Wrestling kneepads are the only gear that is not required even though many wrestlers use them. Some wrestlers use them because they have certain problems with their knee and wish to protect it, while others use then to slide across the mat better than a bare knee.
While there are many different types of kneepads, the basic kneepad is the most popular. This basic kneepad is what you’ll most often see when shopping for kneepads online or in a store. Typically worn on the leg a wrestler shoots a takedown with, if not on both, the basic kneepad is worn for added protection. It generally has a large circular or oval-shaped pad that helps protect the kneecap. When sized correctly, this kneepad fits securely at the bottom of the thigh and at the top of the calf. There are many variations of the basic kneepad, but it is designed to be lightweight and flexible while still offering a good amount of protection to the knee.
Knee sleeves are very popular among collegiate and international level wrestlers. Sleeves are typically made of cotton or Lycra, or a combination of similar materials, and typically very easy to maintain as they are machine-washable.
Generally speaking, knee sleeves are made from much less material than basic kneepads because they do not have the circular pad to protect the knee. The lightweight and stretchable material offers greater flexibility and a wider range of motion for the user.
Wrestlers choose to wear knee sleeves to increase the distance they slide across the mat when shooting a takedown. Sleeves also lessen the chances of getting mat burn and other like injuries. However, because they are made of less material, knee sleeves generally do not protect the knee against direct impact as well as other types of kneepads.
Bubble kneepads are the best pieces of equipment used to help minimize direct impact to the knee. Sometimes called “dome” kneepads, bubble knee pads are very similar to volleyball kneepads with the large, circular “bubble” over the knee. They are usually made from cotton or from a combination of cotton and a stretchable material, like nylon. The padding over the knee is often very thick yet soft, and makes shooting takedowns much easier on the knees (though they do not slide across the mats as well as others).
Bubble kneepads are good for wrestlers with previous knee injuries, and work just as well for those who want to prevent injuries from occurring altogether. For this reason, the padding on the bubble kneepads often covers a greater part of the knee. Depending on your needs, make sure the pad offers the right amount of cushion without limiting your range of motion.
Though every brand of kneepad has its own unique sizing system and fit, there are generally limited options for kneepad sizes. Often times, the available sizes are “one size fits all,” “Small/Medium,” and “Large/Extra Large.” When choosing a size, keep in mind that it really doesn’t matter how tall you are or how much you weigh - the only thing that matters is how large your legs are.
Wrestlers with larger thighs and calves should go for a larger size, but keep in mind that it is better to have a kneepad that is too tight than too loose. Opting for a smaller size means that the kneepad will stay secured to your knee and will not loosen up or move around. For more information on what size is right for you, check the brand’s sizing chart or suggested sizing charts from the retailer.