Oklahoma State's NCAA champion Jordan Oliver competing in an American Folkstyle match. FILA now recognizes American Folkstyle as a traditional wrestling style. Larry Slater photo.
FILA recognizes USA Wrestling as international federation for American Folkstyle Wrestling
FILA, the international wrestling federation, has announced that USA Wrestling is now the officially recognized international federation for American Folkstyle Wrestling. USA Wrestling received the designation after a formal application to FILA's World Traditional Wrestling Committee, which was established to promote national, traditional wrestling styles on an international level.
American Folkstyle is the style of wrestling practiced in U.S. schools and colleges, which has developed over hundreds of years of history in the United States. It is the most popular style of wrestling in the United States, based upon participation and spectator attendance.
American Folkstyle is now recognized by FILA as a traditional wrestling style. It joins a number of other traditional wrestling styles practiced in other nations or regions with official FILA designation, including Celtic Wrestling, Belts Alysh, Kazakh Kuresi, Tartar Belt Wrestling Koresh, Yakut People Sakhaada Sport and Khanty-Mansi Wrestling.
American Folkstyle has developed since the early years of the United States. Numerous American presidents including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, were folkstyle wrestlers. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Norman Bourlag, business giants Stephen Friedman and Henry Kravitz, and award winning author John Irving are among those who have competed in American Folkstyle. There have been literally millions of people who have participated in American Folkstyle wrestling programs.
"We identified the World Traditional Wrestling Committee as a unique opportunity to showcase our most popular style of wrestling to the rest of the world" said Les Gutches, USA Wrestling's Director of Program Development. "Virtually all other styles of wrestling place little emphasis on mat wrestling, which is a core discipline in folkstyle that makes our style truly unique."
With this designation, American Folkstyle competitions can be hosted on the international wrestling schedule and open to athletes from all nations. As an official traditional style, American Folkstyle can now be included in FILA events featuring a number of other traditional styles, including the annual World Wrestling Games.
USA Wrestling will also work to help develop the sport and partner with existing groups to create a FILA World Championships of American Folkstyle Wrestling on the Senior level and ultimately other age groups.
As the international federation for American Folkstyle, USA Wrestling seeks to increase the profile of the style around the world, while working with existing folkstyle organizations and events.
"We did not pursue this designation in order to alter the rules and traditions of American Folkstyle, and our application explicitly highlighted the leadership role that the National Federation of High Schools and the NCAA have in rulemaking" said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender. "In fact, this new status will raise the awareness of our traditional style, and could influence the rules of the other international wrestling styles. We also want to position American Folkstyle in a positive way, so that if future disciplines are elevated to the Olympic level, it would be given fair consideration."
The most popular event in American Folkstyle Wrestling, the NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships, is being held in St. Louis, Mo. this week, with an attendance of over 100,000 fans expected during its six sessions.
"This recognition by FILA gives us several significant benefits. By making the world familiar with our style, we will support the many overseas American communities that practice folkstyle and ideally foster interest in our style among other countries that only practice the Olympic international styles. This initiative could ultimately allow USA Wrestling to create a true World Folkstyle championship that will draw non-US wrestlers. Also, by showing this level of support to a major FILA initiative, we hope that the freestyle and Greco-Roman communities will recognize some of the unique attributes of folkstyle in future rules modifications. The recognition by FILA as traditional wrestling style underscores USA Wrestling's commitment to folkstyle wrestling and its desire to increase the number of competitive opportunities for our athletes in this style" said Gutches.
FILA has placed a special focus on traditional wrestling in its role as the international governing body. In a presentation on its website, FILA published the following:
"Forms of traditional or folk wrestling can be found in all regions of the world. They are the expression of the ancestral cultures upon which our modern societies were built. Wrestling has always played an important role in the civilizations' everyday life by being tightly connected to myths, military activities, religious and political rites, and festivities." (from FILA website)
FILA wants to support wrestling in all its forms, not just freestyle and Greco-Roman, in order to grow the world's awareness and appreciation of "the world's oldest and greatest sport." USA Wrestling is pleased and honored that American Folkstyle has been recognized as a significant part of the rich cultural tradition that the sport enjoys worldwide.