Wrestling is one of the oldest sports – if not the oldest. Sumerian sculptures and low reliefs were found, dating back to before 3000 BC and depicting wrestlers. Added to the ancient Olympic Games in 708 BC, wrestling is a sport steeped in Olympic heritage. At the time, wrestling was the key discipline of the pentathlon, because it was the last one to be held and thus designated the winner of the pentathlon, which was the only athlete to be crowned during the Games. Modern wrestling consists of two separate disciplines, Greco-Roman wrestling, a wrestling style based on the ancient sport, and freestyle wrestling, a more modern format.
Brief overview of the rules
Each wrestling style has its own rules. In Greco-Roman wrestling, competitors use only their arms and upper bodies to attack. Freestyle wrestling is a much more open form in which competitors also use their legs and can hold opponents above or below the waist.
However, the objective is the same in both styles. Contested on a circular combat area, a bout consists of two three-minute periods. Wrestlers must either use their bare hands to pin their opponent’s two shoulders down to the mat without holding them by their singlet (this is called a ‘fall’) or, if no fall is secured during the bout, have the most points at the end of regulation time by performing popular takedown and reversal moves.
Owing to its origins, Greco-Roman wrestling has been a blue-ribbon Olympic event ever since the first modern Games were held in Athens in 1896. It became a permanent fixture on the Olympic programme in 1908. Freestyle wrestling made its debut a few years later at the St Louis 1904 Games and has featured on the Olympic programme ever since the Antwerp 1920 Games. Women’s freestyle wrestling has been on the Olympic programme since the Athens 2004 Games.
Former USSR dominates Olympic wrestling, followed by other countries such as the United States, Georgia, Russia, Turkey and Japan – the country at the top of the women’s wrestling medal table, clinching 11 medals out of the 18 up for grabs.
Events in 2024
Wrestling events will take place between the 5th and the 11th of August.
Women’s freestyle events
Men’s greco-roman events
Men’s freestyle events
Venue in 2024
© Naomi Baker/Getty Images