Why are The Russians So Great at Wrestling

Table of Contents

There is absolutely no arguing the fact that Russia is a powerhouse when it comes to wrestling. They constantly produce world class wrestlers in every weight class as well as their wrestlers are on another level technically. Many wrestling fans constantly ask why Russia is the top of the top when it comes to wrestling and Grapplezilla will share with you why.

Wrestling Has Extremely Deep Roots in Russia

Wrestling has been around in Russia as long as history can remember, with fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers and dozens of generations all being wrestlers. Wrestling is the Russian sport and it is in Russian character and history. 

There was a good reason for developing these deep roots, first wrestling was a way to settle differences within the tribe and villages as well as wrestling was great entertainment for the village to enjoy, sometimes with prizes of food, animals and even the right to marriage.

There are many different styles form Russian and surrounding former Soviet republics that have had serious influence on Russian wrestling, such styles as:

  • Chidaoba and Khridoli from Georgia
  • Kokh from Armenia
  • Gulesh from Azerbaijan
  • Koras a Tatar wrestling style
  • Kurash an Uzbek wrestling style
  • Alysh a Kyrgyz style of wrestling
  • Gores a Turkmen style
  • Gushtingiri a Tajik wrestling style
  • Kures a Kasakh style
  • Khuresh a Tuvan style from Siberia
  • Tranta from Moldova

The fact that Russia as a nation was so vast and touched so many different areas of Asia helped all these styles had some technical influence to create what we know as Russian wrestling today.

The Russian Wrestling System

When looking at Russia’s dominance in the international wrestling arena, one cannot overlook the system that these wrestlers are brought up within. There are a huge amount of differences between the Russian coaching system and other national systems which simply produce another level of wrestler.

An Ultimate Focus on Technique

Wrestlers are known for being the best shape athletes on the planet and many national teams have practices that very few people could endure through. In the American system the highest level of focus is on bringing the athlete to optimal peak levels of conditioning and this can be seen in the absolute monster of athletes USA wrestling produces.

In Russia the system takes another direction. Yes, Russian wrestlers are also in insane shape but the first focus of Russia wrestling is to produce a wrestler with the highest possible level of technical knowledge and ability.

The Russians simply focus on technique first and conditioning second whereas in comparison to the Russians, the Americans focus on conditioning first and technique second. 

Yes there have been technical wrestlers such as Smith, Schutlz and Gutches in the past but most US wrestlers do not have the technical ability of their Russian counterparts.


USA wrestling has a set program, it’s a great program but if a wrestler strays off, this can be seen as a bad thing by the program. Russia on the other hand is different in that they do have a program but because of all the different regional and cultural wrestling styles that the wrestlers may come from, there is a much better acceptance for creativity of techniques and strategies. It is not uncommon to see new variations to techniques each year and even new gameplans coming out of certain regions of Russia.

Long Term Development

The Russians generally look at an athlete in terms of long term development. An athlete usually will stay with the same coach for many years and even till they are in the Olympics (should they make it). Also the training is somewhat less intense and that produces a less injured athlete and due to this there is a larger pool of total well trained, technical athletes to choose from when choosing wrestlers for a national team spot. The American system in comparison is a constant sprint with a constant emphasis on hard practices and full gas training. This can produce a great athlete but may burn out younger athletes who could have been made into amazing wrestlers with a little slower and thought out training (Russian style).

Total Package Wrestlers

Russia places much better emphasis on both throws and leg attacks in comparison to US wrestlers, this enables for more opportunities to grab higher point totals as well as more techniques to chain wrestle off of. The American system does have a lot of throws but the main emphasis is on leg attacks and this is due to the fact that American wrestlers all start in folkstyle wrestling while Russians start in Freestyle and Greco.

The Streetcat vs The Housecat

Life in Russia is much tougher than in the west, the people many times do not have proper heating, food, harsh winters and even regional conflicts which make for a tough mentality and an immense internal drive to succeed that simply produces the discipline that is needed to drive through hard times and succeed.

In no way are American wrestlers coming from mansions and villas, there are also many athletes who came in from hard times but at the end of the day these athletes live in America and even if not financially on top, they still have tons of opportunity.

It has been said that if wrestlers were cats the US wrestler would be the house cat while the Russian would be the street cat, they are both cats yet the street cat has a different mentality, a tougher one and we can see this in the way they train and compete on the mat.

Superstar Status

Russian wrestlers are athletic stars, they are well known throughout Russia, well respected and when they reach the highest levels of the sport they can earn good money. The US on the other hand does not have this as wrestling is not a well known sport in comparison to other major league sports.

This creates an extra incentive and heavy push to be the best in Russia as it can be a true rags to riches story for those who achieve Olympic gold. In the US you would get an interview on the morning news and then be a coach at one of the top division 1 NCAA wrestling teams.

It can be said that Russia treats wrestling as a professional sport while the US still treats it as an amateur sport in comparison.

Final Thoughts

Every country produces wrestlers and within the top wrestling countries there is some absolutely amazing talent coming out that truly amazes us all each and every year.

Each country can teach everyone a new way of thinking, doing and practicing the sport, some produce amazing athletes, some produce mentally tough wrestlers and some produce masterclass technicians and when we speak about technical ability, the top spot is always Russia.

At the end of the day the American Approach produces outstanding athletes, the Russian approach produces outstanding wrestlers.



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