The Greatest Sport of All Time
The year is 490 BC. It is the time of the Olympiad and you and your family are making your way to Olympia. Upon arriving you encounter people you have never met before, Romans, Armenians, and even Egyptians. All are here to participate in the five day festival known as the Olympics. Some of the events included are foot races, the long jump, and even chariot races, but everyone came here for the greatest sport of them all, wrestling. It is one of the only sports that truly defines competition. It's cataclysmic battle of strength, endurance, and will between two people. The competitors vying for dominance of one another and the ultimate prize of a sacred olive branch.
An olive branch may not seem like much today but in ancient times the olive branch was one of the greatest honors you could receive as an athlete. Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world. Its origins can be traced back about 15000 years ago through cave drawings in France (Historical Origins of Wrestling). Wrestling was popular around the world as found by the different styles found. Some such examples are Shuai Jiao, a wrestling style that originated inChina over four thousand years ago, and the more common Greco-Roman style practiced extensively thought Greece and Rome and modern times. These are only some of the more popular styles of wrestling though nearly every culture boasts a form of hand-to-hand combat designed to throw opponents off balance which is the accepted definition of wrestling. Modern wrestling (Folk style), was devolved in Europe where many of the styles were very loosely organized, but in France all the styles were brought together and formed the style of Greco-Roman that we know today. Early American colonists brought wrestling with them to an area where the Native Americans they encountered practiced styles of their own. One of the more popular wrestling styles that early American colonists practiced is what is called "collar and elbow" wrestling or catch wrestlinga form of Folk style. Because of its vast history, wide popularity and its numerous styles, Wrestling is the greatest sport of all time.
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The History of Collegiate wrestling (Folk style) is directly traced to the many forms of wrestling found in early Europe, mainly in Great Britain. These wrestling styles soon gained a lot of popularity in what would be the U.S, and by the close of the civil war, gymnasiums and athletic clubs began sponsoring tournaments which helped promote the sport thought the United States and the world. By the end of the 19th century, the Amateur Athletic Union was sponsoring competitions in Freestyle wrestling, which soon led to colleges and universities competing in dual meets and round robin tournaments.
Collegiate wrestling was so popular in early America that it can be found in the earliest moments of US history. English and French settlers found wrestling to be a popular pastime, and soon there were local champions from every settlement. Contests sprung up to find out who was the best regional champion. The colonists started out with a style that was much closer to Greco-Roman the collegiate but they soon found the style to restrictive and modified it to allow more types of holds on opponents. In Virginia and the Carolinas, wrestling contests were very popular among the Scottish and the Irish colonists and they held many athletic events for it. But the brutality of the matches was extreme and the Assembly of Virginia had to legislate against illegal holds prohibiting "maiming." What the consul meant was that there could be no "gouging, plunking or putting out an eye, biting, kicking, or stomping upon and opponent." Although these rules were put in place, most went ignored.
Many of our nation's earliest great leaders wrestled being that it was the biggest physical contact sport. An example would be George Washington, who was well known because of his wrestling championship in Virginia in the collar-and-elbow style. At the age of 47 Washington was still able to defeat many opponents, including one incident where he was challenged by several of the Massachusetts Volunteers. Also, Abraham Lincoln, who at the age of 21 was his county's champion in Illinois.
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Wrestling has evolved from being practiced only by men of stature into a national phenomenon. Almost every major college has a wrestling team, some of the most notable being Iowa state and Oklahoma State, and even the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) has multiple national tournaments. Wrestling really shows its popularity in the High school division. The majority every high school has its own team and even though wrestling is a "team sport" it is centered more on the individual than the team. The reason for this is because when you step on the mat you are the only one there. You are the only one looking into your opponent's eyes and saying "I'm going to beat you." Granted not many can take that step but the ones who do are some of the strongest people I know.
Wrestling is one the most difficult sports there are. Strength and endurance play a large part in making a good wrestler but the most important factor is "mental toughness" as coach Espy would say to my team and me before a workout. He would often tell us "wrestling is the toughest sport in the world, not because of the physical aspect but because of the mental aspect."
And this is completely true. The mental aspect of the sport takes time to understand. Do you know what your opponent is going to do before he does it? If I put my arm here where will his legs be? Steve Silverman a contributing writer for e-how.com writes "Wrestlers are among the hardest working high schoolathletes. Wrestlers have to be in the best condition possible, must work to increase their strength and must be as quick mentally as they are tough physically. This is a sport that demands effort at all times and the will to keep getting better no matter how much success a wrestler has had."
Nutrition and cutting weight also play a large role in wrestling. This is where the controversy starts. Nutrition plays a key role in a healthy functioning body. It provides the fuel needed to perform any action, and when you take away the fuel you have nothing left to run on. The main reason that this is an issue is because people feel that the kids who do starve themselves to lose the ten to fifteen pounds needed to drop a weight class are forced to by their coaches or peers, which in some cases is true. Mike Viscardi, journalist for the Iowa Gazette, writes "What do Billy Saylor (19 years old) at Campbell University in North Carolina, Joseph LaRosa (22) at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Jeff Reese (21) at the University of Michigan all have in common? They are all dead now, victims of one of the ghastly secrets of college wrestling. Fatal practices of Dehydration" (Iowa Gazette - December 22, 2007).
Now this may be true in some cases but when I was wrestling in high school I remember a dual tournament that we were going to attend in two weeks. Now at that time I weighed in at 205 mainly so that I could wrestle in the 215 weight class. The varsity wrestler at 189 had gotten ring worm and could no longer participate. At the time we didn't have an alternate step for the spot so I stepped up and said that I would do it. And that is my point right there. No one put a gun to my head and said you're going to drop 16 pounds or you're off the team, and no one peer pressured me into it, I did it of my own free will. I think that Bryan Smith, Medical consultant for the Atlantic Coast Conference, says it best, "Cutting weight for a wrestler is a personal decision. For some wrestlers cutting a few pounds makes them feel leaner, stronger, faster & mentally tougher. For others, cutting weight can make them feel slower, weaker and not as sharp. The big question is how does cutting weight make you feel" ("Cutting Weight")? The big problem with wrestling is that you have to believe that you are invincible because the whole sport is about mind over body. The legendary University of Iowa coach Dan Gable had this to say in an ESPN report: "They (wrestlers) think they are indestructible. But I'll tell you what -- those three athletes thought they were indestructible, too. And they aren't around to talk about it."Wrestlers believe that it is mind over body; they can accomplish anything and nothing bad will ever happen to them" ("The Legend").Even with the intensive workouts and the "I am invincible" mindset, at the end of the day it's the wrestler's choice whether or not to participate in these types of actives.
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Since this incident the NCAA has made several changes in rules which were implemented immediately. Things like using a sauna are now banned and a seven pound weight allowance has been added to each weight class which makes it much easier and healthier. This effectively means that a wrestler in the 125 pound weight class can weigh up to 132 pounds and still wrestle at 125 (Why Wrestlers Get Sick Before Tournaments). And in high school they are required to have a nutrition program to teach the effective use of food in sports, though the program is voluntary.
Wrestling, characterized by its strength, endurance and "mental toughness", is the greatest sport in the world. Because it's one of the oldest sports in the world it is also the most diverse, every culture possess a form of the sport and though you may not always understand someone, wrestling provides a universal language that anyone can learn to understand. This is the sport that anyone can learn. You don't have to be born with great talent but you do have to possess the drive to be better than the one you are facing and look them in the eye and have to courage to say "I'm going to beat you."
Espn.comDisney Corporation, 6 Nov. 2008. Web. 22 Nov. 2009.
Silverman, Steve. "How to Become a Better High School Wrestler."e-how.com.N.p., 13 Sept. 2008. Web. 24 Nov. 2009.
Smith, Bryan W.Cutting Weight.The Mat, n.d. 22 Nov. 2009.
"The Historical Origins of Wrestling."collegesportsscholarships.com N.p., 19 Apr. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.
Tomaras, Randall.Why Wrestlers Get Sick Around TournamentsWrestling USA Magazine, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2009. Path: wrestlinggear.com.
Viscardi, Mike. "Fatal practices of Dehydration."Iowa Gazette.22 Dec. 2007: A7+. Web. 19 Nov. 2009.