Wrestling has a very long tradition and history in Iran and often even referred to as its national sport. There are many styles of folk wrestling, from Varzesh-e Pahlavani to Zurkhaneh (Sport in which the hero must have good moral character) which have similarities with modern freestyle wrestling.
Both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, particularly freestyle, are popular in Iran. Province of Mazandaran is the main power in the country and wrestling is part of its culture. Provinces of Tehran, Kermanshah, Khorasan and Hamadan also produce many talented wrestlers. Wrestling is the national sport of Iran and wrestlers are highly respected here. We give our wrestlers a special title, Pahlavan. Wrestling is more than just a sport in Iran, it’s a culture, an ancient tradition, a kind of ritual. Wrestlers are expected to be role models for others in humility, beneficence, morality and manhood, otherwise they don’t deserve the title Pahlavan. In the past, Pahlavans of a city or a village were responsible for solving the quarrels, judging, helping the poor people and standing against injustice.
This is why they were so popular. Many of greatest Iranian wrestlers come from the Mazandaran province, specially the city of Juybar. The city of Juybar is known as the heartland of wrestling in Iran. This is Hasan Yazdani, a gold medal winner at Olympic games. Iranian wrestling, a form of submission grappling known as koshti in Persian, has been practiced since ancient times throughout Iran. The most popular form today is koshti Pahlavani practiced in the zurkhaneh, while regional variations differ from one province to another. These folk styles can be divided into several sub categories, with two major categories being; one in which the object is to lift or throw the opponent, whereas that of the other is to touch a part of the opponent’s body to the ground.
Notable styles of Iranian wrestling include:
- Koshti, Pahlavani literally “heroic wrestling” (practiced throughout Iran)
- Koshti-ye jangi, literally “war wrestling” (formerly practiced Iran-wide)
- Koshti-ye bachoukheh or choukha wrestling (Khorasan province)
- Gileh-Mardi style (Gilan, Mazandarann and Golestan Provinces)
- Check-Chisht style (Mazandaran province)
- Loucho style (Mazandaran province)
- Tourkamani style or Kurash (Golestan Province)
- Ashirma style (East Azarbaijan Province) and (West Azarbaijan Province)
- Kamari style (Azarbaijan region, Ghezel Bash Turks)
- Baghal-be-Baghal style (Qazvin province)
- Zouran Patouleh and Zouran Machkeh styles (Kurdistan province)
- Catch Gardan style (Sistan and Baluchistan Province)
- Zhir-o-bal style (Kurdish regions; Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Ilam provinces)
- Jang style (Lorestan and Chahar Mahal va Bakhtyari Provinces)
- Maghli style (Chahar Mahal va Bakhtyari Province)
- Lori style (Lorestan province)
- Dasteh Baghal style (Fars province)
- Lashgarkeshi style (Yazd province)
- Kamarbandi style (Esfahan province)
- Kaviri style (Kerman province)