Rules of Greco-Roman Wrestling | How it is Played?

If you are a wrestling lover, you must have heard of the Greco-Roman wrestling before. By no means this is an unpopular wrestling style and it is practiced worldwide including the USA and UK.

This wrestling was first contested in the Olympics in 1896 and since the 1904 Olympics, the Greco-Roman wrestling has been part of every Olympics.

Rules of Greco-Roman Wrestling

In Greco-Roman wrestling, physical strength plays a key role in your success and of course, your agility would be a huge plus if you have quick reactions.

It is believed that Greco-Roman wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world, some theories suggest that competitions of Greco-Roman wrestling may have been held back in 3000 BC. Regardless of the fact how old it is, it is quite popular today and countries like Finland, Sweden and Hungary have shown substantial success in Olympic games by winning medals. Unlike other forms of wrestling, it is not a rich sport but it certainly is one of the exciting forms of wrestling.

Object of the Game

In simple words, the object of this wrestling is to outclass your opponent by winning 2 rounds (all 3 minutes long). You can use a variety of techniques to dominate over your opponent and there are multiple ways to win the match in less time which we shall discuss below.

How to Play?

Greco-Roman Wrestling involves two wrestlers fighting against each other on a circular mat. Both players try to pin each other by using moves which are permitted or if they are unable to pin, they should at least score more points than their opponent to win the fight.

In Greeco-Roman Wrestling, wrestlers are in different positions to hold their opponent and try to pin them down. Find out how and when players switch positions and what are the banned moves in this sport in the rules of the game discussed below.

General Rules of the Game

  • There are no punches or kicks, you hand hold your opponent above the waist. Holding below the waist area is also forbidden.
  • There are different segments. In each of the segments, players fight against each other in different positions. Like for one segment they will fight on the feet while for one segment they will combat on the mat, holding each other.
  • During each segment, one of the wrestlers remains on the top of another, the wrestler on the top has to score points and if he fails to do so, the wrestler on the bottom will be awarded points for better defence.
  • Wrestlers switch positions in different segments.
  • The first segment is usually a neutral position segment, and the one who wins the most points in this segment gets the opportunity to stay on the top of his opponent during the next segment. And then wrestlers keep switching positions alternatively in the rest of the segments.
  • During any time of any of the segments, if a wrestler successfully pins his opponent or causes him to submit, he’ll be declared winner of the whole game.
  • If one player is found 8 points ahead during any phase of the fight, he will be declared winner based on technical superiority.

Time Duration of a Match

Greco-Roman wrestling is usually fought in 3 rounds. Each round consists of 3 minutes. Or, there can be slight changes in the number of rounds and time period of each, but the basic idea of “win-the-most rounds-to win-the-fight” remains the same in all.

Playing Field

Greco-Roman fights take place on a circular fight mat. This mat is constructed with thick rubber and out of bounds area is also marked on it.

Playing Equipment

Though it’s not a dangerous sport like MMA or various other forms wrestlings, the Greco-Roman wrestlings is exclusively for males at the Olympics. Here are some of the equipment used by the players during Greco-Roman fights:

Wrestling dress: It is also known as singlet. The dress is made from material like Lycra and is made light and tight to assist with flexibility.

Shoes: Players wear special kinds of shoes to reach maximum grip, flexibility and balance on the fighting mat.

Blood rag: This is optional and in most of the cases you won’t require a blood rag because kicks and punches are forbidden in this sport.

Point Scoring

There are different ways to win points in Greco-Roman wrestling.

Takedown (2 – 5 points): This occurs during an on feet segment. When a wrestler hauls his opponent to the ground from standing position, he is awarded 2-5 points depending on the technique and control adjudged by the judges.

Reversal (1 point): If your opponent is in a defensive position on the mat and he overcomes it to gain an attacking advantage, he gets a point for a reversal.

Exposure (2 – 3 points): An exposure is when a wrestler exposes his opponent’s back to the mattress for several seconds. Depending on the cleanliness of the move, the attacker gets 2-3 points.

Penalty (1-2 points): If a wrestler takes unnecessary time out, by shying away from the fighting mat for no genuine injury or commits a foul by using a prohibited move, his opponent will get 1-2 points as a penalty. Also, caution or disqualification can’t be ruled out in such instances.

Out of Bounds (1 point): An out of bounds area is marked on the mat, everytime any wrestler goes into this area, his opponent gets one point.

Winning Methods in Greco-Roman Wrestling

Like we see in a typical wrestling match, there are always more than one ways to win a fight. The same is the case in Greco-Roman wrestling. Let me share some of the methods by which you can beat your opponent without even completing the 3 rounds.

Pin/fall: If you grab your opponent by your shoulders and lock them onto the mat for a period of 1-2 seconds, the referee will determine the validity of the pinfall. And if the referee thinks the pin fall is clear, the match ends and the attacker wins the match.

Technical Pin/fall: If you are 8 points ahead of your opponent at any point of the match, you win the match by technical pin/fall.

By Judges’ Decision: If no pin/fall occurs during the game and at the end of 3 rounds, points are also the same, the wrestler with less number of penalties and the one who executed a greater number of high scoring moves is declared winner. Everything is decided by judges if points are tied.


Referee’s role is to ensure that both the wrestlers are complying with the rules of the game. Moreover, if any of the players intentionally tries to hit his opponent by using prohibited moves, the referee can issue him a caution or even disqualify him from the game.

Famous Greco-Roman Wrestling Events

Up till now, the Olympics is the biggest event in which Greco-Roman wrestling is included. Also, the World Greco-Roman championship is held after some time but very few countries participate in it.

Governing Body

The United World Wrestling which is also responsible for catering numerous other forms of wrestling events, takes care of this wrestling as well at international level. The sport of Greco-Roman wrestling is yet to have an exclusive governing body at international level.