Dagestan is a hotbed for wrestling, having produced hundreds of wrestling champions and home to the best wrestling schools in the world. In Dagestan, people eat and breathe wrestling as it is part of their cultural heritage and a way of life.
There is one wrestler who truly paved the way for Dagestanis to enter the international wrestling scene and that is the one and only Ali Aliyev, a truly amazing individual and world class freestyle wrestler who was Dagestan’s first world wrestling champion.
Who is Ali Aliyev
A true Dagestani hero, Ali Aliyev was born on November 29th, 1937 in Chokh, Dagestan, USSR. Aliyev was born into an educated family as his father was an accountant and mother a nurse, this influence of education would later be seen in Aliyev’s choices in life
Coming from an educated family his mother wanted nothing more for her son to study medicine and become a doctor, Ali on the other hand dreamed of wrestling for the USSR when he would be older which his mother was strongly against. Ali, seeing his mother was 100 percent set on him going to medical school, offered her a deal. The deal was that if Ali’s mother would allow Ali to wrestle, he would take studying very seriously and go to medical school and in the case she would not agree, he would go be a shepherd in rural Kutan, Dagestan. Ali’s mother accepted Ali’s offering and fully supported him with his decision.
Aliyev excelled both academically and in wrestling, being at the top of his class in whatever he put his mind to. Aliyev would go on to study medicine in university at the same time as chasing his dream of representing the USSR internationally in freestyle wrestling.
An example of hard work and persistence paying off, Ali Aliyev would become Dagestan’s first wrestling world champion as well as go on to be one of the best medical doctors in Dagestan. A symbol of Dagestan’s autonomous recognition within the USSR, Ali Aliyev is a true hero to the Dagestani people.
Ali Aliyev’s Amazing Wrestling Career
An absolute talent on the wrestling mat, Aliyev was known for his technical prowess and amazing physical conditioning.
Aliyev was no stranger to the podium, having won the USSR National Freestyle Wrestling Championships 9 times, Winning a Gold at the European Freestyle Wrestling Championship as well as an amazing 5 time World Champion in Freestyle Wrestling, the first Dagestani to win a world championship and the first person to be a 5 time World Champion. Aliyev showcased the technical superiority and effectiveness of Dagestani Wrestling.
The catalyst to Aliyev’s dominance on the international wrestling scene started with Aliev’s winning of the Dagestan Wrestling Championship in 1957. His next major competition win would be at the 1959 Freestyle Wrestling World Championships in Tehran where he would take the Gold medal.
Aliev would go on to win Golds at the 1961 World Championships in Japan, the 1962 World Championships in Toledo, the 1966 World Championships in Toledo and the 1967 World Championships in New Delhi. A true treat to witness him winning 5 Wrestling World Titles. Ali Aliev would also take a Silver at the World Championships in Bulgaria as well as a Gold at the European Freestyle Wrestling Championships in Skopje, Yugoslavia.
The contribution to wrestling that Aliyev provided the world is so significant that one of the most revered tournaments in the world, the Ali Aliev international tournament is held annually, attracting the best wrestlers in the world to compete against one another.
Ali Aliyev in The Olympic Games
Having such a great and dominant wrestling career at the world championships, Aliev was always considered a favorite to take the Gold at the Olympic Games. Aliyev competed in 3 different Olympic Games representing the USSR but unfortunately never had luck in taking any Olympic medals back to the USSR.
A great example of Aliyev’s bad luck at the Olympics could be seen in his performance at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome where he was heavily favored to win the 52kg weight class. Aliyev won his first 3 matches in impressive fashion, defeating Faiz Mohammad Khakshar of Afghanistan by way of fall in round 1, then defeating Bengt Frannfors of Sweden by fall in round 2 and winning round 3 by way of decision against Ahmet Bilek of Turkey. It was in round 4 that Aliyev would lose to Gray Simons of the US by decision and then ultimately get eliminated in the tournament in round 5 when Aliyev would lose to Ebrahim Seifpour of Iran by way of fall. The Irony is that the Turkish wrestler Ahmet Bilek would eventually take the Gold medal, although previously losing to Aliyev in round 3.
Each Olympic Games that Aliyev participated in had equally frustrating results, all at the same time that Aliyev was considered the best wrestler in the division.
Ali Aliyev’s Medical and Political Career
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about Ali Aliyev was the fact that not only was he a world class wrestler but he also became one of the best doctors in the USSR, eventually becoming the head of the Makhachkala city hospital.
A highly intelligent and educated man, Aliyev was also on the supreme council of the DASSR, the Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, in charge of the state sports committee of the republic of Dagestan. This is an extremely prestigious position to hold as within the USSR, the DASSR was secondary in governmental power and a true positive force in helping Dagestan keep its ethnic character while still being part of the Soviet Union.
Every generation there are people who rise above the pack, who break all barriers and truly show all of us that anything is possible. Ali Aliyev was that person. He worked harder than everyone and got to the highest levels of wrestling and medicine and was always a true champion on and off the mats.
Ali Aliyev truly is deserving of being one of Dagestan’s heroes and his legacy will live on forever.