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USA Wrestling recognized internationally for folkstyle

FILA announces that USAW is the officially recognized international federation for American Folkstyle Wrestling

By Gary Abbott

FILA, the international wrestling federa- tion, has announced that USA Wrestling is now the officially recognized interna- tional 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, tra- ditional wrestling styles on an internation- al level.

American Folkstyle is the style of wrestling practiced in U.S. schools and colleges, which has developed over hun- dreds 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 atten- dance.

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 oppor- tunity to showcase our most popular style

34 USA Wrestler

Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver com- petes in an American Folkstyle match. FILA now recognizes American Folkstyle as a traditional wrestling style. Tony Rotundo photo.

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 disci- pline 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 tradi- tional styles, including the annual World Wrestling Games. USA Wrestling will also work to help develop the sport and partner with exist- ing groups to create a FILA World Championships of American Folkstyle Wrestling on the Senior level and ulti- mately other age groups.

As the international federation for American Folkstyle, USA Wrestling seeks to increase the profile of the style around the world. “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 rulemak- ing,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender. “In fact, this new status will raise the awareness of our tra- ditional 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 con- sideration.”

The most popular event in American Folkstyle Wrestling, the NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships, was held in St. Louis, Mo. on March 15-17, with an atten- dance of over 100,000 fans during its six sessions.

“This recognition by FILA gives us sev- eral significant benefits. By making the world familiar with our style, we will sup- port the many overseas American com- munities 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 rec- ognize some of the unique attributes of folkstyle in future rules modifications,” said Gutches.

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 tra- ditional wrestling in its role as the interna- tional governing body. In a presentation on its website, FILA published this: “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).

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