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The Huddle


January 14, 2021

Wrestling is one of the only sports that athletes compete at that we can’t point a finger at someone or group and say “You started this”. Drawings as old as 7000 BC depict figures in wrestling holds. In the beginning this type of competition was used to determine dominance between the males. Selecting the strongest of the group through competition is recorded in drawings and old writings all over the world. A bronze statue that depicts 2 figures in a wrestling hold is on display in the country of Iraq and is thought to be the earliest display of a sport. It dates back to 2600 BC.

Some of the earliest competitions were in the Greek Olympiads. There competitors would get points for putting his opponent’s back on the ground or forcing them out of bounds. Three falls would determine the winner. Wrestling has been a featured sport at least since the 18 Olympiad in 704 BC. When the Romans conquered the Greeks the sport was absorbed into the Roman culture and became Roman Wrestling which lasted from 510 BC to AD 500. Several of the early Emperor’s and rulers were champion wrestlers of their time or at least competed in the sport. Again it was a show of dominance and rule over the subjects. In 1520 it is said that Francis I of France threw Henry VIII in the Field of the Cloth of Gold pageant in a wrestling exhibition.

In the 15th and 16th centuries this type of competition was actually referred to unarmed combat. All through the Middle East and Asia, China, Japan and India performances of this type were displayed during religious ceremonies, celebrations and entertainment arenas. As the popularity of the sport grew so did the popularity of some of the wrestlers. Japanese martial arts had there start in this type of combat. As each master put their own twists on the art new names would be given to the discipline. Martial arts disciplines such as “short sword grappling”, “grappling”, “body art”, and even “art of harmony” all have humble beginnings in wrestling.

But to find out where our current system seems to have started, we only need to go back to the 19th century. The Scotts developed the Lancashire style of folk wrestling which formed the ground work for Catch wrestling. The Irish developed a style called the collar and elbow which made its way to the United States. By the time of the modern Olympics wrestling had developed into 2 styles, “free style and Greco-Roman style and both were under the guise of amateur wrestling. Wrestling, as you see on TV or performed as strictly an entertainment event started in France when the sport combined with showmanship in 1830. Jean Exbroyat formed the first modern wrestlers’ circus troupe established rules that led to a style called “flat hand wrestling” due to the fact that holds below the waist were not permitted.

In the entertainment wrestling infancy wrestler Martin “Famer” Burns and his pupil Frank Gotch dominated the industry. Boasting over 6,000 matches with only fewer than 10 losses people would flock venues just to see him in action. Today you may not be able to find someone who has not heard of them of the WWE or NXT. Some might even have their favorite action star they root for.

The first modern Olympic games held in Athens in 1896 featured Greco-Roman wrestling. The sport took 2 paths. The entrainment side was called professional wrestling and its counter part amateur wrestling.

Since 1921, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) has regulated amateur wrestling as an athletic discipline. Dr. Raymond G. Clapp, in 1927 published the rules for collegiate wrestling, and in 1928, the first NCAA Wrestling Team Championship took place on March 30 to March 31 on Iowa State College campus. The rules of collegiate wrestling marked a sharp contrast to the freestyle wrestling rules of the International Amateur Wrestling Federation (IAWF) and the AAU. From then on, collegiate wrestling emerged as a distinctly American sport. College and high school wrestling grew especially after the standardization of the NCAA wrestling rules, which applied early on to both collegiate and scholastic wrestling (with high school modifications). More colleges, universities, and junior colleges began offering dual meets and tournaments, including championships and having organized wrestling seasons. During the war collegiate matches were suspended, but in the high schools especially, state association wrestling championships sprung up in different regions throughout the 1930s and 1940s. As amateur wrestling grew after the war, various collegiate athletic conferences also increased the number and quality of their wrestling competition, with more wrestlers making the progression of wrestling in high school, being recruited by college coaches, and then entering the collegiate competition.

At that time wrestling matches did not have a scoring system that would decide matches when a pin fall or take down was awarded. In 1941, wrestling coach Art Griffith from Oklahoma State University created a point system that was accepted by the masses. His system influenced both US styles and international styles. During the 1960’s a panel of 3 judges, in secret would use panels at the end of the match to announce the winner. Dr. Albert de Ferran from San Francisco lobbied for a visible scoring system and a rule for “controlled fall’s” which would recognize a fall only when the offensive wrestler caused his opponent to fall. These rules were eventually adopted internationally in Greco-Roman wrestling rules.

The sport itself is thousands of years old and is practiced in countries all over the globe. It has contributed to combat styles of fighting and self defense, martial arts, entertainment and in the very early years, the selection of leaders. For the modern day athletes, the current sport that they compete in was established in 1921 with the foundation of the FILA. The point system establish by Coach Art Griffith and the updated rules for falls and other points penned by Dr. Albert de Ferran contribute to the competition that our young wrestlers participate in today.

Information for this article was obtained from Google Wikapedia


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