The origin of wrestling is actually very ancient. In the early days, it wasn’t necessarily a sport, and we don’t really know much about how our ancient ancestors saw wrestling. What we do know is that most cultures on the planet have some form of wrestling as part of their history, and in some countries, wrestling has become a standard way for people to compete. There are also forms of wrestling that are more for self-defense, and many self defense systems have some element of wrestling as part of their curriculum.
There are cave drawing that show people wrestling at least 15,000 years ago. When you consider that grabbing a person in self-defense is almost a natural human reaction, it is easy to see why the origin of wrestling probably dates back to the very beginnings of the human species. Some experts actually think that wrestling is the oldest kind of organized competition.
We may not know the origin of wrestling for the purposes of competition, but we do know that the ancient Greeks and Romans were very interested in wrestling for sport. In the early Olympics, wrestling was one of the most popular ways for people to compete, and sometimes people were severely injured through chokes and broken bones. They actually had many of the same wrestling moves that people use now, but they had fewer rules. Gradually, the sport softened over time, with the Romans being the first to refine the sport to make it a bit safer.
Folk wrestling competition styles exist all over the world, and these tend to have rules with ancient implications. The origin of wrestling styles in many different countries was as a training aid for military service. Wrestling helped people train their bodies and develop a fighting instinct. It could also be used to fight if you lost your weapon, and unlike striking, it worked just fine against people wearing armor. Eventually, wrestling also became a way of showing how tough you were compared to others, and men would compete to test their mettle.
The origin of wrestling tournaments with rules like we use today can generally be dated back to the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, wrestling was incorporated into the Olympic games. Modern wrestling is much more of a sport than the ancestral wrestling styles, but it still has a lot of the same techniques and ideas.