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A History of Wrestling at the Games

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On the canvas of Glasgow’s SECC Arena, spectators will watch as men and women battle in a blur of contorted limbs, grappling their opponents to the ground in the primal contest of strength and strategy that is the sport of Wrestling.

Carving out the sport

Like many combative sports, Wrestling’s roots lie deep in human history. Literary references to the sport occur as early as the 13-12th Century BC in Homer’s Illiad, while the development of the sport can be traced to the Sumerian civilization of ancient Iraq in 5000BC before it was adopted and popularised by the Ancient Greeks.

For the Greeks wrestling was seen as a science and a divine militant art that was an important scholastic crucible for young men. The Greeks introduced wrestling to some of the first Olympic Games around 700 BC where wrestlers would fight naked, coated in olive oil and sand to protect them from the Hellenic sun.

Wrestling has been a regular staple of The Commonwealth Games since the Games’ inception in 1930 as the British and Empire Games. An ever present, Wrestling became optional sport in all bar three of the previous 19 tournaments. Wrestling at the Games is split into seven separate weight categories.

Battle on the canvas

At this year’s competition in Glasgow, Wrestling contenders will compete in the Freestyle discipline of the sport whereby the winner is declared with the athlete pinning an opponent’s shoulders to the mat. If a pin is not achieved over three two-minute rounds then the wrestlers are scored on technique by a panel of judges. It is far more than a contest of strength or a misguided brutally violent grudge match. Wrestlers must outwit their opponents using strategy, speed and size to ain the advantage.

Canadan flyers

Over the decades the Commonwealth Games can call on a plethora of Wrestling greats. Canadian freestyle wrestler Carol Huynh won the 48kg Gold at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, and doubled this success when she became the first Canadian woman to win Gold in the Olympics after a stunning victory in Bejing 2008.

Huynh is one of many great Canadian freestyle wrestlers. Canada has dominated Commonwealth Wrestling since its debut in at the inaugural Games in Hamilton, racking up a colossal 57 Gold medals, nearly double their rivals, India, who are have achieved 29 Gold medals.

Daniel Igali, was a Nigerian born freestyle wrestler who won Gold at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games for Canada. Daniel used his natural athleticism and quick thinking to dominate the sport at both national and international level.

Aged 16, Daniel made the difficult decision not to return to his native Nigeria after a wrestling competition in Canada. He secured refugee status due to political unrest in his homeland. Daniel’s grit and determination drove him to Olympic and Commonwealth Gold for his adopted home and solidified his place in wrestling history.

Indian summer

After their wrestlers titanic performance at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, India now  have an opportunity to close the medal gap on rival nation Canada. When the most recent crop of Indian wrestlers competed on home soil in 2010 they scooped 10 of the 21 gold medals on offer and helped haul India to its greatest ever Commonwealth medal tally of 101. The talisman of the 2010 team, Sushil Kumar won Gold and dominated the 66kg Freestyle Wrestling category in 2010.

Sushil Kumar is nevertheless the crown jewel of Indian wrestling due to his Olympic and Commonwealth successes.  He is hotly tipped to retain his Commonwealth crown in the 66kg Commonwealth weight category.

Pakistani powerhouse

India’s neighbouring country Pakistan regularly fields a strong team of wrestlers, and at one time been the dominant force of Commonwealth Wrestling. At no time was their dominance as complete as the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. During that year the Pakistani wrestlers won seven of a total eight gold medals and were only denied a clean sweep by Englishman Tony Buck in the then Light Heavyweight division.

At this time of Pakistani Wrestling supremacy, Muhammed Bashir rose to prominence. Bashir won three consecutive welterweight Commonwealth Golds in the 1958,1962 and 1966 Games and is also the only Pakistani to have ever won an Olympics medal.

Homefield advantage

Host nation Scotland are seeking their first Commonwealth Games Wrestling medal since 1994. Scotland’s medal hopes will be pinned on 45-year old twins Donna and Fiona Robertson in the female category, both have previously achieved medals in the sport of Judo and look to transfer their grappling skills with the home nation at their backs.  Ross McFarlane in the mens is sure to put in a performance and is hoping to hear bagpipes on the podium when the wrestlers hit the SECC this July. 

The cream of Commonwealth Wrestling will soon be competing in Glasgow, endeavouring to add their name to the honour roll of the Games. Buy your tickets now!

Reallocated seats will continue to be made available for public sale right up until Games Time so remember to keep checking the Ticketing website.

The Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games are now over. This website is closed and for reference purposes only. Some external links may no longer work. For the latest news and information, please visit the Commonwealth Games Federation website.