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What Is the Difference Between Greco & Freestyle Wrestling?

author image Jeremi Davidson
Jeremi Davidson began freelance writing in 2005. Davidson enjoys writing about sports and personal fitness, contributing to a number of different health and lifestyle websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Thompson Rivers University.
What Is the Difference Between Greco & Freestyle Wrestling?
Aerial view of Greco-Roman wrestlers in a match. Photo Credit Chris McGrath/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wresting both involve grappling with an opponent, but the two sports have their differences. Although it has an ancient-sounding name, Greco-Roman wrestling originated in France in the 19th century; the name comes from a desire to incorporate ancient values. Freestyle wrestling which derives from catch-as-catch-can wrestling, where you can use nearly any technique to pin your opponent's shoulders to the ground, became popular during the 19th century in the United States and Great Britain.


In freestyle wrestling, participants can use their legs as both offensive and defensive weapons, which is not permitted in Greco-Roman wrestling. In addition, freestyle wrestlers can attempt to take an opponent to the mat with a single- or double-leg takedown, but Greco-Roman wrestlers cannot grab their opponents below the waist at all. Wrestlers in the two sports thus use significantly different techniques and strategies when grappling. Greco-Roman wrestlers also cannot use their legs to make contact with their opponents, making it more difficult to secure a takedown.

Accompany to the Ground

Freestyle wrestlers can throw an opponent to the ground and regain contact with him afterward to apply a hold. A Greco-Roman wrestler, however, must maintain contact with his opponent throughout the takedown for the hold to count. The referee will stop an illegal hold immediately if the two lose contact, making it vital for a Greco-Roman wrestler to accompany his opponent to the ground.

Fleeing a Hold

The referee will charge freestyle wrestlers with fleeing a hold if they refuse contact with an opponent to prevent him from initiating a hold. This can also occur in Greco-Roman wrestling, but that sport has rules to regulate fleeing a hold on the ground. Because Greco-Roman wrestlers cannot grasp an opponent below the waist, the opponent must avoid putting the attacker in that position. Therefore, if one wrestler ends up on the ground because of his opponent's action, the fallen athlete cannot jump forward to avoid a hold. This action would force the attacking wrestler to hold his opponent's thighs, although he would not receive a fault in this case.

Ordered Hold

In freestyle wrestling, the ordered hold occurs when a period ends without either athlete scoring a point. A random draw determines which wrestler receives an advantage. The loser of the draw must put one leg in the middle of the center circle and the other leg outside of the circle. This gives his opponent a clear chance at a takedown, which would score the round in his favor. If the disadvantaged wrestler does not give up a point, he wins the round. In Greco-Roman wrestling, the wrestlers take turns going into the par terre position at the end of each period. Par terre position occurs with one wrestler on his hands and knees in the center of the circle and his opponent behind him, either standing or with one knee on the ground. The wrestler leading at the end of the standing portion of the round generally receives the first par terre advantage.

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