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With the possible exception of athletics, wrestling is recognised as the world’s oldest competitive sport. Indeed cave drawings of wrestlers have been found dating as far back as 3000 BC. The sport was introduced into the ancient Olympics in 708 BC.
When the modern Olympic Games resumed in Athens in 1896, wrestling became a focus of the Games. This was because organisers considered it historically significant; indeed Greco-Roman wrestling was deemed a pure reincarnation of ancient Greek and Roman wrestling.
In Greco-Roman wrestling, the wrestlers use only their arms and upper bodies to attack, and can only hold those same parts of their opponents. As the name suggests, freestyle is a much more open form in which wrestlers also use their legs and may hold opponents above or below the waist.
The 1900 Games were the only ones where wrestling was not present in any shape or form. As from the 1908 Olympic Games in London, Greco-Roman wrestling has always been included on the programme. Since the 1920 Antwerp Games, there have been both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling competitions.
Today, the nations dominating this sport are the Russian Federation, closely followed by the USA in freestyle wrestling. Iran, Turkey and Mongolia, countries in which wrestling is the national sport, also have some very high-level champions.
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the Greco-Roman wrestling programme was modified. Only eight weight categories are now represented in each style, as opposed to the 10 that had been included since the 1972 Games in Munich. Since the 2004 Games in Athens, men have competed in only seven weight categories.