Wrestling is considered the world's oldest sport – a pure battle of skill between two opponents with the single aim of pinning or throwing their rival to the mat.
Wrestling was a feature of the ancient Olympic Games in 708 BC, with the sport's Greco-Roman style included in the first Games of the modern era at Athens 1896. Eight years later, Freestyle Wrestling was introduced at the St Louis 1904 Games. Women's Freestyle Wrestling joined the Olympic programme at Athens in 2004.
The essence of both styles is the same: with no equipment and no grasping at clothing, two athletes try to press both shoulders of their opponent down onto the mat. Greco-Roman wrestlers use only their upper bodies and arms while Freestyle wrestlers can use any part of their body.
The competition programme at Rio 2016 included six classes, based on weight, for each of men's Greco-Roman, men's Freestyle and women's Freestyle. For all events, there is a direct elimination system that eventually decides the two finalists for the gold medal match. All wrestlers who lose against either finalist, at any stage of the competition up to and including the semi-finals, enter the repechage.
International Federation: United World Wrestling
- 57kg (Men)
- 65kg (Men)
- 74kg (Men)
- 86kg (Men)
- 97kg (Men)
- 125kg (Men)
- 50kg (Women)
- 53kg (Women)
- 57kg (Women)
- 62kg (Women)
- 68kg (Women)
- 76kg (Women)
- 60kg (Men)
- 67kg (Men)
- 77kg (Men)
- 87kg (Men)
- 97kg (Men)
- 130kg (Men)
Power and technique to gain an advantage
Contested on a circular mat nine metres in diameter, bouts last for two periods of three minutes with a 30-second interval. To win, a wrestler has to hold down both shoulders of their opponent to the mat for one second, after which the match ends. This is called a ‘fall’.
If no fall is made, the decision is based on points awarded for putting the opponent at a disadvantage. In Greco-Roman Wrestling, the match ends when there is an eight-point difference; in Freestyle, a ten-point difference. A wrestler also wins if their opponent is given three warnings for a passive attitude or foul play.
One, two, four or five points can be awarded according to the skill displayed. For example, one point is awarded for moving the opponent's legs outside the mat; two points for setting the opponent up on their belly and turning them by 90 degrees or more; four points for throwing an opponent while standing; and five points for lifting and throwing an opponent from the ground.
Greco-Roman Wrestling involves lots of dynamic skills, such as throws using the upper body, and is fascinating for its raw power. Freestyle Wrestling is based on destroying the balance of an opponent through tackles, and features fast attacking and defensive moves.
Bouts can often remain in the balance until the final seconds, when a wrestler may take advantage of a tiny opening and skilfully execute a spectacular throw and technical fall to win the contest.
Speed of thought and body to reach the podium
At Tokyo 2020, 96 men in each style and 96 women will compete in the Wrestling competition.
The USA has won most medals in Freestyle Wrestling with the Russian Federation, Japan and Turkey prominent in both styles.
The Men's Freestyle competition at Rio 2016 saw Hassan Yazdani win gold for Iran, another of the sport's powerhouses, in the 74kg class. Abdulrashid Sadulaev of the Russian Federation achieved his Rio gold in the 86kg class following two World Championship titles to justify his nickname of ‘the Russian tank’.
Cuba owes much of its recent success in Greco-Roman to Mijaín López. Rio 2016 brought the giant Cuban a third successive Olympic gold medal, in the 130kg class, to add to five World Championships and four Pan American Games golds.
Japan's women wrestlers stand out, having won four golds out of the six classes at Rio 2016. Among them, Kaori Icho has never lost an Olympic bout and won her first gold at Athens 2004 before repeating the feat at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. She became the first female Olympian to win four consecutive titles in the same discipline. Home fans may have much to cheer about in the Makuhari Messe.
- Makuhari Messe Hall A