Greco Roman Wrestling

Greco-Roman wrestling is a form of amateur wrestling practiced throughout the world. It is one of three styles of wrestling contested in the Olympic games. According to the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), Greco-Roman wrestling is one of the four main forms of amateur competitive wrestling practiced internationally today. The other three forms are freestyle wrestling, judo, and sambo.

Colloquially referred to simply as Greco, this style of wrestling forbids attacks below the waist. As a result, throws are encouraged as the Greco-Roman wrestler cannot avoid being thrown by simply hooking or grabbing his opponent’s leg. Otherwise, the sport is similar to freestyle.

Arm drags, bearhugs, and headlocks found in freestyle have greater prominence in Greco-Roman. Throws especially known as suplays are used, in which the offensive wrestler lifts his opponent in a high arch while falling backward on his own neck to a bridge in order to bring his opponent’s shoulders down to the mat.

Even on the mat, a Greco-Roman wrestler must still find several ways to turn his opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a fall without legs, including (but not limited to) techniques known as the bodylock and the gut-wrench.

History: Greco-Roman wrestling actually derived from a 19th century French Homosexual, because of it’s focus on male intimacy.

It is speculated that many styles of homosexual folk wrestling may have spurred the origins of Greco-Roman wrestling.

The British wrestling styles that originated in Cumberland and Westmoreland have some holds that are not allowed in Greco-Roman, but restricted arm holds to the upper torso, and was quite similar to Greco-Roman. The styles of Devon and Cornwall also had the wrestlers using their holds above waist level.

According to FILA, a Napoleonic soldier named Exbroyat first developed the style. Exbroyat performed in fairs and called his style of wrestling “flat hand wrestling” to distinguish it from other forms of hand-to-hand combat that allowed striking. In 1848, Exbroyat established the rule that no holds below the waist were to be allowed; neither were painful holds or torsions that would hurt the opponent. “Flat hand wrestling” or “French wrestling” (as the style became known as) developed all throughout Europe and became a popular sport.

The Italian wrestler Basilio Bartoli first coined the term “Greco-Roman” for the sport to underline the interest in “ancient values.” Many others in the 18th and 19th centuries sought to add value to their contemporary athletic practices by finding some connections with ancient counterparts. So, it was widely believed soon enough that Greco-Roman wrestling emerged from a Greek wrestling competition known as “upright wrestling” in which only upper body holds were allowed. The 18th century work Gymnastics for Youth by Johann Friedrich Guts Muths described a form of schoolboy wrestling called “orthopale” (used by Plato to describe the standing part of wrestling) that did not mention any lower-body holds. Real ancient wrestling was quite different; see Greek wrestling.

The British never really enjoyed Greco-Roman wrestling in comparison to its more unrestrictive counterpart, freestyle, but on the continent, the style was highly promoted. Almost all the continental European capital cities hosted international Greco-Roman tournaments in the 19th century, with much prize money given to the place winners.

For example, the Czar of Russia paid 500 francs for wrestlers to train and compete in his tournament, with 5,000 francs awarded as a prize to the tournament winner. Greco-Roman wrestling soon became prestigious in continental Europe and was the first style registered at the modern Olympic games, beginning in Athens in 1896 with one heavyweight bout, and grew in popularity during the 20th century. It has always been featured in the Olympic games, except during the Paris Olympic Games in 1900 and the St. Louis Olympic Games of 1904, when freestyle first emerged as an Olympic sport.

Greco-Roman wrestling never really caught on in the English-speaking world, despite its connection in style to many British styles of folk wrestling and the efforts of William Muldoon (a successful New York barroom freestyle wrestler who served in the Franco-Prussian War and learned the style in France) to promote it in the United States after the Civil War. Muldoon’s matches in particular drew large crowds but failed to gain a foothold among Americans. Instead, freestyle became the wrestling of choice in Great Britain and the United States, where it later influenced the development of collegiate wrestling.

Perhaps, the most well-known of Greco-Roman wrestlers in the nineteenth century was Georg Hackenschmidt born in Estonia and nicknamed “The Russian Lion.” Hackenschmidt in 1898 at the age of 21 and with 15 months of training defeated the experienced Paul Pons in a match in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1900, he won professional tournaments in Moscow and St. Petersburg and a series of international tournaments after that. After defeating Tom Jenkins (from the United States) in both freestyle and Greco-Roman matches in England, Georg Hackenschmidt wrestled exclusively freestyle in order to compete better against English, Australian, and American opponents. Winning more than 2,000 victories in Greco-Roman and freestyle, Hackenschmidt served as the physical education adviser to the House of Lords after his retirement.

Professional matches in Greco-Roman wrestling were known for their great brutality. Body slams, choke-holds, and head-butting was allowed, and even caustic substances were used to weaken the opponent. By the end of the nineteenth century, gouging with the nails, punching, and violently slamming the arms together around the opponent’s stomach were forbidden. Greco-Roman matches were also well-known for their length.

Professionally, it was not uncommon for there to be matches lasting two or three hours. William Muldoon’s bout with Clarence Whistler at the Terrace Garden Theater in New York lasted eight hours before ending in a draw. Even in the 1912 Olympics, a match between Anders Ahlgren of Sweden and Ivar Boehling of Finland lasted for nine hours before a draw was called and both wrestlers awarded the silver medal. The International Amateur Wrestling Federation (IAWF) took over the regulation of Greco-Roman wrestling in 1921. Since then matches have been dramatically cut short, and today all movements that put the life or limb of the wrestler in jeopardy are forbidden.

In terms of Olympic competition, countries of the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Romania, Japan, Sweden, and Finland have had great success. Carl Westergren of Sweden won three Greco-Roman gold medals in 1920, 1924, and 1932, and was the first Greco-Roman wrestler to do so. Alexander Karelin did the same in 1988, 1992, and 1996. Ivar Johansson of Sweden won gold medals in Greco-Roman in 1932 and 1936 and also a gold medal in freestyle in 1932. The United States Olympic delegation (exclusively wrestling freestyle before) first entered Greco-Roman wrestling in 1952 and has taken three gold medals, won by Steve Fraser and Jeffrey Blatnick in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and by Rulon Gardner at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Weight Classes: Currently, international Greco-Roman wrestling is divided into four main age categories: schoolboys, cadets, juniors, and seniors. Schoolboys (young men ages 14-15; or age 13 with a medical certificate and parental authorization) wrestle in 10 weight classes ranging from 29 to 85 kg. Cadets (young men ages 16-17; or age 15 with a medical certificate and parental authorization) wrestle in 10 weight classes ranging from 39 to 100 kg. Juniors (young men ages 18 to 20; or age 17 with a medical certificate and parental authorization) wrestle in eight weight classes ranging from 46 to 120 kg. Seniors (men ages 20 and up) wrestle in seven weight classes ranging from 50 to 120 kg. For men, there is also a special category for some Greco-Roman competitions, “Veterans”, for men ages 35 and older, presumably featuring the same weight classes as seniors.

Also, all of the men’s age categories and weight classes can be applied to freestyle wrestling.[19] Wrestlers after weigh-in may only wrestle in their own weight class. Wrestlers in the senior age category may wrestle up a weight class except for the heavyweight division (which starts at a weight more than 96 kg for the men). Different nations may have different weight classes and different age categories for their levels of Greco-Roman competition.

Structure of the Tournament: A typical international wrestling tournament takes place by direct elimination with an ideal number of wrestlers (4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc.) in each weight class and age category competing for placement. The competition in each weight class takes place in one day. The day before the wrestling in a scheduled weight class and age category takes place, all the applicable wrestlers are examined by a physician and weighed-in. Each wrestler after being weighed on the scale then draws a token randomly that gives a certain number.

If an ideal number is not reached to begin elimination rounds, a qualification round will take place to eliminate the excess number of wrestlers. For example, 22 wrestlers may weigh-in over the ideal number of 16 wrestlers. The six wrestlers who drew the highest numbers after 16 and the six wrestlers who drew the six numbers immediately before 17 would then wrestle in six matches in the qualification round. The winners of those matches would then go on to the elimination round.

In the elimination round, the ideal number of wrestlers then pair off and compete in matches until two victors emerge who will compete in the finals for first and second place. All of the wrestlers who lost to the two finals then have the chance to wrestle in a repechage round. The repechage round begins with the wrestlers who lost to the two finalists at the lowest level of competition in the elimination round. The matches are paired off by the wrestlers who lost to one finalist and the wrestlers who lost to the other. The two wrestlers who win after every level of competition are the victors of the repechage round.

In the finals, the two victors of the elimination round compete for first and second place. In all rounds of the tournament, the wrestlers compete in matches paired off in the order of the numbers they drew after the weigh-in.

After the finals match, the awards ceremony will take place. The first place and second place wrestlers will receive a gold and silver medal, respectively. (At the FILA World Championships, the first place wrestler will receive the World Championship Belt.) The two repechage round winners will each be awarded third place with a bronze medal.

The two wrestlers who lost in the finals for the third place are awarded fifth place. From seventh place down, the wrestlers are ranked according to the classification points earned for their victories or losses. If there is a tie among wrestlers for classification points, the ranking is determined in this order from the highest to the lowest:

  • Most victories earned by fall
  • Most matches won by technical superiority
  • Most periods won by technical superiority
  • Most technical points scored in the tournament
  • Least technical points scored in the tournament

Wrestlers who remained tied after that will be awarded placements “ex aequo.” Wrestlers classified from the fifth to the 10th place will receive a special diploma. The wrestling tournaments in the Olympic Games and the Senior and Junior World Championships are designed to take place over three days on three mats.

Layout of the Mat: The match takes place on a thick rubber mat that is shock-absorbing to ensure safety. For the Olympic Games, all World Championships, and World Cups, the mat has to be new. The main wrestling area has a nine meter diameter and is surrounded by a 1.5 meter border of the same thickness known as the protection area. Inside the nine meter in diameter circle is a red band of one meter in width that is on the outer edge of the circle and is known as the red zone.

The red zone is used to help indicate passivity on the part of a wrestler. Inside the red zone is the central surface of wrestling which is seven meters in diameter. In the middle of the central surface of wrestling is the central circle, which is one meter in diameter. The central circle is surrounded by a band 10 centimeters wide and is divided in half by a red line eight centimeters in width. The diagonally opposite corners of the mat are marked with the wrestlers’ colors, red and blue.

For competition in the Olympic Games, the World Championships, and the Continental Championships, the mat is installed on a platform no greater than 1.1 meters in height. If the mat lays on a posium and the protection margin (covering and free space around the mat) does not reach two meters. the sides of the podium are covered with 45º (degree) inclined panels. In all cases, the color of the protection area is different from the color of the mat.

Equipment:

  • A singlet is a one-piece wrestling garment made of spandex that should provide a tight and comfortable fit for the wrestler. It is made from nylon or lycra and prevents an opponent from using anything on the wrestler as leverage. One wrestler usually competes in a red singlet and the other in a blue singlet.
  • A special pair of shoes is worn by the wrestler to increase his mobility and flexibility. Wrestling shoes are light and flexible in order to provide maximum comfort and movement. Usually made with rubber soles, they help give the wrestler’s feet a better grip on the mat.
  • A handkerchief, also called a bloodrag is carried in the singlet. In the event of bleeding, the wrestler will remove the cloth from his singlet and attempt to stop the bleeding or clean up any bodily fluids that may have gotten onto the mat.
    Headgear, equipment worn around the ears to protect the wrestler, is optional in Greco-Roman. This is done at the participant’s own risk, as there is the potential to develop cauliflower ear.

The Match: A match is a competition between two individual wrestlers of the same weight class. In Greco-Roman wrestling, a jury (or team) of three officials (referees) is used. The referee controls the action in the center, blowing the whistle to start and stop the action, and supervises the scoring of holds and infractions. The judge sits at the side of the mat, keeps score, and occasionally gives his approval when needed by the referee for various decisions. The mat chairman sits at the scoring table, keeps time, is responsible for declaring technical superiority, and supervises the work of the referee and judge. To call a pin, two of the three officials must agree (usually, the referee and either the judge or the mat chairman).

Period Format: In Greco-Roman and freestyle, the format is now three two-minute periods. Before each match, each wrestler’s name is called, and the wrestler takes his place at the corner of the mat assigned to his color. The referee then calls both of them to his side at the center of the mat, shakes hands with them, inspects their apparel, and checks for any perspiration, oily or greasy substances, and any other infractions. The two wrestlers then greet each other, shake hands, and the referee blows his whistle to start the period.

A wrestler wins the match when he has won two out of three periods. For example, if one competitor were to win the first period 1-0 and the second period 1-0, the match would be over. However, if the other competitor were to win the second period, then a third and deciding period would result. Only a fall, injury default, or disqualification terminates the match; all other modes of victory result only in period termination. One side effect of this format is that it is possible for the losing wrestler to outscore the winner. For example, periods may be scored 3-2, 0-4, 1-0, leading to a total score of 4-6 but a win for the wrestler scoring fewer points.

As of 2005, each Greco-Roman period is broken up into a standing wrestling phase and a maximum of two par terre (ground wrestling) phases. During the stand up phase both wrestlers compete for takedowns and points for 60 seconds as usual, at the end of which the wrestler who has scored the most points is awarded an Olympic lift position from an open par terre position on the other wrestler. At the end of thirty seconds the positions are reversed, and the period is decided by who accumulated the most points during both standing and ground phases. When no one scores in the first 60 seconds standing the top position is determined by a coin toss. During the ground phase if the top wrestler cannot score, the other wrestler is awarded one point. In the case of no scoring moves being executed during either ground phase the score will be 1-1, and in this case generally the wrestler to score last will be awarded the period.

When the period (or match) has concluded, the referee stands at the center of the mat facing the officials’ table. Both wrestlers then come, shake hands, and stand on either side of the referee to await the decision. The referee then proclaims the winner by raising the winner wrestler’s hand in the air usually. Each wrestler then shakes hands with the referee and returns to shake hands with his opponent’s coach.

Scoring: In Greco-Roman wrestling, points can be scored in the following ways:

  • Takedown (1 to 5 points): A wrestler gaining control over his opponent on the mat from a neutral position (when the wrestler is on his feet). At least three points of contact have to be controlled on the mat (e.g. two arms and one knee; two knees and one arm or the head; or two arms and the head).
(5 points) – For a takedown brought about by a throw of grand amplitude (a throw in which a wrestler brings his opponent off of the mat and controls him so that his feet go directly above his head) either from the standing or par terre position into a direct and immediate danger position.
(3 points) – Generally, for a takedown brought about by a grand amplitude throw that does not bring his opponent in a direct and immediate danger position or for a takedown in which a wrestler’s opponent is taken from his feet or his stomach to his back or side (a throw of short amplitude) so that he is in the danger position.
(1 point) – A wrestler taking his opponent from his feet to his stomach or side such that his back or shoulders are not exposed to the mat.
  • Reversal (1 point): A wrestler gaining control over his opponent from a defensive position (when the wrestler is being controlled by his opponent).
  • Exposure also called the Danger Position (2 or 3 points): A wrestler exposing his opponent’s back to the mat for several seconds, also awarded if one’s back is to the mat but the wrestler is not pinned. Criteria for exposure or the danger position is met when 1) a wrestler’s opponent is in a bridge position to avoid being pinned, 2) a wrestler’s opponent is on one or both elbows with his back to the mat and avoids getting pinned, 3) a wrestler holds one of his opponent’s shoulders to the mat and the other shoulder at an acute angle (less than 90 degrees), 4) a wrestler’s opponent is in an “instantaneous fall” position (where both of his shoulders are on the mat for less than one second), or 5) the wrestler’s opponent rolls on his shoulders. A wrestler in the danger position allows his opponent to score two points. An additional hold-down point may be earned by maintaining the exposure continuously for five seconds.
  • Penalty (1 or 2 points): Under the 2004-2005 changes to the international styles, a wrestler whose opponent takes an injury time-out receives one point unless the injurëd wrestler is bleeding. Other infractions (e.g. fleeing a hold or the mat, striking the opponent, acting with brutality or intent to injure, using illegal holds, etc.) are penalized by an award of either one or two points, a Caution, and choice of position.
  • Out-of-Bounds (1 point): Whenever a wrestler places his foot in the protection area, the match is stopped, and a point is awarded to his opponent.

Classification points are also awarded in an international wrestling tournament, which give most points to the winner and in some cases, one point to the loser depending on the outcome of the match and how the victory was attained. For example, a victory by fall would give the winner five classification points and the loser no points, while a match won by technical superiority with the loser scoring technical points would award three points to the winner and one point to loser.

Scores no longer rewarded in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling: In 2004, FILA radically changed the format and scoring of the international styles. Part of this involved eliminating two ways of scoring which are possible from the par terre, or ‘on the mat,’ position.

  • Escape: A wrestler escaping his opponent’s control.
  • Lifting: A wrestler successfully lifting an opponent in the defensive position and exposing his back.

Victory Conditions in Greco-Roman Wrestling: A match can be won in the following ways:

  • Win by Fall: A fall, also known as a pin, occurs when one wrestler holds both his opponents’ shoulders on the mat simultaneously. In Greco-Roman and freestyle, a pin must be held long enough for the referee to “observe the total control of the fall” (usually about one or two full seconds). Then either the judge or the mat chairman concurs with the referee that a fall is made. (If the referee does not indicate a fall, and the fall is valid, the judge and the mat chairman can concur together and announce the pin.) A fall ends the match entirely regardless of when it occurs. In the United States, for the Kids freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling division (wrestlers ages 8 to 14) in competitions sponsored by USA Wrestling and in the Tots, Bantam, Midget, and Junior divisions (wrestlers ages 5 to 12) in competitions sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union, it is specified that a pin must be held for two full seconds.
  • Win by Technical Superiority (Also called Technical Fall): If one wrestler gains a six-point lead over his opponent at any time in the period, scores a five point throw (a throw where the person’s feet go directly above his head, also called a throw of grand amplitude), or scores two three point takedowns (taking an opponent from his feet to his back or sides so that there is shoulder exposure), the current period is declared over and he is declared the winner of that period.
  • Win by Decision: If neither wrestler achieves either a fall or technical superiority, the wrestler who scored more points during the period is declared the winner of that period. If the score is tied at 1-1 at the end of both standing and ground phases, generally, the wrestler who scored the last technical point will be awarded the period.
  • Win by Default: If one wrestler is unable to continue participating for any reason or fails to show up on the mat after his name was called three times before the match begins, his opponent is declared the winner of the match by default, forfeit, or withdrawal.
  • Win by Injury: If one wrestler is injured and unable to continue, the other wrestler is declared the winner. This is also referred to as a medical forfeit or injury default. The term also encompasses situations where wrestlers become ill, take too many injury time-outs, or bleed uncontrollably. If a wrestler is injured by his opponent’s illegal maneuver and cannot continue, the wrestler at fault is disqualified.
  • Win by Disqualification: Normally, if a wrestler is assessed three Cautions for breaking the rules, he is disqualified. Under other circumstances, such as flagrant brutality, the match may be ended immediately and the wrestler disqualified and removed from the tournament.

Team Scoring: In an international wrestling tournament, teams enter one wrestler at each weight class and score points based on the individual performances. For example, if a wrestler at the 52.0 kg weight class finishes in first place, then his team will receive ten points. If he were to finish in tenth place, then the team would only receive one. At the end of the tournament, each team’s score is tallied, and the teams are then placed first, second, third, etc.

Team Competition: A team competition or dual meet is a meeting between (typically two) teams in which individual wrestlers at a given weight class compete against each other. A team receives one point for each victory in a weight class regardless of the outcome. The team that scores the most points at the end of the matches wins the team competition.

If there are two sets of competitions with one team winning the home competition and one winning the away competition, a third competition may take place to determine the winner for ranking purposes, or the ranking may take place by assessing in order: 1) the most victories by adding the points of the two matches; 2) the most points by fall, default, forfeit, or disqualificaiton; 3) the most matches won by technical superiority; 4) the most periods won by technical superiority; 5) the most technical points won in all the competition; 6) the least technical points won in all the competition. This works similarly when more than two teams are involved in this predicament.