Gathering boosts wrestling competitions - Cowal Highland Gathering
25th - 27th August 2022


News  »  Gathering boosts wrestling competitions

Gathering boosts wrestling competitions

Some of the world’s top exponents of traditional backhold wrestling are expected at this year’s Cowal Highland Gathering following news of two new competitions.

In the past, the Gathering has hosted the Scottish ’Open’ Championship at 15st 7lb and the female Scottish Open Weight (heavyweight) Championship.

Now – in consultation with the International Federation of Celtic Wrestling and the Scottish Wrestling Bond – Cowal has agreed to host two new competitions: the 13st 7lb Scottish ’Open’ Championship and the British ’Open’ 9st 7lb Championship.

Cowal Highland Gathering Chair Ronnie Cairns said: “Backhold wrestling is one of the major Celtic wrestling styles, and is hugely entertaining to watch.

“The wrestling is always a very popular part of our schedule, so we’re delighted to double the number of competitions we’re hosting. By extending the opportunities to athletes of differing weights, we’re opening up the championships to fantastic wrestlers who up until now have not been able to compete at Cowal and this year, once again, we look forward to welcoming the Breton and Icelandic teams to our world famous Gathering.

“I’d like to thank our wrestling convener Wullie Baxter, a former Commonwealth and Olympic Wrestling coach and currently head of the Scottish Wrestling Bond, for his invaluable help and advice in re-organising our competitions.

“Spectators at this year’s Gathering are not now simply in for a feast of piping and Highland Dancing, but also wrestling and traditional Scottish heavy athletics. They’ll witness the sort of strength and athleticism which most of us can only marvel at and I, for one, can’t wait for it all to get started.”

Backhold wrestling involves the two wrestlers ‘taking hold’ of each other by putting the left arm over the opponent’s right (and the right under the left), and clasping their own hands behind the opponent’s back. When the referee is certain that a fair hold has been taken he shouts ’hold’ and the bout commences. The wrestlers then attempt to trip or throw each other while maintaining the hold. The first to touch the floor with any part of the body except the feet - or to break their hold - loses.

Wullie Baxter said he was delighted to see the Cowal wrestling championship expanded.

“Traditional wrestling is a sport full of genuine skill, strength and excitement," he added. "Some people’s only experience of watching ’wrestling’ is what they see on TV, which is often only a small part wrestling and quite a large part acting. I can assure everyone there’s no acting in our sport.

"There’s also always the possibility of a genuine upset. Two years ago, to the great amusement of our spectators, a female Breton wrestling champion beat the then Scottish champion by three falls to one in the preliminary rounds. Humiliated, he retreated to the crowd and pondered his defeat before - thanks to the ’pool’ system’ - meeting her again in the finals.

"This time he won. I think he vowed never again to drink whisky before wrestling at a Highland Games. It was a hard lesson for him to learn, but it ensured the sport had hundreds of new fans. The crowd loved it, and we look forward to putting on some equally great entertainment this year.”

This year’s Cowal Highland Gathering – which takes place in association with charity partner Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) – runs from Thursday 28 to Saturday 30 August.

For more information about the event or to buy tickets, please visit the Gathering’s website at or contact the event office by emailing or phoning 01369 703206.