It is no secret that the freaks of Greco-Roman wrestling have lived in the super heavyweight division. Guys like Aleksandr Karelin and Mijain Lopez-Nunez are the most notable, but how does the rest of the field stack up?
#5 Istvan Kozma (Hungary)
Istvan Kozma won 2 Olympic gold medals along with 3 World gold medals in the unlimited weight class.
Olympics- 1960 (4th), 1964 (1st), 1968 (1st)
Worlds- ’61 (Bronze), ’62 (1st), ’65 (2nd), ’66-’67 (1st)
One of the most dominant heavyweights in Greco-Roman history and was inducted into the United World Wrestling hall of fame in 2007.
Kozma was killed in a car crash at 30 years old.
#4 Riza Kayaalp (Turkey)
Riza Kayaalp has been through it on the senior level running into none other than 4x Olympic Champion Mijain Lopez-Nunez in 3 consecutive Olympic Games. He is one of two non Olympic Champions to make this list and for good reason.
Riza made his Olympic debut in Beijing as an 18 year old where he lost his first match to Mindaugas Mizgaitis of Lithuania who would be awarded the silver medal at the Olympics after original silver medalist Khasan Boroev of Russia would pop.
Olympics- 2008 (19th), 2012 (Bronze), 2016 (2nd), 2021 (Bronze)
Worlds- ’09-’10 (Bronze), ’13-’14 (2nd), ’11, ’15, ’17, ’19 (1st)
Kayaalp has a record of 192-14 on the senior level, and considering he made his debut at 18 years old that is very impressive and up there with guys like Snyder who would dominate in their division from such a young age.
Kayaalp is one of two still active wrestlers on this list but at 32 years old there is only so much longer he can go. Since Mijain Lopez-Nunez has not declared whether or not he will be coming back to try and win a historic 5th Olympic Gold it seems like Riza will be the unanimous favorite for now.
#3 Aleksandr Tomov (Bulgaria)
The second wrestler that has not won an Olympic Gold medal. Aleksandr Tomov was a 3x Olympic silver medalist. One of those was to Anatoly Roshchin, and the other two were to Alexandr Kolchinsky both of the Soviet Union.
Stats- 1972 (2nd), 1976 (2nd), 1980 (2nd)
Worlds- ’71 (1st), ’73-’75 (1st), ’79 (1st)
Tomov statistically is the best wrestler to never win an Olympic gold medal. He was inducted into the FILA hall of fame as well.
#2 Mijain Lopez-Nunez (Cuba)
The top two on this list will probably always be debated for years to come unless Mijain Lopez decides to come back for a 5th gold medal and 6th Olympic Games. The reason Lopez is at number 2 is pretty much just because of lack of activity. This is mainly in the later stages of his career after the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
Lopez did come back and win the Olympics in 2021 with little to no problem at 38 years old which begs the question of does he go for a 5th gold? If he wins the 5th gold he is the first to ever do so and will most likely go down as the undisputed greatest of all time.
Olympics- 2004 (5th), 2008 (1st), 2012 (1st), 2016 (1st), 2021 (1st)
Worlds- ’05 (1st), ’06 (2nd), ’07, ’09-’10 (1st), ’11 (2nd), ’14 (1st), ’15 (2nd)
There have been some questions on the legitimacy of Lopez’ 2 losses in the 2011 and the 2015 world finals to Riza Kayaalp but besides that the only real losses on the World or Olympic stage are Khasan Boroev in 2006 and his first Olympics in 2004.
#1 Aleksandr Karelin (Soviet Union)
Aleksandr Karelin has been deemed as the best wrestler of all time since the end of his career at the Sydney Olympics and deservingly so. Karelin had a 887-2 career record which even to this day has not been touched. Those two losses came at the hands of Igor Rostorotsky at the 1987 USSR Championships and most famously Rulon Gardner in the 2000 Olympic Finals.
A crazy thing to note about those losses is that they were both 1-0. Karelin also had wins over both of those wrestlers as well.
Karelin was dominant beyond belief and the reverse body lift is still associated with his legacy till this day. 3x Olympic Champion and 9x World Champion is a record that will not be touched for a while unless Abdulrashid Sadulaev can make it happen.
Olympics- 1988 (1st), 1992 (1st), 1996 (1st), 2000 (2nd)
Worlds- ’89-’91 (1st), ’93-’95 (1st), ’97-’99 (1st)
You can always argue who should be number one on this list and who should be number two but for the time being we will keep Karelin here