Saturday July 29th 2017

The sport of wrestling has been around for thousands of years, dating back to the time of the original Olympiad.  Paintings and murals of the ancient Olympics depicted the events as battlefield training.  Essentially sports at this time were like practice for warfare.  Looking at the events depcited such as chariot races, spear throwing, marathon and of course wrestling, it’s not hard to see what the original Olympic Games was all about.  Fast forward to the modern olympics and we can see an enourmous difference between now and then.

Depiction of ancient Greek wrestlers (Photo property of

Sport has evolved much from it’s combat origins.  Many of the sports practiced today derive their origins from games and play.  While the competive aspect and atheleticism cannot be denied, we can safely say that these modern sports will not determine the survival of any given side nor are they even training for battle.  As sport has evolved, the concept of where wrestling fits in our modern society has been called into question.  Some of the parents I’ve spoken to have cited the violence of the sport wrestling as a reason why their kids should not participate, all the while endorsing hockey and football.  Some say that maybe wrestling has lost its relevance in a modern society which would be indicated in the latest move by the IOC to remove the number of wrestlers competing at the 2024 Olympics to make way for other sports such as 3 on 3 basketball.

(Photo property of

So what is it about wrestling that doesn’t seem to appeal to the mainstream part of the population?  The rise in popularity of Mixed Martial Arts in recent years has put the spotlight on wrestling citing the advantage that many wrestlers hold in MMA over their opponents drilled in other disciplines.  And yet, this emphasis on the importance of wrestling hasn’t seemed to fill the ranks of amateur wrestling.  Instead the athletes we do get, want to do wrestling just for the sake of transitioning into MMA.  Even Aaron Pico, a decorated American wrestler and UWW Cadet World Champion and Junior World medalist, seems intent on leaving the sport of wrestling to pursue a career in MMA.  So is it the violence of MMA that is the main attraction?

Aaron Pico at the World Junior Wrestling Championships

(Photo property

While some people may say that they abhor violence, it cannot be denied that a fight seems to excite and stimulate people in many ways.  Studies indicate that when a fight breaks out in a hockey game, the emotional level in the team is raised by their player who instigated the fight, thereby causing a momentum shift.  In high schools when a fight breaks out, many of the students rush to surround the combattants and almost feed off the intensity of the spectacle.

(Photo property of

So while the evidence seems to indicate that people to thrive off violence in one degree or another, my original question remains, is wrestling a combat sport?  While the competitive and ahtletic aspect cannot be questionned, it’s probably safe to say that wrestling has deviated a lot from it’s combat origins.  The aspect of danger that is present in MMA is not present in wrestling as officials are trained to stop any technique that they deem too dangerous and that athletes are also trained to avoid injury.  While many parts of combat and MMA involve wrestling and grappling, I think that the answer is that wrestling is no longer a combat sport.

George St-Pierre, considered by many to be among the elite in using wrestling for MMA

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Wrestling in the modern context is a gentlemans sport.  At the beginning of the match, we shake hands with our opponents and the officials and at the end we do the same.  We even go and shake the opposing coaches hand as well.  This time honoured practice is not only civilised but a requirement of the sport.  Therefore, it would seem that wrestling is now suffers from an identity crisis as many aspects of the sport revolve around combat, but not enough to gravitate towards the inner violence monger that seems to reside in many of us.  So the answer would be that wrestling is not a combat sport anymore, merely a sport that while challenging young people to attain new levels of achievement, doesn’t have enough of the violence to keep it in the mainstream of what society seems to want.