Wrestling is one of the sports that was contested at the ancient Olympic Games that were held in ancient Greece. Today, wrestling is as popular as a game of Uptown Pokies at the Gold Coast casinos.
The upcoming Olympic Games, scheduled to be held in Tokyo next summer, present a slightly changed wrestling format but wrestling fans can look forward to exciting bouts.
Wrestling has been a featured sport at the Summer Olympic Games since the ancient Greeks included it in their competitions. It was added to the first modern Olympic Games that were held in 1896 and the sport proved to be wildly popular.
Since 1904 the Olympics has featured both weight classes and freestyle wrestling for men. Women’s wrestling was introduced in 2004.
Controversies regarding the governing body of wrestling, the FILA, (today the United World Wrestling) almost caused the sport to be eliminated from the 2016 games. After a change in leadership plus some revisions (including inclusion of a women’s program), the IOC voted to allow the wrestling competitions to be returned.
Today, the changes that were initiated in 2016 have become an entrenced part of the 2020 program. Bouts are faster and more aggression is encouraged. Womens’ weight classes are included in the program. For the 2020 games wrestling will be included in the core Olympic program. The IOC has already decided to make wrestling a part of the 2024 Olympics.
Wrestling at the Olympics
Olympic wrestling focuses on power and technique and how they are used to gain an advantage. Olympic wrestling is contested on a nine meter circular mat. Each bout lasts for two periods of three minutes. A wrestler must hold down both shoulders of his/her opponent to the mat for one second to win. This is known as a “fall.” After a fall is secured, the bout ends and the winner is declared. If no fall is secured during a match, the judges award one competitor the match based on points — how well the player put his/her opponent at a disadvantage.
The last way that a bout can be decided is when there’s an 8-point difference in a weight class bout or in freestyle, a ten-point difference. Up to five points can be awarded to a wrestler based on an action that occurs during the bout — for instance, one point is awarded for moving the opponent out of the competition circle; two points given for exposing an opponent’s back to the mat or for a takedown; four points for throwing an opponent while he/she is in a standing position; and five points for throwing an opponent in with grand amplitude.
Wrestling at the Olympics follows the Greco-Roman wrestling model. It involves demonstration of dynamic skills. In freestyle wrestling the wrestler is judged on actions such as throws using the upper body, skill in unbalancing an opponent through counter defensive techniques, throws and leg attacks.
Olympic wrestling bouts often remain competitive into the final seconds as wrestlers attempt to achieve spectacular throws and aggressive darting attacks.
The outlook for the Tokyo 2020 wrestling matches include attempts to settle scores of long standing rivalries, historic quests, and appearances by local heroes. 96 men and 96 women will compete in various competitions. Russia leads in medals won. Over the course of the modern Olympic Games 124 year history, Russia has achieved the most overall medals. Other countries that have performed well in recent years include Japan, Georgia, the United States and Turkey.
Freestyle wrestling competitions will feature Iran and US competitors along with Superstar Abdulrashid “The Russian Tank” and returning gold medalist Sadulaev who will be looking to win his first title at 97kg. US Kyle Snyder is his most threatening rival. Snyder and Sadulaev have already met twice in the last three years and the outcomes have been split, leaving this year’s Olympic competition very much up in the air. Hassan Yazdanicharati from Iran won the 74kg competition in 2016 and will now be competing at 86kg. He will be looking to defend his 2019 world championship.
The Cuban team will be led by legendary three-time Olympic champion Mijaín López who will compete at the 130kg level. Defending world and Olympic champion Ismael Borrero is a significant threat at 60kg. These two athletes give Cuba has a serious chance to repeat their strong Rio performance in Tokyo.
Most observers expect to see a strong showing from Japan in women’s wrestling. Japan dominates in women’s wrestling throughout the world. The nation won 11 of a possible 18 gold medals since women’s wrestling was first introduced in 2004. Hall of Fame wrestler Kaori ICHO won’t be competing but her record-setting fourth Olympic gold at Rio 2016 has made the Japanese women’s team the ones to watch by demonstrating the seriousness with which the Japanese take women’s wrestling.
The Tokyo 2020 Japanese women wrestling team will be led by defending Olympic champions Sara Dosho and Risako Kawai.