Everything you need to know about Indian wrestling at the Olympics

Highlighting the rules of wrestling, its Olympic history and India’s performance in the sport

By Saurabh Shankar ·

Ever since the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, the sport of wrestling has been an integral part of the sporting spectacular.

Wrestling is one of the few sports to have been held at all the editions of the Games so far.

Heading into Tokyo 2020, wrestling will continue to be an integral sport with medals contested in a total of18 weight categories for men and women across the Freestyle and Greco-Roman styles.

For the past few Games, India has performed admirably in wrestling, winning four medals in the sport since Beijing 2008 and their team will be confident of adding to that tally next August.

So here are some of the things that you need to know in order to get to grips with wrestling:

The rules

Wrestling is an individual sport played between two competitors where the objective is to outscore the opponents after two three-minute rounds or pin them to the ground to win the game.

Points are allocated if one can get their opponent on the back, with various moves awarded points differently.

There are two styles of wrestling -- Freestyle and Greco-Roman. In Freestyle, all parts of the body can be used to attack or defend, meanwhile in Greco-Roman, participants are only allowed to attack or defend from the waist up, with any attacks to the legs penalised.

At the Olympics, women and men compete in Freestyle, with Greco-Roman only for men.

While there are several ways to win points in wrestling, there are also penalties incurred by participants for intentionally injuring the opponent or for not making any attacking movement for a full minute and trying to run away from opposition attacks.

Wrestling firsts

Wrestling has been around at the Olympics since the very beginning, with Greco-Roman being a part of the very first Games in 1896, where German grappler Carl Schuhmann won the first-ever gold medal.

Freestyle wrestling was added eight years later in the 1904 Games when the sport had seven different weight categories.

While wrestling has been part of the Olympics for more than a century, Women’s wrestling was introduced for the first time at Athens 2004 with four gold medals up for grabs in that tournament in different weight categories.

Iryna Merleni, Saori Yoshida, Kaori Icho and Wang Xu were the first four women to win Olympic gold medals in the 48kg, 55kg, 63kg and 72kg categories respectively.

Indian wrestling at the Olympics

Wrestling was the sport in which independent India won its first ever individual Olympic medal, when Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav won a bronze back in 1952 at the Helsinki Games. Following that success though, the nation was unable to win any subsequent medal in that discipline for more than half a decade.

That drought was eventually broken at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when Sushil Kumar won the bronze medal through the repechage. He followed that up with a silver round his neck four years later in London to become the only Indian athlete to win more than one Olympic medal for an individual sport.

Sushil’s team mate Yogeshwar Dutt also tasted Olympic glory as he bagged a bronze medal in the same year.

After a good showing at London 2012, big things were expected of the Indian wrestling contingent in Rio; and this time it was female grappler Sakshi Malik who rose to the occasion.

She put on a resounding performance in the repechage round to win bronze and ensure wrestling had a medal winner from India for the third consecutive Olympics.

Malik also became the first female wrestler from India to win an Olympic medal. You can see more about her trailblazing path to glory here:

Sakshi Malik: The wrestling star defying stereotypes in India

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The current crop

Wrestling will continue to be one of India’s strong suits in their pursuit for medals come Tokyo 2020.

The nation boasts some of the finest men’s and women’s grapplers of today with the likes of Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat expected to lead from the front.

Divya Kakran (21) could be one of the stars of wrestling in the coming decade

Apart from that, India also has some quality young wrestlers in their ranks like Deepak Punia and Divya Kakran, who could not only be prospects for the the next edition of the Olympics, but have the potential to dominate the mat in the coming decade.