Get Involved: WRESTLING

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Wrestling explained (Part one)

Wrestling is a sport which links the modern Olympics with those of ancient Greece.

Competitors contest a range of weight categories - the heaviest ever Olympic wrestler was American Chris Mason, who took part in the 1972 Super-Heavyweight freestyle competition. He weighed in at an eye-watering 29.4 stones.

In the Greco-Roman discipline (in which men only compete at the Olympics), competitors are not allowed to attack their opponent's legs or use their own legs to trip, lift or execute other moves. In freestyle, the legs are allowed to come into play.

Countries in and around the former Soviet Union have traditionally dominated the sport - particularly the Greco-Roman form. They face greater competition from the USA in freestyle.

Great Britain has no pedigree in the sport, and British Wrestling are only being allowed to send one athlete to London 2012 after the British Olympic Association (BOA) decided to reduce their original allocation of three host-nation berths after performance targets were missed.

Why is it good for you?

Wrestling, in both forms, provides a full-body workout that raises the heart rate to help improve cardiovascular fitness, reflexes, balance and timing. This form of exercise improves stamina, lowers blood pressure and helps move oxygen throughout the body more effectively.

Greco-Roman wrestlers develop tremendous upper-body strength relative to their size as they are not allowed to use their legs to attack when competing. The shoulder and neck muscles are strengthened by both forms.

The efforts involved in wrestling will see approximately 450 calories burned during a 45-minute training session. This helps remove fat deposits from the body.

The throws and holds involved in wrestling provide an effective form of self-defence training. It also teaches people to maintain their cool and think clearly in moments of physical combat.

Many competitions are team-based, meaning wrestling is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people as you train in groups. Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.

Get involved

There are currently more than 40 wrestling clubs in the United Kingdom and British Wrestling's club finder can help you find the nearest one to you.

Club secretaries and coaches will be able to tell you training times suitable to your age and ability, as well as what you will need to wear when you get there.

To ensure safety, it is recommended that knee pads, elbow pads and headgear are worn at all times. Beginners can just wear shorts and t-shirt for their first few sessions before buying specialised wrestling shoes and a singlet at a later date.

For those looking to progress, membership of British Wrestling provides insurance which allows you to train towards taking part in competition and progress through the International Federation of Associated Wrestling awards system.

For people outside of England, visit the Northern Ireland Wrestling Association and Scottish Wrestling Association websites to find out what schemes are available in your country. The Welsh Wrestling Association can be contacted on 01691 648728.

More on the British Wrestling website

Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?

'Join In Local Sport' aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August, 2012 - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.

More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.

As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.

Find an event near you.

The competition format at London 2012

  • From Sunday 5 to Sunday 12 August, 344 athletes will compete at the ExCeL Arena.
  • There are two disciplines of wrestling at London 2012: Greco-Roman and freestyle.
  • In all weight categories, the competition follows a straight knockout system
  • Each event in both Greco-Roman and freestyle will have qualification rounds, second rounds, quarter-finals and semi-finals, before a repechage and the bronze and gold medal contests.
  • A drawing of lots is held to decide the draw for each weight category.
  • All wrestlers beaten by one of the finalists at any stage of the competition, up to and including the semi-finals, enter the repechage for the chance to win a bronze medal.
  • The winners of each repechage group are awarded bronze medals.

More on the London 2012 website

The rules at London 2012

Matches consist of three two-minute periods, with 30-second intervals in between each.

The objective for each wrestler in both forms is to pin their opponent by holding their shoulder blades to the mat for a second. This manoeuvre, also known as a fall, ends the contest.

Bouts are judged on points or a fall. Wrestlers score points for a variety of throws and holds.

If neither competitor executes a fall then the match is won by the wrestler who wins two of the three periods. If the score is 2-0 after the first two periods there is no third period.

In Greco-Roman, the wrestlers use only their arms and upper bodies to attack, and can only hold those same parts of their opponents.

Freestyle is a much more open form in which wrestlers also use their legs and may hold opponents above or below the waist.

If there is neither a fall nor a 10-point difference between the two wrestlers, the winner at the end of the match is the one who has scored the most points.

More on the Team GB website

Ones to watch

British Wrestling could not meet the BOA's performance criteria and Olga Butkevych in the women's freestyle 55kg is the only entrant from the host nation.

In the freestyle, Japan's Saori Yoshida (55kg) is remarkably dominant - she is unbeaten at the Olympics, World and Asian Championships.

Iran is a major force in the men's, where Mehdi Taghavi (66kg) and Reza Yazdani (96kg) are both world champions.

Cuba's Mijain Lopez will be looking to defend his 120kg Olympic Greco-Roman crown but Turkey's Riza Kayaalp beat him in last year's final of the World Championships. The Iranians are very competitive in the lighter weights.


Wrestling is a sport which links the modern Olympics with those of ancient Greece, but its origins are to be found even earlier in human existence.

Cave drawings and wall paintings dating back to 3000 BC depict people wrestling.

Records of the sport were kept from 776 BC and they were a key component of the ancient Olympics.

When the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 wrestling was included as a way of giving spectators a flavour of what the games would have been like in ancient Greece.

Wrestling was first held at the ancient Olympics in 708 BC, and the 1900 Games were the only modern edition where wrestling was not present in any shape or form.

Greco-Roman was on show in 1986 to give a flavour of the ancient Games, while freestyle was introduced at the St Louis Games in 1904.

The 1912 Greco-Roman middleweight semi-final lasted an incredible 11 hours. The eventual winner, Klein of Russia, was so exhausted that he was unable to take part in the final.

Up until 1920, only one form of the sport was included, usually the Greco-Roman version. From 1924 onwards, both the freestyle and Greco-Roman formats have been commonplace.

At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the Greco-Roman wrestling programme was reduced from 10 to eight weight categories, while freestyle dropped from 10 to seven categories in 2004 to allow for the introduction of women's wrestling.

More on the IOC website