There are many sound strategies for defeating direwolves, but none of them are wholly applicable to low-level recruits with light arms and armour …
Fighting and defeating direwolves is very worthwhile, though, because it gains a lot of experience points and is a good indication that the company has made progress and is ready to take on tougher challenges.
Direwolves get 3 attacks per turn (if already in melee) and can quickly rip through any armour that doesn’t consist of scales or plates. If the company members have lesser armour than this, they’ll need:
— (a) very high basal melee defence, or
— (b) good basal melee defence and a shield and/or a dodge bonus, or
— (c) a shield and high max fatigue (to keep forming shieldwalls) and high melee skill (to make their one attack per turn count), or
— (d) very high melee skill and a brutal weapon with which they can decimate and demoralize the direwolves
If you don’t have good melee skill, using accurate weapons like swords and spears doesn’t compensate by itself, since they aren’t damaging enough to decimate and demoralize the direwolves before they do it to you. However, it is possible to combine perks like Fast Adaptation, Adrenaline and Backstabber so that you can get in a good amount of hits with big weapons despite having modest melee skill, but this of course can only be achieved after a decent amount of experience has been accumulated, and is not applicable to raw recruits.
Forming a shieldwall and using riposte with a sword is very effective, since it turns the wolves’ advantage (3 attacks per turn) against them, but again will only work with a skilled veteran with high melee skill, high max fatigue and sword mastery.
For a company of raw recruits in the early game with no perks and level-ups and not enough crowns for fancy equipment, you might prevail if you (a) give them enough armour/protection to stand a good chance of surviving the first 2 rounds, and (b) arm most/all of them with a bludgeon (cheap and readily available) that can stun the wolves. Individually, they may not have nearly enough melee skill and max fatigue to keep stunning the wolves round after round, but if all of them keep trying to stun at the start then there’s a good chance that some/many of the wolves will get stunned in the early rounds of battle, and then you can switch to using less fatiguing but more damaging attacks against them while they’re unable to attack you, and you might just come out of it alive and without permanent injuries …
Also, what Rahziel suggested (spearwalls plus repelling with pitchforks or shields) can also work (again depending on damaging and demoralizing them before getting exhausted and suffering the same yourself). Spears with nets is good, since then you can slow their advance, lower their defence skills, and use double-grip to increase the damage done.
Later on in the game, once you’ve already got lots of crowns and equipment, you could recruit a whole bunch of raw newbs from promising backgrounds (e.g. wildmen, messengers, prizefighters, farmhands, thieves, flagellants, vagabonds) and send them off to fight an equal number of direwolves without veteran support, and they should manage to win (not necessarily without injuries and/or casualties) so long as each of them has medium armour (head and body both at around 70-110), a good shield, and either a boar/militia spear or an arming/noble sword.