The International Olympic Committee voted on Sunday to restore wrestling to the Olympic schedule in 2020, though this is only after some tweaks to rules that included adding more weight classes for women.
The final vote saw wrestling with 49 votes, 24 for baseball/softball, and 22 for squash among the voting delegates. This will save freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling, the two Olympic disciplines, for the 2020 and 2024 Summer Olympics.
This is not permanent reinstatement, though, as it was not one of the 25 ‘core sports’ that were approved by the IOC on Sunday morning prior to this vote.
The biggest changes are tweaking the scoring rules where aggressive wrestling will be rewarded over more passive wrestling; this is hoped to make the matches easier to understand for the average fan, as opposed to the past where an untrained observer would be hard-pressed to record successful scores. The format has also been tweaked to have two three-minute rounds, rather than three two-minute rounds, which according to FILA president Nenad Lalovic will giver wrestlers more time to “develop the fight”.
Aleksandr Karelin, a three-time Olympic champion in the Greco-Roman discipline, threw his support behind the changes, and said it would put the outcomes back in the hands of the wrestlers.
Two weight classes were dropped for the men and two were added for the women at the Olympics, which was part of a huge response to criticism over antiquated, old-school leadership. Women still will only participate in the freestyle version of the event, but FILA (wrestling’s governing body) was willing to look at adding Greco-Roman if the interest existed.
The two weight classes added for women creates 6 classes in women’s freestyle, men’s freestyle, and men’s Greco-Roman disciplines.
This means that wrestling, having been an Olympic sport since the ancient Olympics in the BCE era, will retain its perfect streak of being contested at every version of the modern Olympics since 1904. Wrestling isn’t a perfect streak; there was no wrestling at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, the one and only time that’s happened.
The group that has been in every Games sits at just 5: Athletics (track & field, race walking, marathon), cycling, fencing, gymnastics, and swimming.
Editor’s note: Greco-Roman wrestling forbids holding of the opponent below the belt, making trips, or using legs in the action of wrestling. This usually leads to less grappling on the ground and more throws engaging the upper body.
Freestyle wrestling is more traditional to the kind of wrestling typically envisioned at the Olympic level, and involves more grappling, ground wrestling, and pinning, with legs fully able to be used. This is most similar to high school and college wrestling, though those use their own rules.