History Of Freestyle Wrestling
The history of freestyle wrestling goes back to Catch-As-Catch-Can wresting, also known as Catch wrestling or Folk wrestling. Adopting the Greco-Roman wrestling style, which had been popular since the days of Ancient Greece, coal miners in the English town of Lancashire began practicing a new form of wrestling during the 19th century. This free style of wrestling soon spread to the United States and became popular with carnival wrestlers.
As with other human innovations, the history of freestyle wrestling proves that necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. Arriving at a new town, carnival wrestlers would challenge the strongest man to a wrestling match with a cash price for the winner. To end such matches quickly and without injury, carnival wrestlers began incorporating new moves into the fight, moves adopted from other martial arts disciples imported into the United States with the influx of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in New York. To this day, such submission holds, known as “hooks,” lie at the heart of freestyle wrestling. Each opponent seeks to lock the other in a submissive position that will pin him to the mat and end the match.
As freestyle wrestling moved away from traditional Greco-Roman wrestling, each opponent was permitted to use his or her opponent’s legs in an offense or defense move. This adaptation of traditional wrestling to the realities of everyday fighting appealed to many amateurs and freestyle wrestling gained in popularity throughout Europe, Japan and the British colonies, which included India. During this period in the history of freestyle wrestling, European tournaments soon drew traveling wrestlers from around the globe and each new wrestling discipline, from Judo to Iranian wrestling styles, enhanced the evolvement of the sport.
Though traditional Greco-Roman wrestling was included in the 1896 first modern Olympic games held in Athens, freestyle wrestling was not acknowledged as an official Olympic sport until 1908, after which it became a part of all Summer Olympics. The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) refers to freestyle wrestling as one of four main forms of amateur competitive wrestling practiced today. The maverick wrestling moves adopted by carnival wrestlers become a recognized sport over a span of 150 years.
Note: American high school or college wrestling, often mistaken for freestyle wrestling, embodies different rules and is more accurately termed scholastic or collegiate wrestling.