There’s a reason why wrestling is deemed one of the most demanding sports in the world. Hours of relentless training, fierce competition and putting a whole lot of stress on your body.
But there’s one part of the body that seems to take the brunt of it all, and that’s the ears.
If you’ve ever been to a wrestling event, or been into wrestling for some time, you’ll have noticed the state of the ears these guys have.
Fortunately, you can wear a headgear that will help to protect those ears of yours whilst you train and compete.
But, where do you start, how much should you spend and what brands should you trust?
Well today, that’s going to be the focus of this article, as we take a look at some of the best wrestling headgear for adults and youths.
Let’s get to it.
Our Top Picks
Why Wear Headgear?
Although called headgear, they’re actually designed to protect your ears. When wrestling, or pretty much any grappling based combat sport, your ears tend to take a bit of a beating. Wearing headgear helps to protect your ears and prevent you from getting what’s known as cauliflower ear.
Cauliflower ear can be a painful process, and is almost irreversible once the ear hardens. If the trauma and swelling is bad enough, it can even leave you with hearing difficulties for the rest of your life.
With all this in mind, headgear is designed to protect your ears from trauma, and therefore prevent you from being stuck with cauliflower looking ears for the rest of your life.
Wrestling Headgear 101
Check out the video below from Wrestling Mart for a quick breakdown on everything you need to know about headgear for wrestling.
Best Wrestling Headgear for Adults
Cliff Keen F5 Tornado
Cliff Keen is a highly reputable company founded by… you guessed it, Coach Cliff Keen. Their wrestling gear is second to none in terms of durability, protection and quality.
The F5 Tornado possesses a modern style, featuring added protection and bulkier ear guards. This in turn protects a larger area around the ear, without actually touching the ear itself.
Despite it’s bulkier design, this is actually one of the lightest pieces of headgear that Cliff Keen has to offer. This is due to the material used to construct the F5 Tornado, which was based on research conducted by NASA. In fact, this headgear is 43% lighter than other traditional headgear, which should give you a good idea just how light this is.
Like a lot of the best wrestling headgear out there, the F5 Tornado features anti-microbial properties. This helps to keep the headgear bacteria free, reducing the chance of sustaining any unwanted infections or skin conditions.
Cliff Keen have used a combination of adjustable straps and Velcro that allow the headgear to fit securely, whilst being easy to put on and take off. You’ll also find the headgear in a ton of different color variations, so you’re bound to find one to match your personal preference or your teams colors.
You can also pick up the F5 Tornado is youth sizes, which you can check out there.
ASICS Unisex Headgear
Up next we’ve got the unisex headgear from ASICS. Available in black, red and blue, this is one of the more affordable options on our list.
This lightweight headgear makes use of Velcro straps, allowing for it to easily be adjusted throughout your training. The only downside to Velcro is that it can wear out quicker than other straps, but headgear tends to need replacing after a year or so anyway, so that’s not a massive deal.
ASICS have implemented GEL cushioning technology into the ear pieces, providing ample amounts of protection whilst not feeling overbearing to the head. There’s also a number of ventilation holes on each ear protector, allowing for the wearer to easily hear what’s being said to them.
You’ll also notice that this particular headgear uses a chin strap design. Unfortunately, there's no way of adding a chin cup, which is a bit of a shame if that's your prefered style.
With all that said, you really can’t complain about the ASICS unisex ear protector. It’s affordable and get’s the job done, what else could you want?
Cliff Keen E58
Considering Cliff Keen’s reputation amongst the wrestling community, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see their name crop up again on our list.
Also known as the Signature headgear, this design is the staple of old school, straight to the point headgear with no bells and whistles. In fact, the E58 is the top selling headgear of all time, which should give you an idea has to how battle tested this is.
This particular model features a 4-strap design alongside 2 foam ear protectors, with four holes precisely placed to allow you to hear. The E58 also makes use of a chin strap design, however you are able to purchase a chin cup separately if that’s what you prefer.
Due to its 4 strap design, the E58 is more than suitable for youths as well. This is awesome if you’re a youth as you’ll be able to continue using the E58 for a long time, as you can adjust the straps as you continue to grow.
All in all, you really can’t go wrong with the E58. It’s one of, if not the most popular in the world, made even more appealing by it’s exceptionally affordable price tag.
Matman Wrestling Headgear
The first thing I want to mention about the Matman headgear is that it comes in two sizes, allowing the headgear to fit both youths and adults. It also comes in 6 different colors, which should mean you can find one to match the color of your team.
This headgear in particular is designed to be incredibly lightweight and beginner friendly. The idea behind this is that some of the more advanced headgear can be troublesome in terms of getting the right fit and being comfortable when training.
Knowing this, Matman have created this headgear to feel extremely comfortable. They have done this by using lightweight material and soft fabric to line the headgear itself.
Similarly, there is only a couple of straps located around the chin and the head. These make use of Velcro to keep it firmly in place, even once you start to sweat. This simple design means you to get the headgear on easily, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.
Finally, Matman have implemented 3 ventilation holes that allow you to hear what’ going on around you. This is especially handy if you need to talk to the coach, as you don’t have to take the headgear off and put it back on again.
ASICS Conquest Ear Guard
Yet another ASICS model to feature on our list. This time we’ll be taking a look at their more advanced Conquest Ear Guard, which is by far one of the best headgear for wrestling.
The ASICS Conquest comes in black, red, navy, royal blue and white color variations. In terms of size, ASICS offer this as a ‘one size fits all’ headgear, as the straps can be used to adjust the ear guard to fit your specific size.
In terms of quality, the head guard itself is created with anti-microbial treatment, preventing any build up of bacteria. This is particularly useful given the sweaty environment you’ll be training in and the relatively high chance of sustaining some form of cut.
Similarly, skin infections such as staph are common amongst grappling based combat sports, so having equipment with anti-microbial properties is extremely important.
The ear guards themselves are comprised of two parts; the shell and the ear cup. Injection moulded LDPE is used to create the cup, which is both highly durable and lightweight. The ear pads are then made using injection moulded EVA, which again is extremely lightweight and will cushion the impact of any blow to the area.
All in all, this is a top notch option for any experience level wrestler.
Adidas Wrestling Ear Guard
This is definitely a ‘no thrills’ kind of ear guard based on the traditional style that’s been around since the dawn of time.
In terms of design, the Adidas Wrestling Ear Guard comes in 11 different color options and uses adjustable straps to keep it in place. These tend to be a bit more reliable than Velcro, as once you have the fit right, it’ll stay in place for the duration of your training.
This is also one of the few options that comes with a chin cup, as opposed to a chin strap. With that in mind, if you prefer head guards that use a cup, then this is going to be a fantastic option.
Adidas have made use of both soft and hard material to create the ear cups. The exterior is made using injection moulded plastic, whilst the interior section uses soft foam padding. This provides a comfortable fit that is able to protect your ears and soften the blow of any impact.
Considering Adidas is a big name in the sporting world, it’s definitely surprising that you can get your hands on their wrestling headgear for such extremely affordable price.
Adapt Athletics Headgear
The Adapt Athletics Headgear is more of a general grappling piece of gear, as opposed to being designed solely for wrestling. Still though, it ticks all the right boxes when it comes to protecting your ears.
Using the Velcro straps, you’re able to adjust the Adapt Athletics headgear both under the chin and around the forehead. This allows the headgear to fit nicely around the head and can be easily adjusted throughout training.
Much like a lot of the other brands on our list, Adapt Athletics have used EVA material to create the ear guards. This will help to dissipate the force of any blow to the ear, which in turn will help to prevent any form of cauliflower ear like injury.
While this may not look like the most traditional piece of headgear, it’s designed to both feel comfortable, and to withstand thousands of hours of training. Adapt Athletics have reinforced every seem, lined the headgear itself with anti-microbial treatment and implemented additional foam padding around the entirety of the headgear.
They also offer their headgear with the Adapt Athletics guarantee. This essentially means that they have a no questions asked return policy. So if for whatever reason you’re unhappy with your headgear, you can always send it back.
Up next we’ve got another ear guard from ASICS, this time with their Agressor series, which is by far one of their most popular.
One reason that this is such a well like headgear is due to the fact that ASICS have implemented a quick adjustable strap system. This allows you to easily get the heard gear on and fitting correctly in no time at all.
The ear guards themselves utilise high impact resistant foam padding, created in a low profile design. This means that they’re not too bulky or heavy, which can get uncomfortable and distracting after a while. The padding also helps to cushion the headgear against your skin, should you take an accidental blow to the head.
ASICS use injection moulded polypropylene to create the shell of the ear guard. This material is extremely lightweight and durable enough to withstand and protect your ears from high impact blows.
The ASICS unrestrained headgear is a pretty unique one in terms of it’s strap design. What I mean by this is that ASICS have used elasticated straps alongside a Velcro closure system. This makes the ear guards pretty versatile in that they can fit pretty much anyone.
There’s also plenty of ventilation holes around each ear, allowing you to easily hear what’s going on around you. Each ear guard is constructed using dual-density foam padding, with a durable inner plastic shell. This allows for each ear guard to be comfortably pressed against your skin, without any irrigation.
You’ll notice that this particular pair is designed to show aspects of the American flag on each side, with the graphics being sublimated onto the fabric. This means that the designs won’t fade or peel off over time.
In terms of price, the ASICS Unrestrained falls somewhere in the middle of the pricing spectrum. It’s not the cheapest on our list, nor is it the most expensive.
Best Wrestling Headgear for Youths
Ok, now we’re going to take a look at some of the best youth headgear for wrestling. Please also remember that a number of the previous options, such as the F5 Tornado are also available in youth sizes, so won't be included in this section.
Asics Youth Gel Ear Guard
ASICS also offer a number of different ear guards in youth sizes, with one of their most popular being their Gel Youth Ear Guard. This comes in red, black and blue and is available in youth sizes only.
Unlike a lot of the other options on our list, that use multi-layered foam, this piece of headgear utilises gel padding. This in turn allows the headgear to be incredibly lightweight, without effecting its ability to protect your ears and head.
In terms of design, ASICS have used an adjustable strap system, which although can be a bit tricky to get right, tends to fit more securely than Velcro. ASICS have also used plenty of ventilation holes on each ear guard as to not obstruct the wearers hearing.
As you would expect from youth head gear, this is significantly cheaper than some of the adult options we discussed, coming in at less than half the price. With all this in mind, this is definitely one of the best wrestling ear guards for youths currently available.
Adidas Wizard Youth Headgear
Last up we’ve got the Wizard Youth Headgear from Adidas. This Wizard headgear is modelled after the traditional style of headgear, using an adjustable 3-strap system to fasten the ear guards to the wearers head.
In order to not get in the way of the wearers training, each ear cup is deigned to be as low profile as possible. This will help to prevent the headgear from getting knocked around and causing any discomfort.
Adidas have gone for a chin strap design, however have added a small amount of padding alongside soft material. This makes the strap itself a lot more comfortable than traditional straps, which is particularly ideal if you’re new to wrestling and just starting out wearing headgear.
All in all, a great option for any youth looking to get a new wrestling headgear.
Choosing the Right Headgear for Wrestling
When shopping around for new wrestling headgear, there's a few aspects to take into consideration. While there's technically no right or wrong type of headgear, it's important to know how they can vary, so that you're able to choose one that will best fit your requirements.
There's generally two different types of material that's used to create the shell of the ear guards, which can be either soft or hard. Each one has their own benefits and drawbacks, so it's really down to which you would prefer to wear whilst you train and compete.
Soft shell headgear tends to be constructed out of rubber material, typically injection moulded so that it fits over the ear. This material tends to be lightweight and more forgiving against the skin.
If the ear guards are to receive any kind of knock or bump, the soft material won't dig into the skin of the head or cause any form of discomfort. Due to these reasons, soft shell ear guards tend to be more popular amongst those new to wrestling, as they are overall comfier than their hard shell counter parts.
As the name suggests, hard shell ear guards are made out of tougher material, which is typically a form fo moulded plastic. This plastic material provides more protection, however is heavier and bulkier. If you are to be on the receiving end of an accidental blow, they can also cause a bit of pain if they don't have a sufficient amount of foam protection.
Also, some competitions have been known to ban the use of hard shell headgear. With that in mind it's definitely worth checking out the rules of any future competitions to make sure you're able to use your headgear, or get both soft and hard shell just to be safe.
Type of Straps/ Fastening System
Velcro straps are by far the easiest in terms of adjusting the headgear. This makes them more suitable for beginners who are just getting used to training with headgear. The only downside to Velcro is that it can wear out quicker than other types of straps.
You can also find headgear that uses adjustable straps. These are often slightly more awkward as they take a bit longer to get right, however tend to last longer. I’ve also found that these are a bit less troublesome whilst your training, as you don’t have to worry about readjusting the Velcro at any point.
Chin Strap VS Chin Cup
A popular debate amongst the wrestling community is whether or not a chin strap or a chin cup is more effective on wrestling headgear. This is massively down to personal preference, as there really is no right or wrong here. With that in mind, try a few different designs out, and see which one you prefer.
All of the above factors all contribute to the comfort factor of the headgear. Take all of the above into consideration and decide which one you feel offers the right comfort to protection balance for you. Again, I want to stress that there's no right or wrong here, it's all down to what allows you to feel comfortable and focus on your training.
One last aspect to take into consideration is the price. While it's safe to say that headgear is going to break the bank, they can vary in price depending on a few factors. For me personally, protective gear is one thing that you shouldn't cut corners on, especially given the importance of headgear, as no one really wants to be stuck with cauliflower ear for the rest of their lives.
How Do You Clean the Headgear?
Whenever it comes to washing this type of gear, always check the label and see what the brand says about cleaning. If you have soft shell headgear, I would suggest using cold water and some form of soap, and allow it to fully dry out in the open. If you have hardshell headgear, wiping the shell down with some kind of anti-bacterial wipe should be ok.
Can I Wear BJJ Headgear to Wrestling?
They're essentially the same thing, however BJJ headgear tends to encompass more of the head, as opposed to just protecting the ears. The concept will be very similar, however the brand will be slightly different.
Do you Have to Wear Headgear?
If you’re going to compete in wrestling, you’ll be required to wear headgear. In training, it’s not technically required, but the chances are your coaches will ask/ force you to, for your own sake.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, cauliflower ear is mostly aesthetic, however the process is very painful and if severe enough, can leave you with hearing problems. With that in mind, it’s best to always play it safe and wear your headgear when ever you train.
Do I Need to Wear a Face Mask as well?
The only time you should really be wearing a face mask alongside your headgear is if you’ve already sustained an injury to your face. This could be a broken nose or some kind of laceration/ cut.
Wearing a face mask is pretty uncomfortable and once you start to sweat, can slip around a bit on your face. This in turn can hinder your vision, which is far from ideal when training.
If for whatever reason none of the above options seems like the right choice for you, below are some of the best wrestling headgear brands. I'd definitely recommend checking them out for some more great options.
Cliff Keen was head coach of the University of Michigan's collegiate wrestling team, maintaining his role from 1925 all the way to 1970. Coaching almost 70 All-American wrestlers, his name lives on as one of the most respected coaches, and now brands in the world. Cliff Keen offers pretty much everything you'd need for wrestling such as shoes, headgear and singlets. If you're looking for the best, Cliff Keen is the way to go.
ASICS are one of the few big sport brands to have entered (and done well) in the wrestling industry. They too cater to pretty much every aspect of wrestling and have released some of the most popular gear in the world. Catering to both youths and adults, you really can't go wrong with wrestling gear from ASICS. Their gear tends to be bit pricey, but top notch in terms of quality, protection and longevity.
Ok, it's crunch time. What do we recommend as the best wrestling headgear for both adults and youths?
Best wrestling headgear for adults: Cliff Keen F5 Tornado
There's a reason why this is one of, if not the most popular wrestling headgear in the world. It's comfortable, offers a serious amount of protection and allows you to easily hear what's going on. To top it all off, it's extremely reasonable in price, making this one an absolute no brainer.
Best wrestling headgear for youths: Cliff Keen F5 Tornado (Youth)
I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but again, the Youth Cliff Keen F5 Tornado takes the cake in the youth category. Featuring all the reasons we love the adult one (but cheaper), only this time it's sized for youths.
Well there we have it. Hopefully you've found your next headgear and are happy with it. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment down below.