Freestyle Wrestling History

Wrestling is one of the oldest sports that even pre-dates the ancient Olympics; learn about freestyle wrestling's history to better understand the origins of this sport. Drawings of wrestling have been discovered from caves that are believed to be part of Sumero-Akkadian civilization from 3000 BC and ancient Egyptian civilization of 2400 BC. In Greek mythology, it is believed that Zeus out-wrestled Cronus for possession of the universe. The famous man and beast wrestling between Heracles and Theseus is also well known. 

Wrestling, as a competition, was introduced in ancient Olympics in 708 BC. From then on, wrestling was given a very important place in the world of ancient Olympics where it was considered as one of the marquee events. One of the noted wrestlers of that period, known for his brawn and tactics to get out of a clinch was the famous philosopher Plato. The Greek Poet Homer recounted epic matches was one of the early and famous sportswriters of wrestling. The sport then almost resembled the freestyle wrestling discipline of today.

Freestyle wrestling has its origin as “catch-as-catch-can” wrestling, which started in Great Britain. It has been practiced with good popularity in various social occasions including fairs and festivals during 19th century. Naturally, it assumed various regional flavors within Great Britain. Later, freestyle wrestling was introduced to United States by Irish immigrants. With industrialization and urbanization of United States in the later part of 19th century, popularity of freestyle wrestling also increased. There were many keenly contested wrestling events which were regular fixtures in the entertainment arena of US cities.

Despite its growing popularity, freestyle wrestling had to struggle to make a mark in the modern Olympics. The Athens Olympics of 1896 had only a single wrestling bout, a Greco-Roman match for the heavyweights. Freestyle wrestling was first introduced in Olympics games in 1904, where all the contestants were Americans. Since 1920, both forms (Greco-Roman and Freestyle) of wrestling are a constant fixtures in the summer Olympic games.

In 2011, Russia and the United States are the dominant countries in freestyle wrestling. For women’s international wrestling, freestyle is the only discipline used and debuted as an Olympic event for the first time in Athens Olympics 2004. After a long history elsewhere, freestyle wrestling is gaining popularity on North American continent.

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