Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world. It has been depicted in ancient cave paintings and was also mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as one of the primary ways Greek warriors demonstrated their sheer strength and athletic ability. The sport has remained popular even in modern times, as evidenced by its inclusion in every Summer Olympics since 1896 (with the exception of the 1900 Paris Games).

Numerous qualifying events are held around the world in the months leading up to the Olympics in order to set the field for each weight class. Based on the results of these events, Individual National Olympic Committees (NOCs) may then send up to 18 qualified wrestlers to represent their country at the Games.

If you’re planning to tune in to the 2012 edition of the Summer Games, here’s a brief list of what you need to know about this historic Olympic sport:

  • Disciplines: Greco-Roman and Freestyle
  • Genders: Men compete in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle; women compete in Freestyle only
  • Divisions: Men’s Greco-Roman and Freestyle feature seven weight classes each; Women’s Freestyle recognizes four weight classes
  • Competition format: Initial pairings for qualification rounds are determined by a random draw; once the field is narrowed down to 16, a simple single-elimination format is followed
  • Match times: Individual bouts consist of a maximum of three two-minute periods with a 30-second break before the second and third period
  • Uniform: All athletes must wear approved wrestling singlets and shoes, but headgear is optional

The best wrestlers in the world will converge on London in a few months for the Summer Olympics. You can learn a lot about wrestling just by watching these elite athletes, so be sure to catch all the great action and cheer your favorites to victory!