Grappling Vs Wrestling | Differences Between Grappling and Wrestling

grappling vs westling

Grappling and wrestling are both terms you are probably familiar with. However, unless you are an experienced wrestler or grappler you might not know the difference between the two. So then what is the difference between wrestling and grappling?

The difference between wrestling and grappling is that grappling is an umbrella term for many martial arts including but not limited to wrestling. So wrestling is a grappling style, but not every grappling style is wrestling. 

Other popular grappling styles that are different from wrestling would include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, and Japanese Jujutsu.

We are talking about martial arts that focus on techniques such as throws, submissions, pins, and leverage to control or submit your opponent instead of strikes such as punches, elbows, knees, and kicks.

That said, wrestling is a very effective and useful grappling style to learn. It is simply that wrestling is grappling but not all grappling is wrestling.

Wrestling Is A Grappling Sport

Like BJJ or judo, wrestling is a grappling sport. In fact, there are a number of different styles of wrestling that all fit under the umbrella of being a grappling sport.

For example, within the sport of wrestling there is Folkstyle Wrestling, Freestyle Wrestling, Greco Roman Wrestling, and Catch Wrestling. There are more styles than that but these are the most popular.

Folkstyle Wrestling

Folkstyle wrestling is a grappling sport that is taught mostly in American middle schools, high schools, and colleges. In middle schools and high schools it is known as scholastic wrestling.

However, in colleges, it is often referred to as collegiate wrestling. Both scholastic and collegiate wrestling would be considered folkstyle wrestling.

That said, there are some small modifications between the rules. However, the differences between the two are very minimal. Folkstyle wrestling is certainly one of the greatest sports in the world. If you or someone in your family is looking to get into wrestling this guide will help you to better understand the sport.

Folkstyle wrestling is fairly similar to freestyle wrestling. Though there are some similarities they are different sports. For example, freestyle wrestling is an international wrestling style that is also an Olympic sport.

Freestyle Wrestling

Freestyle wrestling is one of the two main branches of wrestling that are part of the Summer Olympics—the other being Greco-Roman.

This combat sport brings together elements from multiple sports, such as judo, sambo, and traditional wrestling. Its origins can go back to ancient France, almost 5,000 years ago.

Freestyle wrestling is similar to folkstyle, but they have some differences. Generally speaking, there are more limitations in folkstyle to make it safer for high schools and colleges.

If you are interested in how the grappling sports are different check out my article on the Differences Between Folkstyle and Freestyle Wrestling!

Greco Roman Wrestling

Greco-Roman wrestling gets its origins from ancient techniques. Known as ‘flat-hand wrestling’ or ‘French wrestling,’ this style has an emphasis on holds above the waist. So unlike folkstyle or freestyle your cannot grab your opponents legs to take them down.

Greco-Roman wrestling made a huge appearance in the 1896 Olympics, getting more popular as time went on. It was officially introduced as a regular summer game in the 1904 Olympics. So even though it has ancient roots, it is not the same as the grappling art practiced in ancient Greece.

Catch Wrestling

Catch wrestling or catch as catch can wrestling is a grappling art popularized by John Graham Chambers in the late 1800s. It is also widely accepted as the parent art of folkstyle and freestyle wrestling. Catch wrestling contains takedowns, pins, and submissions.

Today catch wrestling is not as popular as it once was, however, it does seem to be picking up steam again. As MMA and competitive grappling is becoming more popular many people are starting to look back into catch wrestling.

Wrestling Vs Other Grappling Sports

The main other grappling sports besides wrestling are BJJ, Sambo, and Judo. Within BJJ there is also what as known as no-gi jiu-jitsu and the more traditional gi jiu-jitsu. Of course, since they are are grappling arts watching a BJJ match might look just like wrestling but there are differences.

For example, with the exception of catch wrestling, most wrestling sports do not use submissions. BJJ, Judo, and Sambo on the other hand use submissions as a foundation of their sport.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

BJJ short for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a form of submission grappling as the name implies, originated in Brazil through the Gracie family. Today, BJJ is mostly practiced as a grappling sport, but its main purpose was means of self-defense.

BJJ employs different techniques to help a fighter gain dominance over his opponent on the ground. A fighter typically wins the match when they maintain dominant positions, takedowns, or sweeps that result in points or by submitting their opponent.

BJJ like wrestling, is also considered a foundational skill that you need to learn if you wish to compete in MMA. Both of the grappling sports in combination with a good striking art are needed to become a well rounded fighter.


Judo is a modern grappling art founded by Jigoro Kano. Jigoro Kano was an educated and respected man from Japan who was a student of Japanese jujutsu. Jujutsu had been around for hundreds of years but was not looked highly upon by many of the higher and upper middle class Japanese.

As Japan was transitioning into a new age, many did not see the need for an outdated warrior class. One of the main focuses of judo was to make it more relevant to the modern age. So Jigoro Kano refined many of the techniques and put more focus on what was most effective and efficient.

Judo is also the parent art of BJJ and is now mostly known as an Olympic sport. Though Judo used to be more of a well rounded martial ( it still can be and some places still teach it ) most of the techniques are focused on sport judo.

In the sport of judo the goal is to throw your opponent down on their back scoring a winning Ippon, pinning your opponent, or quickly submitting your opponent.

Russian Sambo

Russian sambo could be considered its own grappling art or simply a modern form of submission wrestling. It combines the parts of many grappling arts include Catch Wrestling, Jujitsu, Judo, and a variety of others to create a form of self-defense. Sambo is growing in popularity and quickly gaining recognition

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