Freestyle wrestling is a unique and exhilarating sport. It is one of the oldest forms of wrestling and has been around for centuries. In freestyle wrestling, there are no weight classes or rules about holds. Wrestlers can use any technique they want to try and pin their opponent.
This makes for an exhilarating sport to watch! Each of these athletes has significantly impacted the sport and has achieved outstanding accomplishments.
Dan Gable is one of the most accomplished American wrestlers in history. Dan Gable looked to have been destined for greatness from the start. In Waterloo, Iowa, he went 64-0 at Waterloo West High School and won three state titles in three tries from 1964 to 1966 as a freshman (at the time, freshmen weren’t allowed to compete).
When Gable entered the 1966 Midlands Championships, one of the most prestigious competitions in the country, he was just nine months removed from his senior high school season, where he weighed 112 pounds.
Five years later, Gable won the 1968 Midlands as a freshman, defeating an Olympic silver medalist. He was also a five-time All-American and an NCAA champion at Arizona State. Gable won a gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics by 6-0.
Over the Olympic Trials and Olympics, Gable gave up one point. Even though several wrestlers have gone on to win World and Olympic championships since then, Gable is the first American to achieve this feat in consecutive years.
Cael Sanderson is another incredibly accomplished American wrestler. He won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and was a four-time NCAA Division I national champion. He is currently the head coach of the Penn State University wrestling team.
John Smith is one of the most decorated American wrestlers in history. He won two Olympic gold medals in 1988 and 1992. Smith was also a four-time NCAA Division I national champion. After his competitive career, he became the head coach of the Oklahoma State University wrestling team.
Aleksandr Vladimirovich Medved is a Ukrainian-born Russian freestyle wrestler. He is a three-time Olympic champion, a five-time world champion, and the only wrestler in history to have won all eighteen major international titles.
His other accomplishments include setting a still unbeaten world record of eleven world championship gold medals and becoming the first and only Ukrainian-born wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal.
Aleksandr Medved began his wrestling career at an early age. He started competing internationally in 1961 and won his first major title, the World Championship, in 1963. The following year, Medved won the Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling.
He would also win gold medals at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games. Between his Olympic wins, Medved also won World Championship titles in 1967, 1971, and 1973.
Medved’s success was not limited to the world of international competition; he was also very successful in the national competition. He won the Soviet Union’s national championship 12 times between 1962 and 1974. After retiring from competition in 1974, Medved turned his attention to coaching. He coached the Soviet national team from 1982 to 1988 and helped them win the 1984 Olympic gold medal.
Buvaisar “Bova” Saitiev is the most incredible freestyle wrestler. A three-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time World Champion, Saitiev’s dominance in the sport are unrivaled.
He is the only wrestler to have won all four major international tournaments—the Olympics, the World Championships, the Goodwill Games, and the FILA Grappling World Championships. Saitiev was born in Dagestan, Russia, in 1975.
Saitiev was known for his incredible technique and tactical prowess. He was a master of the “inside trip,” a move that allows a wrestler to take down an opponent while simultaneously avoiding being taken down himself.
This move was so effective that many coaches forbid their wrestlers from even attempting it against Saitiev for fear of being taken down in a humiliating fashion.
Abdulrashid Sadulaev is widely considered to be the most outstanding freestyle wrestler of all time. He is a 3-time Olympic Champion, 10-time World Champion, and 6-time European Champion.
Sadulaev is also a 2-time World Cup winner, 3-time Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix winner, and 2-time Russian National Champion. In short, he is one of the most decorated and accomplished wrestlers in history.
But what makes Sadulaev so great? There are a few factors that come into play. First, Sadulaev is an incredibly technical wrestler. He is constantly trying to improve his technique and perfect his craft. This has allowed him to remain at the top of his game for years.
Second, Sadulaev has an unbelievable work ethic. He trains tirelessly and is always looking for ways to get better. Finally, Sadulaev has an unmatched competitive drive. He hates losing and will do whatever it takes to win.
There’s no denying that Jordan Burroughs is one of the greatest wrestlers. The Jersey-born grappler has won just about every major title there is to win, including an Olympic gold medal. And he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Jordan Burroughs first made a name for himself on the collegiate wrestling scene, winning two NCAA Division I championships for the University of Nebraska. He then took his talents to the international stage, where he quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. Burroughs has won four World Championships and an Olympic gold medal, cementing his place among the all-time greats.
Artur Taymazov is a three-time Olympic champion in freestyle wrestling. He is also a nine-time World Champion and a six-time European Champion. Born in Uzbekistan, Taymazov began wrestling at 7 and made his international debut in 1996. He quickly rose to prominence in the sport, winning gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics.
Taymazov’s career has not been without controversy, however. In 2000, he was disqualified from the Sydney Olympics for failing to make weight. This led to an appeal by the Uzbekistan Wrestling Federation, which was ultimately unsuccessful. In 2012, he became the first wrestler to win three Olympic gold medals, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
Four years later, Taymazov was again embroiled in controversy when he tested positive for a banned substance before the Athens Olympics. He was stripped of his gold medal and suspended from competition for two years.
Makharbek Khadartsev is a name that will forever be remembered in the annals of Olympic history. The Uzbek-born wrestler is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a five-time World Champion. He is widely considered one of the greatest heavyweight wrestlers of all time.
He began wrestling at 11 and quickly rose through the sport’s ranks. By the time he was 22, he had won his first World Championship. He followed that up with Olympic gold medals in 1988 and 1992.
Sergei Beloglazov was a three-time Olympic champion in freestyle wrestling and is widely considered the most outstanding freestyle wrestler. He was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1956 and began his career in 1976. He competed in his first international tournament in 1979.
He went on to win six World Championships and two Olympic gold medals (1980 and 1988). Sergei Beloglazov retired from competition in 1988, but he continues to be a coach and administrator in the sport of wrestling.
Sergei Beloglazov’s career was defined by his dominance of the freestyle wrestling world. He was a master of the sport, with an unparalleled combination of strength, speed, and technique.
Arsen Fadzev was born in 1962, in Chikola, Russia. Not much is known about his early days or career, but we know he was a dominant force in the Russian wrestling society and the world. He won an Olympic gold medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and another Olympic gold medal in 1992 in Barcelona. He has also won six World Championships in the 68 kg category.
For many people, the Olympics are a time to come together and watch the best athletes in the world compete for gold. But for J’den Cox, the Olympics are so much more. They’re the realization of a lifelong dream. And they’re an opportunity to inspire the next generation of wrestlers.
J’den Cox is a 2-Pan American and 1-time Olympic medalist. He is also a 2-time World Champion. And he is only 27 years old. Cox first made waves on the international stage when he won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
But his performance at the 2018 World Championship in Budapest solidified his place among the all-time greats. He became the second American wrestler to win gold in the freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling events. He is also a six-time NCAA Division I Wrestling Champion.
Bruce Baumgartner is a name that is synonymous with American wrestling. A two-time Olympic gold medalist, seven-time World Champion, three-time Pan American champion, and one-time NCAA Champion, Baumgartner is widely considered to be the most outstanding wrestler in American history.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Baumgartner began his wrestling career in high school and never looked back. He had an incredibly successful collegiate and international career.
He worked tirelessly to improve his craft and strived to be the best wrestler in the world. This commitment to excellence helped him achieve tremendous success on the mat.
Levan Tediashvili is a name that may not be familiar to many people outside of Georgia. Still, within the country, he is a true legend. Levan Tediashvili was born in 1948 in the Georgian town of Tbilisi. From a young age, he was interested in wrestling.
He began training under the tutelage of his father, who was a former wrestler. Tediashvili quickly showed promise, winning his first major tournament at 16. He had an illustrious career as a wrestler, competing in national and international competitions.
In 1972, Tediashvili participated in the Olympic Games in Munich, where he won a gold medal. He went on to win the Olympic gold medal at the Olympic games in Montreal, where he competed in the 82 kg class. He had also won 5 world championships.
After retiring from competition, Tediashvili turned his attention to coaching. He coached the Georgian national wrestling team for many years, leading them to success in numerous international tournaments.
Saori Yoshida is Japanese female freestyle wrestler and born on October 5, 1982. She is three-time Olympic champion (2004, 2008 and 2012) and 13-time world champion. Saori has the absolute record in the history of world championships in wrestling for both women and men.
Since 2014, she performs in the weight category up to 53 kg, most of her victories were in the category up to 55 kg. She made her debut in big sports in 2002, by September 2006 she had 100 won wrestling bouts in her record.
At the Olympics and World Championships Saori did not lose until the final of the 2016 Olympic Games, where she sensationally lost to American Helen Maroulis. She finished her career in January 2019.
Valentin first made a name for himself as a member of the Bulgarian National Team. It was here that he first began to turn heads with his fantastic wrestling feats. He quickly rose through the team ranks, winning numerous medals and championships.
This success carried over into his professional career, where he has continued to wow fans and critics alike with his athleticism and skill. In just a few short years, Valentin has established himself as one of the top stars in wrestling. He has won 7 World Championships and 7 European Championships, competing in the 52 kg category.
Mustafa Dagistanli was a Turkish wrestler who had his best achievements in freestyle wrestling, winning gold medals at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics and 1954, 1957, and 1959 world championships. In Greco-Roman wrestling, he won a gold medal at the 1955 Mediterranean Games.
He is credited with 389 wins and four draws in 393 matches. After his wrestling career, he turned to politics and served as deputy of Samsun from 1973 to 1980 for the Justice Party.
Kurt Angle is an American wrestler who has had an incredibly successful career. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1996 and has also won multiple world championships. He is currently signed to WWE and is one of the most popular wrestlers in the world.
Khabelov was born in 1964 in Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. He began wrestling at seven and quickly rose through the ranks, winning his first national championship at age 15. After serving in the Soviet Army, Khabelov started training full-time with some of the best wrestlers in the world.
Khabelov’s international career began in 1985 when he competed at the World Championships in Budapest. He would go on to win gold at that tournament three times more (in 1987, 1990, and 1991), cementing his reputation as one of the best wrestlers in the world. In 1992, he won Olympic gold in Barcelona in the 100 kg category.
Khadzhimurat Soltanovich Gatsalov was born December 11, 1982, in Chikola, North Ossetia–Alaniais. Gatsalov won the gold medal in the freestyle 96 kg class in the 2004 Summer Olympics, beating Daniel Cormier (who would go on to become UFC Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion) in the semi-finals.
Gatsalov has also won five world medals in the 96 kg class at the FILA Wrestling World Championships. At the FILA Wrestling World Championships in 2013, he won a gold medal in the 120 kg class. Later, he helped Daniel Cormier prepare for his fight against Jon Jones.
Mavlet Alavdinovich Batirov is a Russian freestyle wrestler and Olympic gold medalist. He won the gold medal in the men’s freestyle 55 kg category at the 2004 Summer Olympics and, in August 2008, competed in the 60 kg weight class. In April 2006, he became the European champion in Moscow. Most recently, he won September 2007 World Championship held in Baku.
Kaori Ityo is a Japanese female freestyle wrestler, a four-time Olympic champion in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016, and a 10-time world champion. Since 2014, he has competed in the weight category to 58 kg, and most of his victories won 63 kg.
Awarded the People’s Honor Award (2016). The first athlete in the history of wrestling (both women and men) to win four Olympic gold medals. First woman in history to win gold at 4 Olympic Games. She ended her career in 2019.
Abdollah Movahed was born on March 20, 1940, in Babolsar, Iran. He competed in lightweight freestyle wrestling at 1964, 1968, and 1972 Olympic games, winning a gold medal in 1968. He served as flag bearer for Iran at the 1970 Asian Games and won a gold medal a few days later.
Movahed continued competing until he hurt his shoulder in 1972 during the early rounds. Later, after moving to America, Movahed refused to train U.S wrestlers because they might go up against Iranians in international tournaments. The FILA wrestling hall of fame inducted him later on.
Ivan Sergeyevich Yarygin was born on October 1, 1948, in the small village of Sizaya in the Krasnoyarsk Krai of Russia. Yarygin is best known for his three consecutive wins at the World Championships in 1973, 1974, and 1976. He was an exceptional wrestler, winning the Soviet title in 1970 and 1972 and the European Championships in 1972.
Yarygin was widely respected for his incredible strength and aggressive style of wrestling. He always aimed to pin down his opponents and had most of his stoppage wins by fall. He was also a three-time Olympic champion, winning gold medals in 1972, 1976, and 1980. After retiring from competition in 1980, Yarygin settled back in his home village of Sizaya and worked as a lumberjack.
Hassan Yazdani was born in Ardabil, Iran, on December 12, 1997. He began wrestling at six and has since become one of the most successful wrestlers in the world. Yazdani won a gold medal at the 2014 Junior World Championships in the 66 kg division by defeating American opponent Aaron Pico in the final.
The following year, he placed second at Senior World Championships to Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov of Russia by a 10–3. After bumping up to 74 kg, Yazdani claimed gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics against Aniuar Geduev with 6–6 on criteria—scoring the final points.
Increasing in weight once more, Yazdani won gold at the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games in the 86 kg division. With a score of 11-0, he defeated former Olympic gold medalist Sharif Sharifov and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Selim Yaşar on his way to becoming champion.
Hassan Yazdani won the 2017 Iran Freestyle Wrestling Nationals at 86 kg in July, defeating Alireza Karimi 5-0. He then competed in the 2017 World Wrestling Championships in Paris, again participating in the 86 kg weight class. He became champion with decisive wins in 4 out of 5 matches, including the final, with technical superiority.
Vladimir Sergeyevich Yumin was born on December 18, 1951, in Omsk, Russia. At age two, he and his family moved to Kaspiysk, Dagestan. Yumin spent most of his life in this small town near the Caspian Sea.
Yumin started wrestling when he was only 12 and showed a lot of potential early on. He competed in his first major international tournament at 17. He won a gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada. After that, he went on to win world championships in 1974, 1977, 1978, and 1979.
He also won a gold medal at the 1975 European Championships and placed second at the 1975 World Championships. Yumin retired from wrestling in 1980 after failing to qualify for the Olympic Games.
After retiring from wrestling, Yumin became a coach with the Turkish national team. In 2009, he was inducted into the International Wrestling Hall of Fame. Yumin passed away on March 4, 2016, at 64.
Geno Petriashvili was born on April 1, 1994, in Tbilisi, Georgia. He is a heavyweight freestyle wrestler who has won two world championships in 2017 and 2018. Petriashvili also won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In 2014, he was suspended from competition for six months after testing positive for the non-performance enhancing Preductal.
Petriashvili began wrestling as a child after being kidnapped and held for ransom; the experience gave him the determination to become a champion wrestler. He won a gold medal at the Under 23 years world championships in Poland in 2017. In 2018, Petriashvili was named the Wrestler of the Year by United World Wrestling.
Zaurbek Kazbekovich Sidakov is a Russian freestyle wrestler who competes in the 74 kg weight class. He is currently the reigning Olympic champion and has previously won two World Championships (2018 & 2019).
Sidakov isn’t just an Olympic and World Champion- he’s also a European Games Gold medalist, World Cup Champion, and a three-time Russian National Champion with multiple Military world titles under his belt.
He has won numerous medals, including bronze, silver, and gold, at the Ivan Yarygin Golden Grand Prix from 2015 to 2019. In 2016 he captured his first gold medal at the Grand Prix by defeating Russian National champion Khusein Suyunchev.
Sidakov’s accomplishments in 2018 include taking a silver medal at the Budapest World Championship. Since then, he has won the gold medal at the Nur-Sultan world championship in 2019 and the European Games in 2019, which were held in Yakutsk. Furthermore, he became victorious in the Tokyo Olympic games by winning yet another gold medal.
Four-time World Champion and Bronze medalist at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Kyle Douglas Dake, was born on February 25, 1991, in Cortland, New York. Currently competing at 74 kgs, Dake has won back-to-back titles twice; first at 79 kilos in 2018 and 2019, then again more recently at 74 kilos in 2021 and 2022. He didn’t surrender a single point at his first World Championship tournament and outscored his opponents from 37 to 0.
In university, he became the third person in NCAA Division I history to become a four-time national champion. He was the only one to do so while competing in four different weight classes. As a senior, he won the Dan Hodge Trophy winner and three EIWA titles while attending Cornell University.
David Morris Taylor III is an American wrestler who has found success in both freestyle and folkstyle. In 2021, he became the Olympic gold medalist after defeating reigning Olympic and World Champion Hassan Yazdani. He later became the World Championship runner-up after being defeated by Yazdani. Then, at the 2022 World Championships, he avenged that loss by defeating Yazdani again to reclaim his world title.
A two-time NCAA Division I National Champion (four-time finalist), a four-time Big Ten Conference champion, and a two-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner during his collegiate years, Taylor is one of the most accomplished Nittany Lions in the history of the Pennsylvania State program.
The list of best freestyle wrestlers of all time is a definitive list that will stir up plenty of debate. It is, however, an accurate portrayal of the greatest freestyle wrestlers in history. These athletes have redefined what it means to be a champion and raised the bar for future generations. Their accomplishments are a testament to their hard work, dedication, and passion for the sport of wrestling.