With the possible exception of track and field (athletics), wrestling is the most ancient sport known to have been continuously practised competitively. Wrestling was introduced into the ancient Olympics in 708 BC, shortly after the Games' recorded history began in 776 BC. Wrestling pre-dates the ancient Olympic Games. Cave drawings of wrestlers from 3000 BC in the Sumero-Akkadian civilisation have been found. Similar wall paintings exist from ancient Egyptian civilisations circa 2400 BC.

There are literally hundreds of styles of wrestling world-wide today, with many nations having indigenous forms. Among these are Glíma wrestling in Iceland, Schwingen wrestling in Switzerland, and Cumberland wrestling in Britain. But there are four main forms of amateur competitive wrestling practised internationally today: Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, judo wrestling and sombo wrestling. Judo is considered a separate sport at the Olympics. Sombo is a combination of freestyle and judo and is most popular in the republics of the former Soviet Union, but it has not yet been contested in the Olympics. Freestyle wrestling is similar to American collegiate style, or folkstyle wrestling. Holds are relatively unlimited, provided they are not dangerous, and can be applied to any part of the body. Greco-Roman wrestling limits holds to the upper body.



Wrestling was on the programme at the first modern Olympics in 1896, and 1900 was the only year that wrestling did not feature on the programme at all. Both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling have been consistently contested at the Olympics since 1920. Prior to that (except in 1908), only one form was used, usually Greco-Roman. Today the dominant country in wrestling is Russia, especially in the Greco-Roman style. The United States is close to the Russians in freestyle, however. Other countries which produce top international wrestlers include Iran, Turkey and Mongolia, and wrestling is the national sport of these three nations.

At the 2000 Games in Sydney the wrestling programme underwent a change. Since 1972, wrestling has had 10 classes in both freestyle and Greco-Roman, but during the Sydney Games only eight classes were contested in each style. The weights also changed slightly, and the lightest class, usually termed light-flyweight, has basically been eliminated.

When the modern Olympic Games resumed in Athens in 1896, organisers considered wrestling so historically significant that it became a focus of the Games. They remembered tales of wrestling competition in 708 BC, of oiled bodies fighting on sand in the ancient Games. Greco-Roman wrestling was deemed a pure reincarnation of ancient Greek and Roman wrestling.

Eight years later, Olympic officials added a second category with far less history and far less grandeur, but great popularity. Commonly known as "catch as catch can", freestyle wrestling had become the staple of 19th-century fairs and festivals in Great Britain and the United States, a form of professional entertainment. Like Greco-Roman wrestling, it became a staple of the Games themselves.

In Greco-Roman competition, now dominated by Russia, wrestlers use only their arms and upper bodies to attack. In freestyle, where Olympic medallists in 1996 represented 17 different countries, wrestlers also use their legs and may hold opponents above or below the waist


Weight Categories for Men
Weight Categories for Women
55kg **
63kg **
72kg **
** Olympic weights



FILA - Origins and history Print E-mail
Since the beginning of times, wrestling has always been one of the major physical activities of mankind.

Very quickly wrestling became a sport and it was one of the first sports disciplines to be included in the programme of Ancient Olympic Games.

Since the first modern Olympic Games held in 1896 in Athens, men's wrestling has always been included in the programme of olympic sports. Women's wrestling is also now an olympic sport discipline as in 2004 in Athens it will be included for the first time in the programme of the Olympic Games.

On the eve of the Stockholm Olympic Games in 1912, National Federations understood the pressing necessity to create an unanimously recognised organisation and to draw up common rules and principles.

Consequently, the FILA was founded in 1912 and its headquarters were established consecutively in :

  • Sweden from 1912 to 1946
  • France from 1946 to 1965
  • Switzerland, in Lausanne, olympic capital and IOC headquarters, since 1965, where it is still established. The FILA was the first International Federation to move to Lausanne.

Currently, FILA has 160 affiliated National Federations, distributed among the five continents.

On each continent, there is a Continental Committee gathering all National Federations. The Continental Committee is in charge of the promotion and development of wrestling.

FILA organizes each year :

  • Senior - Junior World Championships Freestyle - Greco-Romfr- Women's Wrestling
  • Senior - Junior Continental Championships Freestyle - Greco-Romfr- Women's Wrestling
  • cadet Continental Championships Freestyle - Greco-Romfr- Women's Wrestling
  • and more than 150 international tournaments in all styles and for all age groups.

Wrestling is also included in the programme of Continental and Regional Multisports Games and in the programme of particular competitions, such as those for students, servicemen, etc.

FILA is headed by its President, Mr. Raphaël Martinetti, elected since 2002 and by a Bureau formed of 16 elected members and 3 co-opted members, each of them being a Continental President.

FILA supreme body is its Congress which takes place every two years and whitch defines the FILA policy. The FILA President, Secretary General and Excecutive Committee shall manage the FILA's day to day affairs and business.

Former FILA Presidents :

  • Einaar Raberg (Sweden) 1921 - 1924
  • Alfred Brüll (Hungary) 1924 - 1930
  • Viktor Smeds (Finland) 1930 - 1952
  • Roger Coulon (France) 1952 - 1971
  • Milan Ercegan (Yougoslavie) 1972 - 2002