What a wonderfully exciting weekend in Iowa City not only for me personally, but also for this website. When we first began putting the skeleton in place for what would eventually become Five Point Move, it was our hope to be able to provide accurate yet descriptive coverage of USA Greco events, stories on athletes, and share actual perspectives that make a difference. I mean, hey, the website is still very new. These hopes are still in place. It is just that so much has happened so fast, it is difficult to look back on how things were prior to launch and not feel as if it was such a long time ago. Five Point Move has morphed into its own living, breathing thing already and we couldn’t be more pleased with the direction it is heading towards. We extend a heartfelt thank you to those who have discovered what we’re doing and have continued to read on.
As an athlete, I’ve attended events. As a writer, I’ve covered events. But I never walked into the kind of environment that the Olympic Trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena offered. It was equally majestic and daunting; chill-inducing and inspiring. There was elite, world-class wrestling on display in a building that has as much history to wrestling fans as Yankee Stadium does to baseball purists. The whole package was just amazing. You hope to live 1,000 days like that, to be in the presence of something you love very deeply and to watch it be shared with thousands of others simultaneously. It is a uniquely powerful feeling.
However, one thing that did irk me was the sparse attendance for some of the Greco competition, specifically the wrestle-backs. Look, I get that people are there with families, I get that everyone needs a break here and there, and I get that freestyle is the more popular discipline in the US (for now). Instead of overtly painting what would likely be a self-indulgent picture of exasperation, why don’t we examine a few things first.
Whether you are a high schooler, a college wrestler, or someone who just loves to watch freestyle wrestling, the truth is, you love Greco just as much. How do I know this? It is actually quite simple, really. Now mind you, some of this probably seems like anecdotal evidence but hear me out. You love Greco as much, if not more than freestyle because you know why?… Those big, giant Greco throws are what get the biggest reactions. It’s those huge, high-amplitude lifts, reverse lifts, suplays, and arching bodylocks that receive all of the “oooh’s and ahhs’s.” No one is standing on the edge of their seat because someone nabbed a cross-ankle pick. No one is screaming and high-fiving strangers because of a frickin’ “shot clock” call. Nope. You might want to argue, I’m sure of it. You’d be wrong. I’ve seen it too many times and I didn’t expect it to see it at the Olympic Trials, yet the same behavioral patterns were all there.
In a Greco Roman wrestling match, where the rules currently state that an eight-point lead constitutes a technical fall, the crowd still erupts when a guy hits a big lift already up 6-0. That is because it is never not exciting. It could be in the quarterfinals, finals, qualification round, or a wrestle-back bout: it doesn’t matter. In freestyle, the only time people go ballistic over points is when the match-ups dictate the interest, not the moves. This is not a diss to any of the incredible freestyle athletes in the US or the world over. But in freestyle, especially in America, it is the match-ups that get more of the attention, not the technique. While it’s not the exact opposite in Greco Roman, it is certainly a style that is at least equally about the substance as it is the athletes. That is a fact you cannot hide from. It’s just that in the US, we have a perception problem. But don’t worry, we’re here to help correct that.
On occasion, I have heard other wrestlers, friends, fans, whomever, claim that Greco can be “boring.” These are the same people yelling in approval over every high-flying toss or arm spin, but whatever. Let’s just keep this going. Anyway, we’ve all heard this, how at certain times a Greco match may appear a little low on the action whereas in freestyle, there might be more opportunities for someone to score. Now of course, this theorem is ludicrous if not hilarious, but it is one that I think we can all agree we’ve heard before. It is true: there are plenty of cases when a Greco Roman wrestling match is a low-scoring affair without a bevy of flowery throws being displayed all over the mat. And if you are willfully uneducated, sure, it may betray the optic that there is not a lot going on. But trust me. Please. Just trust me. This is where everything is going on.
There is not one, not a single individual position in Greco Roman wrestling that couldn’t be described as a fight. Every little moment of every single high-level match demands a struggle, a battle raging at every point of contact. Can’t you see it? It could be trying to open up the ties so one combatant can achieve an underhook. It might be constant jockeying for wrist control or shoulder-shucking an opponent in the head to disrupt their stance. Maybe it is elbowing out of a bodylock attempt or driving your forehead into an opponent’s temple if only because you are just about pissed enough to, despite it not having any tactical significance. It is a PUNISHING, brutal sport which requires a Herculean effort at times just to open the slightest window of opportunity to hit one of those giant throws you and your buddies congratulate each other over while enjoying a Vitamin Water.
Make zero mistake about it, Greco Roman wrestling is a FIGHT. In fact, maybe it’s worse. Certainly at times it is. At least in a fight, your opponent has the common decency to try and knock you out. No such respite exists in Greco. If things aren’t going your way and you start to tire, that Grim Reaper you’re calling for to come and mercifully save you from the constant pounding your body is taking never arrives. No, you’re going to have to go this alone. It’s fight, or die. It’s risk everything to win, or shell up and lose.
Henry Cejudo, who challenges Demetrious Johnson for the UFC Flyweight title, knows that Greco is an important asset to have in an elite-level MMA contest, and Kyle Dake was forward-thinking enough to recognize he could use some of the battle positions to his advantage in freestyle. So what is everyone else’s excuse? Many are quick to share one of United World Wrestling’s “Big Move of the Day” clips on social media, yet they take for granted what is happening right in front of their faces. You may like the big moves. We all do. But stop ignoring the fight. It’s waiting for your discovery.
Alas, that is what we are here for. See this as amnesty. 5PM is devoted to highlighting stories and perspectives all aimed at informing those who are already fans of Greco wrestling and also, to hopefully entice and educate newcomers to the sport. We understand the assignment. It is one we take seriously. We merely require your participation. To change perception means providing a means for which transformation is possible. It starts with teaching our youth actual Greco, not upper-body folkstyle techniques for the summer. It continues with appreciating what the struggle actually means, how it can often lead to a fruitful outcome. And the movement endures as these ideals are passed along.
That’s all this is about.