Guest post by Sarah Milton
I have been in love with freestyle wrestling for a long time: 10 years and counting. It started when I was in High School. I was the clumsy kid, always tripping over something, and ended up with more scraped knees than I can count. My teacher thought it would be good for me. I could gain a little confidence and maybe it would help with my clumsiness. She was right, it did. And I found that I liked competitive sports.
What drew me into it was the fact that the winner wasn’t always the biggest person. It didn’t depend on who was bigger, stronger, or heavier. I studied holds, arm locks, take -downs, and how to use my opponent’s weight against them. I was fairly short back then, but I could take down someone twice my size.
That was when my confidence really grew and I felt like I had found my place in the world. Wrestling became a very important part of my life and probably kept me out of trouble as a teenager. I was always going to practice or to an event, so I didn’t have time for mischief like some of my friends.
A Brief History of the Sport
Wrestling is one of the oldest styles of combat sports in the world. Its origins date back to the ancient Greek and Roman time period 1100 to 146 BC and is depicted in paintings, wood and stone carvings, pottery, and cave drawings. Before Romans had swords and shields they had their wits, strategy, and physical strength to overcome their opponents. It was practiced by the Babylonians and Egyptians in the Bible, and it’s popularity is shared all over the world.
China has the Shuai Jiao, which consists of grappling and throwing techniques similar to Judo. Southern Mongolian wrestling employs a style of jacket wrestling, also a popular style of Turkish wrestling.
Japan has several different styles including: the Sumo, Jujutsu, Tegumi, King’s Road, Strong, and Shoot styles of wrestling. The latter has similar elements of boxing and other martial arts. The Strong style was brought in by founder Antonio Inoki, which incorporates judo-style holds, among other things.
Germany has the Ringen style of wrestling, which is similar to American-style grappling.They have teams for men and women wrestlers, many of whom have won medals for their sport at the Olympics.
Freestyle Wrestlers and Olympic Champions
One of the first wrestlers in history was Plato, the philosopher. His real name was Aristocles, but he was nicknamed Plato because it described him as having “broad shoulders.”
Johannes Lichtenauer was the father of the German Masters style of fighting in 1250. The style evolved from the German and Italian style of fencing.
- Yojiro Uetake of Japan won a gold medal at the 1964 Olympics.
- Levan Tediashvili of the Soviet Union won gold at the 1976 Olympics.
- John Smith of the USA won his gold medal in 1996
Olympic Women Freestyle Wrestlers
- Stanka Zlateva of Bulgaria won Olympic Silver in Athens 2004
- Natalia Vorobieva of Russia defeated Wang Jiao of China for the gold in 2015
- Kaori Icho of Japan is an undefeated Olympic champion
Holds, Locks, and Throws
The basic moves in freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling consists of grabs, holds, locks, and take-downs. The opponents grapple to see who can force the other person outside the circle by sheer force. A hold is a type of grip used for positioning or controlling an opponent. A lock is a joint lock referring to the arm, leg, or neck to control and opponent. A throw or take-down is a grappling hold where you grip your opponent’s arm under the shoulder, pivot your hips and use his weight to pull him down.
A match typically commenced with the two fighters meeting in the center of the designated area or “wrestling pit” with their foreheads touching and elbows grasped. The objective was to pin your opponent’s shoulders to the ground by rolling or throwing them. You gained extra points and leverage if you could force them out of the wrestling pit. The first opponent to score 3 times was the winner of the match.
At this time, there were no weight classes or restrictions on the size of the fighters so you had to come up with ways to throw your opponent off-balance or otherwise gain the upper hand by surprising them with different techniques. It became more about strategy and intellect, than brute strength.
Protective Gear Used in Wrestling
One piece of wrestling equipment that I find to be invaluable, besides knee pads and shin guards, is headgear. As many times as your head hits the mat during throws, it can cause damage to your ears if they are not padded against the impact. It can cause a condition known as “cauliflower ear” which is quite painful.
Head cap – Stretchy and breathable, the Lycra cap gives a snug fit and can be worn inside or outside the ear guard. It keeps long hair tucked safely out of the way, and is very comfortable to wear (works great for girls with long hair too).
Ear guards – protect and pad the ears from the impact that can cause injury and possible hearing loss. Can go over or under the head cap.
Knee pads and elbow pads – protect elbows and knees from hitting hard surfaces outside of the practice mat. This also keeps you from getting serious “rug burn” when grappling on the gym floor too.
What to Look for When Purchasing Protective Gear
The good thing about this sport is that the necessary equipment used is not very expensive, unlike some other competitive sports. The pricing structure of headgear is based on the quality and design of the product.
When choosing headgear it is important to look at 3 main things: fit, style, and comfort. It should feel sturdy and well-made, be adjustable to fit the head, and allow airflow to avoid building up heat.
The lightest fabrics are made from Lycra which also stays cool and resists moisture. The cap goes underneath the ear guard and is good for men or women with long hair to keep it out of the way and contained during a match.
What I Would Recommend
Wrestling Hair Cap
The Matman Wrestling Hair Cap is the one I first used when I started wrestling.
This cap is made from lycra, it’s light and comfortable and fits perfectly underneath Cliff Keen Tornado-style ear guards. The main features of this cap is to keep your hair from flying around and possibly getting pulled by an opponent. It fits perfectly under the ear guards and has loops for the chin strap. It’s lightweight and comes in sizes to fit an adult or child.
It’s very comfortable and keeps hair out of the way. It works with the ear guards to cushion and protect the head and ears. This style of cap works well for any fighting or grappling type of sport.
I paid about $20 for mine but you can see the price here on Amazon.
Head Gear: Ear Guards
The above is the Cliff Keen E58 and, with the head cap above, is what I started out with and it’s the same thing I would recommend to anyone looking to get their first set of equipment. It’s not too pricey, it’s a quality product, and it’s sturdy enough to protect you during falls. It is made of a soft material that is comfortable to wear and can be used alone or with the head cap. It is adjustable, but takes a bit of getting used to at first.
I paid about $28 for mine but you can check the price on Amazon here.
Click on the image to see the latest price on Amazon.
I switched to the Cliff Keen F5 after I had been wrestling for a while and kind of wore the other one out. I felt it was time to upgrade, and this one was used by a lot of my competitors so I felt sure of the quality. It”s very light and comfortable, adjustable and has ear cups to cushion the ears while still being able to pass sound through. Once you put it on and tighten the straps it stays in place. No slipping or moving.
I paid about $35 but you can check the price on Amazon here.
I now use the following hair cap by Savage
It cost me $20 but you can see the price here on Amazon.
Wrestling is a great sport for building strength, skill, and endurance. It’s a popular sport that has been around for ages has competitions held all around the world. Graduating from the freestyle to Jujutsu, Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, and Sumo wrestling, the sport has grown and so has it’s followers…all the way to the Olympics in some cases. Protective equipment is a necessary part of any sport, so if you’re thinking about joining the wrestling team, make sure one of the first purchases you make is your headgear.