Top Ten Wrestlers Of All Time

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The world of wrestling has been home to some of the scariest, most dominant humans to walk the face of the planet. Who stands at number 1? Is it Saitiev, Lopez, Karelin, or someone else?

Honorable Mentions-

John Smith (United States)-

PC: Tony Rotundo (John Smith Coaching 2023 Southern Scuffle)

John Smith is a 6x world and Olympic champion wrestler for the United States and widely considered one of the greatest freestyle lightweight wrestlers of all time. Read More

Hamid Sourian (Iran)-

PC: Tony Rotundo (Hamid Sourian 2009 World Championships)

Hamid Sourian is a 7x world and Olympic champion wrestler for the Islamic republic of Iran. He has also won 2 titles at the Asian championships and is widely regarded as the greatest Greco-Roman lightweight wrestler of all time. Read More

Jordan Burroughs (United States)-

PC: Tony Rotundo (Jordan Burroughs 2022 World Cup)

Still Active. Jordan Burroughs is a 7x world and Olympic champion wrestler for the United States. With his 2022 world gold medal he passes John Smith for the most gold medals in American history. Read More

Makharbek Khadartsev (Soviet Union)-

PC: Imago / Werek (Makharbek Khadartsev 1996 Olympics)

Makharbek Khadartsev is a 7x world and Olympic champion wrestler representing the Soviet Union and Russia throughout his career. He has also won additional medals at the Olympics as well as the world championships. Read More

Hitomi Obara (Japan)-

PC: Tony Rotundp (Hitomi Obara 2011 World Championships)

Obara is widely known as the third most dominant women’s wrestler of all time behind teammates Yoshida, and Icho. She is a 9x world and Olympic champion and one of only 7 to hit this milestone. Read More

Carl Westergren (Sweden)-

(Carl Westergren 1920 Olympics)

Westergren was the first wrestler in history to win 3 Olympic gold medals, he did this in the Greco-Roman division from middleweight to heavyweight. He also has a world title and 3 European titles to his name. Read More

Ivar Johansson (Sweden)-

(Ivar Johansson 1932 Olympics)

Johansson would be the second, after Westergren to win 3 Olympic gold medals. What would be more special about him is that he won 2 in the Greco-Roman division and 1 in the Freestyle division. Read More

The Top 10 List-

10- Abdulrashid Sadulaev

PC: Tony Rotundo (Abdulrashid Sadulaev 2021 World Championships)

Abdulrashid Sadulaev is a 7x world and Olympic champion who competes for Russia. Sadulaev at just 26 years of age has already established himself as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and may just be on pace to become the greatest ever.

Since his debut in 2013 at 17 years old and winning his first world title at 18 Sadulaev has a combined senior level record of 144 wins and only 2 losses.

He is most well known for his wins against Olympic champions Kyle Snyder of the United States, and Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan.

Sadulaev has not wrestled since the 2021 world championships due to the ban Russia received from competition by United World Wrestling.

In addition to his 2 Olympic gold medals, 5 world gold medals, 4 European gold medals and all of his other stacked senior level accolades, he was beyond dominant on the age level scene. He won the cadet world championships in 2012 and 2013 at 76kg and 85kg respectively.

9- Valentin Yordanov

PC: Biser Todorov

Valentin Yordanov is a 8x world and Olympic champion who competed for Bulgaria, he is widely regarded as the greatest flyweight wrestler of all time as he dominated the 52kg weight class for over a decade.

Yordanov won Olympic gold in 1996 and has 7 world championships gold medals to accompany that. In addition to those he was also a 7x gold medalist at the European championships.

After his retirement from the sport of wrestling in 1996 Yordanov joined FILA. He would join the Bulgarian Olympic Committee in 2000 and has been there since.

When the IOC announced that they would be dropping wrestling from the Olympic schedule Yordanov played a big part in preventing this by returning his 1996 Olympic gold in protest.

8- Arsen Fadzaev

(Arsen Fadzaev)

Arsen Fadzaev is another one of the many Soviet wrestlers who dominated during the 1980’s and 1990’s. He is a 8x world and Olympic champion and most likely would have won a 3rd Olympic gold should the Soviet Union had participated in the 1984 games.

Fadzaev was near perfect at the world championships except for 1989 where he lost in the finals to Kenny Monday of the United States while up a weight class at 74kg.

His last tournament would be at the 1996 Olympics somewhat out of his prime competing for Uzbekistan and he would end up with a 13th place finish.

7- Kaori Icho

PC: Tony Rotundo (Kaori Icho 2016 Olympics)

Kaori Icho is a 14x world and Olympic champion from Japan, she has the second most gold medals out of any wrestler to ever live, only behind her teammate Saori Yoshida.

Icho made history at the 2016 Rio Olympic games where she became the first wrestler ever in any style to win 4 Olympic gold medals when she defeated Russia’s Valeria Koblova.

Kaori’s older sister Chiharu Icho was a very accomplished wrestler for Japan as well being a 2x Olympic silver medalist as well as a 3x world champion down at 48 and 51 kilograms.

6- Sergei Beloglazov

PC: Tony Rotundo (Sergei Beloglazov 2022 World Cup)

Sergei Beloglazov was a 8x world and Olympic champion freestyle wrestler for the Soviet Union. He along with Arsen Fadzaev could have possibly added another Olympic gold medal to their resume should they have competed at the 1984 games.

Beloglazov is known to the world as one of the greatest tacticians that the world of freestyle wrestling has ever seen. The level of innovation that he had on the sport can only be said about very few people.

His brother Anatoly Beloglazov was also a very dominant wrestler as he won Olympic gold in 1980 and has 3 world titles to go along with it.

Nowadays Sergei is the head coach of the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club which is based out of the University of Michigan. He coaches with people like Olympic champion Kevin Jackson, 3x All American Josh Churella, and Michigan head coach Sean Bormet.

He was inducted into the prestigious FILA hall of fame in 2004 (second ever class)

5- Saori Yoshida

PC: Tony Rotundo (Saori Yoshida 2016 Olympics)

Saori Yoshida is a 16x world and Olympic champion for Japan, she holds the record for most world and Olympics gold medals out of any wrestler ever.

During her career she was essentially untouched in international competition as she did not lose a match from 2002 when she won her first world title until 2015 where she won her last.

However not every story gets its fairytale ending, Yoshida would not complete the goal of becoming a four time Olympic gold medalist and was stunned by the United States’ Helen Maroulis in the Rio Olympic finals.

She along with many others on this list played a big part in persuading the IOC to keep wrestling in the Olympic regime and Yoshida took an active part in that.

4- Mijain Lopez-Nunez

PC: Tony Rotundo (Mijain Lopez-Nunez 2020 Olympics)

Mijain Lopez-Nunez is a 9x world and Olympic champion for Cuba in Greco-Roman wrestling, he is also the first and only male wrestler to ever win 4 Olympic gold medals after defeating Iakobi Kajaia of Georgia in the Tokyo Olympic finals.

Lopez is known for his massive stature and his ability to turn people at will in the par terre position. He has had a few notable opponents throughout his career such as Rulon Gardner, Khasan Boroev, and Riza Kayaalp.

He made his Olympic debut in 2004 at Athens but left with a 5th place finish, he has won ever Olympic games since then and judging by the talk that has been going around there is a chance that he comes back to try and win gold number 5.

3- Aleksandr Medved

PC: Keystone Press / Alamy (Aleksandr Medved [Left] 1972 Olympics)

Aleksandr Medved was a 10x world and Olympic champion for the Soviet Union, Medved to this day is the most decorated freestyle wrestler of all time winning 3 Olympic gold medals, and 7 world titles.

Medved competed in a few different weight classes including +87kg, 97kg, +97kg, and +100kg. He was a smaller and leaner heavyweight wrestler but his dominance was unparralled.

His rival was Bulgarian Osman Duraliev, they met in the finals of 8 major wrestling events. Medved would end up winning all 8 of the meetings however a lot of the matches were close and one of them was a comeback victory from Medved.

Aleksandr Medved’s son Aleksei won the junior world championships in 1987. Medved was one of 5 freestyle wrestlers inducted into the inaugural class of the FILA hall of fame in 2003.

2- Buvaisar Saitiev

PC: Reuters / Alamy (Buvaisar Saitiev [Middle] 2004 Olympics)

Buvaisar Saitiev is a 9x world and Olympic champion for Russia in freestyle wrestling. He is a 3x Olympic gold medalist and a 6x world champion making him the second most decorated freestyle wrestler of all time.

Most people see Saitiev as the greatest freestyle wrestler of all time and a good amount even see him as the greatest wrestler of all time.

Saitiev along with many others could have been the first to win 4 Olympic gold medals but was stunned by the United States’ Brandon Slay at the 2000 games.

His brother Adam Saitiev is one of the greatest wrestlers in history as well winning Olympic gold in 2000 pinning Cuban Yoel Romero. They are widely regarded as the greatest sibling duo in wrestling history.

1- Aleksandr Karelin

PC: Lars Nyberg (Aleksandr Karelin 1988 Olympics)

Aleksandr Karelin, also known as Aleksandr the great, or the experiment is widely regarded as the greatest wrestler of all time, and the scariest man to walk the planet.

Karelin was a 12x world and Olympic champion competing for the Soviet Union and Russia during his storied career. He went undefeated for over a decade and went 7 years without having a single point scored on him.

He was known for his patented reverse body lift which was something that had never been seen at the super heavyweight weight category until Karelin executed it.

His career would come to an end after the 2000 Olympic games where he was stunned in possibly the biggest upset in sports history. Rulon Gardner of the United States who Karelin had previously beaten would shock the world defeating Aleksandr Karelin in his final match.

Since then Karelin has had a very successful career in politics, and even has a PhD which is in “how to defend a suplex” crazily enough.

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Akil Murugan
Akil Murugan
Senior Editor for Heavyweight Nation

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