Wrestling History The forms of wrestling we know today as Greco-Roman, Folkstyle, and Freestyle found their origins in the lands on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. These lands are where the Ancient Greeks resided, and developed the art of wrestling. The Greeks influenced the styles and skills of wrestling of today. “The sport of wrestling has been highly developed for over five thousand years, and it is believed to have begun part of the soldiers training,” The Ancient Greeks and The sport of Wrestling stated. Proof of this lie on the walls of the tomb in Beni Hasan in the form of pictures. These pictures are about five thousand years old and show holds from both the standing positions and the ground positions.
From that time to the present wrestling turned from military skill to a sport skill. (The Ancient Greeks and The sport of Wrestling,7-2) During this time wrestling was also developed in other cultures, like that of ancient Greeks. Wrestling to the Greeks was not only part of the soldier’s training, but was also a part of everyday life. Youth did not only learn grammar, art of speech, and mathematics, but young men also went through physical training, which consist of dancing and the art of wrestling. The Greeks saw wrestling as a development of grace and an activity that demands a high skill and physical fitness. (The Ancient Greeks and The sport of Wrestling,7-3) Greek literature points out this skill of wrestling was used by gods and kings, as well as by soldiers and private citizens, in their efforts to overcome evil and brute force.
Most of the heroes of Greek mythology were considered skillful wrestlers. Their view of skill most likely led to its introduction as a major sport in the Olympic Games in the year 704 B.C. (The Ancient Greeks and The sport of Wrestling,7-4) Wrestling was a major sport in most Greek festivals, including the Olympic Games. In these festivals sports other than wrestling, such as foot races, chariot-races, throwing of the discos and javelin, and boxing, were also included. These events with variations and additions made up the program of the athletic festivals of Greece through the whole history.
The events of the Olympic Games survived even through the rise and the fall of the Roman Empire. “With the conquering of the Greece by the Romans, the Greek form of wrestling began to lose popularity, since, the Romans didn’t have the same sense of grace and skill,” stated The Ancient Greeks and The sport of Wrestling. The Romans were also not interested in brute strength and violence. (The Ancient Greeks and The sport of Wrestling,7-5) One last thing that brought the decline of Greek wrestling, is the participation of many more countries in the Olympics. This was due to The Romans allowing other countries in the Olympics.
The Greek spectators became tired of seeing their local wrestling heroes being defeated by competitors from the East. The success of the Asian wrestlers and others help along the decline of Greek Wrestling. (The Ancient Greeks and The sport of Wrestling,7-5) Wrestling technique has changed very little, and many of the modern holds were derived from the sport as it was practiced in ancient Egypt, in 704, included wrestling. “Evidence that matches were increasingly being fixed and competitors rigged, however, cut short popularity of the sport, and it lay dormant for hundreds of years,” stated the Concise Encyclopedia of Sports. (Concise Encyclopedia of Sports, 7-3) During the 19th century, Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling regained popular interest. Circuses and carnivals in the United States sponsored wrestling matches, and this activity led directly to the revival of wrestling. William Muldon was declared the first American Champion.
Following World War I, fixed professional wrestling matches threatened to discredit wrestling, but the Federation International des Luttes Amateur founded in 1921, saved the sport. This governing body codified rules, set standards, and organized competitions for all amateur 7 freestyle and 6 Greco-Roman weight divisions, an increase from only having one weight division in the 1904 Olympics. (Concise Encyclopedia of Sports, 7-3) In the Olympic and international completions wrestlers compete against others approximately the same weight. Ten weight classifications exist from 15.8 pounds too more than 220.4 pounds. Competitors must wear tight-fitting one-piece singlets.
The wrestling mat is a raised platform, 6-8 meters square. A match is scheduled for three rounds, each period lasting three minutes, with 1-minute rest periods between them. Matches are won either by pinning an opponent’s shoulders to the mat and holding them for one second or by accumulating the greater number of points during the match. A referee, judge, and a mat chairman decide on the awarding of penalty points. Wrestlers are not allowed to pull hair, kick, punch, grip the edge of the mat, use head locks, and bend an opponent’s arm more than 90 degrees or use any hold that may endanger the physical well-being of the opponent.
(Sports and Games, 5-4) There are many different styles of wrestling. One of the most popular that is used in high school and college in the United States is folkstyle. This style developed in the United States as a modified form of the European Freestyle with variations influenced by the American Indian and early pioneers. In fact several history references indicated that both George Washington and Abe Lincoln were good Folkstyle wrestlers. (Rules of the Game, 4-2) Folkstyle concentrates on control and the execution of moves, with points awarded for successfully executing a move to gain control or escape your opponents’ control.
The wrestler on top must constantly work towards a pin while the wrestler on bottom must continually try to escape or reverse. In some aspects, Folkstyle is similar to Freestyle terms of wrestling technique used, however the rules influence the selection of attacks and the conduct of the match. (Rules of the Game, 4-2) Another popular style of wrestling is Freestyle. Freestyle is used in the Olympic games. It is similar folkstyle wrestling in terms of technique, but the rules and scoring are different.
Anyone who wrestles folkstyle can wrestler freestyle. Because of the rules there are additional moves that can be don such as the gut wrench and leg lace. Matches are usually on five-minute period in the open and high school divisions and two periods with short break between for the younger age groups. Wrestlers start on their feet, and points are accumulated by taking the opponent to the mat and exposing his back. Points are given for back exposure without having to hold your man down on his back for a certain period of time. Your opponents’ back does not have to touch the mat, just be exposed towards the mat for a fraction of a second.
“A pin is accomplished by bringing both of your opponents’ shoulders or scapula in contact with the mat at the same time,” according to Rules of the Game. “Since the emphasis in Freestyle is on attack and exposure, just controlling the opponent from the top with no continuos back exposure is considered a stalemate, and both wrestlers are brought to their feet after a short time in order for the bout to continue,” stated in Rules of the Game. Also, a wrestler can easily score points or pin himself by exposing his own back unless he is very careful how he performs his movements. There are no points for escapes and you can stall on bottom after you are takedown. Your objective on bottom is to gain a stalemate and to be restarted from the neutral position. Attempting an escape may only give your opponents points if you expose your back to the mat. You can score 1 point for a reversal from the defensive position.
However, you may give up points if you expose your back while attempting a reversal. (Rules of the Game,4-3) Another important points about both Freestyle and Greco-Roman is that there is no penalty for failed throws. If a wrestler attempts a throw and ends up being taken down by his opponent, his opponent does not score points and wrestling is restarted from the neutral position. Also, either wrestler can lock his hands at any time. Wrestling is an old sport, it is extremely popular in ancient Greek and Roman societies. When the Romans conquered the Greeks, their two styles of wrestling gradually merged and created the internationally popular style of wrestling named Greco-Roman.
Although other styles of wrestling are more popular in the United States, Greco-Roman is very popular in many other parts of the world. The unique characteristics that makes Greco-Roman so different from other styles of wrestling is the fact that holds or attacks below the waist are not permitted. For this reason, upper body throws are the norm. (Rules of the Game, 4-4) Like Freestyle, Greco-Roman concentrates on taking your opponent to the mat and exposing his back, without using or attacking the legs. Points for takedowns and exposures are nearly identical between Freestyle and Greco-Roman, so long as the legs are not used. Both Freestyle and Greco-Roman, in addition to judo, are recognized Olympic sports. (Rules of the Game, 4-4) In addition to these styles there are many other styles of wrestling.
In the national style of Ireland, “collar-and-elbow” wrestling, the competitors wear short jackets with strong collars and grasp each other’s collar behind the left ear with the right hand. The position of the hands cannot be changed until the fall is secure. Changing the position of the hands is a foul and loses the fall. Two shoulders and one hip or both hips and one shoulder must touch the floor at the same time for this fall. Wrestling in Japan dates more than 2,000 years. Two styles are popular: sumo and jujitsu.
Sumo is the national style. Weight is the main factor, and so most Japanese sumo wrestlers are very large. The methods are similar to those of Greco-Roman, but touching the floor with any part of the body except the feet or leaving the mat loses the fall. A similar sport is popular in India, but both shoulders must be pinned to the mat at the same time. (Encyclopedia of World Sports, 3-2) Jujitsu was introduced into Japan from China many centuries ago. “For ages it was a secret art, guarded jealously by the nobility”, stated the Encyclopedia of World Sports.
Now it is known not only throughout Japan many other countries. During World War II and there after all United States combat troops learned judo, which is similar to jujitsu, as means of fighting without weapons. (Encyclopedia of World Sports, 3-3) The art of falling without injury is the first principle of jujitsu. Often an expert will fall purposely in order to trap an unwary opponent into a dangerous position. This is called conquering by yielding.
Another type of wrestling, called sambo, was recognized in 1964 by the International Federation of Amateur Wrestling. Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, it is popular today in Russia and also in Bulgaria and Japan. Based on regional wrestling styles, sambo resembles both jujitsu and Greco-Roman. There are many different variations of the sport of wrestling but they all still carry the tradition that the early Greeks started many years ago. This tradition is hard work, discipline and grace. Bibliography Brosch, R. How Did Sports Begin? New York: David McKay company, Inc., 1970 Carson, Ray. The Ancient Greeks and the Sport of Wrestling.
New Jersey: Barnes and Co., 1974. Lewinson, David, Christensen, Karen. III Encyclopedia of World Sports. California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1996. Sports and Games.
California: Sydney, 1997. The Consise Encyclopedia of Sports. USA: Grolier Incorporated, 1970. Rules of the Game. USA: Paddington Press LTD, 1974.
“Wrestling.” Comptors Encyclopedia. 1995 ed.