Wrestling – The World’s Oldest Competitive Sport

History of Professional Wrestling

The earliest reference of wrestling comes from cave drawings of wrestlers dating as far back as 3000 BC.

Traces of wrestling have also been found in Sumerian times, some 5000 years back.  Archaeological findings show wrestling to be prominent during Egyptian times. A drawing from tomb of Beni-Hassan shows 400 wrestlers.  Apart from this drawings showing the existence of corporations of wrestler, wrestling rules and refereeing codes have also been found.

Greeks however developed wrestling as a science and art.  It was considered to be an important training for young men. They wrestled naked, smeared in olive oil and sand to protect skin from heat and cold. The oil was then removed with a instrument known as strigil and washed with clean water.  Freestyle wrestling was mostly prevalent in Greece during that time.  The competitor who threw the opponent on back, hips, chest, knees or elbows was declared winner.

Wrestling gained further popularity in 708 B.C, during the ancient Olympic Games. It became an important and decisive discipline of the Pentathlon after discus, javelin, long jump and foot race. Milon of Croton, student of the philosopher Pythagoras was the most famous wrestlers of that time.

A dark phase for wrestling came during the reign of Emperor Theodosius I in 393. He banned all pagan games and outlawed Olympic Games.

But wrestling was restored back to its glory in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, practiced in the socially elite circles of castles and palaces

Renowned artists like Caravaggio, Poussin, Rembrandt, Courbet, Rabelais, Rousseau, Montaigne, Locke, etc. encouraged wrestling.

In fact a colored wrestling manual was printed in 1512 by German artist Albrecht Dürer.

Professional wrestling in its truest sense started in 1830 from France. Wrestlers who did not have access to elite circles, but had talent, formed troupes and traveled across France. A little glamor to professional wrestling was added during this time with open challenges thrown by wrestles to fight them and introducing fancy names like “Edward, the steel eater”, “Bonnet, the ox of the low Alps” etc.

In 1848 a French showman Jean Exbroyat created first circus troupe of wrestlers. It gave some organization to this sport. After his death, the troupe was overseen by Mr. Rossignol-Rollin. His strong marketing acumen spread the influence of wrestling far and wide.  It got spread to Austrian Hungarian Empire, to Italy, to Denmark and to Russia. The confluence of different cultures impacted wrestling giving it a new outlook and came to be known as Greco-Roman wrestling.

Thereafter professional wrestling was organized in entire Europe in 1898 Paul Pons, a Frenchman became the first Professional World Champion of wrestling.

By the end of 19th century, professional wrestling became a sport of in vogue in Europe Gradually with time International Federation for wrestling was created and impetus was given to these sports in every

In present scenario wrestling has many forms and is practiced by both men and women. Today competitive wrestlers are at risk of contracting and spreading bacterial skin infections every time they step on the mat. Read our hygiene guide for wrestlers for more information.

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