What Is Swiss Wrestling?

You have probably recently discovered the great sport of Swiss Wrestling also known as Schwingen and are looking for a bit more info on all things mountain wrestling. We have got you covered! This article will be your comprehensive guide to Schwingen ensuring you leave this a page an expert in the unique and very Swiss sport.

What Is Swiss Wrestling 

Swiss Wrestling known as Schwingen is a traditional grappling sport of Switzerland. The two wrestlers compete on a sawdust ring and wear shorts and a belt over their clothes. The wrestlers grip the shorts and attempt to takedown and pin their opponents shoulders to the mat which is the only way to win the contest.

Swiss wrestling first appeared in the medieval period. Swiss mercenaries would commonly wrestle each other to stay fit and pass the time as they waited for the next battle.

The modern sport of Schwingen emerged from 17th century wrestling which was popular among German speaking Alpine farmers and herders. This tradition continues today with the sport being primarily a Germanic Alpine sport with most of the athletes coming from mountain farming backgrounds. Only in Friborg is Schwingen popular with French speaking Swiss.

Schwingen has some very interesting aspects to it which make it a unique wrestling style and give the sport a uniquely Swiss feel.

How Is Swiss Wrestling Scored?

In Swiss Wrestling a winner is given a maximum of 10 points for pinning their opponent in one move, otherwise they are awarded 9.75. For a draw wrestlers are given between 8.5 and 9 based on how close they came to winning and losers are given between 8.25 and 8.75.

How Do You Win A Swiss Wrestling Match?

The only way to win a Swiss wrestling match is to take your opponent down the ground and force both of his shoulders to touch the sawdust. When forcing the opponent’s shoulders to the mat the wrestler must keep at least one hand holding the opponent’s shorts.

There are no points in Swiss wrestling like you see in other styles of wrestling. To win a match you must pin your opponent.

Swiss wrestling is a little bit like Judo. However instead of grabbing the jacket, Swiss wrestlers grab the shorts. As the sports are somewhat similar you see a cross over in the techniques used.

Two of the most popular takedown techniques in Swiss wrestling are “hufter” and “brienzer”.

The hufter technique is a standard hip toss throw which is popular in wrestling and Judo (known as an o-goshi. While the brienzer technique is an inner thigh throw which is commonly performed in both Freestyle wrestling and Judo (known as Uchi Mata).

Here is the hufter technique in action

Here is the brienzer technique in action

Who Is The Best Swiss Wrestler?

Rudolf Hunsperger is the best Swiss wrestler of all time. He won the Alpine festival a record three times. Jörg Abderhalden is also considered one of the greatest, winning the festival in 2004 and 2007. Christian Stucki is the current reigning champion, securing the title of king in 2019.

Do Swiss Wrestling Athletes Get Paid?

Even though Swiss wrestling is extremely popular in Switzerland and big tournaments can draw 50,000 people and fill massive stadiums the sport is still clinging onto its amateur status.

Wrestlers do not earn big salaries and are prohibited from having sponsors when they compete or from receiving cash prizes from victories. Traditionally, the winner of the Alpine festival which is held once every 3 years is given a bull.

The majority of wrestlers are not full time athletes and still work regular jobs to support themselves. However, in recent years the sport has started undergoing a transformation as professionalism has started shaking the sport up.

Winners of the Alpine festival are now permitted to have sponsors and can make serious amounts of money appearing on TV. It is estimated that an Alpine festival winner known as a king can earn over $2 million in 3 years between the two festivals.

With this kind of money at stake more and more wrestlers are training full time and relying on private donors to help them make their dream of becoming a Swiss wrestling king a reality.

What Do Swiss Wrestlers Wear?

Swiss wrestlers wear schwinghosen which are shorts made of a thick material and must be light or dark brown. They wear their shorts over long pants. Wrestlers usually wear an Edelweiss shirt in a colour of their choice, athletes from the cities typically wear a white shirt. 

The Swiss wrestling uniform is quite unique. As a homage to the sport’s farming and herding roots the athletes wear long thick shirts, traditional shorts over long pants. They look like farmers who have stepped out of the 1700s and have wondered down from the Swiss mountains.

The shorts are not just a fashion statement. Swiss wrestlers must grip the back of the shorts with at least one hand at all times. Only when they are gripping the shorts can a takedown be legal. If a wrestler loses his grip of his opponent’s shorts the match is restarted.

How Big Are Swiss Wrestlers?

There are no weight classes in Swiss wrestling so most of the athletes are very large. The average Swiss Wrestler is 6ft 2 and weighs 110kg. Many of the wrestlers are much larger. Alpine festival champion, Christian Stucki is 2m tall and weighs 150kg.

Being big and strong is an advantage in Swiss wrestling. The extra size makes it harder for your opponent to take you down while that extra strength allows you to easily throw your opponent to the ground and score a victory.

As there are no weight classes the sport favours the big. An average man standing at 5ft 10 and weighing 75kg has no chance against a giant Swiss wrestler who could easily be 6ft 5 and weigh 150kg such as champion Christian Stucki.

How Popular Is Swiss Wrestling?

Swiss wrestling is very popular in the German speaking region of Switzerland. Over 300,000 Swiss fans attend the Alpine festival to watch the wrestling. Swiss Wrestlers are huge stars and can earn millions from endorsements, regularly appearing on television and in the newspapers.

To put into perspective how popular Swiss wrestling is in 2007 Alpine festival wrestling champion Jörg Abderhalden was named Switzerland’s man of the year beating out Roger Federer who managed to win 3 Grand Slams in that year.

Swiss wrestlers are major celebrities in Switzerland and adored by hundreds of thousands of Schwingen fans.

Do Swiss Wrestlers Have Good Sportsmanship?

Swiss wrestlers are known for their good sportsmanship. After the match the winner will always wipe the sawdust off the back of the loser. Swiss wrestlers never argue with referees and always accept their decision.

What Prizes Do Swiss Wrestlers Win?

The champion Swiss wrestler of the Alpine festival wins a bull and receives a crown made from leaves. Other high ranking wrestlers receive prizes such as cow bells, furniture, TVs even motorbikes. 

While it may seem a bit strange that Switzerland is a hub for folk wrestling, all countries in Europe at one point in time had their own version of wrestling.

Scottish Backhold wrestling was very popular in Scotland, Collar and Elbow matches in Ireland would draw huge crowds and Catch Wrestling in England eventually paved the way for Freestyle wrestling and Professional wrestling. The Swiss have just done a good job of keeping their traditions alive.

Recent Content