The ancient sport of wrestling has long provided people with a competitive means to exercise and train for hand-to-hand combat. Three types of wrestling have developed in Western Europe and America: Greco-Roman, freestyle and folkstyle wrestling. While these styles place emphasis on different techniques, they all have one thing in common -- the use of various holds to successfully pin your opponent's shoulders to the mat.
Winning a Bout
The basic wrestling styles share some similar rules and methods of scoring points to win a bout. While the ultimate path to victory involves pinning your opponent to the mat, points ensure officials can declare a winner even if a fall never occurs. For example, a wrestler scores two points for a takedown, which occurs when he pulls his opponent from a standing position, even if it doesn't end in a complete fall. On the defensive side, wrestlers also score points for reversing a takedown or escaping from a hold.
More popular in Europe than in the United States, Greco-Roman wrestling developed from the merging of Ancient Greek and Roman wrestling styles. When ancient Rome conquered Greece, it incorporated some of the grace of Greek wrestling's holds and movement, while at the same time muting its often deadly brutality. (See References 1 & 2) Modern Greco-Roman wrestlers begin their bouts from standing positions, and emphasize upper body holds, since using legs to score or defend yourself is prohibited in this style. Technique and body position are most important in Greco-Roman wrestling, according to two-time national champion Darryl Christian.
In contrast to Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling allows competitors to use their legs as well as their arms to bring down opponents or escape holds. By reputation, freestyle bouts typically are more explosive and risky than their Greco-Roman counterparts, featuring high lifts and powerful throws. An American offshoot of the Greco-Roman style, freestyle became the most popular wrestling style in the world and debuted in the Olympics in 1904. That same year, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, or FILA, introduced standardized rules and weight classes to help ensure fair contests.
Folkstyle and Collegiate Wrestling
Generally speaking, folkstyle wrestling refers to any style of wrestling recognized in a particular culture, such as jiu jitsui in Brazil or sumo in Japan. In the U.S., "folkstyle" usually means collegiate wrestling, a style developed and practiced in American high schools and universities. While collegiate wrestling has much in common with freestyle, the scoring is less technical and the bouts may be more slow-paced. Also unique to collegiate wrestling is the concept of "riding time" -- a wrestler earns points for the amount of time he controls his opponent.
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