10 Best Wrestling Headgear of 2019: Prevent Cauliflower Ear (Adult & Youth)

Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world.  From the dawn of time, people of all ages and genders have gotten in a ring, of some shape, and gone to battle with another.  That tradition carries on today, and part of the appeal is its rugged nature.  With that being said, the modern world isn’t nearly as forgiving of certain things.  One thing people notice quickly is slight imperfections in the way you look.  The only way to prevent that from happening is to have the best available headgear in the game.  Headgear is essential for all grapplers, since it will not only protect you from getting injured but will also put you in the ‘zone,’ so to speak.  Today, we’ll be taking a look at the ins and outs of wrestling headgear in our buying guide before we review the top ten that is available currently.  So, ring the bell.  Wait, that’s the wrong wrestling!

Top Wrestling Headgear Comparison Chart

NameFeature/TechnologyPriceWhere to Buy?
Cliff Keen F5 Tornado HeadgearAir Vent System$$Check Price on Amazon
Cliff Keen E58 Headgear4 Strap System$$Check Price on Amazon
KO Sports Wrestling HeadgearVelcro, Convenient strapping $$$Check Price on Amazon
Matman Ultrasoft Adult Wrestling HeadgearCauliflower ear, Ultrasoft Neoprene$$Check Price on Amazon
Adidas Response AE100 EarguardMolded ear cups with Adjustable straps$$Check Price on Amazon
Asics Unisex Gel Wrestling Ear GuardGEL Technology Cushioning System$Check Price on Amazon
Gold BJJ MMA and Wrestling HeadgearCauliflower Ear Protection, Velcro strap$$$Check Price on Amazon
Adapt Athletics Enhanced Wrestling HeadgearCauliflower Ear Protection, Chin strap$$Check Price on Amazon
ASICS Conquest Ear GuardInjection molded EVA ear pad, Anti-microbial$$Check Price on Amazon
Grapplearts Minimum Profile Ear GuardCauliflower Ear Protection, Anti-microbial$$Check Price on Amazon

Wrestling Headgear Buying Guide

Why Headgear Is Needed

If wrestling is for the toughest of the tough, you might ask, then why do they need to have headgear?  For starters, part of being tough does not make you dumb.  This should be obvious, but it goes over the heads of so many people out there.  Secondly, headgear is used to protect our most valuable asset.  Without our head, in which the brain, eyes, and ears are stored, we have nothing but a shell.  The main place that headgear, also sometimes referred to as ‘ear guards,’ is going to protect is the ear area.  This is an extremely painful area of the body.  If you have ever been hit in the ear by any object, whether it’s a ball, knee, arm, elbow, etc, you will know how badly it hurts.  It can make you downright angry, in fact.  I’ve never been more mad in my life than getting hit in the ears, and that’s when I know someone didn’t intentionally do that.  Wrestling can cause what is called “cauliflower” ear to form after repeated blows to the head like this.  This can happen from being either struck or having your ears scrape on the mat, leading to deformed looking ears.  On top of protecting you against that fate, headgear can also protect other parts of the head as well.  While it’s not going to be like a helmet, since that would make you top heavy and give you an unfair advantage in on the mat, it still can yield some decent protection for you in the right spots.  Not all headgear is created equal, mind you, so you will have to find what is best for you to wear.  Some protect the ears better, while others are more minimal.  It all depends on your tolerance for pain and what you emphasize more.  If comfort is king to you and you are an excellent grappler, you could just about get away with less protection. 

Is Headgear Required?

This is something that a few people might not know, but headgear is actually a requirement for wrestler to wear in tournaments.  Regardless of the age of level of the athlete, this is a necessity to have as part of a grappler’s attire.  Olympians, NCAA champions, high schoolers, and the very beginning class at the local rec will all be wearing them.  While it’s not always technically required for practice, you had better believe that it’s wise to wear them at all times when there is the possibility of you sparring on the mat.  Any coach worth his salt will make you wear them, and you should never have your ‘toughness’ or manhood questioned by someone that suggests that you don’t wear them.  Do what you feel is right, and if it reaches a point you don’t like, you can always walk out and leave it all behind. 

Fit

Getting the fit right is going to be critical to the success, or lack thereof, of the headgear that you select.  If you don’t have the fit just right, then you can forget about the positives of wearing it.  It becomes just an ornate piece of junk, making you look like you fit in but not doing anything to help.  Headgear that is too loose is going to leave those ears very vulnerable, and you will just look goofy.  Not to mention, you will also feel bad as well, since it’s sure to be sliding all over.  You can also go too far the other way, however, if the fit is too tight.  Headgear that is too tight will leave you wanting to throw it off as soon as you get the chance to.  It’ll cut your circulation off, or feel like it is at the very least, and you will just be plain uncomfortable.  It could even hurt the ears more, or nearly as much, as having them scraped and dragged all over the floor.  To prevent this, you need to find something that either has a good fit to it or a set that has adjustability built into it.  Nearly all models are going to be adjustable, but not all of them have as much as others.  Some will have a lot built in, others will have very little.  Still yet, you have to find get the correct size.  If the range is too large or small, it won’t work for you.  You don’t want a four year old with an adult size, since it will always be too loose, or vice versa for that matter.  The less you have to adjust the better, though you certainly do need to have that option readily available at your disposal. 

Pricing

The price of wrestling headgear is not all that complicated or really all that expensive, either.  It’s not the cheapest sport in the world to partake in, but this area is not going to bankrupt you, either.  It’s not a skateboard or a car, so that is a plus.  You also don’t need a full suit of armor like in baseball.  So, the price is not usually going to be that exorbitant, meaning you don’t need to take a lot of shortcuts before arriving at the right choice for you.  By doing so, you will end up with something that has less quality.  The more you pay, in general, in this arena will equate to a better product.  That’s just the way it is, whether you like it or not.  Taking an approach that leans toward a budget pick is not going to restrict you totally, though, because there deals to be found if you look hard enough.  Just know that even the highest priced headgear is fairly affordable, so there is no excuse to have yourself, or especially your child, left in a vulnerable state of being on the mat.  

Try Before You Buy

It amazes me how many people make the seemingly insignificant (to them) mistake of not trying on something before they buy it.  But it happens, and the problem seems to be getting worse nowadays with the popularity of the internet.  As nice as it is to buy online, it presents us with a major problem when we have no semblance of an idea of how something will fit.  Some companies are looking to fix this by letting you try before you buy, but many still have the same shipping policies of old where you have to go through the pain of returning them.  Even if it’s free to ship back, you are paying for it somehow and you have to go through all of that hassle.  The way to get around that is by finding a store and going to try them on.  It’s maybe not the funnest sounding day ever, but it can save a lot of headaches.  There’s nothing wrong with trying them on and then deciding to buy online.  But without an idea of what to get, you are in trouble.  In the event that you can’t (or won’t) be able to go in person, you should always try the headgear on before use.  If it’s not right, then you should send it back.  No amount of money is worth something that either hurts you or doesn’t do what it has been made to do for you.  So, spare yourself that awful time and just skip it entirely. 

Style

The style of headgear is another one of those things that is going to depend solely on the wearer.  You might like something that I absolutely despise, just is the way of the world.  There’s nothing wrong with being different, it’s just a case of finding out what suits you best.  Some of the style is going to correspond to the amount of area it covers.  Some will cover just the ears, others will look more like a helmet.  Then there is the matter of color, too, which can either help you stand out a little bit more for scouts, or to help you match your team.  Even the texture that is used can be lumped into this massive category of things to consider.  This isn’t a big deal to some, but a lot of people make a lot of this! 

Texture

As mentioned above, texture is another factor that has to be considered for your headgear.  This, too, is wholly dependent upon what the individual likes the most.  There are sets that are soft and there are ones that are harder and more rigid.  The rigid ones are the ‘traditional’ ones that have been around for a very long time, but in the last few years companies and wrestlers themselves have been moving toward softer headgear.  Some headgear will even have gel inserts for them.  This brings more padding and a higher degree of comfort to the table, essentially borrowing an idea that shoe manufacturers have been using for quite a while now.  Generally speaking, the softer it is, the more comfortable it will be, but it really just depends on the person and what they like.  This shouldn’t impact the overall level of protection you get all that much, so it’s really open to interpretation, if you will. 

The choice that is preferred most often by younger wrestlers will be the softer choices.  Because a big part of the battle, especially for very small beginners, is making them comfortable, this helps to solve that problem in a big, very clear, and effective way.  On top of being comfy for them to wear, it’s also less impactful to their opponents, too, so that’s a plus to have, particularly in practice when you are facing off with your own teammates and wearing it for a longer period of time. 

For older wrestlers, you will see mostly harder headgear used.  The reason this prevails so much is because it is typically lighter and thus is more freeing for them.  While it might not have as much comfort, it makes up for it by being slightly less of a burden to them while donning it.  By using plastic, it’s just not going to weigh all that much, yet it will be durable and hard enough to protect you well.  This type is also easier to use to hear, so getting information from coaches will be easier.  We all know that it’s the younger crowd that need the instructions the most, but they rarely will listen like an older, more experienced veteran will do.  Some forms of wrestling, such as Greco-Roman do not allow this type, so you will need to consult the tournament or league rules before getting this type. 

Straps

There is a lot more to straps than what may meet your eye at first glance.  But, to keep it concise, the more straps you have the better the fit you are generally going to be able to have.  Most headgear will have three, four or five straps.  Those with three are harder to fit, so those with four or five are preferable if you can help it.  As for the chin, you have a couple of choices.  You can either go with the strap or the chin cup.  Chin cups are all the rage right now, since they are seen to be more comfortable by many, since it takes pressure off of the throat area and puts it directly on the chin.  Trying them on and going with what fits best for you is the best (and really the only) way you can go here since it’s your head and comfort we are talking about! 

Ventilation

Another big part of the equation is going to be how much air you get into your system, so to speak.  One of the main reasons you wouldn’t want a full blown helmet, even if it were allowed in wrestling, is because it is a fast paced, grueling sport with few stoppages.  There’s always something going on, even if it doesn’t seem like it.  You might think it’s just two guys on the mat in certain spots, but it’s far from it.  There’s always a mental and physical battle being waged, and this constant activity is going to make you very hot without proper ventilation.  Breathability is another word that can be used here.  Some headgear is not going to be able to do as well in this area.  More coverage is, generally, going to be more protective but will also have a tendency to overheat you.  That’s where vents come into play.  With the use of them, it’s possible to have a lot of coverage and still be able to get air to your head with tiny holes.  They also will help you stay a little bit more dry, too, which will help considerably at practice and in matches. 

The Top Best Wrestling Headgear of 2019 Reviews

1. Cliff Keen F5 Tornado Headgear

This brand, Cliff Keen, is one of the biggest in the world, and it’s no shock to see it top the list here with the F5 Tornado.  This selection comes with one of the most breathable setups on the market, with a ton of air vents being used.  The ear cups are super deep, making them both very comfort and also forcing them to be more protective than most others you can find.  With a ‘power’ tab that is easy to use, you can adjust and put it on with no problems whatsoever in the blink of an eye.  It’s simply put one of the easiest in the world to put on, and the price you pay isn’t even top of the line, either, giving you no excuses at all to not get them and wear them to practices and matches.

Pros:

  • Tons of breathability
  • Deep ear cups
  • Easily adjusted

2. Cliff Keen E58 Headgear

Cliff Keen comes into at #2 as well with their E58 offering, which is going to come in a whole lot of extra colors when compared with the Tornado.  With four straps, you get nearly top of the line adjustability built in, and on top of that, you get an even more budget friendly option when compared to the above one.  Using foam instead of a harder shell, it’s going to be super comfortable to use, and it goes back to a design that was made five decades that was revolutionary. Because of that foam, it’s the highest seller of all time in this sport, making it very ideal.  On top of that, it’s super lightweight, contrary to many others that are not of the harder variety, giving you a ton of options to differentiate yourself from the Tornado if you choose to do so.

Pros:

  • Tons of adjustability
  • Foam adds comfort
  • Top seller for a reason

3. KO Sports Wrestling Headgear

By using Velcro and bringing you more total protection than a plethora of others, this example of headgear from KO Sports is also going to be versatile enough to be used in other combat sports, like MMA training.  Thanks to having the Velcro up top as a strap, in essence, along with the normal chin strap on the bottom, you get a lot of coverage and have something else brought to the mix.  With a soft shell and a chin pad that is removable, you get a lot of options to help you adjust to just the perfect look and feel for you.  The ears have excellent ventilation, which not only aids in getting additional air to the head but also allows you to hear better, thus possibly raising your performance level a ton.

Pros:

  • Velcro easy and efficient
  • Lots of options to adjust
  • Versatile headgear

4. Matman Ultrasoft Adult Wrestling Headgear

If it’s softness that you seek, then there are few out there that will be able to hold a candle to the Matman.  Like the previous listing, this one is super soft and would be excellent for newer participants and those that want to be as comfy as they can be on the mat.  But unlike it, it’s the regular, less encompassing look, meaning it’s a less light and more meant specifically for wrestling instead.  With ear holes, it will give you both breathability as well as a chance to hear much more from those around you that need to give you instructions on what to do.  The straps, there are only two, don’t take any pulling on, since they are Velcro, making your job so much simpler, along the way.

Pros:

  • Super easy to adjust
  • Easy to clean and very durable
  • Soft and breathable

Cons:

  • Only two straps

5. Adidas Response AE100 Earguard

The big retailers don’t have such a big stronghold in this industry, but Adidas has snuck in here at number five with this classic looking earguard.  Coming in a number of colors, this four strap piece is going to give you a lot of support and adjustability and will fit every single head rather easily with a little bit of work.  With molded ear cups that fit as if they were shaped just for your own ear, they are a godsend for those that are just sick and tired of their headgear not fitting them well.  With plastic and foam underneath, you get a blend of the best materials to give you the best outlook and feel you can get.  On top of that, you get the classic Adidas style, a real plus for fans of the three stripes.

Pros:

  • Best of both worlds
  • Four straps make adjusting easy
  • Classic look and style

6. Asics Unisex Gel Wrestling Ear Guard

With a very inexpensive option here, ASICS, a trusted brand the world over in combat and court sports, offers some fairly comfortable gel ear guards to help you get through matches.  With a simple design that has what amounts to basically five straps, some of them coming with Velcro, you get a lot of easy, quick adjustability brought to the mix. With a lightweight design, thanks to their gel, the same sort of stuff used in their shoes, and excellent breathability, these are a good choice for anyone that is just looking for a quick guard to put on and go with.  They do have a tendency to slip down over time while you are putting work in, so be aware of that and adjust for it.

Pros:

  • Very good price
  • Easily adjusted
  • Lightweight and breathable

Cons:

  • Slips down while using

7. Gold BJJ MMA and Wrestling Headgear

Here’s a second option on the list for those that want a more diverse sort of option.  These are made for both wrestling and general MMA, and has a bit more protection than others would in the top of the head, though not as much as the KO Sports offering had. With a Velcro strap and a loop to pull it tight, it won’t budge once you have it set where you want it to be, making up for a relative lack of straps.  Coming with a chin pad that can be taken off if you like and a free mouth guard as well, you get a range of bonuses you don’t typically see.  With vents in the sides, you are able to take words from those around and get air into the ears and the rest of the head, helping aid in your comfort at the same time.

Pros:

  • Versatile option
  • Tight and will not budge once set
  • Bonuses make a big difference

Cons:

  • Tad expensive for one that’s not just for wrestling

8. Adapt Athletics Enhanced Wrestling Headgear

Coming with just two straps but still having the capacity for you to tighten it in front and in back with Velcro, this item from Adapt does just what it says- adapt to your needs.  It’s highly adjustable and comfortable, all while being stable thanks to that fact.  With the ease of use at putting it on, you are able to do it all without taking it off, making your time so much easier in the process.  The soft nature of it increases the range of comfort you are afforded, while the extra large vents ensure that you are able to hear and get additional air in to you. They are also versatile and can be used in other combat sports, too, further ratcheting up the usefulness of it.

Pros:

  • Extremely adjustable
  • Soft and comfy
  • Extra large vents

9. ASICS Conquest Ear Guard

This offering from ASICS is much different from the previous one on the list, with this one looking like something off of Star Wars or Star Trek.  With a hard shell, it’s going to be lighter than most and thus great for advanced wrestlers to use on the mat.  With lots of small holes, instead of two or three large ones, it’s going to offer more breathability than many out there and will also make it easier to be coached as well.  With five straps, it’s super easy to adjust.  The one problem here is going to be that it’s not the most comfy, so that’s an obvious factor that detracts from it. The straps are not the easiest to use, either, so look out for that.

Pros:

  • Lots of adjustments can be made
  • Hard shell for advanced
  • Great ventilation

Cons:

  • Not easy to use straps
  • Not super comfy

10. Grapplearts Minimum Profile Ear Guard

Rounding out our list here is a choice that is going to be super plush and seeks to protect the wrestler that is looking for maximum comfort above all else.  With a soft profile and Velcro that makes it easy to adjust, this will fit all shapes and sizes just about.  It even had a chin pad that can be removed if you want it to be, increasing your choices a lot.  The ventilation used is lacking a little bit to be desire.  It is there, but it’s not all that great with just three holes.  The chin strap also has had some complaints made before on it, so it’s not the best out there.  However, for a fairly low price choice, this one is great if you want a no frills, comfy pick to wear.

Pros:

  • Velcro forms to all
  • Removable chin pad
  • Super comfy

Cons:

  • Chin pad a bit of a letdown
  • Not the greatest ventilation system

Conclusion And Final Wrestling Headgear Recommendations

It may seem strange that you would need protection in such a dangerous sport such as wrestling, but that in and of itself is part of the reason that you need headgear.  In order to have the best, most comfortable experience on the mat, and to remain looking as good as you can (easier for some of us than others, isn’t it) you’ve got to have the right equipment.  Headgear might not seem like a big deal, but it’s every bit as important as wearing the right singlet or having the best shoes possible.  It’s about safety and performance.  The two meet and it’s vital that you get the balance right.  After our guide today, you’ll be much better placed to make the best decision for you, and you and your ears will be very appreciative that you did it!

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