Wrestling is a fast growing sport in Australia. Many Australians know more about the modern Professional Wrestlemania, with all its theatre, public adoration, rich remuneration, and publicity stunts. However, the true sport of wrestling is rooted in antiquity, and is quite different and exciting.

Archaeological finds depict wrestling in Egypt and Mesopotamia more than 5,000 years ago. Documentary evidence puts the sport in India and China well before the Christian era. In fact, virtually every society around the globe sports a long tradition of some form of wrestling. And the ancient Greeks were among the most fanatic of fans. The Greeks depicted wrestling on coins, pottery, and statuary. Most of the colonnade of the palaestra at Olympia still stands today, testimony to the site of the wrestling competition in the ancient Olympic Games. The complex included a roofed area for matches and side rooms for the competitors to wash, bathe, and oil down for their matches. Wrestling also figures prominently in classical Greek legend, myth, and epic. The rules were simple back then: Throw your opponent to the ground, making him land on his hip, shoulder, or back. Two of three falls takes the match. Don’t punch, gouge, or bite. Unlike today’s professional wrestling, there were no managers, ring girls, folding-chair attacks, or steel cages. No ridiculous costumes, either – matches were in the nude.

Milo of Croton

The greatest of the Olympic wrestlers of classical Greece was Milo of Croton, who never lost a match until the end of his career. He was also a general, a civic leader, a very rich man, and a close associate of the philosopher-mathematician, Pythagoras. Fame and wealth followed Milo’s success in the arena.

Milo of Croton was born in the sixth century B.C. in southern Italy, won the boys’ wrestling Olympic Games in 540 B.C., and went on to victory in five consecutive Olympics. By all accounts, Milo was very big and very, very strong – and apparently knew how to please a crowd. Legend has it that he once carried an ox through spectators at Olympia.

Some modern athletic coaches consider Milo the father of resistance training, the process of lifting heavier and heavier weights to build strength. This stems from another legend: As a youth, Milo carried a newborn ox on his shoulders. As Milo grew, the ox grew; the load got heavier and Milo’s muscles became stronger.

Acknowledgments: Article by Nicholas Pingitore, Science Editor www.discoveringarchaeology.com

Professional matches in Greco-Roman wrestling were known for their great brutality.   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.[2]

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[4] and was the first style registered at the modernOlympic games, beginning in Athens in 1896 with one heavyweight bout,[6] and grew in popularity during the 20th century.

The first organized national wrestling tournament was held in New York City in 1888, while the first wrestling competition in the modern Olympic Games was held in 1904 in Saint Louis, Missouri. FILA was founded in 1912 in Antwerp, Belgium. The first NCAA Wrestling Championships were also held in 1912 in Ames, Iowa. USA Wrestling became the national governing body of amateur wrestling in 1983, and conducts competitions for all age levels free style was added to the Olympic Games in 1904.

Wrestling Today

In September 2001 the International Olympic Committee took the following 2 decisions on Wrestling:

1. Women’s Wrestling was included in the Olympic Games 2004 competition program, in 4 weight categories for the free style

2. The Reduction of the weight categories for men from sixteen to fourteen, in both Greco-roman and free style.


FILA is the body responsible for supervising Olympic wrestling, and so competitions for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlingtake place every Summer Olympiad.

Besides the Summer Olympics, there is also the World Cup of wrestling that takes place every year. There are also various Games such as the Commonwealth Games, the Pan-American Games, etc. that have wrestling as an official sport. Also, the Continental Championships and Continental Cups usually take place annual and are regulated by each Continental Committee. Then, there are World Championships that usually take place among the various nations every year (for the senior age category, every year except the year the Summer Olympics are held), and many international tournaments that take place between countries and among wrestlers of the same country (such as the United States Nationals in freestyle and Greco-Roman).

These tournaments encompass a wide variety of age categories and also both genders, but can also take place separately for each gender or for each age category (schoolboys or schoolgirls, cadets, juniors, and seniors).

The greatest wrestler of the modern Olympics is Alexandr Karelin of Russia. Before his Silver medal win at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Karelin was undefeated throughout his whole career. In 1981 year he started to be engaged in Greco-Roman wrestling in wrestling section of Novosibirsk Electrical Engineering Institute. His constant trainer is Victor Kuznetzov. Alexandr Karelin became an Olympic champion three times: in 1988, 1992 and 1996 years. He won Europe championship 12 times and Russian championship – 13 times.