Wrestling is recognised as one of the longest practiced sports – perhaps only losing to Athletics. There are records of fights dating back to 3,000 BC, and the sport was part of the Olympic Games of Antiquity.
To the Greeks, Wrestling had the status of a science and was the most important element of training among young men. They fought naked, with their bodies covered in olive oil and a thin layer of sand to protect them from the heat and cold. The first to make their opponent fall down, no matter how, was considered the winner.
The first Wrestling discipline in the Olympic programme was Greco-Roman Wrestling, present at the 1896 Games, the first in the Modern Era, held in Athens, Greece. Except in the 1900 edition in Paris, the sport has always been present at the Olympics. Freestyle Wrestling appeared in 1904, in St. Louis, although it only featured participants from the United States.
Since the Antwerp 1920 Games, in Belgium, the two disciplines of Wrestling have been present in the Olympic programme. Women’s categories were added at the 2004 Games in Athens, but only for Freestyle Wrestling.
Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling have the same objective: to immobilise the opponent with his back to the floor. The difference is that, in Greco-Roman, participants can only use their arms and trunk to attack and immobilise their adversary, while in the second participants can also use their legs. Low punches, strangling, sticking a finger in the eye and hair pulling are all prohibited.
Fights take place on an octagonal mat measuring 12 x 12 m, and the combat area has a diameter of 9m. Each Bout lasts two periods of 3 minutes with a 30-second break. The winner is declared by the addition of the points in both periods. Technical superiority of 8 points in Greco-Roman and 10 points in Freestyle automatically leads to victory. The fall stops automatically the match whatever the period.
Freestyle Wrestling has less history and popularity than Greco-Roman Wrestling, but has been practiced for more than a century. At the beggining, the discipline was more a form of entertainment at fairs and festivals across the United States and Great Britain.
This sport has no restrictions on the use of parts of the body to pin or throw opponents on the ground – unlike Greco-Roman Wrestling, in which participants may only use their arms and trunk. It is permitted to use the legs and hold the opponent below the waist.
The discipline’s official debut was at the St. Louis 1904 Games, although Freestyle Wrestling has been present in the Olympic programme since the 1896 edition in Athens, for men only.
The sport was not included in the programme at the Stockholm Games of 1912, but returned definitively at the Antwerp 1920 Games, in Belgium. One source of stimulation was the establishment of the International Wrestling Federation (known by French acronym FILA) in 1921. Women’s events were first played in 2004, in Athens, Greece.
The categories are broken down by weight – up to 55 kg is the lightest category for men, and up to 120 kg is the heaviest. Women’s wrestling has four categories: up to 48 kg, up to 55 kg, up to 63 kg, and up to 72 kg.
As in the Greco-Roman style, fights take place in an area with a 9 m diameter on a synthetic mat measuring 12 x 12 m. Each match is in a best of three rounds format, each lasting two minutes, and if no one manages to immobilise their opponent back down on the floor, the winner is decided by the judges, who give points to the wrestlers based on their performance.
Freestyle Wrestling events use a single elimination system, and the two winners of each group compete for gold. Two repechage brackets are formed among all the wrestlers who lost to the finalists in each phase of the tournament, and the winner of each group wins a bronze medal.
An evolution of techniques that exist since ancient Greece, Greco-Roman Wrestling reappeared in France in around 1830, as a fighting technique developed by Napoleon’s army. At the same time, some wrestlers who did not have access to elite sport travelled around the country to demonstrate their talent.
In 1848, French solider Jean Exbroyat created the first official Wrestling tournament and established a rule banning any contact below the waist. He called this style Flat Hand Wrestling. The influence of this style reached other parts of the European continent.
The discipline’s history and popularity made Greco-Roman Wrestling appear in the Athens 1896 Games, the first of the Modern Era. The matches did not have a fixed duration and were between athletes who competed in other sports.
Professional Greco-Roman Wrestling lost credibility over time due to suspected match fixing. However, the sport spread, encouraging many young people to take it up, and amateur clubs were founded.
The discipline was not present at the Paris 1900 Games neither in 1904 in St. Louis, USA – when only Freestyle Wrestling took place. The 1908 edition, in London, was the first that featured both types of Wrestling in the Olympic programme.
The objective of Greco-Roman Wrestling is to pin or throw the opponent with his back to the ground, but only using their arms and trunk. Categories are broken down by weight: the lightest is up to 55 kg, and the heaviest is up to 120 kg. There are no women’s events in this discipline.
Fights take place on a synthetic mat measuring 12 x 12m, and the combat area has a diameter of 9m. Each match is the best of three rounds, each lasting two minutes, and if neither participant manages to immobilise the other on his back on the floor, the winner is decided by the judges, who give points to the wrestlers based on their moves.
A single elimination system is used, and the two winners of each side of the bracket compete for gold. Two repechage sessions are formed for all the wrestlers who lost to the finalists in each phase of the tournament, and the winner in each group wins a bronze medal.