Wrestling was done standing. There were no weight class distinctions for either men or youth, a fact that gave an advantage to the bulkier. Combatants stood on dry, level sand. This is different from the muddied pankration [see below] ground where combatants wrestled, but also used other techniques and where landing on the ground had nothing to do with defeat. Wrestlers were olive oiled and then dusted, so as not to be too slippery to hold. Most wore short hair to keep their opponents from grabbing it.
Wrestlers used holds and throws. Three out of five falls meant victory. Sand on the body could provide evidence of a fall. Submission also ended the event.
Pausanias (geographer; 2nd century A.D.), who says the great strongman Hercules won both the pankration and men's wrestling, describes the institution of the boys' wrestling competition:
In Greek myth connected with the Olympics, Hercules and Theseus (the one who had a hand in everything; also known as the Ionian counterpart of Hercules) compete in wrestling. The results are indecisive. In his epitome (abridged version) of other writers, the Byzantine patriarch Photius (fl. 9th century) summarizes the writing of a curious Alexandrian scholar called Ptolemy Hephaestion, in the following passage about the heroes' match:
[5.8.9] The contests for boys have no authority in old tradition, but were established by the Eleans themselves because they approved of them. The prizes for running and wrestling open to boys were instituted at the thirty-seventh Festival; Hipposthenes of Lacedaemon won the prize for wrestling, and that for running was won by Polyneices of Elis. At the forty-first Festival they introduced boxing for boys, and the winner out of those who entered for it was Philytas of Sybaris.
Pausanias, Translated by W. H. S. Jones
Menedemus the Elean, son of Bounias, showed to Heracles how to clean the stables of Augias by diverting a river; it is said also that he fought alongside Heracles in his fight with Augias; he was killed and buried in Lepreon close to a pine. Heracles instituted games in his honour and he fought against Theseus; as the combat was equal, the spectators declared that Theseus was a second Heracles.