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What is Sand Wrestling?
Updated, April 2019
The summer of 2019 is shaping up to be the very best season the international beach wrestling circuit has ever seen. The style has been consistently developing since United World Wrestling (then known as FILA) introduced beach wrestling an international style in 2004. Rules have been altered many times, the size of the wrestling ring has been increased, and the number of international weight classes has increased as the global participation numbers continue to skyrocket. While considered one of the oldest forms of competitive wrestling, it’s currently the fastest growing style.
Plenty has changed this season. While the Beach Wrestling World Championships will remain as a single tournament for the Cadet and Junior age divisions, the Senior World Champions will be decided via a point system during the Beach Wrestling World Series. Monetary prizes are being awarded to the top finishers in each weight class at all four inaugural events. The point system has changed, with back exposure now worth 3 points, essentially bringing back match-ending pins for the first time since 2015. I’m not going to cover the rule changes over the years; it would just take too long. But here’s a quick rundown of the UWW international rules in effect for 2019.
-The first wrestler to score three points within a 3-minute time limit is declared the winner. Wrestlers return to the starting/neutral position after points are earned before the action resumes.
-Wrestlers can score a point if their opponent goes out-of-bounds (called a ‘pushout”).
-Wrestlers can score a point for bringing any part of their opponent’s body to the sand, other than their feet and hands.
-A wrestler can score 3 points for exposing their opponent’s back to the sand.
While these are the official international rules, it’s not uncommon for local tournaments to increase the points needed to win from 3 to 5, with back exposure moves scored as 3 points. It’s also more common for tournaments in the United States (as well as many other nations) to use takedowns to score a point instead of using the “touch” rule. Tournaments do not have to be held at the beach, as a growing number of local tournaments are happening at a volleyball pit at the hosting club’s local park or other sandy fields. Beach wrestling is also commonly referred to as “sand wrestling”.
All of these modifications are an effort to expand the style, with aspirations of inclusion into the Olympic Games. The Greco-Roman competition at the first modern Olympic games of 1896 follows the rules of modern beach wrestling, as wrestling mats weren’t used for several more years. There are many countries who compete in a sand-based folkstyle version of wrestling. The shifting of the sand really taxes stabilizing muscles, increasing the difficulty of stand-up wrestling. The heat is not your ally, as the sun will not only beat down upon you but also reflect off the sand. It can be an exhausting 3-minutes bout.
There are plenty of opportunities here in the United States. Apart from traveling for the Beach Series, San Diego will host a major international beach wrestling tournament in October (as a part of the multiple-sport World Beach Games). Qualifiers are already scheduled and can be found at USA Wrestling. The Beach Wrestling National Championships are set in North Carolina in May, with also feature a sand-modified version of belt wrestling, another emerging sand style local tournaments can include to give athletes twice as many opportunities to wrestle.
It’s easy for wrestling clubs to host a beach wrestling tournament, even for newer clubs without much tournament experience. It’s a great way to raise revenue for the club (or other charitable cause), keep wrestlers wrestling, and invite new athletes with a more understandable set of rules for non-wrestlers. This style is appealing to MMA and football athletes, as there is no ground wrestling to worry about. For more information on hosting beach wrestling tournaments, you can get a free download of Hosting Beach Wrestling Events on Amazon, Nook, iBook, and other eBook stores. (note, just keep in mind the 3 point rule change to back exposure, all other rules and strategies remain the same.)
Sand Wrestling (also known as Beach Wrestling) has been an established International Style of amateur wrestling since 2005 by United World Wrestling (formerly known as FILA). It is regarded as the oldest version of mankind's oldest sport, reviving the rules of competitive wrestling before the use of wresting mats a little over 100 years ago. The easy-to-understand rules encourages people to try wrestling for the first time and has made this style spectator friendly, along with being held outdoors at the beach, sand pits that are commonly used for volleyball at local parks, and indoor sand-sport facilities. The shifting of the sand increases the difficulty of stand-up wrestling, when compared to mat-style wrestling, encouraging experienced wrestlers who are looking for a challenge to also give this style a try.
There numerous benefits that come with Sand Wrestling, such as the ideal fundraising venture for local clubs while offering their community an exciting event for men and women of all ages. The main purpose of SandWrestling.com is to promote this style of wrestling by providing information on the sport, share upcoming events, sponsor events through merchandise sales, and help get this style included into the Olympic Games.