Wrestling in ancient Olympics goes way back to 708 BC and has even been documented as a sport in cave drawings going back as far as 3000 BC. Freestyle Wrestling was added to modern Olympics in 1904 and differs from Greco Roman Wrestling, in allowing the wrestlers to push with their legs, be able to lift and trip their opponent and also to hold their opponents above or below the waist.
Olympic Freestyle Wrestling is governed by The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), which was founded in 1905.
In 2000 there was a reduction in the number of weight classes in wrestling events, which then allowed the introduction of women’s events in 2004. Competitors are matched in weight classes (see below) and follow a knockout format to reach the final. Matches consist of 3 x 2 minute rounds. A match is won when one competitor wins 2 out of the 3 rounds with points scored/lost from takedowns, submissions, holds/locks, reversals, exposure, penalties and infringements.
In 2013 IOC amongst much criticism, made a decision to drop wrestling from the list of Olympic sports. However after much backlash, it was re-inststed for 2020 and will have a limited showing for the 2016 games also. There will also be new rules, to consist of 2 x 3 minute rounds instead of 3 x 2 minute rounds. Takedowns will count for 2 points instead of 1 and matches will be decided on accumulated points.
Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Weight Classes
Up to 55kg
55 – 60kg
60 – 66kg
66 – 74kg
74 – 84kg
84 – 96kg
96 – 120kg
Up to 57kg
Up to 50kg
Up to 50kg
Freestyle Wrestling Terms
Action – When a referee starts the match.
Arm throw – When a wrestler uses their opponent’s arm to throw them over their shoulder.
Body lock – The holding of your opponent with locked arms around the body of your opponent.
Body throw – When a wrestler locks their arms around their opponent to throw them to the mat.
Bout (match) – Made up of 3 x 2 minute rounds.
Bridge – To arch the back to avoid the back from touching the mat.
Central circle – A 1 metre central circle of the mat.
Central wrestling area – The 7 metre diameter main wrestling area.
Clinch – An overtime period that takes place when no score has been made in full time.
Danger position – When the competitors back is at less than a right angle on the mat.
Default – When a win is awarded if an opponent is disqualified or unable to continue and doesn’t turn up for their bout.
Fall (also known a Pin) – When a competitors shoulders are forced to touch the mat.
Fleeing a hold – Where a competitor refuses to fight and prevents their opponent from getting a hold.
Fleeing the mat – Where a competitor voluntarily leaves the mat.
Open – When the referee gives a command for a competitor to change their position and adopt more open tactic.
Par terre – (referee’s position) is the starting position with on opponent on their hand and knees and the other opponent next to them with their hands on that opponents back.
Passivity zone – 1.5 metre outer circle of the wrestling mat.
Penalty – Points can be awarded for injury time outs, infractions, using illegal holds, stalling etc.
Reversal – When a controlled opponent gets control over the other opponent from a defensive position.
Round – One of the 3, 2 minute rounds.
Souple (supplex) – Where you lift your opponent in a body lock from behind or straddling a leg. You then bend your knees and pop your hips into them, lifting your opponent off the ground while you arch your back as you throw your opponent over and behind you slamming their shoulders to the mat.
Takedown – When an opponent is taken down from a standing/neutral position to the ground (the points awarded vary depending on the type of takedown employed).
Technical points – The points scored during the match.
Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Years
1904 – (men Only)
1908 – (men Only)
1920 – (men Only)
1924 – (men Only)
1928 – (men Only)
1932 – (men Only)
1936 – (men Only)
1948 – (men Only)
1952 – (men Only)
1956 – (men Only)
1960 – (men Only)
1964 – (men Only)
1968 – (men Only)
1972 – (men Only)
1976 – (men Only)
1980 – (men Only)
1984 – (men Only)
1988 – (men Only)
1992 – (men Only)
1996 – (men Only)
2000 – (men Only)
2004 – (Men and Women)
2008 – (Men and Women)
2012 – (Men and Women)
2016 – (Men and Women) – (limited to six classes)
2020 – (Men and Women) – (limited to six classes)
Equipment used in Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Events
Mat – 9 metre main mat area, with a 1 metre central circle, a 7 metre diameter main wrestling area, surrounded by a 1 metre passive zone. The whole 9 metre mat is further surrounded by a 1.5 metre protection area.
Wrestling Suit – spandex (nylon/lycra material) in red or blue.
Wrestling boots – soft leather and usually rubber soled.
Bloodrag – hankerchief used clean blood up.
Headguard – Used mainly to protect the ears, but is an optional piece of equipment.