By Amina Nazarli
2016 will be remembered as a very productive and memorable year for the national wrestling team of Azerbaijan.
The national wrestlers won 255 medals including 62 gold, 61 silver and 132 bronze medals in the international arena this year.
The freestyle wrestlers secured 130 of the total medals won, wrestlers of Greco-Roman style won 94 medals and 31 medals were scooped by female wrestlers.
Overall, the national wrestlers gained 86 medals including 17 gold, 23 silver and 46 bronze in international competitions such as Olympic Games, World and European Championships.
Over the past eight years, the national wrestlers have achieved huge successes in the international arena and increased the number of medals. The wrestlers won 47 medals in 2009, 66 in 2010, 67 in 2011, 71 in 2012, 70 in 2013, 65 in 2014, 82 in 2015, while the number of medals increased to 86 in 2016.
Based on the ancient and historic roots of wrestling in Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani wrestling school has become well established throughout the country.
Wrestling remains the most popular sport in the county and is overseen by the National Wrestling Federation, which was established in 1993.
With its ancient Turkic roots, Azerbaijan’s success in the sport of wrestling is not coincidental.
Although freestyle wrestling is claimed to be somewhat of an American sport due to its origins in the United States, and Greco-Roman wrestling is know to have originated in Greece, one can easily observe Azerbaijan’s contributions to the sport through its folk literature and epics.
Wrestling is also depicted in 6,000 year-old cave paintings in the ancient settlement of Gobustan, just north of Baku. For centuries, wrestling tournaments in special “Zorhana” athletic halls were the favorite pastime of youth in the territory that comprises modern-day Azerbaijan.
The most recognized heroes of wrestling in Azerbaijan include Huseyngulu Mursaloglu, Meshedi Abdul Ali, Shomu Abdulla, Mirza Hashim and Sar Panji, all of whom lived from 1789 to 1871.
2017 will be another responsible year for the national athletes. As the country will host the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, the nation hopes for successful performance of the wrestlers at the Games.