Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Panathenaic Stadium, Athina
Date Started: April 10, 1896
Date Finished: April 11, 1896
Format: Single-elimination tournament
The 1896 wrestling competition consisted of a single event. It was contested basically in the Greco-Roman style although some legholds were allowed. No weight limit was placed. The matches took place in the infield of the Panathenaic Stadium, on a sand-covered circle near the Splendone end of the stadium. There was no time limit, with a wrestler losing if he was thrown onto his back.
Britain’s Launceston Elliot, already popular with the Greeks because of his performance in weightlifting, was thought to be a favorite. He was much larger than his opponent, Germany’s Carl Schuhmann, but Schuhmann defeated him easily. Elliot took his defeat badly, claiming that only one of his shoulders touched the ground, not both as required by the rules, and after refusing to accept the judge’s decision, he had to be escorted from the field by the Royal Princes.
The Greeks were upset when their two wrestlers, Georgios Tsitas and Stefanos Khristopoulos, met each other in the only semi-final. Tsitas won when Khristopoulos had to retire with a broken shoulder.
The matches had started in the late afternoon on a Friday. After the semi-final, this left Carl Schuhmann to wrestle against Georgios Tsitas in the final. After 40 minutes of wrestling, no decision had been reached and it was now quite dark. The match was postponed to 0900 Saturday morning, although Schuhmann protested, stating that it would take him only a few more minutes to defeat Tsitas. It took Schuhmann 15 minutes more on Saturday morning to defeat Tsitas with an armpull and a pressed-down bridge. He became the first known Olympic wrestling champion since Aurelius Aelix of Phoenicia in 213 A.D.