Wrestling is a prehistoric sport that human ancestors likely used to train for the rigors of unarmed combat.Traditionally a male-dominated sport due to its physicality, more and more women are becoming an active part of grappling competitions.
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The modern sport of male wrestling has its roots in ancient Greece and is often believed to have existed well before women were involved. However, historical records show that Roman, Byzantine and African women all participated in combat sports like wrestling just as men did. Men’s wrestling championships and participation in the modern Olympic Games have existed since the late 19th century, but women did not have their own competitions until the first Women’s World Wrestling Championships held in Norway in 1987.
The rules used in male or female wrestling are the same, and in some cases, males and females compete against each other. Women may compete in freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling, but there are only world championship and Olympic competitions for the former style. At the high school level in the United States, only Texas and Hawaii require males and females to wrestle separately in competitions.
Alhough female wrestling is slowly coming into the mainstream after the turn of the century, the psychological challenges faced by the boys and girls are substantial. For teenagers, it can be awkward to wrestle against the opposite sex, and there are social stigmas against women being physical or men being defeated by women in physical combat. According to a 2007 “New York Times” report on the emergence of females in high school wrestling, some boys even choose to forfeit a match rather than risk the embarrassment of losing to a girl or possibly injure a female. The lack of all women wrestling teams continues to be a problem limiting the growth of female wrestling.
According to 2007 statistics published by the National Federation of State High School Associations, around 5,000 females compete in the high school sport on a yearly basis. This is comparatively very small next to the 250,000 males that compete annually. However, rising female stars in the U.S., such as 63 kg world championship silver medalist Elena Pirozhkova, continue to show that women can compete well in the male-dominated sport.