Wrestling in Olympics: The past, the present, and the future

May 18, 2018 at 3:36 am Ron Mullinax

The history of wrestling in the Olympics: A brief review

wrestling in olympics

Any history of wrestling in Olympics would remain incomplete without the mention of ancient Greeks where young men belonged to wrestling schools or palaestras, as the center point of their social life. Illustration of this sport on Greek coins and vases was common throughout every period of ancient Greece.

When talking about the history of wrestling in the Olympics, you will trace it back to the first Olympic Games in 1896 (held in Athens). The style the Olympics’ organizers included was Greco-Roman wrestling, which was believed to be a carryover from the ancient wrestling styles. Except for the 1900 Summer Olympics where this tense combat sport was missing from the program, wrestling has featured in every Olympic program. After the Greco-Roman style, freestyle wrestling was added to the games as the second wrestling event in 1904. Wrestlers competing in the freestyle events were permitted to lift, push, and trip their opponents using their legs, in addition to holding them (the opponents) below or above the waist. The year 2004 witnessed the introduction of women’s freestyle wrestling competition.

Today, there’re two types of wrestling in the Olympics namely Greco-Roman and freestyle. Though the later had far less tradition and history compared to the former, it did gain great popularity, having developed as a distinct type of professional entertainment performed at festivals and fairs across the United States and Great Britain.

Under FILA rules, both Greco-Roman and international freestyle types are similar, the goal being to press or throw the opponent on his/her back so that his/her shoulder blades get in touch with the ground simultaneously. The competitors start with meeting on a large pad and taking holds from standing positions. However, Greco-Roman style doesn’t allow competitors attacking below the opponent’s waist. As wrestling is conducted within a circular ring without any protective gear or equipment, wrestlers use different rapid techniques to bring the opponent down.

Because of the vivid history of wrestling in Olympics, it was a big shock for the world in 2013 when the headlines said that there’ll be no wrestling in Olympics in the future. This decision made FILA (the international governing body for wrestling) take up a rigorous six-month campaign aimed at reshaping the sport and revamping the organization to help it reclaim its Olympic status. However, after seven months of this decision, the IOC executive board realized its mistake and the decision to remove wrestling from the “core” sports list was called off. For the games to be held in 2020 and 2024, wrestling got reinstated as an Olympic sport.

What’s your thought on history of wrestling in Olympics? Do let me know in the comments section. You might also like to check my book out, Fritz Von Erich: Master of the Iron Claw. You can connect with me on social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.



Smith Shawn. 2016. “Grappling with the future: The story of how Olympic wrestling was saved.” NBCOlympics, August 19. Accessed January 26. “History.” Accessed January 26.



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