Home » Featured

The Historical Development of Western Wrestling – An Overview (Antonio Graceffo)

12 October 2014 One Comment

Students, here is a great timeline of wrestling from ancient times until today.  Feel free to use the information here on any upcoming research papers you have. However, please make sure you site Antonio Graceffo in your Works Sited paper/Bibliography.


A brief time-line overview of the development of western wrestling; from the oldest known image of wrestlers, dating back to 3000 BC Sumaeria, to the ancient Olympics, Pankration, the gladiatorial games, Greco-Roman wrestling, catch wrestling, modern Olympic wrestling, professional wrestling, to modern-day MMA.

3000  BC The earliest images of western wrestling were found in Sumeria, dating back to around 3000 BC. (Terry)
2600 BC A Bronze figurine of two wrestlers was found in Khafaji, Iraq which dates to around 2600 BC. (Dellinger)
2300 BC Images of wrestlers were found in an Egyptian burial tomb, dating to around 2300 BC. (Carroll)
2000 BC The Epic of Gilgamesh, written around 2000 BC, gives one of the first historical records of wrestling, when Gilgamesh wrestles against Enkidu. (Squared Circle, June, 2013)
708 B.C Ancient Greek Wrestling was added to the Olympic Games This style of wrestling allowed wins not only by pin but also by submissions. (Olympic.org, ANCIENT OLYMPIC GAMES)
646 BC Greek Pankration, a fighting art which combined wrestling, boxing, submissions, and kicks, a popular spectator sport at the time, was added to the Olympics, alongside wrestling and boxing. All three were contested as separate sports. (ancientolympics.arts)
540 BC Milo of Croton was a six-time Olympic champion, once in the boy’s division and five times in the men’s division, (between 536 and 520 BC). His competitive wrestling career spanned 24 years. He ate 20 pounds of meat and 20 pounds of bread, and eighteen pints of wine, everyday. Legends say that his training routine included carrying a baby calf around for years. This anecdote has been called the first documented example of progressive weight training. As the calf grew, so did Milo’s strength. (perseus.tufts, Milo)
480 BC Theogenes of Thasos was both a boxer and pankrationiast, considered to be one of the greatest athletes in Ancient Greece. He won at the Olympic Games twice, once in boxing and once in Pankration. He also won as many as 1,300 other championships in both boxing and Pankration, in other Greek games, spanning a career of decades. (perseus.tufts, Theogenes) A famous statue, from 330 B.C, called The Boxer of Quirinal, or the Terme Boxer, was discussed in a short story called, The Pugilist at Rest. In that story, author, Thom Jones stated that he believed the famous statue commemorated the life of Theogenes of Thasos. (Jones)
264 BC The first recorded Gladiatorial Games were held in 246 BC. (Semaan) During the Roman era Pankration mutated into the gladiatorial games. Because of the superior military planning and strategy of the Roman legions, the power of the individual soldier became less important. Wrestling remained a beloved sport in both the Olympics and in military training.
1848, Greco-Roman wrestling was born in France. The Greco Roman style is unique in that it forbids attacks to the legs. The wrestlers must possess powerful upper bodies and have the ability to lift and throw their opponents. (Sparta Club, history of the Greco)
1870’s Catch-as-catch-can, or Lancashire wrestling, or just “Catch wrestling” was invented in Lancashire, England. Catch wrestling matches can be won by pin, choke, or submission. They had no time limit. And a title fight once lasted for over 11 hours. (Launchpad)
1896 Greco-Roman wrestling was included in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and has been included in every summer Olympics held since 1908. (Olympic.org,WRESTLING GRECO-ROMAN)
1904 Catch wrestling was included in the St. Louis Olympics. All of the competitors were Americans. And consequently, the US won all of the medals. It was also included in the 1908 London Games and the 1920 Antwerp Games. (Nash Aug. 2012)
1865 – 1922 Professional catch wrestling was one of the most popular spectator sports in the US. (Launchpad)
1908 Catch wrestler Frank Alvin Gotch defeated George Hackenschmidt to become the first American professional wrestler to win the world heavyweight title, which he held from 1908 to 1913. (Frankgotch.com)
1920 Earl Caddock “The Man of a Thousand Holds” who had won the world heavyweight title in 1917 by defeating Joe Stecher was forced to give up the title, while he served in WW I. After the war, in1920, he defeated then heavyweight champion Stecher in Madison Square Garden, to regain his title. The match was filmed and is, to date, the oldest known wrestling film. (Nash, Oct, 2012)
1922 The last “real” catch wrestling title fight was held between Ed “Strangler” Lewis and Earl Caddock. Although Caddock lost that match, he is considered to have been the last legitimate champion. (Nash, Oct, 2012)
1920’s Professional wrestling became fake. Because catch wrestling matches could last for hours, ending in a draw, and with long periods of one or the other competitor stuck in a hold, fake professional wrestling was seen as a more exciting form of entertainment.
1922 In 1922, catch wrestling was dropped from both the Olympics and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in favor of freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. Both freestyle and Greco-Roman are still in the Olympics today. (Nash Aug. 2012)
1939-1950’s Gorgeous George Wagner changed the face of pro wrestling forever, by creating his own costumes and character, intentionally making himself the most hated and the best paid man in professional wrestling. He also became  the first TV wrestlers. (WWE, Gorgeous George)
1970’s Andre the Giant became the first international star of  professional wrestling. He was also the first closed circuit TV star and the highest paid wrestler in history (until that time). (Biography Channel, Jan. 1999)
1980’s Hulk Hogan became the first pay-per-view wrestling star. His period of super-stardom, dubbed Hulkamania, was like nothing that had been seen before, or since. Hulk Hogan appeared on Saturday morning cartoons, movies, action figures, vitamins, exercise equipment, board games and thousands of other products. He is credited with having elevated the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) to a billion dollar industry. (Lifetime TV, Hulk Hogan)
1993 The Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) held its first event in the US. And the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was born. Although all martial arts are permissible in MMA, the main arts which the fighters study are: wrestling, Brazilian Jujitsu, Muay Thai, and boxing. Fights can be won by choke, submission, KO, TKO, referee stoppage, or judge’s decision.
1990’s Wrestlers see MMA as a way of earning money and the UFC becomes dominated by former high school and collegiate wrestlers. In the 2000’s approximately 80% of UFC champions are former wrestlers. (UFC.com)
1990’s – 2000’s Partially because of the popularity of MMA there has been a resurgence of interest in many classical forms of wrestling, most notably catch wrestling and Pankration. Grappling tournaments are extremely popular, with practitioners studying and combing a variety of arts from wrestling and Brazilian Jujitsu, to judo, sambo, catch wrestling, and Chinese shuai jiao.
2014 The most famous catch wrestler in the world today is probably former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Josh Barnett. His a former King of Pancrase and the current Metamoris Brazilian Jujitsu Heavyweight Champion. As of July 2014, he was ranked as #6 in UFC heavyweight rankings. His official MMA record is 33 wins and only 7 losses.             (Thomas)


Slide30Slide29 Slide28 Slide27Slide26Slide25Slide24Slide23Slide22Slide21Slide20Slide19Slide18Slide17Slide16Slide15Slide14Slide13Slide12Slide11Slide10Slide9Slide8Slide7Slide6Slide5Slide4Slide3Slide2Slide1


ancientolympics.arts, Pankration, Ancient Olympics,


Biography Channel, Andre the Giant, Jan. 1999


Carroll, S, Wrestling in Ancient Nubia, Journal of Sport History, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Summer, 1988)


Dellinger, B, The Oldest Sport, National Wrestling Hall of Fame


Frankgotch.com, Frank Gotch, Biography


Jones, T, The Pugilist at Rest: Stories, Little, Brown and Company, 1994
Legacy of Wrestling, Earl Caddock, legacyofwrestling.com


Launchpad, Catch Wrestling, constantaggression.com, Sep, 2014


Lifetime TV, Hulk Hogan, Biography


Nash, S The Martial Chronicles: The Forgotten Olympic History of Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling, Bloody Elbows, Aug, 2012


Nash, S, Wrestling with the Past: The Man of a Thousand Holds, CAGESIDE SEATS FEATURES, Oct, 2012







perseus.tufts, Milo of Kroton, Athletes’ Stories


perseus.tufts, Theagenes of Thasos, Athletes’ Stories


Semaan, J, Roman Gladiator Games: the Origins of MMA, Part Two, Bleacher Report, Jun, 2008


Slack, J, Catch Wrestling and Old-School Boxing, Bleacher Report, Dec 22, 2013


Sparta Club, The history of the Greco-Roman wrestling,


Squared Circle of Wrestling, Wrestling In Prehistory, History, And Mythology, June 15, 2013


Terry, S, Origins of Wrestling, Livestrong.com, Jan 15, 2014


Thomas, L, Technique Talk: Josh Barnett’s pushing and pulling for catch wrestling’s respect, MMA Fightmag, Sep, 2014




WWE, Gorgeous George, Superstars, WWE.com



One Comment »

  • Mark L. said:

    Here is a video Antonio has made:

    “In his first year at Shanghai University of Sport, Brooklyn Monk Antonio Graceffo, a wrestling major, was a member of the Chinese traditional wrestling team (Shuai jiao dui). In his second year, he began taking private training in Greco-Roman wrestling, with his coach, Hong Fang Yuan, as well as private san da, and judo training with other coaches. This video is part of a small glimpse into the research Antonio is doing for his PhD dissertation, comparing Chinese traditional wrestling to modern Olympic wrestling.”


Leave a comment to Mark L.

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.