Wrestling: Histories, Top Competitions, and Athletes

Wrestling is a combat sport with a long history. It is the oldest and most commonly practiced sport, with several forms that have survived to the present day. The competition pits two unarmed persons against each other, aiming to unbalance or subdue the other. The main goal of wrestling is to defeat the opponent by tossing or pinning them to the ground or forcing them to submit.

Forcing an opponent to contact the ground with a portion of their body other than their feet. Forcing them into a certain posture, generally on their back; or maintaining them in that position for a set period, are all examples of this.

During a wrestling match, when one opponent places the other in a submission hold, the other wrestler is locked into an uncomfortable position. They will eventually indicate to the referee that the discomfort is too much and give up. This is how submission occurs and is the most used wrestling element worldwide.

Amateur wrestling has been in every Olympic game since its inception, and professional matches are used in most competitions. Nowadays, wrestlers can be professional or amateur, and several wrestling deviations are explored. Various athletes attend top wrestling competitions worldwide.

This article gives a detailed breakdown of wrestling history, top competitions, athletes, and every other important thing you need to know. So if you’re a wrestling fan or just a curious bystander, this is the post for you.

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Early History of Wrestling

There are debates on wrestling’s main origin, but research shows it likely evolved from hand-to-hand fighting. Belt wrestling has been seen in works of art from 3000 BCE in Babylonia and Egypt, and loose wrestling dates back to around 1500 BCE in India. In such sports, contestants substitute weapons with bare hands, and surrender replaces death.

Chinese writings from 700 BCE and Japanese records from the first century BCE depict casual wrestling. This wrestling style was similar to that of the Egyptians in 2500 BCE. Belt wrestling was also performed regionally by the Swiss, Japanese, Cossacks, and Icelanders in the twentieth century.

For the Greeks, wrestling was among the most popular sports. Greek wrestling affiliation is depicted on Greek vases and coins in different areas of ancient Greece. Palaestrae was the main center of young men’s social lives. These palaestrae were wrestling schools that taught young men techniques in wrestling. However, the technique taught was loose wrestling, and wrestlers competed nude as any other Greek athlete.

Wrestling has been a feature of the Olympic Games since 776 BCE. In these games were two wrestling championships and the pankration, a mix of wrestling and boxing. Upright wrestling was also included in the Olympic Games, with a match fought until one of the wrestlers fell.

Wrestling was practiced in many ways throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. For example, the earliest known English match was staged in London in the 13th century. However, Jacket wrestling has been practiced in England since at least the fourth or fifth century.

The Islamic rulers of Persia employed Turkic mercenaries and taught them a style of loose wrestling called Koresh. This wrestling style usually uses grips on the tight leather pants of the wrestlers. The fight ends with a touch fall of the loser on his back.

Their wrestling style became more popular as the Turks subsequently conquered the Muslim dominion. As time passed, the Mongolian invasions in the 13th century introduced Mongolian wrestling, which became the national sport of modern Iran.

Sumo, a type of belt wrestling, was a popular spectator sport in Japan under imperial sponsorship. Sumo began as a submission show and gradually became a toppling contest. The win came from driving your opponent out of a four-meter circle. Hence, opponents developed big and sturdy masses to withstand pushing forces.

Sumo wrestling didn’t become a professional sport in Japan until the 17th century. Judo, another renowned Japanese wrestling technique, was created from the samurai martial art jujitsu two centuries later. It didn’t become an international sport until at least the second period of the twentieth century.

Wrestling in the 18th century

After the 18th century, wrestling art became a mainstay worldwide. Several wrestlers went to theatres, circuses, and fairs challenging different people for a match. Somewhere organized matches between top fighters to generate revenue from walking onlookers.

Wrestling was also incorporated into the German Turnverein gymnastics training routine in the 1800s. For America, it was popular as a frontier sport, with fights often lasting until one opponent yielded and with minimal holds banned.

Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling arose in the second part of the 19th century and eventually dominated world wrestling. Greco-Roman wrestling was popularized in France and named after the type of wrestling used by the ancients.

This wrestling utilizes only grips above the waist and bans wrestlers from wrapping their legs around an opponent as they fall. After its promotions in different expositions, the wrestling form became part of the Olympic Games.

On the other hand, freestyle wrestling was promoted primarily in the United Kingdom and America as a professional and amateur sport after 1888. Then, it was recognized by the Amateur Athletic Association and included in the Olympic Games in 1904.

Since then, it has been part of every Olyphant Game missing only one year in 1912. Unlike Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling allows for waist and leg clutches, and you can defeat your opponent by a pin-fall.

A variation of freestyle wrestling known as catch-as-catch-can also became popular in the Olympic Games. This form of international freestyle first appeared in Antwerp in 1920. International freestyle wrestling is a loose type that employs the Greco-Roman touch-fall rather than the pin-fall often used in wrestling.

Some popular professional wrestlers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Russian George Hackenschmidt was a famous Greco-Roman wrestler from 1900 and held the world championship title until 1908.

After Gotch Hackenschmidt retired in 1913, professional wrestling slowly started waning in popularity. It was overrun by other popular sports like boxing and became less of a serious spectacle.

Although it grew marginally in popularity, it became a spectacle because it was broadcast on radio and television. The victors were purposely separated into “heroes,” and the “villains” were selected by the promoters’ money needs rather than competence.

Wrestling moves and matches grew more vivid and unnatural, losing much of their genuineness. It gave birth to different forms of more flashy and fan-pleasing forms of wrestling like the Mexican Lucha Libre, famed for its acrobatic skills and colorful masks.

Modern Wrestling Development

As professional wrestling declined in application during the 20th century, major moves were made toward amateur wrestling.

Wrestling did not have weight classes at first. The sole weight in the initial Olympic Games was heavyweight; however, weight divisions gradually emerged in amateur wrestling. Professional wrestling was prevalent in previous years with one or two backfalls and often no time restrictions. But in 1967, amateur wrestling was structured into three three-minute rounds in all international competitions.

In amateur wrestling, a method was established to give points short of a fall that hinged on one wrestler having control of another. This method evolved due to the rules of Greco-Roman wrestling, which restricted grips to only above the waist and prohibited using legs. When wrestlers were stuck on the mat, fights ended up dull, so this point score system was introduced. Because of this new rule, making drawn matches was almost impossible.

This new method meant points were awarded for reversing control, using a pinning hold, and putting an opponent at risk of being pinned. In no-fall fights, the running point score and the difference in control time are utilized to determine the winner. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that this wrestling style became widely popular in American high schools and universities.

After researching several traditional wrestling forms, Anatoly Kharlampiev of the Soviet Union developed sambo, a type of jacket wrestling. Sambo gained popularity in the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, and Japan and was recognized globally in 1964. This now became the third style of international wrestling in the 20th century.

Sambo is similar to judo and Mongolian wrestling in that their fights only last three minutes. In this type, a wrestler wins by tossing another wrestler neatly on his back. However, if the competitors get to the mat, the match concludes with submission if no one can fall the other.


Wrestling has a long history deeply rooted in different countries and cultures all around the world. From the paintings seen in Egypt that date back to 3000 BCE, to the recent adaptations of wrestling from different European countries, all showcase a rich history.