Learn about this Summer Olympic sport

April 27, 2012

USA's Henry Cejudo (left) defeats Japan's Tomohiro Matsunaga (right) for the 55 kilogram freestyle gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games.

Harking back to ancient Greece, India, China and Japan, wrestling is recognized as the world's oldest competitive sport. By the time the ancient games of the Olympiad were born in 776 BC, wrestling was already ancient. Athletes earned points for pinning a competitor to the ground or by forcing him out of bounds. Both moves, called "falls," determined the winner. It took three falls to win. Today, competitors engage in similar hand-to-hand combat. Wrestling has been an official Olympic sport for more than 100 years. There are currently 18 events (14 men’s and 4 women’s), separated by weight classes. At the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Greece, women competed against one another for the first time, in four freestyle events.

Rules of the Game

Wrestlers compete in one of two types: Greco-Roman or freestyle wrestling. In the more conservative Greco-Roman style, wrestlers only use their arms and upper bodies to try to pin an opponent. In freestyle, competitors can use their legs and are allowed to hold opponents above or below the waist. Freestyle originated from "catch-as-catch-can" wrestling, in which a competitor sought to hold his opponent's shoulder to the ground, known as a fall.

A wrestler claims victory in both styles by pinning his opponent to the mat.


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