London 2012: Wrestling

Published On July 12, 2012 | By Jill Saftel

Tell me about wrestling:

The sport of wrestling has been traced all the way back to 708 B.C., but it made its modern debut at the Athens Games in 1896. Wrestling requires both physical strength and mental skill and is played out on a circular combat circle within an octagonal mat. The competition in London will consist of two disciplines, Greco-Roman and Freestyle. Greco-Roman wrestling allows athletes to use only their upper bodies and arms, but in Freestyle wrestling, competitors can use any part of their bodies to wrestle an opponent.

The two styles combine for a total of 18 medal events. The male-only Greco-Roman
field consists of seven weight categories while Freestyle allows both men and women to
compete. In Freestyle wrestling, there are seven weight categories for men and four for
women. Each country is limited to one athlete in each event.

The London 2012 wrestling competition will begin August 5 at ExCeL, the largest
competition venue at this year’s games. ExCeL is made up of five arenas, each playing
host to a different sport.

What’s up with the scoring?

The aim in wrestling is to pin the opponent face up with the opponent’s shoulders on the ground. Bouts can last for up to three periods, each of which lasts two minutes each. There is a 30-second break between each period.

The periods are decided by points, which are awarded for different throws and holds. If
a wrestler wins the first two periods or if the wrestler pins his/her opponent, the contest
finishes early.

In Freestyle, the final period can go longer than two minutes in order to determine a
winner. Once the bout exceeds two minutes, the bout enters a golden score period which functions like a sudden death, meaning the first score wins.

How do players qualify?

There are multiple phases of qualification for the 2012 London Olympics. The first phase was the Senior World Championship in which the first six male and six female wrestlers in each Olympic weight category ranked in the World Championships qualified for the Olympic Games. A series of Continental Qualifying Tournaments followed, with the first two male and two female wrestlers of each weight category gaining Olympic berth. The World Qualifying Tournament, and the Second World Qualifying Tournament follow suit, with three male and two female wrestlers coming out of the first tournament, and two male and two female coming out of the second. In each qualifying phase, the competition pool becomes shallower as once a wrester has qualified, he or she cannot compete in the later tournaments.

International players to watch:

Russia, Japan, and Georgia were the teams to beat at the last Games, with Russia taking six of the gold medals up for grabs. Russia remains the frontrunner this year with favorite Besik Kudukhov, who looks to improve on his bronze from the 2008 Games. Iran will also be a strong competitor, as it has 2011 World Champions, Mehdi Taghavi Kermani and Reza Yazdani.

Japan is favorited on the women’s side, following success at Beijing and Athens. Saori
Yoshida and Kaori Icho are both two-time defending gold medalists looking to defend their titles this year in London.

Americans to watch:

The US does not dominate in Olympic wrestling, but Jordan
Burroughs is the nation’s best shot at gold this summer. At 23 years old, the world
champion Freestyle wrestler has not lost a match in three years, and is arguably
the most popular competitor in a largely unpublicized sport. His popular Twitter
account “@alliseeisgold” has over 16,000 followers. Jake Herbert, 27, is another name to watch for the American men; however, Herbert is dealing with an undisclosed injury and will undergo surgery after the Games.

On the women’s side, Ali Bernard got a second chance at her Olympic dream when
wrestler Stephany Lee tested positive for a marijuana metabolite, forfeiting her spot in the Games to Bernard, who finished second behind Lee at the U.S. Olympic Wrestling
team Trials in April. Bernard placed fifth in her weight class at the 2008 Olympic Games and garnered a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships.

Talk like an Olympian – terms to know:

Fall – Another word for a pin, a fall occurs when a wrestler holds the back of his
opponent’s shoulders to the mat.

FILA (Fédération International des Luttes Associées) – This is the international governing body for wrestling, which means it organizes international Olympic-style events and is responsible for enforcing rules.

Repechage – This is basically an Olympic wrestler’s last hope. If a wrestler loses to an
opponent who goes on to reach the final round, he or she is entered into the repechage
round. Competitors in this round have the opportunity to wrestle back for a bronze medal.

Ball draw – This is wrestling’s tie-breaker process. If the score is tied at the end of the
period, one wrestler will pull a ball out of a bag. The ball drawn is either blue or red and
indicates which wrestlers will take the offensive and defensive positions during the tie-
breaker round.

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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.