Greatest Wrestlers in History

In compiling this list of the greatest wrestlers of all time, our editors considered two factors - a wrestler's career accomplishments and the level of competition in his or her era. The five finalists are Aleksandr Karelin, Saori Yoshida, Aleksandr Medved, Buvaisar Saitiev and Kaori Icho. This list will be frequently updated to reflect current events.

1. Aleksandr Karelin

Greco-Roman is the oldest and most established form of competitive wrestling. To become the greatest wrestler in Greco-Roman is a remarkable achievement, and Aleksandr Karelin had managed to achieve just that. Nicknamed the Russian Bear, Karelin was a powerful wrestler who dominated the super heavyweight class for more than 12 years. His achievements were staggering -- 3 Olympic gold medals and 9 world championships. He also won 12 European Championships - a competition that is regarded by some as in near equal footing with the world championship. His dominance was so absolute that his intimidating presence alone won him many matches. In fact, Karelin went undefeated in international competition for 13 years before he was shockingly upset at the Sydney Olympics. In one 6-year stretch, he did not even surrender a single point. His accomplishments and dominance far surpass those of his peers, and firmly establish him as the greatest wrestler of all time.

2. Kaori Icho

If Karelin was the greatest wrestler, Kaori Icho of Japan would definitely be the greatest female wrestler. Her accomplishments in women's wrestling (63 kg) could easily rival those of Karelin. She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist, a 10-time world champion and the 2006 Asian Games winner. More importantly, she is still active in the sport. One could only imagine what her record will be like after her career is over. The one knock on her record is the fact the women's game is not as developed and competitive as men's wrestling. This is the primary reason why she is placed below Karelin on this list. However, one should not undervalue Icho's accomplishments. The Japanese has faced plenty of quality female wrestlers in her career, and none of them has managed to defeat her in a meaningful match; she did lose a few times at exhibitions and smaller events. One can't blame her for being a woman and for dominating women's wrestling.

3. Aleksandr Medved

To be recognized as the greatest freestyle wrestler of the decade is already a massive honor, but to be recognized as the greatest freestyle wrestler of the century is even more impressive. This honor was bestowed on 3-time Olympic champion Aleksandr Medved. The Belarusian wrestler was named the Greatest Freestyle Wrestler of the 20th Century by FILA, who is amateur wrestling's governing body. Medved's achievements were certainly extraordinary. The Belarusian (and former Soviet) wrestler won 3 Olympic gold medals, 7 world championships and 3 European titles.

4. Buvaisar Saitiev

Buvaisar Saitiev's achievements in men's freestyle wrestling are comparable to those of Aleksandr Medved. A Russian wrestler of Chechen descent, Saitiev won nine world titles (3 Olympic golds and 6 world championships) and six European Championships. Although he has one less world title than Medved, his dominance came in a more competitive era of freestyle wrestling. He also won major titles in a variety of weight classes - 74kg, 76kg and 85kg. It is safe to say that we won't see another wrestler like Saitiev for quite some time.

5. Saori Yoshida

The career of Saori Yoshida very much mirrors that of her Japanese contemporary Kaori Icho. Anything Icho could do, Yoshida could also do. Olympic champion? She won three gold medals in the 55kg class. World champion? She won it 13 times. The only difference between Yoshida and Icho is her shocking defeat at the 2016 Olympics, which resulted in only a silver medal. Icho also participated in Rio and earned an Olympic record fourth straight gold medal. Nonetheless, this Japanese duo will go down in history as the two greatest female wrestlers of all time.

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