A wrestling catch stance

What Is Wrestling About?

Wrestling is a combat style of fighting that involves clinch trips and throws, all kinds of takedowns, joint locks, pins, and other grappling holds, where your goal is to defeat your opponent via legal techniques and maneuvers.

What Is Wrestling About?
What Is Wrestling About?

There are two wrestling styles popular all over the globe – Greco Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling style. But you can find many others, including professional wrestling, folk wrestling styles, and associated wrestling styles (depending on geolocation and culture). Many states have their styles (for example, oil wrestling in Turkey), and this sport is a great base for mixed martial arts too.

Is Wrestling A Sport?

Yes, it is. For example, you can see Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling in the Olympic Games, but other forms are not part of the Olympic family. But, for example, you have World championships in catch wrestling or folk wrestling, despite this discipline is not found in the Olympic Games.

Despite some styles of wrestling don’t occur in the modern Olympic Games, it is a sport because there are legal and illegal moves, prohibited techniques, and maneuvers that might disqualify you from the bout.

For example, amateur wrestling is way different than professional wrestling, while Olympic wrestling includes two disciplines with very much different rule sets. But as long as there are rules, it is a sport, not street combat or a combination of military exercises.

Is Wrestling Fake?

Professional wrestling matches are fake because fighters usually make an agreement before the fight – they know who is going to win, moves are fake and controlled, and every single fighter knows what to do to keep the crowd entertained.

Yet, every other wrestling style isn’t fake – fighters compete until one of them loses the fight, and the outcomes are not planned ahead of the battle. Every single competition under the International amateur wrestling federation banner is very real!

Is Wrestling A Violent Sport?

Well, there are very dangerous throws, like, for example, the German suplex, in Olympic Games. So yes, popular Greek wrestling can be violent because you must fish for the big amplitude to score more points and score win over your opponent. Freestyle wrestling is less violent as the majority of moves are focused on your opponent’s legs and the area under the waist.

Wrestling in mixed martial arts is less violent because your opponent rarely goes for the slam and rather chooses to throw you to the canvas and unload a barrage of punches off the top to finish the fight. Some international wrestling disciplines can be dangerous, but it depends from federation to federation.

What Makes Wrestling Special?

Wrestling teaches you that hard work, sacrifice, and determination can get you anywhere in life. Big wrestlers are our local heroes, idols, and people who inspire us.

This martial art teaches you to succeed in sports at a young life, then it unlocks the door to a greater level of success in life. International wrestling helps you defeat all obstacles, get out of your comfort zone, and face your greatest fears. Toughness and determination will come to the fore, sooner or later.

It is never easy to step on the wrestling mats and compete against another guy, you need serious courage and bravery to do something like that. Greek wrestling is even harder, as you must defeat your opponent without grabbing his clothes or placing your arms under the level of his waist.


Wrestling was first seen around 15,000 years in cave drawings. It is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. Babylonians and Egyptians showed the majority of techniques present in the sport nowadays. It is mentioned in Homer’s book “Iliad” and also in the Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana.

This sport became extremely popular in ancient Greece. Wrestling competition was known for way more brutal rules, and it had an important spot in the ancient Olympic Games.

Ancient Rome and Roman Empire borrowed many moves but eliminated dangerous maneuvers from popular “Greek wrestling”, so it was turned into a sport with a strict rule set. That’s why today you call it Greco Roman wrestling. Many philosophers, leaders, and celebrities of the Roman era were trained in wrestling as it helped their reputation grow.

During the Middle Ages (fifth century to the fifteenth century) wrestling remained popular in many royal families in France, Japan, and England. French wrestling was created in Middle Ages too.

Early British settlers brought this fighting style to America and found out that it was also popular in native American tribes too. Amateur wrestling flourished throughout the early years of the North American colonies and served as a popular activity in military exercises, country fairs, and holiday celebrations.

The first-ever National wrestling tournament took place in New York in 1888. It was also a part of the modern Olympic Games in St. Louis in 1904.

The first international wrestling governing body, UWW (United World Wrestling), was established in 1912, in Antwerpen, Belgium. This year also brought the first American NCAA division wrestling competition (Ames, Iowa).


What Is Wrestling About?
What Is Wrestling About?

Here are some of the earliest wrestling writings in ancient mythology:

  • Gilgamesh wrestled Enkidu to establish his credibility as a leader in “The Epic of Gilgamesh”.

  • The rise of Zeus, an ancient Greek God, happened after a wrestling match with his father Cronus. Heracles and Theseus were known for wrestling combats between men and beasts.

  • In Mahabharata, there is a match between Bhima and Jarasandha, two accomplished wrestlers.

  • Rustam of the Shahnameh is regarded by Iranian pahlevans as the greatest wrestler of his time.

Who Invented Wrestle?

Wrestling dates back to ancient Sumeria, but Greek civilization is credited for the first performance of this sport, which happened in the ancient Olympic games in 708 BCE (old Olympic wrestling). It was developed as a training combat for soldiers who were in constant danger from Romans and other tribes.

Modern International Disciplines

There are many modern wrestling disciplines, but we will focus on the most often ones, as some of them serve to entertain the crowd in a specific geographic area (for example, pahlevans in Iran or oil wrestling in Turkey).

Greco Roman

What Is Wrestling About?
What Is Wrestling About?

Greco Roman wrestling is one of the most popular modern wrestling disciplines nowadays. In this sport, you mustn’t get a hold of your opponent under the level waist, nor you can think of grabbing the opponent’s clothing – it will lead to a penalty. It was turned into a sport during the Roman Empire era.

High-amplitude throws bring you more points. Wrestling is very popular in high schools and colleges in the USA, while there are many clubs and dojos in other areas of the world.

Freestyle Wrestling

Freestyle is the most liberal style of wrestling. You can grab the opponent’s legs, thighs, and even upper body. There is a female wrestling competition in this discipline too.

This martial art is also pretty much applicable in mixed martial art fights – there are so many ways to score a takedown or pin your opponent to the canvas and win the bout.

Amateur Wrestling

There is modern amateur wrestling, also called amateur pankration, derived from the words pan and Kratos (all of the power). It was introduced in 648 BC in the ancient Olympic games in Greece.

Nowadays, modern amateur wrestling (pankration) is one form of MMA, which allows both striking and grappling techniques.

Belt Wrestling Alysh

This is a Turkish word for central Asian folk wrestling style. Fighters wear jackets, belts, and trousers, and fighters must retain hold of each other’s belts. That’s why you call it a “belt wrestling match” too. This is a very entertaining style of wrestling to watch.

Beach Wrestling

Established by FILA in 2004, beach wrestling is the form of standing wrestling, both male and female, inside a sand-filled circle measuring 7 meters (23 ft) in diameter. This is the oldest version of international wrestling, where the two warriors wear swimsuits, spandex, or athletic shorts.

The beach wrestling rules were modified in 2015, and now you can score points by pushing your opponent out of the ring, doing takedowns, or bringing your foe down to his back.

Wrestling In The Modern Olympic Games

Wrestling first appeared in Athens games in 1896 (Greco Roman), then we haven’t seen it in 1900. Since 1904, there is no on and offs, it is a constant part of the Olympic family.

The International Olympic Committee allowed freestyle wrestling in 1904, a style of wrestling that gave a fighter way more liberality, and the ability to win the fight via grabbing, pushing, and tripping under the waist.

Women’s freestyle wrestling happened in the Olympic games for the first time in Athens in 2004, while Greco-Roman is still a man event only.

Rules And Regulations

The wrestler should utilize four main moves to win the bout: takedown, escape, reversal, and near fall. There are weight classes, so you can say no to “freak fights” between two competitors. Penalties will lead to losing points, so fighters should stay away from making them too.

One or two penalties can be assessed against the fighter, depending on the severity of his actions. You mustn’t strike your rival in any way, or grab your opponent’s clothes, mat, or headgear during combat. You are not allowed to lock or overlap your hands too.

Unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness also leads to a penalty. Stalling leads to one warning, but the next stall attempt results in a penalty and points for your rival. Also, you are not allowed to start the match in the wrong position, cause the referee will sanction you.

Several penalties are allowed in the bout, but it is always better to focus on legal techniques and forget about illegal moves in this professional sport.

The first and the second penalty brings one point to your opponent, while the third warning means two points against you. The referee can also signal “flagrant misconduct”, which means automatic disqualification (for example, headbutting your opponent or spiking or any maneuver to hurt your opponent).

You can score wrestling points in 4 ways:

  • Takedown – drag your opponent to the ground and control him – 2 points.

  • Escape – one point, evade when you’re pinned to the mat.

  • Reversal – the opponent underneath sweeps his opponent and ends up on the top controlling him.

  • Near fall – when the opponent is nearly pinned, but his shoulder blades were four inches off the mat, one shoulder blade was touching the ground, or when one of the competitors was forced into a high bridge or back with one or both elbows – 2 (two-second hold) or 3 points (5+ seconds hold).

Greco Roman Wrestling

Any grabbing below the opponent’s waist might result in a penalty in this Olympic sport, while multiple penalties could lead to disqualification. But aside from trips and takedowns under the waist level, rules are not that much different.

You can score via actions below the belt in freestyle, while it’s not possible in the ancient Greek style of fighting. Also, throws with a big arch or amplitude can bring you 5 points (it’s rare though).

How Do You Win A Wrestling Match?

You can win in two ways in a wrestling match – via pin or points. You can pin your foe’s both shoulder blades to the canvas for two seconds or longer, he’ll automatically win the match. In any other scenario, points matter. The last guy who scored the point wins when the bout is declared a draw. When there is no pinning the fighter with the greater number of points is going to win the battle.

The United World Wrestling (UWW) And The International Federation Of Associated Wrestling Styles

United World Wrestling (UWW) represents the international governing body for amateur wrestling as a sport. It oversees wrestling at the Olympics. UWW presides over international competitions for various forms of wrestling, which include Greco-Roman, freestyle, grappling, and other forms for men and women.

The FILA means an international wrestling federation that holds events around the globe, and it’s the governing body of international amateur wrestling.

Physical Benefits Of Wrestling

Wrestling is one of the most difficult activities that waste tons of calories and strengthens all the muscles in the human body. This activity puts your whole body on fire and makes even the smallest muscle work throughout the motion. Wrestling is a full-body workout that especially strengthens your core muscles, shoulders, and legs.

This vigorous activity boosts endurance and cardio. It also has a positive influence on your bloodstream and heart, plus it decreases blood pressure. Wrestling sessions are excellent stress relief activities, which consequently leads to better overall mental health too.

There is also a positive transfer between wrestling and other sports, as you can use some of the wrestling moves in other sports disciplines. It also boosts the levels of your testosterone and turns you into a more muscular person – your body will look better, plus your self-confidence is going to rock.

Can Wrestling Be Used In Self-Defense Situations?

Wrestling can come in handy for self-defense, but there are both good and bad sides. Different styles of wrestling can help you defeat your opponent because you can grab his clothes in the street. I will list the positive and negative sides of modern-era wrestling in the street.

Good sides include:

  • Clinching – when the street thug tries to take you down or teach you a lesson via slaps or grabbing your waist/chest, he’ll be in big trouble.

  • Takedowns – you can take the bigger guy down to the street, even if you come from a traditional form of wrestling, gable grip is so dangerous against street bullies.

  • Top control – when a catch as catch can wrestler pins you to the ground, he can teach you a lesson via punches or a submission. For example, Greco Roman style dude will control you like a professional.

  • Strong upper body – striking is prohibited in this popular sport, but wrestlers can eat tons of big shots thanks to their powerful upper bodies. Bullies rarely kick opponents’ legs or calves.

But here are some downsides:

  • Fighting multiple opponents – wrestlers don’t know to strike, they’ll try to take the opponent down and punch him out, and the other guy can kick them to the head from behind;

  • You can’t take everybody to the ground simultaneously – an armed thug might hit you before you realize what happened, and you don’t learn to defend against knives, bats, or other blunt objects.

Overall, any wrestling style is very beneficial when you fight one on one, but wrestling requires extra Krav Maga training for greater success against a group of bullies.

Can Wrestling Be Used In Different Martial Arts Competitions?

Of course, it is very efficient for MMA if you learn to land ground and pound punches and elbows. Catch as catch can come in handy in BJJ competitions, while freestyle wrestling and folk wrestling might work in pankration or Wotore competitions.

But, unfortunately, you can’t use freestyle wrestling in a Judo competition, as you’re not allowed to grab the opponent under the waist, while some Greco Roman wrestling moves are legal in a Judo combat.

Generally, it depends from discipline to discipline. And now the greatest parody – you can use professional wrestling moves in Vale Tudo fights, but don’t expect to win, those guys know to strike and they are way faster than competitors who take part in staged combats.

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
Article by

Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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