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History of Wrestling at the Olympics

History of Wrestling at the Olympics


Rulon Gardner

Rulon Gardner is one of only three men to win a Gold Medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling for the United States.

Billy Stickland/Getty Images
Wrestling dates back to ancient Olympic Games. When the modern Olympics began in 1896, wrestling was one of the events that was brought back.

For the 1896 Games, Greco-Roman was the only form of the sport there was a competition for and there was no weight class for that tournament. When the Olympics returned four years later, wrestling was not a part of those Games.

Wrestling returned in 1904 but it was Freestyle only and there were competitions in several weight classes. In 1908, Greco-Roman returned with weight classes and ever since both styles of wrestling have been a part of the Olympics. There are currently seven weight classes for each style of wrestling.

In 2004, women were finally allowed to compete in Freestyle Wrestling at the Olympics. There are four weight classes for them to compete in.

Four years later, a new format was created for the awarding of medals. No longer was there just a gold, silver, and bronze medal at stake for each weight class. A new wrinkle to the structure of the tournament has resulted in there being two bronze medals awards for each weight class.

In 2012, it was announced that starting with the 2020 Olympics, wrestling would no longer be a core Olympic sport. That meant the sport had to compete against seven other sports for the possibility to be in the 2020 Games. In 2013, wrestling won that competition and will remain on the Olympic calendar for both the 2020 and 2024 Games.

Despite not having competed since 1988, the former Soviet Union still holds the record for both the most Gold Medals and total medals in wrestling. The United States needs only seven medals to tie the Soviet Union for most total medals and has to win a gold medal in all 18 weight classes this year to tie them for most Gold Medals.

Traditionally, the United States has dominated Freestyle Wrestling but hasn't fared nearly as well in Greco-Roman Wrestling. Excluding the two gold medals we won in the 1984 Olympics which were boycotted by the Soviet Union, Rulon Garder's win in 2000 is our only gold medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling in an Olympic event where the Soviet Union or the countries that made it up competed in. By comparison, we have won 47 gold medals in Freestyle Wrestling.

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