consider the odds of experiencing success at a place like Penn State versus a small liberal arts college that may not be quite that intensive wrestling-wise but might be the best fit for you overall.
One of the best resources for getting this unbiased opinion is Next College Student Athlete. This organization understands the sport of wrestling and understands the recruiting process and will help you set realistic albeit challenging goals. It helps recruited athletes learn more about the recruiting process and also allows them to join a network that includes 35,000 coaches in a variety of sports.
NCSA has been providing these services since Chris Krause founded it in 2000. A decade and a half prior to then, he had been a high school football player who was talented enough to play in college. However, he experienced a lot of challenges trying to navigate the recruiting process before he found his fit at Vanderbilt. That experience stuck with him, and he was determined to help others who are following in his footsteps be more informed about recruiting. They should be able to impress and make informed decisions.
If you would like to see just what NCSA can offer you on your road to being a college wrestler, fill out your free profile today. Should you have any questions about NCSA or about the form, call 866 495-5172.