Arvi Savolainen, born in Lahti in 1998, is one of the brightest new stars in Finnish wrestling. He describes wrestling as a sport, in which you can have an honest match with someone, and in which getting your opponent on their back also gives you a sense of conquering yourself. Arvi, who was large for his age, started wrestling when he was very young. He had to challenge himself already at an early stage, as he often had to wrestle boys who were older than him. Thanks to strong opponents and methodical training, development was fast, and at age 17, he was already at the top of his age group on an international level as well.
Wrestling has been part of the Olympics since the first modern Olympics in 1896, the Games held in 1900 being the exception. To be specific, Arvi’s sport is Greco-Roman wrestling, one of the two wrestling types in the Olympics. It is different from the other style, freestyle wrestling, in that in Greco-Roman wrestling, the opponent must not be grabbed below the waist. The name of the style comes from the former belief that this was the wrestling style used in ancient Greece and Rome.
Only men wrestle in the Greco-Roman style on the top level; women’s wrestling is freestyle wrestling with some rule changes. Matches are held in several age categories, the most important ones being cadets (aged 16 to 17), juniors (aged 20 or less), the U23 series and adults or seniors. Weight classes in these age groups range from 42 to 130 kg.
Arvi has wrestled in the 97 kg weight class for the past few years and has won practically every available accolade in youth wrestling: in 2018 he was World Champion in the junior category and in 2019 he was European and World Champion in the U23 category. In the adults’ 97 kg class, he has Nordic Championship wins from 2018 and 2019 and a Finnish Championship win from 2019.
Competition in the sport is tough in Finland: Elias Kuosmanen, who has also trained with Arvi, has been a worthy opponent in the 97 kg class and has been chosen to represent Finland in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Only one wrestler per weight class can be sent to the Games, which is why Arvi switched to the 130 kg weight class for the Finnish Championships held at the beginning of this year, and he is now aiming for a place in the Olympic qualifying tournament’s heavier weight class.
The heavier weight of his opponents clearly was no obstacle for Arvi, as he yet again obtained the title of Finnish Champion. In the European Championships held in February in Rome, he wrestled his way to the bronze match of the heavyweight class, although this time he didn’t finish with a medal. Wrestling is not just about weight and brute force. The sport also requires stamina, coordination, explosive power and a good eye for the situation.
Arvi has been thinking about the Olympics for a long time. After winning the junior World Champion title in 2018, Arvi felt almost unreal - was he really the best in the world? At the same time, the Olympics were yet one step closer. According to Arvi, the greatest thing about the Olympics is that the Games bring the whole world together through sports, regardless of all the other drama and conflicts going on. The road to Tokyo is by no means straight or smooth, but the bright flame of the Olympic torch will undoubtedly guide Arvi in the future as well.