Recognised as one of the world’s oldest sports, Wrestling was first held at the ancient Olympics in 708 BC, and Greco-Roman Wrestling was included at the Athens 1896 Games, the first of the modern era. Played out on a circular mat, the sport is a battle of nerves, strength and skill, and should provide plenty of drama at ExCeL during London 2012.
The London 2012 Wrestling competition consists of two disciplines – Greco-Roman, where athletes use their upper bodies and arms only, and Freestyle, where athletes can use any part of their bodies.
Did you know?
At Tokyo 1964, Japan’s Osamu Watanabe ended his career undefeated by winning his 186th consecutive match to claim Olympic gold.
The longest Wrestling contest in Olympic history occurred at Stockholm in 1912, when a middleweight match between Russia’s Martin Klein and Finland’s Alfred Asikainen went on for 11 hours.
Freestyle Wrestling developed in part from Catch as Catch Can, a variety of Wrestling that was popular in the 19th century and at fairs and festivals across the UK and the US.
Before point scoring was introduced, wrestling matches continued until one wrestler was finally forced to the ground.
18 – Greco-Roman consists of seven weight categories for men only. Freestyle consists of seven weight categories for men and four for women.
Number of competitors
344: 266 men and 72 women, 6 to be confirmed
Each country is limited to one athlete in each event.
Field of play
Wrestling bouts are fought on an octagonal mat measuring 12m x 12m. Inside the mat is a 9m diameter combat circle.
History of Wrestling at the Olympic Games
Eight years after Greco-Roman Wrestling was featured at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, Freestyle Wrestling was introduced at the St Louis 1904 Games. Women’s Wrestling joined the Olympic programme at Athens in 2004.
Find out more about Wrestling at the Olympic Games on the International Olympic Committee website.
Wrestling is a body-to-body combat sport. Greco-Roman wrestlers use only their upper bodies and arms. Freestyle wrestlers can use any part of their body to pin or throw their opponent to the ground.The aim is to force the back of the opponent’s shoulders on to the ground. Bouts take place on a mat and can last for a maximum of three periods of two minutes, with a 30-second break in between periods. Periods are decided by points, awarded for various throws and holds. A period is won by technical superiority by performing a grand amplitude hold (worth five points), scoring two holds worth three points, or gaining a six-point lead.
The athlete who wins two periods wins the bout. A contest can finish early if a wrestler wins the first two periods or pins his/her opponent.
In Freestyle Wrestling, the third, deciding period may last longer than two minutes to determine the winner. In the event of a tie on points in the third period after two minutes, the bout enters a golden score period, when the first score wins.
The rules in women’s Wrestling are similar to those used in men’s Freestyle Wrestling, but with some key variations – for example, double head-locks are forbidden.
Athletes compete in weight categories. For all events, there is a direct elimination system that eventually decides the two finalists for the gold medal match.
All wrestlers who lose against either finalist, at any stage of the competition up to and including the semi-finals, enter the repechage; the winners of the two repechage groups win bronze medals.
Each bout is controlled by a refereeing body, which consists of a referee, a judge and a mat chairman. The three officials work together to decide on fall or points, with agreement needed between at least two of them. Each wrestler or coach (with the agreement of his/her wrestler) can challenge the decision of the refereeing body through video evidence. The quality of the refereeing body’s decisions is monitored by the jury of appeal (three people), with one jury of appeal assigned to each mat.
Keys to success
Wrestling is a technical, tactical, body-to-body confrontation involving strength and physical and mental skills. Olympic wresters need to be strong, fast and quick thinking.
Breaking the rules
An incredibly technical sport, wrestlers must stay within the rules or risk having valuable points awarded to the opposition. Points can be awarded for illegal actions, such as scratching, biting or pinching; for illegal holds (some holds may only be enacted with one hand, for instance, or from a particular direction); or for leaving the mat.
If you want to find out about wrestling in your country, including clubs, facilities and coaching schemes, check the website of your National Governing Body. To find out how you can get involved in wrestling in the UK, go to thegamesandbeyond.com