The goal in wrestling is to “pin” an opponent within a circle marked
out on a 12-square-meter mat. (At the 2000 Games the mat was cut off at the corners
to form an octagon.) The competition area is a yellow circle 9 meters in diameter
and 4-cm thick with a vinyl cover. The central wrestling area is a 7-meter yellow
circle where most of the wrestling takes place. A central circle of 1 meter outlined
in red within this larger circle is where the wrestlers begin their match. They
return to this circle for par terre (literally, on the ground) when the referee
tells them to.
A 1-meter red band on the outside of the central
wrestling area marks the passivity zone. This
area warns the wrestlers that they are close
to the edge of the competition area. Finally,
the entire circle has a blue border at least
1.5 meters wide known as the protection area.
The pin is comparable to a knockout in boxing,
constituting an automatic victory. It is accomplished
when one wrestler holds both his opponent’s
shoulders to the mat for a half-second. If no
pin occurs, the victory goes to the wrestler
who has gained the most points. The match ends
earlier if one of the wrestlers builds a lead
of 10 points.
Freestyle - In freestyle, points may be earned for taking the opponent to the
mat (1 point); gaining the upper position while on the mat (1 point); touching
an opponent’s elbow, shoulder, or head to the mat (2 points); and taking
an opponent directly from his feet to his back (3 points). There are many
other legal offensive moves, but these are among the most dramatic.
Greco-Roman - In Greco-Roman wrestling, holds
are permitted only above the waist. Spectacular
throws are awarded the greatest number of points.
These moves, which usually earn 3 points, are
quite risky, even for the executor who must place
himself in a vulnerable position just to achieve
them. A fourth point may be earned in the throw
for grand amplitude. It is essentially an appreciation
point in recognition of the extra effort the
A bout is controlled by four officials: mat chairman, judge, referee, and timekeeper.
The referee oversees all action on the mat. Although no penalty points are
subtracted for an illegal throw or hold, a wrestler may be disqualified for
any move posing a physical danger to an opponent, e.g., choking, hitting,
kicking, or biting. The referee also keeps the match moving along by calling
the wrestlers to their feet if the bout appears to have reached an impasse.
A wrestling bout begins when the referee calls the wrestlers to the center
of the mat. They are examined for correct attire, and the referee makes sure
each has no oil or grease applied to his body (thereby making him slippery
and hard to hold). The competitors retire to their respective corners until
the referee whistles the start of the bout.
Each Olympic match lasts for two 3-minute periods.
If necessary, the rules allow for one 3-minute
overtime period per bout. A match is discontinued
as the result of a fall or if one wrestler reaches
a 10-point lead. If the time limit is reached
without either a fall or a 10-point lead, the
wrestler with the most points is pronounced the
Both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at
the Olympic Games follow the same weight categories.
Women’s wrestling will be a medal sport
for the first time at the 2004 Olympic Summer
Games in Athens , Greece .
History, and Fast Facts
- Olympic wrestling is quite different than
the "wrestling" you might see on
television. The I.O.C.
Wrestling page discusses Olympic wrestling
history, competition format, equipment, glossary
- For complete information about playing,
coaching, and watching wrestling, visit the
Athletic Center: Wrestling page.
- The USOC site
hits the mat with all the rules, history,
and current headlines on headlocks.
- To find out more about international amateur
wrestling, visit the International Federation
of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) Web
- Go to theMat.com and
research wrestlers in Olympic history.
- Research all of the gold medal winners
in Freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling
at Hickok Sports.
General Sports Links
Olympians will compete in dozens of sports this summer. Even though Gateway
to the Summer Games can't feature them all, you can learn about each and
every one by visiting the sites listed below.