15 Amazing Wrestling Facts We Bet That You Never Knew!

Akinwalere Olaleye
Jan 23, 2024 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Jan 21, 2022
Wrestling is a combat sport requiring a lot of strength and stamina.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.2 Min

If there is one sport where muscular strength matters the most, then it is wrestling.

Wrestling is a global sport. Millions of people around the world tune in to watch wrestling events where well-built athletes try to overpower each other.

Many people think of the modern Olympic Games and the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) when they hear wrestling. However, it does not mean a single sport or event because there are many different forms. Each of these forms are practiced in different parts of the world, which makes wrestling a global combat sport.

The Origin Of Wrestling

Ever since humans existed and learned to live in communities, they looked for ways to entertain themselves. Sports is one of the oldest forms of entertainment. Many of the sports we play today began tens of thousands of years ago. These sports include gymnastics, boxing, swimming, and archery. Archery, where athletes aim at a target using bows, is thought to have been invented in 20,000 BC! Wrestling is also one of the oldest sports that is still popular to this day.

Wrestling has a rich history that dates back several millennia. Historians have traced the existence of wrestling to cave drawings in Egypt and ancient Babylonia. These are supposedly 15,000 years old. The drawings depict wrestlers using modern-day moves and techniques used in this sport. In Greek mythology, Zeus supposedly won a wrestling match by defeating his father, Cronus, and became the ruler of the world. Similar literary references to wrestling exist in the ancient Indian Vedas and the Old Testament. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when wrestling began as a sport. However, it is the Greeks who invented wrestling to train their soldiers for hand-to-hand combat.

The first recorded events of wrestling were during the ancient Olympic Games. These were held every four years in Greece from 776 BC to 393 AD. Wrestling was one of the main medal-winning sports to feature at the Olympic Games. This sport was also included in the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece in 1896. The sport was brought to America by English settlers. English settlers also discovered a form of hand combat sport already popular with Native American tribes. During the early years of the USA, wrestling was quite popular and wrestling events were held at fairs, carnivals, and various festivals. In 1888, the first organized wrestling tournament was held in New York City. In 1904, Saint Louis, MO, hosted the first wrestling competition of the modern Olympic Games. FILA, or the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, was founded in 1912 in Antwerp, Belgium as the governing body for amateur wrestling. Today, it operates as United World Wrestling as the primary wrestling federation. It organizes the annual World Wrestling Championships where the world's best wrestlers compete in a freestyle wrestling format.

Wrestling Techniques

Wrestling is diverse since its practiced all around the world. Every region has developed its own techniques and rules for a wrestling match. However, there is a lot in common as well. For example, hand-to-hand combat is common in all variations. The athlete who pins their opponent on the mat is the winner, and this is the same in every region.

The earliest version of wrestling practiced in Greece was brutal. Some historic records suggest that the athletes wrestled naked with their bodies covered in olive oil. The oldest forms of wrestling were similar to today's freestyle wrestling competitions. The wrestler who first pinned down their opponent either on their knees, hips, or back won the competition. Since it was battled mostly by Greek soldiers, the fights were severe and deadly. After Greece's invasion by the Roman Empire, the Romans adopted the sport and eliminated much of the brutality to replace deadly conflict. The Greeks feared that the intensity and originality of wrestling would be lost. The negotiations resulted in Greco-Roman Wrestling. The techniques and moves closely resembled the Greek wrestling style, but the main difference was athletes could not hold their opponents below their waist. There were also restrictions on trips, holding the opponent by the legs. Due to these restrictions, pinning down the opponent became tough in Greco-Roman wrestling.

Today, modern freestyle wrestling is the most common wrestling style. UWW states that it originated in Great Britain and the United States as 'catch-as-catch-can' wrestling. The wrestlers start out in the standing position with one hand on each other's shoulders. They then can use any of the approved moves and techniques to take down their opponent. There are dozens of techniques wrestlers use to win wrestling matches. The basic shoot, single-leg takedown, and double leg takedown are some of the most common and entertaining moves. Another technique is lifting and throwing your opponent down. A wrestler starts by getting hold of their opponent's waist and locking their arms around. Then, they push through their legs to pin their opponent to the floor.

The techniques vary by region as well. Every region has its own style that influences how the game is played. Folkstyle wrestling was invented in China in 1180. It is a bit different than folkstyle wrestling of France, Turkey or India. French wrestling has different moves than oil wrestling that is played in Turkey. Mixed Martial Arts or MMA has a different set of techniques that are considered legal. This goes to show that there is a lot of variety within the sport.

The modern freestyle wrestling is the most popular form of the sport.

What is the significance of wrestling and why is it played?

People have been wrestling ever since there was a need for entertainment. Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Indians, and the Chinese enjoyed watching wrestlers fight it out. However, wrestling was more than just entertainment in the past.

In Ancient Greece, wrestling was considered a science and a form of art. Wrestlers were considered to be artists. From an early age, young men were trained in wrestling. Through their fights, they would showcase their talent, strength, and leadership skills. The sport occupied a prominent place in the literature and philosophy of Ancient Greece. In Roman, Egyptian, and Japanese cultures too, wrestling enjoyed a prominent and respectful position. It remained popular through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance age. Middle Ages wrestling was quite popular among the royal families of England, France, and Japan. They celebrated the wrestlers and encouraged its practice.

In modern times, wrestling is a professional sport. It is part of various leagues and events other than the Olympics. Professional athletes that represent their countries at world events win gold medals, silver medals, and so on. They are also awarded by the state, so wrestling is a career for these athletes. At high school level, there is amateur wrestling. Scholastic wrestling is amateur wrestling for high school students. At college level, there is collegiate wrestling. Thousands of college students take part in intercollegiate wrestling events. For young students, this sport helps to build character and sportsmanship. They take part in NCAA Championships and represent their respective colleges. Men's NCAA sports have been hugely popular in US and Canada. Female wrestling is getting just popular which suggests its no longer just a male sport. With hard work and dedication, some wrestlers make it to the Olympic Games from collegiate wrestling. It is an ideal sport for many students to take up and pursue a career in.

Is WWE and wrestling the same?

Wrestling ranks as one of the most popular sports in the US, even more than in Russia and Japan. Many kids in the US are introduced to wrestling through WWE or World Wrestling Entertainment. The fights and the wrestlers that feature in them are hugely popular.

From a technical standpoint, WWE matches are not wrestling. Firstly, WWE is a publicly-traded entertainment company. The fights that feature in WWE are partially-choreographed, scripted, and storyline-driven. While the fights and moves are real, the results of most matches are already decided. Even the results of programs like RAW and Smackdown are pre-decided. Any unscripted event you may see in WWE is called a 'shoot' in wrestling. This is completely opposite to wrestling matches at the Olympics or NCAA Championships. Any form of fixing will get the wrestlers disqualified. The fights are neither choreographed nor influenced by any other factors in wrestling. Wrestlers need to wrestle and win on their own merits. Another big difference between wrestling and WWE are the rules. In WWE, the wrestling style is more versatile with the use of objects like chairs and sticks. All of these things are included intentionally to increase viewership. However, in freestyle wrestling at the Olympics, there are strict rules wrestlers have to follow. The types of moves are limited as well.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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