2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Sports

Wrestling is an ancient physical combat sport in which two opponents attempt to control the other through grappling techniques without the use of striking. In modern systems, wrestlers score points for various accomplishments including, depending upon the style, takedowns, reversals, escapes and near-falls. Besides winning a match by points, a wrestler can win at any time during a match by turning his opponent to his back, known as a pin.

Wrestling is often categorized as one of the martial arts; its virile image and usefulness as military training helped generate such multi-cultural evolutions. Some evidence suggests that wrestling may be the oldest sport known to man. A large amount of early artwork, for example, depicts matches between two opponents. One of the most famous wresting matches appears in the book of Genesis where Jacob wrestles an angel and is renamed Israel for his struggle, which translates to "Wrestles (or struggles) with God". Wrestling has evolved into many different styles and forms, ranging from world-wide, commercialised stadium events to less publicized, local amateur competitions.

Some sports commentators have observed that wrestling may be the most demanding athletic sport physically and mentally, combining a need for incredible strength, speed, conditioning and the memorizing of at least dozens and sometimes hundreds of offensive and defensive moves. Participants who are competitive in the sport typically train year-round and many lose weight to become even more competitive by participating at lower weight classes.

"The Wrestlers" -Pankratiasts- from Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
"The Wrestlers" - Pankratiasts- from Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

According to the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), the governing body of international amateur wrestling, the four main forms of amateur competitive wrestling practiced internationally today are Greco-Roman wrestling, Freestyle wrestling, Judo and Sambo. Staged grappling is commonly called professional wrestling.

Geographic popularity

Wrestling is a major sport in the United States and Canada and most nations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. In Asia, it is particluarly prominent in traditional nomadic warrior cultures, such as the Turkic and Mongolian steppe peoples.

In the United States, there are several geographic pockets in the nation where the sport is particularly advanced, competitive and popular, including areas of Illinois, California, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Among these, many of the sport's best competitors have come from northeast Ohio, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania (especially the Lehigh Valley and Coal Regions).

The sport is also one of many athletic competitions in the Summer Olympic Games.

Collegiate wrestling

On the collegiate level, several universities are known for regularly having competitive wrestling teams, including Iowa State, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Iowa, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Minnesota, & Oklahoma State University. For a discussion of the style used in American college competition, see Collegiate wrestling.


In international competition, wrestling is conducted under either freestyle or Greco-Roman rules. Historically, there are almost as many wrestling styles as there are national traditions. A traditional form of wrestling is called a folk style. Folk wrestling styles include Schwingen in Switzerland, Glima in Iceland, Shuai jiao in China, Böke in Outer and Inner Mongolia, Tuvan Khuresh, Ssireum in Korea, Native American wrestling, Pehlwani in Iran and India, Sumo and Judo in Japan, and Yağlı güreş, a type of "oiled" wrestling (common in Ancient Mediterranean cultures) still popular in Turkey.

In addition to its sporting nature, wrestling has often been utilized as the basis for popular spectacle, or theatrical drama. Circus and similar shows worldwide have historically included sideshow wrestling matches involving monetary wagers and even people competing against animals (particularly bears or kangaroos). Such "show wrestling" has continued to this day in professional wrestling spectaculars choreographed for maximum auditory, visual, and dramatic effects. Often the winner of commercial contests is determined in advance, but some styles such as Sumo, Mixed Martial Arts and Real Pro Wrestling remain true sporting contests while technically meeting the definition of wrestling that is professional.

Wrestling as military training

Wrestling has historically been used by militaries as a part of training. Armies in China have used it for several thousand years.

The most detailed description of wrestling used in actual warfare comes from the historian Procopius, writing of the Roman versus Persian war in the 6th Century A.D. The following is his remarkable account of two duels between a Roman wrestling teacher and two Persian professional soldiers ( Procopius, History of the Wars I.XIII.29):

"But one Persian, a young man, riding up very close to the Roman army, began to challenge all of them, calling for whoever wished to do battle with him. And no one of the whole army dared face the danger, except a certain Andreas, one of the personal attendants of Bouzes, not a soldier nor one who had ever practised at all the business of war, but a trainer of youths in charge of a certain wrestling school in Byzantium. Through this it came about that he was following the army, for he cared for the person of Bouzes in the bath; his birthplace was Byzantium. This man alone had the courage, without being ordered by Bouzes or anyone else, to go out of his own accord to meet the man in single combat. And he caught the barbarian while still considering how he should deliver his attack, and hit him with his spear on the right breast. And the Persian did not bear the blow delivered by a man of such exceptional strength, and fell from his horse to the earth. Then Andreas with a small knife slew him like a sacrificial animal as he lay on his back, and a mighty shout was raised both from the city wall and from the Roman army. But the Persians were deeply vexed at the outcome and sent forth another horseman for the same purpose, a manly fellow and well favoured as to bodily size, but not a youth, for some of the hair on his head already shewed grey. This horseman came up along the hostile army, and, brandishing vehemently the whip with which he was accustomed to strike his horse, he summoned to battle whoever among the Romans was willing. And when no one went out against him, Andreas, without attracting the notice of anyone, once more came forth, although he had been forbidden to do so by Hermogenes. So both rushed madly upon each other with their spears, and the weapons, driven against their corselets, were turned aside with mighty force, and the horses, striking together their heads, fell themselves and threw off their riders. And both the two men, falling very close to each other, made great haste to rise to their feet, but the Persian was not able to do this easily because his size was against him, while Andreas, anticipating him (for his practice in the wrestling school gave him this advantage), smote him as he was rising on his knee, and as he fell again to the ground dispatched him. Then a roar went up from the wall and from the Roman army as great, if not greater, than before; and the Persians broke their phalanx and withdrew to Ammodios, while the Romans, raising the pæan, went inside the fortifications; for already it was growing dark. Thus both armies passed that night."

The main objectives of wrestling in military training are:

  • Superior balance developed from trying to keep one's balance while at the same time trying to upset the opponent's. In war, falling to the ground can quickly make one vulnerable to weapon thrusts, so good balance is a must for warriors.
Khuresh (Tuvan wrestling)
Khuresh (Tuvan wrestling)
  • Grip strength and manual dexterity, for the use of weapons and combat gear
  • Focused and powerful pushing-power. In combat one must smash or thrust weapons forward at one's adversary.
  • The ability to get up quickly if fallen down, a very important survival skill on the battlefield (see above).
  • Improved stamina, endurance and strength.
  • Physical skills to control prisoners, or to carry wounded comrades.
  • Cultivation of aggressiveness and improved reaction time.
  • Camaraderie, diversion and entertainment.

Wrestling is a safe way to achieve the above goals since it does not use dangerous objects or weapons.

Wrestling and mixed martial arts

Wrestling has gained tremendous respect among martial arts practicioners, especially with the advent of mixed martial arts competition. Many fighters identify wrestling itself or Submission wrestling as their style of fighting. Wrestling forms the base of some of the most respected self-defense and mixed martial arts systems in the world, such as Shootfighting.

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