The 7 Best Wrestlers In History

Wrestling is one of the oldest martial arts in the world and one of the most effective combat styles in the world. Those who are proficient wrestlers continue to dominate sports like mixed martial arts where combatants from different martial arts test their skills against one another.

Let’s take a look at some of the great wrestlers who have amazed us with their abilities over the years:


7) Jordan Burroughs

Burroughs is a young American wrestler whose name often pops up during discussions about who is the best wrestler ever. Born in 1988, Burroughs has already amassed an impressive NCAA record and two National Championships. He won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, four World Championship gold medals, two Pan American gold medals and two Pan American Championship gold medals.

Burroughs finished his collegiate career with an overall record of 128-20. He is currently ranked second all-time in the U.S. in terms of his accolades as a wrestler.


6) Dan Gable

Gable won multiple national and conference titles while he was a member of Iowa State University’s wrestling team. His success as a collegiate wrestler earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and he emerged victorious during the 1972 Olympics, winning the gold medal for his weight class.

After securing the gold medal, Gable decided it was time to call it quits. He transitioned to coaching and was just as successful. Gable’s accomplishments as a coach surpass his individual accomplishments.

He started as a coaching assistant for the University of Iowa’s wrestling team and was promoted to head coach in 1972. Gable ended up being one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history, taking his team to 45 National Championships, creating 152 All-Americans, 106 Big Ten champions and 12 Olympic medalists as the U.S. Olympic team’s freestyle coach.

What really separated Gable from the other coaches of his era was his ability to bring out the best in all the people he coached.


5) Valentin Yordanov

Yordanov was born in a small village in Bulgaria. He started wrestling when he was 10 and won his first European Championship about a decade later. He moved to the U.S. in 1990 and kept up his training. He won seven World Championship gold medals during the early part of his career.

Yordanov won the bronze medal at his first Olympic competition in 1992. He then went on to win the gold medal during the 1996 Summer Olympics. He retired shortly after his victory, becoming a member of the FILA Commission a year later. He returned his gold medal in 2013 after the Olympic Committee decided to remove wrestling from the games.


4) John Smith

Born in 1965, John Smith is one of the most decorated American freestyle wrestlers. His journey began at during his time in college where he won two national championships. After his college days, Smith went on to win two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship gold medals, two Goodwill Games gold medals, and two Pan American Games gold medals. As of today, there is no American wrestler who has come anywhere close to achieving the things Smith has.

Smith competed in the NCAAs under Oklahoma State University’s banner. He compiled a 154-7-2 record during his years there.

After his decorated wrestling career, Smith became the head coach of OSU’s wrestling team. His record as a coach is 425-63-6 and his pupils have won a total of 32 individual national championships.


3) Hamid Sourian

Without a doubt, Sourian is one of the best Greco-Roman wrestlers on the planet. Born in 1985, the Iranian has already secured six world championships. He won the gold medal in the men’s 55 kg division at the 2012 Summer Olympics, becoming the first Iranian to accomplish that feat. Sourian also has two Asian Championships gold medals and two Wrestling World Cup gold medals.

His unmatched accomplishments on the mat have earned him the nickname “Genius.” Given his age, it’s safe to say Hamid isn’t done dominating opponents on the mat.


2) Cael Sanderson

Sanderson is easily the best American wrestler in recent history. His journey to greatness started in the NCAA where he went undefeated, compiling a 159-0 record. Sanderson also won four NCAA championships during his college days, four NCAA Outstanding Wrestler of the Year awards and four Big 12 titles.

Afterward, Sanderson represented the U.S. in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, winning the gold medal. He is now the head coach of the very successful Penn State University wrestling program.


1) Aleksandr Karelin

There are many people who insist Karelin is the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler who ever competed. Born in the harsh Siberian Tundra in 1967, Karelin was encouraged by his father to take part in contact sports. He didn’t discover wrestling until his teenage years.

Karelin turned out to be a natural, quickly becoming better than competitors who had been wrestling their whole lives. He went on to win three Olympic gold medals, nine World Championship gold medals, 12 European Championship gold medals, and countless others. By the end of his career, Karelin had secured a total of 29 gold medals and one silver medal competing at the highest levels. His overall wrestling record is 887-2.

So there you have it, the seven best wrestlers in history. What all these men all have in common is their dedication to their training and their passion for wrestling. That is what it takes to master any martial art. You need to be committed to your training and work constantly on improving.


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