Wrestling is one of the world's oldest forms of athletic competition. Many cultures had forms of wrestling as a component of their military preparation. The ancient Olympics included wrestling, with the competition first recorded as taking place in the Games of 708 BC.
The recognized sport of wrestling is an athletic event, sanctioned by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), and it is included as both an international and Olympic competition. In North America, a variant to the FILA-styled competition is popular in both high schools and at a university level. In a number of countries in the modern world, wrestling, referred to as pro wrestling, is the name given the entertainment exemplified by the shows staged by the World Wrestling Federation, but this type of wrestling is not FILA-related.
Wrestling is a sport involving two athletes engaged in a physical competition that is limited to a specified area defined on a mat. The general object of all types of wrestling is one wrestler attempts to force the shoulders of the opponent to the floor in a prescribed manner. The contest, a bout, is generally two rounds, each three minutes in duration. A wrestler wins a bout by either scoring a fall against the opponent, or by accumulating points through the successful execution of various maneuvers. In all forms of wrestling, a referee will supervise the contest, and judges positioned near the mat will score the progress of the contest. The two different types of wrestling competition are freestyle (in which men and women compete in separate divisions) and Greco-Roman.
Freestyle wrestling is the most popular form of the sport throughout the world. In freestyle, the wrestler is permitted to use his entire body in the execution of any of the permitted techniques. Holds of the opponent, including the use of the legs and the tripping of an opponent, are a part of freestyle. The Greco-Roman discipline restricts the competitors to holds applied to an opponent from the waist up, and the use of the legs to hold or throw the opponent is prohibited. North American collegiate freestyle wrestling is similar to that of FILA competition; the chief differences are variations in the rules with respect to the definition of a fall and the length of a bout.
In all forms of wrestling, there are a variety of methods in which to score against an opponent. When the wrestler places the opponent in a position in which the opponent's back is pressed to the mat, points are scored. In the course of a maneuver that appears to have the wrestler in a position of control by the opponent, the wrestler will score if he is able to execute an escape from the disadvantageous position. A reversal is scored when a wrestler turns a scoring position for the opponent into a scoring position for himself. The best-known wrestling maneuver, a takedown, is when the wrestler takes the opponent from a standing position to the mat.
Wrestling in all of its forms is a demanding and highly athletic sport. As with many sports where physical strength and size are important competitive factors, wrestling competitions are divided into specific weight categories. Wrestling training must be comprehensive to produce a successful athlete, and all of the traditional attributes of complete physical fitness are engaged in the sport: strength, power, speed, flexibility, and endurance. The primal nature of wrestling, and the requirement that a single opponent be conquered, also demand the development of a very rigorous mental approach to training and competition.
The foundation of successful wrestling training is the development of a strong cardiovascular system. Like boxing, wrestling places demands on both the anaerobic energy system, due to the short, intense nature of the competition segments, as well as the aerobic system, necessary to facilitate recovery by the athletes. Traditional means of developing anaerobic fitness, such as interval training, are of benefit to the wrestler. Most comprehensive wrestling programs will ensure that the athlete obtains significant aerobic exercise, including running and cycling or the use of cardio machines when the athlete wishes to minimize the stress directed into legs, since they are the subject of very pronounced stresses in other aspects of training and competition.
The development of core strength is perhaps as important to a wrestler as any other physical attribute. Successful wrestling techniques each apply basic principles of physics, especially those relevant to the establishment of leverage, necessary to successfully throw an opponent, and the maintenance of a low center of gravity, to ensure stability in all movements. Successful wrestlers seek to develop their core strength to permit the maximum utility of the muscles of the abdomen, lumbar (lower back) region, groin, and gluteal area.
A characteristic of all successful wrestlers is the combined effect of flexibility and agility. Wrestling is a dynamic sport where the athlete must be able to respond to an opponent's attacks from a variety of physical positions. The rules of wrestling permit a multitude of different applications of force in which the greater the flexibility and resultant range of motion in the joints of the athlete, the more likely a positive response can be made and the less likely an injury will be sustained.
There is not one form of wrestling which is common throughout the world, but several different styles, which can be categorized into three basic types: belt-and-jacket styles, in which the clothing of the wrestlers — belt, jacket, or trousers — is used for grips; catch-hold styles, in which the wrestlers are required to grip each other prior to, and usually throughout the contest; and loose styles, in which the wrestlers, who can take any grip, apart from on clothing, are separated prior to the contest.
Wrestling styles can also be categorized according to five basic criteria required for a win. Break-stance involves forcing an opponent to relinquish a position; toppling involves forcing an opponent to touch the ground with a part of the body apart from the feet; touch-fall involves forcing an opponent into a specified position, usually supine, for a brief period; pin-fall involves holding an opponent, once thrown, in a specified position for a certain period of time; and submission involves forcing an opponent to admit defeat.
There are a number of notable national and local styles of wrestling. Glima, from Iceland, and schwingen, from Switzerland, are both belt styles, requiring toppling for victory; kushti, from Iran, is a catch-hold style, requiring a supine touch-fall; yagli, from Turkey, is a loose style requiring a supine touch-fall; sumo, from Japan, is a loose style requiring toppling; Breton wrestling, from Brittany, is a jacket style requiring a touch-fall. In Britain there are two notable local styles. Cornish wrestling is a jacket style requiring a touch-fall; Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling is a catch-hold style requiring toppling.
In international competition, there are only three styles of wrestling recognized by the Federation Internationale des Luttes Amateurs (FILA). Both freestyle and Graeco-Roman wrestling, which are the only styles fought in the Olympic Games, are loose styles requiring a touch-fall for victory. They differ in that the former allows any fair hold, throw, or trip, whereas the latter does not permit wrestlers to hold below the hips, nor to grip with the legs. There are ten weight divisions in both styles for international competition; light flyweight, flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight, and super heavyweight. The third style recognized by FILA is a synthesis of styles native to the former Soviet Union called sambo; the word is composed of the first three letters of the word samozash-chita (self defence) and the initial letters of bez oruzhiya (without weapons). It is a combination of loose and jacket styles requiring a submission for victory.
There are two further styles of wrestling worthy of note. Inter-collegiate wrestling, which is practised only in American colleges, is broadly similar to the freestyle and Graeco-Roman styles, apart from the points system. Professional wrestling, based on freestyle, is more accurately defined as a form of entertainment, rather than a sport, owing to its ‘choreographed’ moves.
Arlott, J. (1976). The Oxford companion to sports and games. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
See also boxing; martial arts; sport.
wrestling, sport in which two unarmed opponents grapple with one another. The object is to secure a fall, i.e., cause the opponent to lose balance and fall to the floor, and ultimately to pin the supine opponent's shoulders to the floor, through the use of body grips, strength, and adroitness.
One of the most primitive and universal sports, wrestling was probably known in prehistoric times. In ancient Greece, wrestlers were rated second only to discus throwers as popular Olympic heroes. The Greeks practiced two forms of wrestling—upright and ground. Wrestling was also included in the pentathlon and the pankration (combined with boxing); the most famous Greek wrestler was Milo of Crotona. Homer's account of the match between Ajax and Ulysses (Iliad, XXIII) is one of the world's greatest wrestling stories. Wrestling tournaments were held in medieval Europe, and the sport has remained popular throughout history.
Distinctly different styles of wrestling exist today. In Japan, for example, two types of wrestling styles are popular—sumo and jujitsu (see judo). Sumo, in which the object is to force the opponent out of the ring, is quasireligious in nature and involves much ritual. Most of its participants weigh 300 to 400 lb (135–180 kg). For centuries wrestling has been the center of life for the Nuba in Africa, who wrestle only after covering themselves with symbolic ash. In the traditional Turkish style of Pehlivan, wrestlers wear leather breeches and cover themselves with oil; the Shwingen style of Switzerland and the Glima of Iceland feature grips on the opponent's belt; the Cumberland-Westmoreland style from Britain relies on holds that bend opponents backward; in Central Asia, wrestlers still compete in Kuresh wrestling passed down from the Turkmen centuries ago.
Nearly all nations embrace the two types of wrestling contested in the Olympics: Greco-Roman and freestyle. Greco-Roman, most popular in continental Europe, prohibits tripping, holds below the waist, and the use of one's legs. Freestyle wrestling is most popular in the United States and E Europe. This form permits tackling, tripping, and leg holds. High schools and colleges in the United States employ a style that approximates freestyle. In nonprofessional wrestling, contestants are classified by weight. Wrestlers earn points for certain maneuvers and the highest accumulated total wins if there is no pin during a match. Professional wrestling in the United States, which is a form of entertainment rather than a sport, has enjoyed several periods of popularity; it relies on colorful showmanship and media exposure.
wres·tle / ˈresəl/ • v. [intr.] take part in a fight, either as a sport or in earnest, that involves grappling with one's opponent and trying to throw or force them to the ground: as the policeman wrestled with the gunman a shot rang out. ∎ [tr.] force (someone) into a particular position or place by fighting in such a way: the security guards wrestled them to the ground. ∎ fig. struggle with a difficulty or problem: for over a year David wrestled with a guilty conscience. ∎ [tr.] move or manipulate (something) in a specified way with difficulty and some physical effort: she wrestled the keys out of the ignition. • n. [in sing.] a wrestling bout or contest: a wrestle to the death. ∎ a hard struggle: a lifelong wrestle with depression. DERIVATIVES: wres·tler / ˈres(ə)lər/ n. ORIGIN: Old English, frequentative of wrǣstan ‘wrest.’
J. A. Cannon