What Are the Different Types of Wrestling?

If you’ve ever watched wrestling at the Olympics, you’ve experienced a sporting event that dates back to the ancient Greeks. Now, 135 countries have a wrestling federation and the United States is a major player. Wrestling is one of our top three sports in terms of medals won.

As well as the wrestling you might have seen at the Olympics, there are many more types of wrestling. Read on to learn about some different types of wrestling from around the world.

Freestyle Olympic Wrestling

Freestyle wrestling is one of the two forms of wrestling represented at the Olympic Games. It’s practiced extensively around the world.

The aim of the freestyle wrestler is to throw and pin their opponent on the mat. If the wrestler achieves this they have won.

Wrestlers may use their legs both offensively and defensively. Trips and scissor holds are a common feature of freestyle wrestling. These moves don’t appear in some other kinds of wrestling.

Greco-Roman Wrestling

Greco-Roman wrestling is also one of the two wrestling types seen at the Olympic Games. It was one of the sports to feature in the first Olympics in the modern era in 1896.

Greco-Roman wrestling has some key differences from freestyle wrestling. Holds below your opponent’s waist are not permitted. Trips, so much a feature of freestyle wrestling are also not allowed.

These restrictions make throws much more important. These powerful wrestlers often lift their opponents bodily into the air before dumping them onto the mat.

Folkstyle Wrestling

The wrestling options available in schools and colleges in America often focus on folkstyle wrestling. This is also known as scholastic wrestling. There are versions with slightly different rules in schools and colleges offering a way of getting healthy exercise at all ages.

It has many similarities to freestyle wrestling. Legs are used both offensively and defensively. A specific aspect of folkstyle wrestling is the aspect of controlling your opponent.

Sumo Wrestling

Sumo wrestlers often weigh over 300 pounds. They develop their technique and physique in sumo wrestling schools in Japan. The life of a sumo wrestler includes training, resting, and eating huge quantities of calorie-rich food.

The huge bulk of sumo wrestlers is impressive. Dressed in the briefest of trunks with a wide belt around their waist, the wrestlers square up to each other and perform a ritualized preparation for the contest.

When they start to wrestle the two huge men charge each other. They try to drive each other out of the small wrestling ring.

Alternatively, they can also score a win by getting their opponent to touch the ground with a part of their body other than their feet. These huge wrestlers are surprisingly agile performing subtle feints and swerves to avoid their opponent’s charge.

Cumberland Wrestling

Cumberland wrestling is a style of wrestling that can be seen at agricultural shows in the northwest of England. It is one of many wrestling styles from the English counties, each of which has its own slight variants.

Cumberland wrestling is similar to the Icelandic form of wrestling, Glima. This may be due to the Viking influence on the north of England.

It starts with a back hold. The wrestlers stand facing each other with their chests touching. Each contestant wraps their arms around the other and has their chin on their opponent’s right shoulder.

When they start wrestling they try to trip or lift the other wrestler. If one loses their grip they lose the contest. If one succeeds in getting the other to the ground, they win.


The waring history of the Mongolians has given them a rich tradition in wrestling. Bökh is an important cultural activity.

In Bökh the wrestlers grip each other’s trunks or jackets. They try to get the opponent to touch the ground with any part of their body other than their feet.

Shuai Jiao

Martial arts from China are practiced all over the world. Shuai Jiao doesn’t have the international recognition of Kung Fu but it also has historic roots.

Shuai Jiao has its origins during the Qing Dynasty which began in 1644. It now has standardized rules and is practiced in China by military and police academies.


The Viking’s reputation as ferocious fighters persists in the sport of Glima. It’s a type of wrestling practiced in modern Iceland.

There are three forms. One features a back grip. Another a pant and belt grip and yet another which allows a range of holds.

Despite its origins in life and death combat, modern Glima wrestling has high regard for the technical aspects of the sport rather than simple strength moves.


Russia has its own rich wrestling heritage. Sambo is the name of this form of wrestling.

The rules share similarities with Judo. It was developed as a form of unarmed combat for military use in the 1920s. This makes it a modern sport compared to many other wrestling forms.

Its developers intended it to combine the best of existing forms of unarmed combat. There are sport and combat versions of the wrestling style.


Pehlwani, sometimes called Kushti, is a type of wrestling from the Indian subcontinent. It was developed from wrestling styles indigenous to India combined with styles from ancient Persia, now modern-day Iran.

Pehlwani doesn’t have the point-scoring aspects of some other wrestling forms. The aim is to pin your opponent’s shoulders and hips to the ground. A win can also be achieved by knock-out or submission.

Professional Wrestling

The professional wrestling seen on TV shows is primarily a form of entertainment. It’s as much a drama with the wrestlers playing characters as an exhibition of wrestling. That’s not to deny that the participants are often very athletic and that the moves can be risky.

Types of Wrestling

The huge variety of types of wrestling are a testament to its long history. Wrestling continues to attract interest. Participants and spectators alike keep it thriving.

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