WRESTLING (0. Eng. wrcestlian), a sport in which two persons strive to throw each other to the ground. It is one of the most primitive and universal of sports. Upon the walls of the templetombs of Beni Hasan, near the Nile, are sculptured many hundred scenes from wrestling matches, depicting practically all the holds and falls known at the present day, thus proving that wrestling was a highly developed sport at least 3000 years before the Christian era. As the description of the bout between Odysseus and Ajax in the 23rd book of the Iliad, and the evolutions of the classic Greek wrestlers, tally with the sculptures of Beni Hasan and Nineveh, the sport may have been introduced into Greece from Egypt or Asia. In Homer's celebrated description of the match between Ajax and Odysseus the two champions wore only a girdle, which was, however, not used in the classic Greek games. Neither Homer nor Eustathius, who also minutely depicted the battle between Ajax and Odysseus, mentions the use of oil, which, however, was invariable at the Olympic games, where wrestling was introduced during the 18th Olympiad. The Greek wrestlers were, after the application of the oil, rubbed with fine sand, to afford a better hold.
Wrestling was a very important branch of athletics in the Greek games, since it formed the chief event of the pentathlon, or quintuple games (see GAMES, CLASSICAL) . All holds were allowed, even strangling, butting and kicking. Crushing the fingers was used especially in the pancraiion, a combination of wrestling and boxing. Wrestlers were taught to be graceful in all their movements, in accordance with the Greek ideas of aesthetics. There were two varieties of Greek wrestling, the TrdX?) opdr\, or upright wrestling, which was that generally practised, and the a\ivSijo-is (xuAwij, lucta iiolutatoria) or squirming contest after the contestants had fallen, which continued until one acknowledged defeat. It was this variety that was employed in the pancration. The upright wrestling was very similar to the modern catch- ascatch-can style. In this three falls out of five decided a match. A variation of this style was that in which one of the contestants stood within a small ring and resisted the efforts of his adversary to pull him out of it. Other local varieties existed in the different provinces. The most celebrated wrestler of ancient times was Milo of Crotona (c. 520 B.C.), who scored thirty-two victories in the different national games, six of them at Olympia. Greek athletic sports were introduced into Rome in the last quarter of the 2nd century B.C., but it never attained to the popularity that it enjoyed in Greece.
Among the Teutonic peoples wrestling, at least as a method of fighting, was of course always known; how popular it had become as a sport during the middle ages is proved by the voluminous literature which appeared on the subject after the invention of printing, the most celebrated work being the RingerKunst of Fabian von Auerswald (1539). Albrecht Durer made 1 19 drawings illustrating the different holds and falls in vogue in the isth and 16th centuries. These singularly resembled those used in the Greek games, even to certain brutal tricks, which, however, were considered by the German masters as not geselliglich (friendly) and were not commonly used. Wrestling was adopted by the German Turnvereine as one of their exercises, but with the elimination of tripping and all holds below the hips. At present the most popular style in Europe is the so-called Graeco-Roman.
In Switzerland and some of the Tirolese valleys a kind of wrestling flourishes under the name of Schwingen (swinging). The wrestlers wear schwinghosen or wrestling-breeches, with stout belts, on which the holds are taken. The first man down loses the bout. In Styria, wrestlers stand firmly on both feet with right hands clasped. When the word is given each tries to push or pull the other from his stance, the slightest movement of a foot sufficing to lose.
The popularity of wrestling has survived in many Asiatic countries, particularly in Japan, where the first match recorded took place in 23 B.C., the victor being Sukune, who has ever since been regarded as the tutelary deity of wrestlers. In the 8th century the emperor Sh&mu made wrestling one of the features of the annual harvest " Festival of the Five Grains," the victor being appointed official referee and presented with a fan bearing the legend, " Prince of Lions." In 858 the throne of Japan was wrestled for by the two sons of the emperor Buntoku, and the victor, Koreshito, succeeded his father under the name of Seiwa. Imperial patronage of wrestling ceased in 1175, after the war which resulted in the establishment of the Shogunate, but continued to be a part of the training of the samurai or military caste. About 1600, professional wrestling again rose to importance, the best men being in the employ of the great daimios or feudal nobles. It was, nevertheless, still kept up by the samurai, and eventually developed into the peculiar combination of wrestling and system of doing bodily injury called ju-jutsu (q.v.), which survives with wrestling as a separate though allied art.- The national championships were re-established in 1624, when the celebrated Shiganosuke won the honour, and have continued to the present day. The Japanese wrestlers, like those of India, lay much stress upon weight and are generally men of great bulk, although surprisingly light on their feet. They form a gild which is divided into several ranks, the highest being composed of the joshiyori, or elders, in whose hands the superintendence of the wrestling schools and tournaments lies, and who in feudal times used to rank next to the samurai. The badges of the three highest ranks are damask aprons richly embroidered. Every public wrestler must have passed through a thorough course of instruction under one of the joshiyori and have undergone numerous practical tests. The wrestling takes place in a ring 12 ft. in diameter, the wrestlers being naked but for a loin-cloth. At the command of the referee the two adversaries crouch with their hands on the ground and watch for an opening. The method is very similar to that of the ancient Greeks and the modern catch-as-catch-can style, except that a wrestler who touches the ground with any part of his person except the feet, after the first hold has been taken, loses the bout.
Indian wrestling resembles that of Japan in the great size of its exponents or Pulwans, and the number and subtlety of its attacks, called penches. It is of the " loose " order, the men facing each other nude, except for a loin-cloth, and manoeuvring warily for a hold. Both shoulders placed on the ground simultaneously constitute a fall.
In Great Britain wrestling was cultivated at a very early age, both Saxons and Celts having always been addicted to it, and English literature is full of references to the sport. On St James's and St Bartholomew's days special matches took place throughout England, those in London being held in St Giles's Field, whence they were afterwards transferred to Clerkenwell. The lord mayor and his sheriffs were often present on these occasions, but the frequent brawls among the spectators eventually brought public matches into disrepute. English monarchs have not disdained to patronize the sport, and Henry VIII. is known to have been a powerful wrestler.
It was inevitable, in a country where the sport was so ancient and so universal, that different methods of wrestling should grow up. It is likely that the " loose " style, in which the contestants took any hold they could obtain, generally prevailed throughout Great Britain until the close of the 18th century, when the several local fashions became gradually coherent; but it was not until well into the ipth that their several rules were codified. Of these the " Cumberland and Westmorland " style, which prevails principally in the N. of England (except Lancashire) and the S. of Scotland, is the most important. In this the wrestlers stand chest to chest, each grasping the other with locked hands round the body with his chin on the other's right shoulder. The right arm is below and the left above the adversary's. When this hold has been firmly taken the umpire gives the word and the bout proceeds until one man touches the ground with any part of his person except his feet, or he fails to retain his hold, in either of which cases he loses. When both fall together the one who is underneath, or first touches the ground, loses. If both fall simultaneously side by side, it is a " dog-fall," and the bout begins anew. The different manoeuvres used in British wrestling to throw the adversary are called " chips," those most important in the " Cumberland and Westmorland" or "North Country" style being the " backheel," in which a wrestler gets a leg behind his opponent's heel on the outside; the " outside stroke," in which after a sudden twist of his body to the left the opponent is struck with the left foot on the outside of his ankle; the " hank," or lifting the opponent off the ground after a sudden turn, so that both fall together, but with the opponent underneath; the " inside click," a hank applied after jerking the opponent forward, the pressure then being straight back; the " outside click," a backheel applied by a wrestler as he is on the point of being lifted from the ground it prevents this and often results in oversetting the opponent; the " cross-buttock," executed by getting one's hip underneath the opponent's, throwing one's leg across both his, lifting and throwing him; the " buttock," in which one's hip is worked still further under that of the opponent, who is then thrown right over one's back; the " hipe " or " hype," executed by lifting the opponent, and, while swinging him to the right, placing the left knee under his right leg and carrying it as high as possible before the throw; the " swinging hipe," in which the opponent is swung nearly or quite round Before the hipe is applied; and the " breast-stroke," which is a sudden double twist, first to one side and then to the other, followed by a throw.
In the "Cornwall and Devon" or "West Country" style the men wrestle in stout, loosely cut linen jackets, the hold being anywhere above the waist or on any part of the jacket. A bout is won by throwing the opponent on his back so that two shoulders and a hip, or two hips and a shoulder (three points), shall touch the ground simultaneously. This is a difficult matter, since ground wrestling is forbidden, and a man, when he feels himself falling, will usually turn and land on his side or face. Many of the " chips " common to other styles are used here, the most celebrated being the " flying mare," in which the opponent's left wrist is seized with one's right, one's back turned on him, his left elbow grasped with the left hand and he is then thrown over one's back, as in the buttock. Until comparatively recently there was a difference between the styles of Cornwall and Devon, the wrestlers of the latter county having worn heavily-soled shoes, with which it was legitimate to belabour the adversary's shins. In 1826 a memorable match took place between Polkinhorne, the Cornish champion, and the best wrestler of Devon, Abraham Cann, who wore " kicking-boots of an appalling pattern." Polkinhorne, however, encased his shins in leather, and the match was eventually drawn.
The " Lancashire " style, more generally known as " catchas-catch-can," is practised not only in Lancashire and the adjacent districts, but throughout America, Australia, Turkey and other countries. It is the legitimate descendant and representative of the ancient Greek sport and of the wrestling of the middle ages. A bout is won when both shoulders of one wrestler touch the floor together. No kicking, striking or other foul practices are allowed, but theoretically every hold is legitimate. Exceptions are, however, made of the so-called strangle-holds, which are sufficiently described by their designation, and any hold resulting in a dislocation or a fracture. This style contains practically all the manoeuvres known to other methods, and in its freedom and opportunity for a display of strategy, strength and skill, is the most preferable. A fall, though invariably begun standing, is nearly always completed on the ground (mat). The holds and " chips " are so numerous and complicated as to make anything but an elaborate description inadequate. The best book on the subject is the Handbook of Wrestling by Hugh F. Leonard (1897).
In Scotland a combination of the Cumberland and catch- ascatch-can styles has attained some popularity, in which the wrestlers begin with the North Country hold, but continue the bout on the ground should the fall not be a clean one with two shoulders down.
In Ireland the national style is called " collar and elbow " (in America, "back- wrestling"), from the holds taken by the two hands. The man loses, any part of whose person, except the feet, touches the ground.
The style mostly affected by the professional wrestlers of Europe at the present day is the Graeco-Roman (falsely so called, since it bears almost no resemblance to classic wrestling), which arose about 1860 and is a product of the French wrestling schools. It is a very restricted style, as no tripping is allowed, nor any hold below the hips, the result being that the bouts, which are contested almost entirely prone on the mat, are usually tediously long. British and American wrestlers, being accustomed to their own styles, are naturally at a disadvantage when wrestling under Graeco-Roman rules.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)