Throughout the history of this sport there have been many legendary freestyle wrestlers to dominate. In this article we go over the top 10 freestyle wrestlers in the history of this sport.
In no particular order*
Abdollah Movahed (Iran)
Levan Tediashvili (Soviet Union)
Besik Kudukhov (Russia)
Adam Saitiev (Russia)
Mavlet Batirov (Russia)
Khadzimurat Gatsalov (Russia)
Yuji Takada (Japan)
Vladamir Yumin (Soviet Union)
Bruce Baumgartner (United States)
The Top 10 List:
10- Soslan Andiyev (Soviet Union)
Soslan Andiyev was a heavyweight wrestler for the Soviet Union competing in the +100kg weight class category. He won 2 Olympic gold medals during his career but missed out on a chance for a third one due to the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
In addition to the two Olympic Golds, Andiyev won 5 World Titles and a silver medal. He would go on to win the World Cup and 3 titles at the European Championships as well.
The boycott of the 1984 Olympic Games would essentially be the end of his competitive career in the sport of wrestling. Andiyev would serve as the vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee for almost a decade in the 1990’s before being inducted into the FILA hall of fame in 2006 (now UWW hall of fame).
Andiyev passed away back in November of 2018 at the age of 66.
9- John Smith (United States)
John Smith competed for the United States at the 62kg weight class. Here he won 6 gold medals (2 Olympic, 4 World). A lot of people still view Smith as the greatest wrestler in American history even with his record being broken.
The main impact that Smith had on wrestling was the low single. This was a move that after he started doing it became very popular, and even if you look around nowadays it is used all the time in freestyle wrestling.
Smith is still around in the wrestling team as he coaches the Oklahoma State college wrestling team and has been doing so since 1992. Throughout his time at Oklahoma St. he has coached the team to 5 national titles, 33 individual National Champions, and 5 Olympians.
8- Jordan Burroughs (United States)
There is going to be some debate on who should be higher on this list between John Smith and Jordan Burroughs. With Burroughs having to consistently run through gauntlets to win his gold medals and having the longevity aspect I will give him the edge.
Burroughs this year (2022) won his 7th gold medal at the World Championships to become the first wrestler in United States history to pass 6 golds. He has announced that he will be retiring after the 2024 season no matter how it goes, so if he wins a world title in 2023, and is able to pick up a gold at the Olympics in Paris he could very well move up in this list.
Burroughs ran through everyone in the world in his prime, and he did it with one move, the blast double. The only real reason that he isn’t a couple spots higher on this list is because he got onto the senior level later than a lot of these guys, and he did not medal at the 2016 Olympics or make the team for the 2020 games.
The legacy that he has created supersedes that along with the impact that he has had on the world of wrestling and he is a name that will go down in history.
7- Makharbek Khadartsev (Soviet Union)
When looking at wrestling history the light heavyweight weight class is one of if not the most stacked weight class ever. Makharbek Khadartsev is one of the many legends to have dominated at that weight class. Winning 2 Olympic Gold medals and 5 world titles during his reign.
Khadartsev is the first wrestler on this list to have 3 Olympic Medals even though he was upset at the 1996 games by Rasoul Khadem of Iran.
Looking at his career and the level of competition that he faced throughout the course of his career it just makes his accomplishments even more impressive.
6- Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia)
If you know wrestling, then you know who Abdulrashid Sadulaev is. To be this high on the list with the level of accolades that he has, and to only be 26 years old is beyond impressive.
With a career record of 144-2 in there is no doubt that he could be at the top of the list by the time his career is over. A lot of this depends on how long he decides to wrestle before he calls it a career.
He has 7 gold medals to his name thus far and the only major tournament he did not win was the 2017 World Championships where he moved up a weight class to face Kyle Snyder and lost by a single point. Since then, he has claimed three straight wins over the American.
Sadulaev has said that he will be looking to retire after the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
5- Valentin Yordanov (Bulgaria)
Valentin Yordanov competed down at the 52kg weight class when that still existed and compiled 8 gold medals throughout the course of his career consisting of 1 Olympic Gold, and 7 World Golds.
In addition to those he does have an Olympic bronze medal, as well as 2 World silvers, and a bronze. This puts him at 12 World and Olympic medals for his career, not to include his 7 European titles.
After his career he did become the president of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee. In 2013 when the IOC made the decision to cut wrestling from the Olympic regime Yordanov made the decision to return his Olympic gold medal in protest.
4- Arsen Fadzaev (Soviet Union)
Arsen Fadzaev was pretty much perfect in matches except for 1989 where he was up a weight class and lost the super match to Kenny Monday of the United States in the World Championship finals.
During his career he racked up 8 gold medals consisting of 2 Olympic golds, and 6 World golds. With the Soviet Boycott of the 1984 Olympic Games, Fadzaev along with many others did not get the chance to compete for gold.
3- Sergei Beloglazov (Soviet Union)
Sergei Beloglazov is one of the greatest tacticians in the history of freestyle wrestling, he dominated the 57kg weight class for essentially the entirety of his career. He racked up 6 world titles as well as 2 Olympic gold medals.
A lot of the technique that was used by him in the 1980’s is still widely seen 40 years later today. He currently coaches in the United States at the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club which is based out of Michigan.
2- Aleksandr Medved (Soviet Union)
Number 1 vs 2 on this list will be heavily debated for years to come, Aleksandr Medved was the best wrestler in the world throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. He is the most decorated freestyle wrestler of all time winning 7 world titles along with 3 Olympic gold medals.
He was known for his rivalry with Osman Duraliev of Belarus where they met 8 times in the finals of major events. According to the scorebooks many of them were close bouts with Duraliev actually leading in one of them. However Medved was the king for a reason as he was able to win all 8 of the meetings.
He was part of the inaugural class of the FILA hall of fame and was also declared the Belorussian athlete of the 20th century.
1- Buvaisar Saitiev (Russia)
Buvaisar Saitiev is by far the most impactful and revolutionary wrestler that has ever competed in freestyle wrestling. Watching him wrestle was a work of art the way he would masterfully score from position where others would be dead to rights.
He won 3 Olympic gold medals along with 6 world titles during his reign at 74kg. The level of competition at this weight class domestically in Russia alone was immense with wrestlers such as Adam Saitiev (brother), Makhach Murtazaliev, and Magomed Isagadjiev.
He is a big reason for the development of freestyle wrestling and the development of Russia as a whole.