Greco-Roman (US) or Graeco-Roman (UK) wrestling is a style of wrestling that is practiced worldwide. It was contested at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and has been included in every edition of the summer Olympics held since 1908. Two wrestlers are scored for their performance in two three-minute periods, which can be terminated early by a pin (or fall). This style of wrestling forbids holds below the waist; this is the major difference from freestyle wrestling, the other form of wrestling at the Olympics. This restriction results in an emphasis on throws because a wrestler cannot use trips to take an opponent to the ground, or avoid throws by hooking or grabbing the opponent's leg.
Arm drags, bear hugs, and headlocks, which can be found in Freestyle, have even greater prominence in Greco-Roman. In particular, a throw known as a suplex is 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 techniques known as the bodylock and the gut-wrench.
According to United World Wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling is one of the six main forms of amateur competitive wrestling practised internationally today. The other five forms are Freestyle wrestling, Grappling/Submission wrestling, Beach wrestling, Pankration athlima, Alysh/Belt wrestling and Traditional/Folk wrestling.
The name "Greco-Roman" was applied to this style of wrestling as a way of purporting it to be similar to the wrestling formerly found in the ancient civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea especially at ancient Greek Olympics. It is speculated that many styles of European folk wrestling may have spurred the origins of Greco-Roman wrestling. According to United World Wrestling, a Napoleonic soldier named Jean Exbrayat first developed the style. Exbrayat 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, Exbrayat 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) developed all throughout Europe and became a popular sport. The Italian wrestler Basilio Bartoletti first coined the term "Greco-Roman" for the sport to underline the interest in "ancient values." Many others in the 18th and 20th centuries sought to add value to their contemporary athletic practices by finding some connections with ancient counterparts. 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 less restrictive counterpart, freestyle, and despite 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. 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.
Perhaps the most well-known of Greco-Roman wrestlers in the 19th century was Georg Hackenschmidt born in Dorpat, Russian Empire, 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 Saint 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 19th century, gouging with the nails, punching, and violently slamming the arms together around the opponent's stomach were forbidden. Greco-Roman matches were also famous 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 Olympic competition, countries of the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Turkey, South Korea, 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.
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. 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.
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:
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.
The match takes place on a thick rubber circular 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; thus, it is also known as the "passivity zone". Inside the red zone is the "central wrestling area" which is seven meters in diameter. In the middle of the central wrestling area 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 lies on a podium and the protection margin (covering and free space around the mat) does not reach two meters, then the sides of the podium are covered with 45° (degree) inclined panels. In all cases, the color of the protection area is different from the color of the mat.
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 fall, two of the three officials must agree (usually, the referee and either the judge or the mat chairman).
In Greco-Roman and freestyle, the format is now two three-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 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.
Each Greco-Roman period is broken up into a phase for wrestling from the neutral position and a maximum of two par terre (ground wrestling) phases. During the wrestling phase from the neutral position, both wrestlers compete for takedowns and points for 60 seconds as usual. At the end of the first minute, in general, the wrestler who has scored the most points will receive the advantage in an Olympic lift from an open par terre position on the other wrestler. This position is known as "the Clinch". If neither wrestler at this point has any points, the referee will toss a colored disk, with a red-colored side and a blue-colored side. The wrestler who won the colored disk toss will receive the advantage in the Olympic lift.
The wrestler who lost the colored disk toss then places his hands and knees in the center circle, with the hands and knees at least 20 centimeters apart and the distance between the hands a maximum of 30 centimeters. The arms of that wrestler would be stretched out, the feet would not be crossed, and the thighs would be stretched out forming a 90-degree angle with the mat. The wrestler who won the colored disk toss would then be allowed to step beside the wrestler on the bottom, not touching him with his legs. If the wrestler who won the colored disk toss wished, he could place one knee on the mat. The top wrestler would then wrap his hands and arms around the bottom wrestler's waist and execute the Olympic lift (called an upside-down belt hold) at the beginning of the first 30 seconds. The bottom wrestler could then attempt to defend himself.
At the end of first thirty seconds, the clinch position is reversed with the other wrestler receiving the Olympic lift, and the period continuing for the remaining 30 seconds. The period is decided by who accumulated the most points during both standing and ground phases. During each 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's hand. At the end of the match, each wrestler then shakes hands with the referee and returns to shake hands with his opponent's coach.
In Greco-Roman wrestling, as well as in freestyle wrestling, points are awarded mostly on the basis of explosive action and risk. For example, when one wrestler performs a grand amplitude throw that brings his opponent into the danger position, he is awarded the greatest number of points that can be scored in one instance. Also, a wrestler who takes the risk to briefly roll on the mat (with his shoulders in contact with the mat) could give a certain number of points to his opponent. Scoring can be accomplished in the following ways:
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.
The full determinations for scoring are found on pages 34 to 40 of the FILA International Wrestling Rules.
A match can be won in the following ways:
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 60 kg weight class finishes in first place, then his team will receive 10 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.
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 disqualification; 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.
The principal authority for historical information about the advent of modern Greco-Roman wrestling, including the career of Jean Broyasse who used the stage name Exbroyat, is a book published by Edmond Desbonnet, p. 6 <<Les Rois de la Lutte>>, Berger-Levrault, Paris, 1910 /5>>
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