The 10 Best Freestyle Wrestlers of All Time

Table of Contents

Freestyle wrestling is truly a global sport that is practiced in nearly every country, it is one of the most decorated Olympic sports and a sport that anyone can participate in, no matter the persons size, sex or culture.

One of the most explosive and dynamic sports, freestyle wrestling matches are exciting to watch and freestyle wrestlers are some of the best if not the best conditioned athletes in all of sports having to have strength, speed, flexibility, power, agility and stamina.

There have been thousands of competitors in modern freestyle wrestling history but the best freestyle wrestlers are a cut above the crowd. There are so many freestyle wrestlers to choose from but the 10 freestyle wrestlers of all time that Grapplezilla picked all are the elite of the elite, having won multiple Olympic and world championships as well as had a significant impact on the sport of freestyle wrestling itself.

Here is Grapplezilla’s list of the 10 best freestyle wrestlers of all time

Honorable Mention: Levan Tediashvili

Although Levan Tediashvili is not in the top 10 wrestlers of all time, he needs an honorable mentiona due to his dominance on the international wrestling scene as well as absolute technical mastery of wrestling.

Levan wrestled for the Soviet Union having won 2 Olympic gold medals and 4 World Championships gold medals and 1 silver medal at the world championships. Levan even won the Soviet Championships in Sambo.

Levan was considered the most technical wrestler in Soviet history and defeated the famous Peterson brothers (John and Ben) in the Olympics. Levan was born in the Soviet republic of Georgia and during his wrestling years he received the Order of Lenin Award which is the highest award a Soviet citizen can receive. Levan was chosen to enter the FILA International Hall of Fame in 2005.

Arsen Fadzayev

Considered one of the most dominant wrestlers of all time, Arsen Fadzayev had a period in his career where he did not give up one single point in international competition. Arsen won 2 Olympic gold medals and 6 world championship gold medals as well as 1 silver medal at the world championships for the Soviet Union in most competitions and Unified Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Arsen was chosen to enter the FILA international Hall of Fame in 2003, the first ever election of wrestlers to the prestigious hall of fame.

Makharbek Khadartsev

A true terminator on the mats, Makharbek Khardartsev destroyed the competition at every level winning 2 Olympic gold medals, 1 Olympic Silver medal, 5 World championship gold medals, 2 world championship silver medals and 1 world championship bronze medal for the Soviet Union, Unified team and Russia.

Khadartsev came from a family of wrestlers, his older brother Aslanbek also being a true world class wrestler having won 2 gold medals at the world wrestling championships prior to his tragic death in a car crash. Aslanbek was a heavy favourite to win the Olympic gold at heavyweight.

Makharbek Khadartsev was elected to be in the FILA International Hall of Fame in 2005 for his truly dominant performances in international competitions.

Sergei Belaglazov

A true master of the sport of wrestling, Sergei Beloglazov won 2 Olympic gold medals, 6 world championship gold medals and 1 silver medal at the world championships for the Soviet Union. 

Sergei was highly technical and always came in world class shape and has had an illustrious coaching career as well having coached the olympic teams of Japan, Singapore, Russia, The United States and Kazahastan. Sergie was voted to enter the FILA International Hall of Fame in 2004, he has a brother Anatoly Beleglazov who also won 1 Olympic gold medal, 3 Golds at the world championships and 1 Bronze World championship medal.

John Smith

The American Wrestler with the most Gold medals in the international arena, John Smith smashed the competition on his way to win 2 Olympic gold medals, 4 world championship golds and 2 Goodwill games gold medals. Smith was so incredibly dominant that he amassed a 150-3 international record from 1986 to 1990. John Smith is the head coach of the famous Oklahoma State University wrestling program which is one of the best in the United States. John Smith was voted into in 2003 to the FILA International Hall of Fame.

Ivan Yarygin

Ivan Yarygin was a true machine on the mats, having won 2 Olympic gold medals, 1 World Championship Gold medal and 5 World Cup gold medals for the Soviet Union. The nature in which Ivan Yarygin won his competitions is second to none, he was known to finish matches very quickly and by fall as well as he was the first man to win an Olympic gold medal with all pin victories and no foul points.

Yarygin was known to be extremely strong, aggressive and no-nonsense in his wrestling style and perhaps this is why the Golden Grand Prix Ivan Yarygin tournament named after him is considered the toughest tournament in the world.

Ivan was not only a wrestler but a master of sport in Sambo even winning the heavyweight championships in Sambo at the Soviet Armed Forces Championships.

In 1997, Ivan Yarygin died in a car crash at the young age of 48 and was posthumously voted into the FILA International Hall of Fame in 2010.

Abdulrashid Sadulaev

The name Sadulaev is synonymous with the word dominance. He has dominated everyone in Freestyle Wrestling with very few defeats in his senior wrestling career. Sadulaev’s technical mastery of wrestling is so much superior than any of the opponents he has faced.

Abdulrashid Sadulaev has won 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 5 Gold Medals at the World Championships, 1 Silver at the World Championships, a Gold at the 2020 Freestyle Wrestling Individual World Cup, 2 Gold Medals at the European Games and 4 Gold Medals at the European Freestyle Wrestling Championships. Sadulaev still has a long career ahead of him and will for sure be the man the beat for many years to come.

Kaori Icho

No Wrestler has won more Gold medals at major international competitions than Japan’s Kaori Icho. Kaori has been winning gold medals for nearly 2 decades with 4 Olympic gold medals, 10 World championship gold medals, 5 Asian championship gold medals and 1 Bronze Asian championship medal.

Kaori Icho was undefeated between 2003 to 2016. The only reason Grapplezilla did not place Icho at number one is the fact that women’s freestyle wrestling has a much significantly smaller pool of talent in comparison to Men’s wrestling and thus it is harder to win consecutive gold medals in male wrestling vs female wrestling. That said, Kaori Icho is well deserved of the number 4 spot in the 10 best freestyle wrestlers of all time.

Bruce Baumgartner

Having won 4 Olympic Medals – 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze as well as winning 9 world championship medals – 3 gold, 3 Silver and 3 Bronze as well as doing it all at Super Heavyweight. Bruce was also the head of USA wrestling and one of the best coaches in the United States. Bruce was elected to enter the FILA international Hall of Fame in 2003.

Buvaisar Saitiev

When you think of a perfect wrestler, you think of someone who is fast, agile, strong and smart. These are all the attributes of Buvaisar Saitiev and for good reason, as he used them to win 3 Olympic gold medals, 6 gold medals at the world championships and 6 gold medals at the European championships for Russia, all of which were won in stunning fashion and to this day is the highlight of Russian wrestling.

Buvaisar is known for his counter wrestling, grip fighting and world class par terre (ground work). Buvaisar Saitiev was inducted into the FILA International Hall of Fame in 2010.

Aleksandr Medved

Having won 3 Olympic Gold medals having never been defeated in Olympic competition, 9 world championship medals – 7 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze as well as 3 European championship gold medals, Aleksandr Medved was the Soviet Union’s best freestyle wrestler.

He wrestled in the heavyweight and openweight category, many times wrestling absolute monsters who outweighed him by 100 pounds or more while still beating them in dominant fashion.

The name Medved means Bear in Russian which could not be any more true as Aleksandr would come into wrestling matches with confidence, bravery, aggressiveness and technical ability. Alexsandr Medved was inducted into the FILA International Hall of Fame in 2003 and is the vice president of the Belarus wrestling association.

In Conclusion

There are so many wrestlers who could have easily been in this top 10 freestyle wrestler list but the wrestlers chosen here are of another calibre and have laid the foundation for future wrestlers to walk in their footsteps.

The future looks brighter than ever with all the new wrestling talent currently competing on the internationals level and we are sure that in the decade to come, this list surely will change.


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