Wrestling often conjures the perception of extreme role-play; a famously fast and frenetic brand of manufactured entertainment that features storyline-driven, scripted, and choreographed contests.
Connotations generally attached to the professional realms of the sport surround that of the WWE.
When you think wrestling you think ‘Raw’, ‘SmackDown’, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Rock, Bret Hart, Jone Cena, The Undertaker and so on.
But that doesn’t reflect the true identity of the sport. It couldn’t really be any further from the truth. Wrestling is a genuine combative form, a pillar for many other disciplines in martial arts.
Wrestling represents one of the oldest forms of combat with its origins dating back 15,000 years. In ancient Greece wrestling occupied a prominent place in legend and literature, it served as a focal sport in the ancient Olympic Games and it was adopted by the Romans.
Despite wrestling remaining on the Olympic rosta, and having featured in the Commonwealth Games programme for decades, it seems surprising that the challenge to distinguish itself is still ongoing.
Wrestling is the ultimate sport. It requires strength, stamina, power and a balance of all of themMubashar Arshad coach at Nelson Wrestling Club
“The easiest way to describe it – everybody knows about cage fighting these days,” said Lawrence Carson, a Level Two head coach at Nelson Wrestling Club.
“It’s like that but in cage fighting you can punch and kick whereas in wrestling you can’t. It’s more grappling with take-downs, throws and rolls.
“The aim of the game is to hold them on their back for one second with downward pressure on them, then you win the match.
“The amount of times we get asked the question – when do the tables, ladders and chairs come in to it? It’s ridiculous. It was also in the Olympics as well so people may have seen it when flicking through.
“The perception is that it’s in a ring with tables, ladders and chairs. It’s nice when people come to see it for what it really is and they often appreciate it.”
The 24-year-old, who has been grappling since the age of 12, joined the Pendle-based club 18 months ago and is hoping to share his knowledge and experiences with a new generation of wrestlers in the region.
Lawrence, a former British and English champion, has travelled around the globe representing his nation and he’s keen to see the sport continue moving in the right direction under his watch.
He said: “Unfortunately over the past 10 or 15 years Great Britain as a nation hasn’t really had anybody that has won medals in the Olympics.
“We’ve had a lot of competitors in the Commonwealth Games, which has definitely helped the sport. That’s definitely helped to raise the awareness.
“At the Olympics in London in 2012, I was lucky enough to see some of the wrestling. Speaking to people in the crowd I got the impression that they really enjoyed it as well. Over the last few years it’s just grown and grown.”
British Wrestling has certainly contributed to the sport’s significant strides forward. The performances of athletes competing for the Home Nation in Glasgow 2014 has helped raise the profile.
England’s Yana Rattigan was a silver medalist in the 48kg category while Louisa Porogovska, Leon Rattigan and Chinu secured third spot on the podium.
Bronze winners for Scotland included Viorel Etko and Alex Gladkov while Craig Pilling emulated that pair’s success for the Welsh camp.
Though they were unable to impact on the world stage in Rio, the organisation is carrying considerable hope for the Gold Coast in 2018.
Mubashar Arshad (30) an assistant Level One coach at Nelson Wrestling Club, said: “Wrestling is the ultimate sport. It requires strength, stamina, power and a balance of all of them. In addition to that you’ve got to be able to react. It just develops you in to the ultimate athlete.
“When people think of wrestling they look at the pro-wrestling angle. They think back to the days when you could see wrestling on daytime TV.
“But with the rise of cage fighting and other types of MMA, people are appreciating that there is another element to it.
“They can see competitors trying to control an opponent, they can see different types of take-downs and manoeuvres. They are appreciating that specific skillset.
“It’s wrestling. It’s becoming more and more popular. The sport as a whole is becoming a lot more recognised.
“It’s been a very niche sport for the past 10 or 15 years but there’s been a recent influx and the sport is going up and up.
“There are guys who will take it forward and people will aspire to them, especially the younger generation.
“There’ll be representatives in 2020 and we’ve got a squad that is slowly coming together for the 2018 Commonwealth Games as well. Watch this space.”
The sport was seemingly in jeopardy at one stage with threats of banishing wrestling from the Olympics. However, Musbashar feels that may have been a blessing in disguise as a re-branding has re-energised the sport. It’s been completely re-branded - the sport as a whole - since the 2012 Olympics. It was practically in jeopardy at one point because there were threats to remove the sport from the Olympics.
“The sport effectively re-branded itself, becoming United World Wrestling from FILA, a french acronym. There’s a Youtube channel, they upload all the bouts, there’s a lot of promotion going on and they’re a lot more savvy.
“We’re riding on the back of that and it’s working in everybody’s favour. Now clubs are on the up and this is a really good time for wrestling.” He added: “We’re quite fortunate because a lot of the kids that have come through the door are quite talented. The moves are coming off and we can see that there is potential in there.
“We have regular inter-club competitions with our partner club, Sharples. With their help and tutelage we’ve been able to provide some form of competitive experience.
“We really are seeing some good potential and we’ve got nine kids ready to go to Derbyshire.
“We haven’t had any champions yet but it’s on the horizon. I’m very positive. We’ve got a few stand-out students who pick up techniques straight away. They’ve got talent and that’s not something you come across often.”
Nelson Wrestling Club, located at the Ultimate Strength Gym in Brunswick Street, also benefits from the excellence of Polish competitor Krzystof Raczkowski – a two-time gold medalist for his country.
Kryystof, who has also competed in the Military World Championships, will help the club prepare for the Derbyshire Open at Wirksworth Leisure Centre tomorrow.
The club will also have representatives at the British senior and junior Championships on Saturday, November 12th at Smithills Sport Centre in Bolton. For more information visit www.inspiringgrace.co.uk