Wrestling has been around for centuries, and the expected clothing for practicing and competing over the years has changed significantly over time. With the introduction of MMA bringing in adults to learn wrestling alongside the more traditional scholastic wrestling, it can be difficult to evaluate what to wear to wrestling practice. Let’s cover some of those questions about what to wear when you want to get on the mats.
Wrestlers should wear spats, sweatpants, or athletic shorts that are ideally without pockets, a rash guard or t-shirt, and wrestling shoes during practice. Option gear includes headgear to reduce the chances of ear injuries. Norms for clothing will differ based on where classes occur.
Let’s get into more details about proper wrestling practice attire and how it might differ based on the environment you are training wrestling in. We will also cover some other common wrestling questions you may have.
What Do I Wear to Wrestling Practice?
When attending wrestling practice in middle school, high school, or college, you usually wear basic athletic clothing like a t-shirt and shorts or sweats. Shirts are tucked in to reduce injury risk. For people training in BJJ or MMA schools, rash guards and spats or fight shorts are also common.
When selecting clothing for wrestling practice it is ideal to select clothing that is not too loose and that does not have pockets. Loose clothing and pockets can catch on to your training partner and make injuries a bit more common.
Let’s break down the necessary clothing choices for wrestling practice and why each part is important.
Whether or not your program requires headgear for practice will be up to your coach. Headgear can prevent wrestling ear injuries, but many choose not to use it during practice. This may seem odd, as so many other sports require some sort of head protection. However, wrestling is different; headgear in wrestling protects the ears from injury.
Ideally, wrestling headgear will have a hard flexible plastic outside and adjustable straps like this wrestling headgear found on Amazon.
One of the main reasons wrestlers wear headgear is to prevent cauliflower ear. Cauliflower ear happens with one or more hits to the ear, causing blood to clot there. The lack of blood flow to the area can cause irreparable damage to the ear, making it permanently deformed. However, doctors can treat cauliflower ear if you seek medical help in time.
While headgear remains optional in many wrestling practices, it’s a good idea to wear it. It can protect your ears and chin from injuries and prevent the appearance of cauliflower ears.
If you are training wrestling skills within a BJJ class context and want more details on this topic you can check out my post Does Training BJJ With Headgear Prevent Cauliflower Ear?
Most coaches won’t allow wrestlers on the mat without proper wrestling shoes. They are required in the wrestling competition ruleset for all scholastic wrestling programs as well as for Olympic wrestling so athletes training for those purposes will need to wear wrestling shoes.
Wrestling shoes are only worn on the mats to keep the mats as clean as possible as a training space. Coaches don’t allow shoes worn outside to be on the mat due to the spread of dirt and germs.
Wrestling shoes also help provide ankle support and traction that you don’t get from ordinary shoes. You may notice that wrestling shoes are thin compared to ordinary athletic shoes. This is to provide stability and support for your ankles while wrestling.
I prefer these wrestling shoes that I found were surprisingly affordable on Amazon and have been happy with the quality of the shoe for the price, even after testing many more expensive wrestling shoes.
In order to both keep your ankles healthy and ensure you have proper traction when training techniques for wrestling matches, it is a good idea to wear wrestling shoes to practice.
For those training wrestling to complement MMA or BJJ with those competitions as an end goal, wearing wrestling shoes is far less common and mostly reserved for when athletes are dealing with injuries.
For those thinking about wearing wrestling shoes for cross-training wrestling for MMA purposes check out my post Do You Wear Shoes in an MMA Class? for best practices in an MMA context.
For those thinking about wearing wrestling shoes for cross-training wrestling and BJJ check out my post Do You Wear Shoes in BJJ? | A Guide on When to Wear Footwear.
An optional but useful part of wrestling practice attire depending on the context of wrestling training is rash guards. The use of rash guards will depend greatly upon the training environment. Scholastic wrestling at all levels tends to have wrestlers wear t-shirts tucked into athletic clothing like sweats or shorts.
In both MMA and BJJ schools, rash guards are a far more common sight. These can be an easy and effective answer to having tight clothing for practice, and come with other benefits as well.
Rash guards can help keep you dry and cool and reduce abrasions due to friction burns during practice as well as reduce the chances of getting mat diseases like ringworm and staph.
What Else Should I Bring to Wrestling?
Other useful equipment for wrestling practice beyond clothing, headgear, and wrestling shoes include knee pads and a mouthguard. The mouthguard can prevent oral injuries and knee pads help to reduce the impact on your body when you execute takedowns in which you hit your knee.
While practice will not as intense as actual competition, you should prepare to protect your body as much as possible in order to maximize your ability to grind techniques and keep up with a rigorous athletic season.
With wrestling involving constant motion and level changes, accidental impacts to the mouth are quite common, and wearing a mouthguard can be an extremely worthwhile practice since dental damage does cost a lot to fix. It can help protect your teeth and absorb pressure that might damage the jaw during practice and competition.
Getting an expensive mouthguard is not necessary to get a lot of benefits. I like this simple boil and bite mouthguard that I purchased on Amazon and find that these have been more than enough to keep my mouth safe during many years of grappling.
Finally, you can consider bringing knee pads with you as well. I like to use this wrestling knee sleeve that I found on Amazon on days that I am working on wrestling techniques that hit a knee. Using it really helps to lessen the impacts my body has to absorb during training.
Should I Bring a Change of Clothes?
When attending wrestling practice, you should always bring a change of clothes for the end of practice. It is even a good idea to bring multiple shirts so you can change shirts during practice to control sweat. After practice, you will always want to put on clean clothes.
Remaining in the sweaty clothes you practiced in can cause the spread of bacteria. In fact, there are many skin diseases associated with wrestling. Mat diseases are somewhat common but can be greatly reduced if you are diligent about taking a shower and changing into dry clothes as soon as possible. Even simply wearing dry clothes on your way to a shower at home can make a substantial difference in changing your risk of ringworm and staph.
Should I Shower Right After Practice?
You should shower right after practice whenever possible. This prevents bacteria and fungi from getting a chance to multiply on your skin. If showering right after practice isn’t possible, dry off and change into dry clothes, and shower as soon as you can.
Since wrestling is a contact sport, your body will come into contact with other wrestlers regularly, especially during practice. Even if you maintain proper hygiene, that doesn’t mean every other wrestler is doing the same.
We can’t control the habits of others. Therefore, do everything in your power to take proper care of your body with strong hygiene habits like showering after practice and washing your clothes immediately upon getting home.
Wrestling makes it so easy to pass skin infections and other bacteria to others through close contact and sharing a sweaty environment. Showering right after practice ensures that you don’t allow bacteria a chance to multiply and spread to others.
Why Do Wrestlers Train in Sweats?
Some wrestlers may choose to wrestle in sweats to help them cut weight to reach their weight goals. Sometimes, wrestlers may also choose to practice in sweats because of the additional coverage and prefer to be warmer to reduce injury risk.
One major reason why you might see wrestlers train in sweats is to layer up to get a big sweat going during practice. Sometimes the reason behind wrestlers choosing to layer up is to cut weight. When exercising, wearing heavy layers like sweats can help a wrestler sweat more during practice, thereby cutting some extra water weight before a competition.
Another reason you see athletic pants and sweats is to reduce direct skin exposure and reduce the risks of getting various mat diseases.
Should Parents Attend Wrestling Practice?
Parents should not attend wrestling practice. Instead, parents can drop off their children and come back later or wait outside in the car until practice is over. Your child needs to build a rapport with their coach and their team, and having a parent present can result in some problems.
Aside from potentially getting ridiculed by their teammates for not being independent of their parents, parents attending wrestling practice may hinder their child’s progress by providing a distraction and preventing them from properly focusing on their wrestling practice.
Wrestling is an independent sport, and wrestlers need to spend time working with other like-minded individuals on their team including teammates and coaches.
If your child is attending their first practice and is nervous, it is okay to walk in with the intention of getting introduced to the coaches, but you should leave practice and wait in your car nearby. Make sure that you leave them alone during practice and stay out of the way of the coaching staff.
What Is the Wrestling Uniform Called?
The outfit worn by wrestlers is called a singlet. Singlets are tight-fit, spandex uniforms used for practicality and to stay out of the wrestlers’ way. Depending on the team rules, players usually wear a jockstrap, briefs, or a cup under their singlet.
Generally speaking, the wrestling team will have a specific singlet that everybody will order that may or may not be branded for the school. Wrestling singlets are specific to scholastic wrestling as well as those that compete in wrestling tournaments on their own.
People that train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or MMA tend to never need to put on a singlet and instead follow the norms for their respective combat sports.
How To Care for Your Wrestling Singlet?
To care for your wrestling singlet, wash it in cold water and avoid harsh chemicals. You also want to make sure you hang the singlet to dry and avoid putting it in the dryer. It’s also best to wash the singlet by itself in case the colors fade during the wash.
Singlets aren’t particularly prone to staining, but if that occurs, usually scrubbing the stain with normal detergent will suffice. I find that Tide Sport that I purchase off of Amazon but that can be found at many retailers has been sufficient to go after stains, but it really shines when it comes to keeping gear relatively odor-free.
If you need help getting odors under control, I usually go with a simple vinegar soak in the washing machine if you have a soak cycle. If that isn’t an option for you, soaking in a bucket or sink with vinegar also works.
Can You Wear Leggings in Wrestling?
Leggings are a common article of clothing for female wrestlers to wear during practice, but you cannot wear leggings during competitions. Some male wrestlers may choose to wear spats, but this is relatively uncommon in scholastic wrestling.
Wearing tight clothing like leggings is a good idea due to reducing friction and helping to provide better skin coverage overall. If wearing leggings or spats is common in your wrestling training environment, I think they are a great idea to wear to wrestling.
What Should a Girl Wear to Wrestling Practice?
Girls can wear clothes similar to the ones described above, but must also wear a sports bra underneath for comfort and support. Girls tend to wear leggings alongside either a rash guard or a t-shirt.
When it comes to wrestling practice, wearing tight-fitted clothing is just a good option in general, so wearing leggings and a rash guard or athletic shirt is a pretty easy solution for most girls. Getting coverage helps avoid friction burns and other cuts and abrasions that often happen during classes, alongside reducing the chances of minor injuries due to clothing catching on their training partners.
For competitions, both female and male athletes need to wear a form-fitting compression garment under their singlet to prevent exposure if singlets end up being transparent.
There are definitely differences in clothing expectations between wrestling done at a scholastic level like middle school, high school, or college. These expectations often remain the same for Olympic wrestling teams.
For most adults picking up grappling later in life through training MMA or BJJ recreationally, you tend to follow whatever the clothing norms are for training and competing in your sport. This changes the likelihood of using compression clothing like rash guards and spats alongside the use of footwear like wrestling shoes.
For more check out Do You Need to Be Fit to Start Wrestling?