The two most practiced forms of wrestling in the world are freestyle wrestling and Greco Roman wrestling. Two styles of wrestling that are currently the only ones that are officially an Olympic sport.

They both get compared to the other a lot and while they do have some similarities, they are very different. Here is everything you need to know about freestyle wrestling vs Greco Roman wrestling.

We’ll detail the history of each wrestling style and see how they compare between rules, point systems, and ways to win.

The history of freestyle wrestling vs Greco Roman wrestling 

Both freestyle and Greco roman wrestling seem like they’re older than they are, but each style is around the same age. They just had different paths to being developed.

The history of Greco Roman Wrestling

Greco Roman wrestling was developed during the late 18th century in Europe. The person credited with developing this style of wrestler was a French soldier named Jean Exbrayat.

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After serving in the French army, Exbrayat would wrestle in fairs and traveling carnivals throughout France. Laying down open challenges to anyone that wanted to test his wrestling skills.

He began developing his own style of wrestling that he called French wrestling or open hand wrestling Exbrayat would begin altering the rules for his style of wrestling to set it apart from other styles. 

In his style, you could only do takedowns above the waist and no submissions were allowed. His style of wrestling became quite popular in Europe.

A Greek wrestler named Basilio Bartoletti coined the term Greco Roman wrestling. Although modern Greco Roman wrestling is nothing like ancient Greek wrestling. 

Either way, the name stuck and this style of wrestling became widely popular in Europe. This would lead Greco Roman wrestling to become one of the first Olympic sports in 1896.

The history of freestyle wrestling

Freestyle wrestling started to be developed a little after Greco Roman wrestling was being created. It was mainly based off of catch as catch can wrestling and other types of wrestling like Irish Collar wrestling.

The rules of freestyle would be a bit different than catch as submissions were deemed illegal. An all fours or turtle position was established whereas it wasn’t used in catch wrestling.

This style of wrestling would grow slowly, but pale in comparison to the growth of Greco Roman wrestling.

Freestyle wrestling would grow in popularity thanks to becoming an Olympic sport in 1904. Catch wrestling was actually supposed to become an Olympic sport, but was excluded due to submissions.

The rules were altered to exclude submissions and that’s how freestyle wrestling became an Olympic sport. Freestyle wrestling would ride this wave of momentum and become incredibly popular.

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In the last century it has surpassed Greco Roman as the most popular and practiced form of wrestling in the world. Almost every country in the world practices freestyle wrestling and aims to win gold at every Olympic and world championship. 

The match formats of freestyle wrestling vs Greco Roman wrestling

Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling actually have the same match format.

  • 3 periods
  • 2 minutes a piece
  • 30 second break between rounds
  • Win by pins, technical fall, or points 

The point systems of freestyle wrestling vs Greco Roman wrestling 

Freestyle wrestling point system 

  • Takedown with no back exposure: 1 point
  • Takedown below the waist with back exposure: 3 points
  • A throw from the feet to the floor with back exposure: 3-5 points
  • Nearfalls: 1 point
  • Turning opponent’s shoulders to the mat: 1/2 point
  • Pushouts or stepping out of bounds: 1 point

Greco Roman wrestling point system

  • Takedown with no back exposure: 1 point
  • Takedowns below the waist: Illegal
  • Takedowns from the feet to the back: 3-5 points
  • Nearfall: 1 point
  • Turning opponent’s shoulders to the mat: 1/2 point
  • Escape: 1 point
  • Pushout or step out of bounds: 1 point

Ways to win in freestyle wrestling vs Greco Roman Wrestling

Ways to win in freestyle wrestling 

  • Pin
  • Technical Fall
  • Points
  • Default
  • Disqualification

Ways to win in Greco Roman Wrestling

  • Pin 
  • Technical Fall
  • Points
  • Default 
  • Disqualification

The similarities between freestyle wrestling and Greco Roman wrestling

While freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling do seem very different, the two styles do have some similarities between each other. Here are some of the most notable similarities that the two styles of wrestling share.

Same match formats

Both freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling have the same match formats. Two periods of three minutes with a thirty second break in between.

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They start in a neutral position and then each wrestler starts in a dominant riding position in the second round.

Same ways to win

The methods of victory are the same in both styles of wrestling. Pin technical fall, points, default, or disqualification.

Rules for locking hands

You can lock your hands together on an opponent at any point during either type of match. This is different than in folkstyle wrestling, where you can only lock your hands during pin attempts.

Technical Superiority

You can win in both styles of wrestling by gaining a six point lead on your opponent at any point of a match.

Both are Olympic sports

Both freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling are both official Olympic sports. They are the only styles of wrestling to have this honor.

The difference between freestyle wrestling and Greco Roman wrestling

Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling have one big difference and that is the rules of their competition. In freestyle wrestling, you can take your opponent down by attacking their upper or lower body.

Greco Roman’s rules state that wrestlers can only do techniques from the waist up. Making sprawls non-existent within Greco Roman wrestling.

How has freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling affected MMA

Wrestling as a whole, which includes freestyle and Greco Roman changed the landscape of MMA. They showed the importance of knowing how to land takedowns, defend them, and control an opponent on the ground.

Statistically, there have been more wrestlers to win championships than any other fighting discipline. A fighter with a background in either freestyle or Greco Roman wrestling will have an advantage over their competition.

A martial artist and former coach for two decades from Houston, Texas. Specializing in the disciplines of kickboxing, karate, MMA, and Jiu Jitsu.