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Of the two styles of wrestling, Greco-Roman and freestyle, Greco- Roman is the classic form, the style of wrestling practiced in ancient Greece . Although differences in techniques are numerous, the most obvious is that Greco-Roman is confined to upper-body grappling. Freestyle, by contrast, involves the entire body, and leg attacks are permitted.

Greco-Roman matches involve classic throws in which a wrestler grasps his opponent above the waist and actually throws him over his head. Freestyle wrestlers use their legs to attack as well as to counter-attack, using moves such as a foot-sweep in which one wrestler attempts to take the other off his feet, or a simple leg grab with which leverage can be applied. Europeans tend to favor the Greco-Roman classical style, while North America ’s best wrestlers are attracted to the freestyle. United States collegiate wrestling, for example, is very similar to international freestyle.

Today, the training and techniques of each style are so specialized that most wrestlers concentrate on one style or the other. There are currently 14 different men’s wrestling divisions in Olympic competition, 7 categories in each of the two styles and 4 categories in women’s freestyle. With respect to total medals available, wrestling is a prolific sport in the Olympics, offering 54 possible medals—18 gold, 18 silver, and 18 bronze.

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The goal in wrestling is to “pin” an opponent within a circle marked out on a 12-square-meter mat. (At the 2000 Games the mat was cut off at the corners to form an octagon.) The competition area is a yellow circle 9 meters in diameter and 4-cm thick with a vinyl cover. The central wrestling area is a 7-meter yellow circle where most of the wrestling takes place. A central circle of 1 meter outlined in red within this larger circle is where the wrestlers begin their match. They return to this circle for par terre (literally, on the ground) when the referee tells them to.

A 1-meter red band on the outside of the central wrestling area marks the passivity zone. This area warns the wrestlers that they are close to the edge of the competition area. Finally, the entire circle has a blue border at least 1.5 meters wide known as the protection area.

The pin is comparable to a knockout in boxing, constituting an automatic victory. It is accomplished when one wrestler holds both his opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a half-second. If no pin occurs, the victory goes to the wrestler who has gained the most points. The match ends earlier if one of the wrestlers builds a lead of 10 points.

Freestyle - In freestyle, points may be earned for taking the opponent to the mat (1 point); gaining the upper position while on the mat (1 point); touching an opponent’s elbow, shoulder, or head to the mat (2 points); and taking an opponent directly from his feet to his back (3 points). There are many other legal offensive moves, but these are among the most dramatic.

Greco-Roman - In Greco-Roman wrestling, holds are permitted only above the waist. Spectacular throws are awarded the greatest number of points. These moves, which usually earn 3 points, are quite risky, even for the executor who must place himself in a vulnerable position just to achieve them. A fourth point may be earned in the throw for grand amplitude. It is essentially an appreciation point in recognition of the extra effort the throw requires.

A bout is controlled by four officials: mat chairman, judge, referee, and timekeeper. The referee oversees all action on the mat. Although no penalty points are subtracted for an illegal throw or hold, a wrestler may be disqualified for any move posing a physical danger to an opponent, e.g., choking, hitting, kicking, or biting. The referee also keeps the match moving along by calling the wrestlers to their feet if the bout appears to have reached an impasse.

A wrestling bout begins when the referee calls the wrestlers to the center of the mat. They are examined for correct attire, and the referee makes sure each has no oil or grease applied to his body (thereby making him slippery and hard to hold). The competitors retire to their respective corners until the referee whistles the start of the bout.

Each Olympic match lasts for two 3-minute periods. If necessary, the rules allow for one 3-minute overtime period per bout. A match is discontinued as the result of a fall or if one wrestler reaches a 10-point lead. If the time limit is reached without either a fall or a 10-point lead, the wrestler with the most points is pronounced the winner.

Both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at the Olympic Games follow the same weight categories. Women’s wrestling will be a medal sport for the first time at the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens , Greece .

News, History, and Fast Facts

  • Olympic wrestling is quite different than the "wrestling" you might see on television. The I.O.C. Wrestling page discusses Olympic wrestling history, competition format, equipment, glossary and history.
  • For complete information about playing, coaching, and watching wrestling, visit the EdGate School Athletic Center: Wrestling page.
  • The USOC site hits the mat with all the rules, history, and current headlines on headlocks.
  • To find out more about international amateur wrestling, visit the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) Web site.
  • Go to theMat.com and research wrestlers in Olympic history.
  • Research all of the gold medal winners in Freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling at Hickok Sports.

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Portions of the above text were excerpted from Share the Olympic Dream--Volume II.
© 2001 by Griffin Publishing Group/United States Olympic Committee.

For information on purchasing Griffin materials, please visit the Griffin Publishing Group Web site at http://www.griffinpublishing.com.


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