When we talk about who the greatest wrestlers of all time were people normally talk about Buvaisar Saitiev, Aleksandr Karelin, Mijain Lopez-Nunez and others.
I decided to dig all the way back to Ancient Greece where I found one guy in particular who won 6 olympic titles as well as 32 total wrestling competitions in theory surpassing anything that any wrestler in the modern era has accomplished.
*Note- 5 of the Olympic victories were in the mens division and 1 was in the boys division around 540 BC.
Above in the illustration is the depiction of Milo’s death. This was due to him trying to rip open a tree that was split with a wedge and his hand got stuck in the process and he was not able to get out. He was held there until being attacked and eaten by wolves.
Milo from Croton now names Crotone is an Achaean Greek colony in Italy. As well as his wrestling career Milo lead the Crotoniate army to a victory in war over Sybaris which is also located in Italy.
In addition to the 6 Olympic victories Milo was a 7 time champion at the Pythian Games which were held in Delphi. This is the spot where Apollo had killed the serpent Python by firing over 100 arrows at the beast.
The Pythian games were held every 4 years similar to the Olympics but they were held on the 3rd year of the Olympiad (1999, 2003, 2007, etc). The winners of the games would be presented with a Laurel Crown which was a piece of precious metal kind of like a coin with an engraving on it.
The winners of the games in addition to that would later on be presented with apples. The Pythian Games were similar to our world championships in sense of the value of winning the tournament the only difference being that they were held every four years instead of one.
Milo was a ten time champion at the Isthmian Games which would be held twice as often as the Olympic Games and the Pythian Games on the first and first and third year of every Olympiad (2001, 2003, 2005, etc).
Like how the Pythian Games were dedicated to the god Apollo the Isthmian Games were dedicated to Poseidon the god of the sea and to Palaimon who was from another myth.
The Isthmian Games were held in a rural sanctuary on the Isthmus which is a small land bridge that connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the mainland of Greece.
In the fifth century BC sporting events were adding to the games and as well as this the prizes were changed from a crown (coin/medallion) and pine branches to a crown of dried celery.
The Nemean Games were the last of the games which took place in Nemea at a sanctuary that was dedicated to Zeus who the games were honored to. The games were held once every two years alternating years with the Isthmian games and took place in the years apart from the Olympic and Pythian Games.
With the level of dominance and longevity that Milo had ultimately comes ones downfall and this would be when he was in his early 40’s. He would end up losing to a wrestler from his city by the names of Timatheos.
The match was essentially Timatheos not doing much to attack Milo but was able to wear him out ultimately defeating the six time champion of the Olympic Games.
After the loss to Timatheos, Milo would retire from competition in the sport of wrestling and become a politician. This was very common for successful athletes to do after the end of their career being that a lot of athletes belonged to the higher class families.
Around 510 BC he was appointed as the general of the Crotonian army and successfully lead the army to victory over Sybaris in war.
Stories About Milo-
With a man as legendary as Milo there are bound to be some stories that come with it.
The first one is that he once carried an adult bull into the yard and managed to eat the entire thing in a single day.
The next one is that he once carried a calf to the yard every day until it was a full grown bull.
The last and possibly the craziest one I found is that Milo actually saved the philosopher Pythagoras’s life. A pillar would collapse in the hall and Milo would support the roof until Pythagoras could get out of there and into safety.
This one statement most likely sums up his wrestling career. Nobody remembers who finishes second at the games and Milo is the only example of that in Ancient Greece even having statues of him created after his defeat in the 7th olympic games.
In todays terms there are very few people you remember that came in second at the Olympic Games years later. The main example people can think of is Karelin which shows the legacy he has created for himself.
After looking through wrestling from all the way back in 1904-2022 in the modern era of wrestling and also looking back at wrestlers, pankrationists, and boxers from Ancient Greece there are two stories that stand out the most. Arrichion of Phigalia and Milo of Croton.