History of Wrestling

Wrestling is one of the oldest forms of Combat Sports with reference to it as early as the 13th and 12th Century BC.

The origins of Wrestling can be traced back 15,000 years through cave drawings in France.

Techniques such as throws, takedowns, pins and other holds are used by competitors in an attempt to gain and maintain a superior position. Wrestling is a fast growing sport in Australia. Many Australians know more about the modern Professional Wrestlemania, (WWE or “World Wrestling Entertainment”) with all its theatre, public adoration, rich remuneration, and publicity stunts. However, the true sport of wrestling is rooted in antiquity, and is quite different and exciting.

Archaeological finds depict wrestling in Egypt and Mesopotamia more than 5,000 years ago. Documentary evidence puts the sport in India and China well before the Christian era. In fact, virtually every society around the globe sports a long tradition of some form of wrestling.

The ancient Greeks were among the most fanatic of fans, depicting wrestling on coins, pottery, and statuary. Most of the colonnade of the palaestra at Olympia still stands today, testimony to the site of the wrestling competition in the ancient Olympic Games. The complex included a roofed area for matches and side rooms for the competitors to wash, bathe, and oil down for their matches. Wrestling also figures prominently in classical Greek legend, myth, and epic.

The rules were simple back then: Throw your opponent to the ground, making him land on his hip, shoulder, or back. Two of three falls takes the match. Don’t punch, gouge, or bite. Unlike today’s professional wrestling, there were no managers, ring girls, folding-chair attacks, or steel cages. No ridiculous costumes, either – matches were contested without clothing.

The greatest of the Olympic wrestlers of classical Greece was Milo of Croton, who never lost a match until the end of his career. He was also a general, a civic leader, a very rich man, and a close associate of the philosopher-mathematician, Pythagoras. Fame and wealth followed Milo’s success in the arena.

Milo of Croton was born in the sixth century B.C. in southern Italy, won the boys’ wrestling Olympic Games in 540 B.C., and went on to victory in five consecutive Olympics. By all accounts, Milo was very big and very, very strong – and apparently knew how to please a crowd. Legend has it that he once carried an ox through spectators at Olympia.

Some modern athletic coaches consider Milo the father of resistance training, the process of lifting heavier and heavier weights to build strength. This stems from another legend: As a youth, Milo carried a newborn ox on his shoulders. As Milo grew, the ox grew; the load got heavier and Milo’s muscles became stronger.

The greatest wrestler of the modern Olympics is Aleksandr Karelin of Russia. Before his Silver medal win at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Karelin was undefeated throughout his whole career. In 1981, he started to engage in Greco-Roman wrestling in wrestling section of Novosibirsk Electrical Engineering Institute. His constant trainer is Victor Kuznetzov. Alexandr Karelin became an Olympic champion three times: in 1988, 1992 and 1996. He also won 12 European championships and 9 World Championships.


Australia’s first wrestler was Harry Morris in the welterweight division at the Amsterdam Games in 1928. Australia has been represented by at least one wrestler at every Games since then. Three Australians have won Olympic medals in freestyle events, but never in Greco-Roman. In Los Angeles 1932, Eddie Scarf was third in the light-heavyweight division. Twelve years later in London, Dick Garrard won a silver medal as a welterweight and Jim Armstrong won a bronze medal in the heavyweight division.

Women competed in wrestling for the first time at the 2004 Athens Olympics, in four freestyle weight categories. Australia was first represented in women’s wrestling at Beijing 2008 by Kyla Bremner.

To read more about Australia’s Olympic wrestling history, click here

Dick Garrard is the only wrestler to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Australia has never won a Greco-Roman Olympic medal.

Farzad Tarash was Australia’s only wrestler to qualify a quota spot for Australia for the London Games after booking his ticket to the 2012 Games by finishing in the top two of his division at the African and Oceania Qualifying Tournament. Competing in the U/60kg division in London, Tarash had a bye through to the quarterfinals where he went down to North Korea’s Jong Myong Ri 3-0.

Australia had three wrestlers qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  Ivan Popov was the only Greco-Roman Wrestler for Australia and competed in the 130kgs division.

Australia had two freestyle wrestlers compete the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Sahit Prizreni competed in the 65kgs division and Talgat Ilyasov competed in the 74kgs division.