No sport is older or more widely practised than wrestling, which frequently takes place in regional variations that are still practised today. Two participants engage in the sport of wrestling, which involves putting an opponent under pressure to make contact with the ground with a body part other than his feet, forcing him into a seated position, or holding him there for a set period of time. There are many different ways to wrestle, either standing up or on the ground.
The sport of wrestling likely has its roots in hand-to-hand fighting, namely as a kind of competitive combat where the opponent’s death was replaced by submission. Belt wrestling is depicted in 3000 BCE artwork from Babylonia and Egypt, and it is described in the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh. Indian free wrestling began before 1500 BCE. Both Japanese records from the first century BCE and Chinese writings from 700 BCE mention free wrestling. The belt wrestling that the Swiss, Icelanders, Japanese, and Cossacks engaged in regionally in the 20th century differed little from that of the Egyptians in 2500 BCE.
The three fundamental methods of wrestling matches—belt-and-jacket, catch-hold, and loose—all seem to have their roots in antiquity. Belt-and-jacket wrestling is a type of grappling in which the wrestlers’ gear serves as their main method of securing a hold on the opposition. The wrestlers start off in loose styles of wrestling, which are employed in contemporary international competition, separated and free to grab any grip, save for some that are expressly prohibited.
Beginning with the Englishman Thomas Topham of London in the 18th century and ending with the German-born international figure Eugene Sandow, who persisted into the 20th century, a line of wrestlers or strongmen appeared at fairs, in theatres and circuses from that point on, challenging everyone. Wrestling was incorporated into the training regimen of the German turnverein gymnastic movement in the early 1800s. Wrestling was a popular frontier sport in the United States, with minimal holds allowed and matches typically lasting until one competitor submitted.