Are There Belt Levels in Wrestling?

Wrestling is a martial art that has been around for a long time before many martial arts with belt systems came into existence. While popular, many people don’t understand how wrestling ranks its athletes. This leaves many people to wonder if there are belt levels in wrestling.

There are no belt levels in wrestling like those that are used in traditional martial arts. While it is common to see belts in other martial arts disciplines, wrestling does not use a belt system. Wrestlers are ranked according to their records of wins and losses.

Let’s go into a bit more detail about why there are no belts in wrestling and how wrestling actually ranks its athletes.

Why Are There No Belts for Wrestling?

There are no belts for wrestling because its roots never included belts. While many other more traditional martial arts have belts, wrestling does not because it was never practiced with a kimono or gi and is seen more as a combat sport.

Wrestling began and remains a combat sport rather than a martial art. Given the lack of belts in its origin, it’s not surprising that wrestling has continued this tradition. This can be confusing as people often compare wrestling to traditional martial arts.

The belt system for martial arts began with Karate. Belts are used as a part of the kimono which is a traditional part of the uniform. The general consensus seems to be that white belts generally progress from a pure white belt beginning to becoming an experienced black belt, the color slowly changing as training makes their belt dirty from use as they gain knowledge and experience.

Many martial arts have adapted to use a similar belt system to Karate. However, wrestling has existed for a long time and typically uses limited clothing, and certainly did not include a kimono that has belts.

How Are Wrestlers Categorized?

Typically, wrestling categorizes athletes based on their weight and age alongside any win-loss records that they have. There are typically ten weight classes for wrestlers to fit into, though high school level wrestling traditionally has thirteen.

Collegiate wrestling has ten weight classes starting at 118 pounds and going to 275 pounds (53.5 kilograms to 124.7 kilograms). Wrestlers compete in their own weight class to help keep the competition fair. If a wrestler falls outside of their state weight class he or she isn’t allowed to participate.

Other ways to rank wrestlers based on their win-loss record and their method to win the match. These factors allow people to determine where wrestlers stand in the ranking.

How Do You Track Your Progress Without a Belt System?

Without a belt system, wrestlers track their own progress by monitoring their technique, win-loss ratio, the win-loss ratio of their competitors, and their method of winning. Each of these factors plays an important role in understanding where a wrestler stands and how they can improve.

Rankings will help wrestlers track how well they’re performing, and meeting regularly with a coach can help them better understand where they need to improve and where they stand on the team.

While a belt system could help wrestlers feel more certain about their ranking, it’s not necessary to determine how much progress they’re making. Counting wins and losses is a big step to defining success, but keeping track of how they won a match can ensure the wrestler knows how much they need to improve.

Some of the pinnacles of wrestling achievement, at least in the United States, are becoming an All-American wrestler which is top 8 in the national collegiate competition, as well as competing in the Olympic games.

For people coming into wrestling later in their life, it is a bit more challenging to track progress since, for the most part, wrestling tournaments and competition options dry up outside of the scholastic systems. In this case, you will need to lean heavily on your coaches and training partners to understand your progress.

For myself, this means asking for feedback from my coaches as well as my MMA and BJJ training partners that have a history of training in wrestling.

Final Thoughts

Not all martial arts have belt systems, but wrestling does have ways to track progress for wrestlers, most specifically by tracking wins and losses at the scholastic levels. It is usually practiced on its own by athletes who are in middle school, high school, and college, but is becoming a generally more common sport to get direct practice with the increasing popularity of MMA and BJJ.

For more check out Do You Wear Shoes in Wrestling?


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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