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Wrestling for Catholic Men?

TIA Correspondence Desk
Dear TIA,

I have read your articles on the dangers to female modesty posed by women participating in sports. When it comes to men’s sports and modesty and dress, what are your thoughts about wrestling?

wrestling for boys and men

Is wrestling a Catholic activitgy for young adults?

I really enjoyed competitive wrestling in high school and college, although since learning about traditionalism from places like your website, I do not think I should have continued competitive sports as an 18-22 year old adult in college, and I should have transitioned to a leisure activity after graduating from high school. And I now further reject the amount of time and importance that I had invested in competition sports as a youth and young adult.

That being said, I still think that it is a good sport for young men. Saint Ambrose, for example, makes references to the natural virtue he sees in wrestling and uses it for a metaphor for the spiritual combat and virtues and disciplines to be developed through hard work. I assume there is something very unique about wrestling that makes him use comparisons such as "like a good wrestler" twice and "live a brave wrestler" another time in his writings.

Writing about St. Stephen who saw Christ standing at the right hand of the God, Ambrose points out the uniqueness of this one instance of Christ standing at the right hand of God, instead of sitting, and says that "He stood, as the Umpire, to bestow, as it were, upon a good wrestler the prize of so mighty a contest"

jacob wrestles with angel

An illustration of Jacob wrestling with the Angel

He refers to Saint Paul, who writes of his own fighting the good fight, Ambrose says that Paul fought "like a good wrestler." And of King David, Ambrose writes: "As a man he grew hot at the pain of his wrongs, but like a good soldier he conquered, he endured like a brave wrestler."

What are your thoughts about today’s wrestling and male athletes competing in the wrestling spandex singlet? This not something that ever even crossed my mind while I was competing or coaching. Is wrestling in the singlet appropriate in competition, away from female spectators? Do you know anything about the history of the sport in medieval culture and any transitions that happened to the sports as Christian Culture changed the pagan Greco-Roman world?

I am pretty much completely out of coaching the sport at this point since it is now common place for every public school team to have one or two females on the team. About five years ago I saw a high school athlete that was almost certainly a female on male hormones. Things are getting very weird.

      Thank you very much for all of your writing and research contributions.


TIA responds:

Dear B.D.,

Thank you for your insights and the research you have provided for our readers on the sport of wrestling.

wrestling romans

Wrestling, popular among the Romans

Wrestling was practiced in the Middle Ages as a carrying on of the old tradition inherited from the Greeks and Romans and even more ancient peoples. All classes of society from peasants to the nobility engaged in this activity either as a pastime or for self-defense.

There were basically two types of medieval wrestling: The Greco-Roman, which bars holds below the waist, resulting in a greater emphasis on throws, since there is no tripping allowed; and the Freestyle, in which the ultimate goal is to pin the opponent wrestler to the mat.

In neither sporting exercise was there the aim to inflict serious injury. When one wrestler fell to the ground the fight was over. In medieval times wrestling was a quite popular sport for men.

medieval wrestling

The middle grip in medieval wrestling, a popular style, depicted also below in Jacob & the Angel wrestling

jacob and angel
Medieval wresting, obviously was quite different from today’s carnival style scripted shows where wrestlers take on character role and show off their massive muscles, “performing” in the wrestling ring before super-excited cheering audiences, as is popular today.

A common depiction in medieval manuscripts was that of Jacob wrestling with the Angel. It is worthwhile to note that Jacob is always dressed in a simple robe, the garment of the day, and not in the immodest clothing worn by the Greeks.

Certainly we see nothing like the immodest spandex singlet that athletes purport today to be necessary for the sport of wrestling.

Now then, if a young man takes up wrestling with the aim of making a career and becoming one of these character star wrestlers, then it is not something that should be pursued.

If a young man takes up wrestling to learn a sport that requires strength, alertness, resilency and, most important, agility and quickness, that is, to discipline his body for the combat, then it can be a good sport in which to engage.

Wrestling clothing

Today’s wrestling clothing, however, poses a problem and challenge. Clearly the spandex suit and tiny boxing shorts are immodest since their main goal is to show the body or stress its shape.

spandex suits

Spandex suits accustom men to public immodesty

We believe the Revolution introduces this type of sports clothing with precisely the purpose of breaking down dignity, modesty and the sense of shame in young men.

The question, then, is whether it would be possible to make the clothing more appropriate than it was in the past.

Some cultures still keep good customs for wrestling. For example, in Mongolia wrestling is still the Number 1 sport. Their Bokh wresting, archery and horseback riding are all official sports, and every Mongolian boy trains in these ”Three Manly Skills.” That is, they master wrestling, horseback riding and archery as a part of their curriculum and culture. The clothing they wear is manly and modest.

Why should not wrestling in the West be pursued in this fashion: as a sport to develop the combative skills for men? If an initiative were to begin among traditionalist Catholics to find a modest and colorful clothing, as you see below, in wrestling classes for youth – with no women allowed – it could be the beginning of the restoration of the sport.

Mongols wrestling

Wrestlers in Mongolia sport a colorful & modest garb

This is the direction we would suggest you pursue. It will take courage and lack of human respect to begin a new modest trend in wrestling, where a counter-revolutionary spirit were to dominate. You would need to research a style of wrestling that would allow this type of clothing and adopt it as the mode to teach.

It would be a worthwhile pursuit to undertake, a mustard seed that can become a large tree (cf. Mt 13:31-32). A Patron Saint could be the great warrior St. Sebastian so long as he is depicted in a manly way, and not in the sentimenal white-heresy style that has become the norm.

This would also be a way to restore the good image of this great Roman warrior, who has been made to look so effeminate, ridiculous and immodest in so many paintings by Renaissance artists.

A manly Patron Saint and a new mode of dress could be a first steps toward the restoration of a very respectable sport. We hope you are inspired to begin this reclamation of wrestling as a discipline for youth so it might have a place in the future Reign of Mary.


      TIA correspondence desk


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted June 26, 2023

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