Wrestling, the only sport mentioned in the Old Testament, has always been a cornerstone of the Olympics. It was in the ancient games, though those wrestlers competed without clothing. I am quite happy that wrestling has evolved to the required uniform.
Olympic wrestling is different than folkstyle, the style that you would see in high school or college. There are two styles of wrestling: Greco-Roman and freestyle. Greco-Roman wrestlers may only use holds and throws above the waist, while freestyle wrestlers may use their legs. In both styles, wrestlers aim to have control of their opponent with throws, and ideally, pin their opponent. Wrestlers earn points by throwing, turning, taking down and pushing their opponent out of bounds. Something to watch for this year is that choice of position, which was previously awarded by a coinflip, will now be chosen by the referee pulling one of two balls out of a bag. Go ahead, make that mental image.
Overall, the team that emerged after trials was vastly different than the wrestling world expected. There are high expectations for the U.S. Greco-Roman team who is coming off a world championship. The best shots for medals are Brad Vering, a world silver medalist at 84 kg., and Dremiel Byers, the heavyweight world bronze medalist who is also a staff sergeant in the Army. At men's freestyle, Ben Askren has made huge predictions that he will come home with gold. Though it seems unlikely, doubting Askren is usually pointless. Daniel Cormier, who took fourth in Athens at 96 kg, also has a good shot at avenging his loss in the bronze-medal match. In women's freestyle, Clarissa Chun pulled a huge upset at the trials in defeating Olympic bronze medalist Patricia Miranda. Look for her to continue her upset streak in Beijing.
The former Soviet countries dominate in both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. Russia is the top team, as they won six freestyle golds at last year's world championships. Basically, if a wrestler's name ends in "ov," watch out for him. Watch out for Uzbek freestyle heavyweight Artur Taymazov, who won a gold medal in Athens and Azerbaijani Farid Mansurov, who will wrestle Greco-Roman at 66kg. Japan and China dominate women's freestyle wrestling, and will likely bring home a medal at all four weight classes.