The Types of Olympic Wrestling: Freestyle and Greco-Roman

Published 06/26/2021, 5:42 AM EDT

Preserved since the Greek era, wrestling is one of the oldest organized sports in the world. There is something really compelling about watching two physically matched opponents try to pin one another.


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Many countries have wrestling cultures as old as civilization itself, as the art of grappling has been an integral element to how society functions.

Needless to say, wrestling has always been an important part of the Olympic games. For Tokyo 2021, wrestling would continue to be showcased in its two broad styles: Freestyle and Greco Roman.


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Amateur wrestling competition follows the rules and regulations of these two forms. Here’s a deeper look.

Greco-Roman Wrestling

To a person who doesn’t have much information about the sport in general, wrestlers engaged in a Greco-Roman contest can appear like two grizzly bears fighting.

The style of wrestling was first showcased way back in 1896 in the first modern Olympic games. It has been a part of the Olympics ever since.

A soldier of the Napoleonic Army, Jean Exbrayat, is widely believed to be the father of the style of grappling. It is believed that he created the discipline while traveling in European villages and understanding the wrestling cultures of different communities.

He named his form of wrestling ‘Free Hand’ wrestling. He basically made the sport of wrestling less brutal and is one of the pioneers of modern Greco-Roman wrestling.

The main goal of a competitor is to pin their opponent. For this purpose, the athlete needs to lift up their opponent and slam them on the mat.

However, the takedown can’t be a result of a clinch made below the belt. The contestant needs to utilize their upper body to secure a takedown. The takedown is scored on a scale of 2 to 5 points by a team of three judges.

This score is dependent on the technicality of the lift. So, if an athlete convincingly lifts his opponent, he often scores 5. If he is able to take him down, but barely, or with less control, he gets two.

If you pin the opponent, which is pinning both the shoulder blades of your opponent to the floor, you win the competition.


Wrestlers have a go at it for three two-minute rounds. Like all combat sports, the competitors are awarded for being more aggressive with their game. Furthermore, if the referee doesn’t see much action from an athlete, they will be cautioned.

After getting cautioned, the referee may penalize the less aggressive wrestler and order a clinch. In this position, the comparatively passive wrestler starts at the bottom and his opponent is given the advantage.

He tries to secure a grip for a takedown, meanwhile the other tries to defend it from the less favorable position.

Further, if at any point, if a wrestler in an unfavorable position is able to reverse the position, they get one point. If a wrestler is able to push his opponent from the mat, they get a point as well.

Freestyle Wrestling

The objective of the contest is pretty clear. Either win by pinning your opponent flat on the ground or take charge of the match and outpoint your opponent.


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Something it shares with Greco-Roman wrestling. It also shares the judging rules and point scoring criteria to a T with Greco-Roman. The only difference is in the clinch.


Here, wrestlers can utilize the legs of their opponents to secure a grip and, hence, a takedown. Since wrestlers have a greater target region, we see more action in freestyle wrestling matches.


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Olympic wrestling is one of the biggest attractions in the games due to the incomparable action. The aggressive gameplay combined with intense displays of brute force and gameplay has always kept the fans on their toes.


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Akshit Pushkarna

94 articles

Akshit Pushkarna, who has a Post Graduate Degree in Journalism from Xavier's Institute of Communication, is an MMA writer for EssentiallySports. Before his current role, Akshit worked on the Urban Development beat at the Urban Update magazine. However, combat sports always called out to Akshit, who pursued both boxing and wrestling at a regional level before shifting his focus to MMA journalism.