United World Wrestling announced recently how the organization has updated its “uniform” design in an attempt to appease the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee) recommendations on “innovation”. Much of the thought behind this singlet alteration stems from nations exhibiting an increasing desire for customization.
The idea is to allow for the main colors of each nation, as well non-intrusive graphics, to be featured more prominently while also offering officials (and fans) the same ability to distinguish wrestlers according to the standard red and blue criteria. The Olympics likely factored heavily in this decision. Each Olympiad for wrestling represents the one time every four years when casual viewers who usually don’t watch the sport to gain a brief, but hopefully lasting education.
One byproduct of this topic is that it leads to a potential rabbit hole of discourse regarding other uniform configurations. Plenty of talk has taken place the past few years in the United States specifically — and mostly from fans who are not as familiar with Greco or the Olympic styles, period — about adopting the grappling/MMA look of board shorts and rash guards. With mixed martial arts still feverishly popular and submission grappling tournaments a hotbed of post-wrestling participation, it is natural for these two worlds to collide. But those worlds need to remain separate from Greco-Roman wrestling at the highest level of the sport.
Sharpening wrestling’s image and making it more attractive to the flashy MMA/grappling subset that is stealing a lot of its talent is not something UWW intends with this decision, obviously. But given the current wrestling culture, banter and rumination surrounding the very concept of a uniform change is already underway all over social media. This is a step in the right direction when it comes to international wrestling doing what it can to keep up with the times. Several notable programs, including Sweden, Hungary, and Armenia, have begun experimenting with design options; and the US always seems to take the lead and most in the wrestling community should expect that to be the case here.
The point is, if there is one, to all of this, is that creativity is woven into the tapestry of Greco-Roman technique, and if what the athletes wear on the mat demonstrates this concept, then this is already a win for UWW.