Wrestling Points of Emphasis - 2020-21

By NFHS on August 31, 2020 wrestling Print

The NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee and the NFHS Board of Directors believes there are areas of interscholastic wrestling that need to be addressed and given special attention. These areas of concern are often cyclical, some areas need more attention than others, and that is why they might appear in the rules book for consecutive editions. These concerns are identified as “Points of Emphasis.” For the 2020-21 high school wrestling season, attention is being called to: wrestler’s equipment, particularly the coach’s verification that the wrestler is properly equipped and in proper uniform; the inspection of such equipment by the referee; the compliance of NFHS Rules; the appearance and wearing of the wrestling uniform; cleanliness of uniforms, pads and mats; hair rule enforcement; sportsmanship enforcement; and proper weigh-in protocol. When a topic is included in the Points of Emphasis, these topics are important enough to reinforce throughout the academic year because they are not being given the proper attention needed.

Wrestler’s Equipment
The head coach has the obligation to ensure that each wrestler is properly equipped and in proper uniform. Furthermore, he or she is the adult who is responsible that each wrestler’s skin and nails are suitable and compliant for competition. Regarding the uniform and wrestler’s appearance, we are experiencing modesty challenges which reflect negatively on the sport. Both genders shall wear suitable undergarments that completely covers their buttocks and groin area. Especially, when the school-issued uniform is light-colored or white; once wet from perspiration, the uniform can become transparent and without the proper undergarment, it makes the wrestler feel self-conscious and anyone around the area feeling uncomfortable. We are encouraged that wrestling is inviting to so many girls, however, we have to ensure that their breasts are completely covered and supported for the vigorous rigors of interscholastic wrestling.

Cleanliness of Uniforms, Pads and Mats
Communicable diseases are a major concern in the sport of wrestling and any infectious disease outbreak has the potential to end a team’s season, or even suspend the sport across an entire state. It is imperative that ALL school officials, coaches and wrestlers continually use best practices to control the spread of communicable diseases.

A major aid in preventing the spread of communicable disease is to properly clean all wrestling mats and wrestling equipment. Mats in the wrestling room should be regularly maintained. They should always be inspected, cleaned and dry before storing. Clean and disinfect all hard, non-porous gear and surfaces such as wall mats, floor surfaces. Cleaning wrestling mats two or three hours prior to each use is highly recommended. An effective disinfectant is 10% bleach (mix 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water). There is no advantage of using a stronger chlorine bleach and water solution than what is recommended above. Commercial disinfectant products are also available. Be sure that any product used states that it is effective against viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Typically, the label will state the cleaner is bactericidal, fungicidal and viricidal. Please follow the directions on the label closely for the best effectiveness. When cleaning wrestling mats, it is recommended to walk backwards while mopping in an effort to minimize contamination from the shoes.

Likewise, it is imperative to clean all wrestling equipment and clothing daily. All workout gear should be cleaned after each practice. This includes towels, clothing, headgear, shoes, knee pads and any bags used to transport this equipment. In addition to cleaning wrestling equipment and wrestling mats properly, a few basic steps must be taken by all involved in the sport in order to minimize the risk of spreading communicable diseases.   Communicable diseases are preventable. Following these steps will decrease the risk that these communicable diseases will be spread among the athletes in the wrestling room and/or during competition.


  • Educate coaches, athletes, referees and parents about communicable skin conditions and how they are spread. (http://www.nwcaskinprevention.com/webinar/)
  • Maintain proper ventilation in the wrestling room to prevent the build-up of heat and humidity.
  • Emphasize to the athletes the importance of showering immediately after each practice and competition. Soap must be used. If shower facilities are unavailable, athletes should clean all exposed skin with “baby wipes” immediately after practices and competitions.
  • Wash all workout clothing and personal gear after each practice and competition.         
  • Coaches or athletic trainers should perform daily skin checks to ensure early recognition of potential communicable skin conditions. Athletes must not be allowed to practice or compete if an active infection is suspected, even if the infection is covered. Any suspicious lesions must be evaluated by an appropriate health care provider prior to an athlete practicing or competing.
  • Athletes must not share practice gear, towels or personal hygiene products (razors) with others.
  • Athletes should refrain from any cosmetic shaving (chest, arms, abdomen) other than face.
  • Athletes should clean hands with an alcohol-based gel prior to every wrestling match to decrease bacterial load on the hands.
  • Make certain that athletes and coaching staff are current on all required vaccinations (MMR, Hepatitis B, Chickenpox, etc) and strongly encourage yearly influenza vaccination.

Hair Rule Enforcement
While the hair length rule no longer exists, those who choose to wear a hair covering for cultural, religious or personal hygiene reasons still have to adhere to the existing rule that the covering shall be attached to the ear guards, must be of a solid material and non-abrasive. A bandanna, scarf or loose material is not considered a legal hair cover. The legal hair cover is considered special equipment and the wrestler must wear it to weigh-ins, have it checked with it being worn by the responsible person facilitating the weigh-in process and remove it prior to stepping on the scale. If a referee is not present at weigh-ins, the hair cover must be checked by the meet referee upon arrival at the site.

Additionally, if any hair control items are used, they cannot be of a hard material, sharp or abrasive such as beads, bobby pins, barrettes, hair pins or hair clips.

Sportsmanship Enforcement
Education-based athletics plays a tremendous role in the development of our young people. Each person associated with high school wrestling is responsible to teach, model, support and administer good sportsmanship. Without good sportsmanship, we lose everything we are trying to accomplish, and the young person is failed and let down by the very same adults that he/she trusts. Coaches should promote good sportsmanship in their coaching method and being an appropriate role model. The referee shall enforce our sportsmanship rules, from opening handshakes to make stalling or fleeing the mat calls. The lessons learned on the competition mat are the supports and underpinnings of developing a young person into a conscientious and responsible adult. Finally, the wrestler is ultimately responsible for his or her behavior and decorum. To gain a victory by using poor sportsmanlike moves or techniques only masks the temporary exhilaration of the win. The success becomes hollow and you will eventually lose the joy of competing, which is not the purpose of high school athletics. Working collectively by promoting good sportsmanship, we can increase the number of opportunities for more people to participate in the sport at various levels of engagement.

Weigh-in Protocol
Contestants are now allowed to weigh-in a legal uniform. This change will simplify the weigh-in process for meet managers and officials. By having all the competitors in the same area wearing their legal uniform, this will greatly reduce modesty and gender issues. By rule, skin checks (which is a separate process) can now be performed by the referee or verified that they have been done by a designated, on-site meet appropriate health-care professional immediately prior to or immediately after the weigh-in. There is no requirement to perform this examination while wrestlers are wearing only suitable undergarments.