Wrestling is not just a sport for some but a way of life. Thousands of kids dream of being wrestlers and of representing their country in the Olympics. And some achieve that goal while doing spectacular feats in their sport as well.
And today, we are going to list down some of the best wrestlers the world has ever laid eyes on in U.S. history. There might be a slight chance you may not agree with some of the names on our list, but we still do hope you enjoy reading the rest of the article while also gathering some valuable information.
Kyle Snyder, Ohio State
An undersized college heavyweight, Kyle Snyder won three NCAA titles, all the while becoming the best international wrestler the world has ever seen. Snyder competed for more on an international level instead of college matches. He would wrestle opponents who outweighed him by 40 or more pounds and still come off on top.
Becoming the youngest world champion in U.S. history in 2015, Snyder even went onto become the youngest Olympic champion within a year later. He has now added a second world title in 2017 before placing second in 2018.
Mark Schultz, 1979-1982 (Oklahoma State)
When Shultz defeated Iowa’s Ed Banach in the 1982 NCAA finals at 177 pounds, he did not even realize that he had won one of the biggest and best matchups in NCAA history. With three national titles already under his belt, Mark Shultz went onto win two world titles and an Olympic medal for the United States in his illustrious career. His brother, Dave, also won NCAA, Olympic and world titles for the United States. It seems as if wrestling really does run in the family.
Lee Kemp, (Wisconsin University)
Lee Kemp has won three NCAA titles at 158 pounds for the Badgers, but that is not all. Kemp has had an unbelievable 110-match unbeaten streak during his college career. A physically gifted athlete with strong mental toughness and intelligence that was difficult to match, Kemp knew his way around. He even went onto win three world titles in freestyle wrestling for the U.S. Kemp would have definitely won a gold medal at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia, but was unable to compete because of the U.S. boycott of the Olympics.
Dan Hodge, 1952-1955 (Oklahoma State)
The only wrestler to make the cover of Sports Illustrated, Dan Hodge, is the person who the Hodge Trophy is named after, one of wrestling’s top honour. So it would be foolish to leave Hodge off this list. Undefeated in college as a middleweight, Hodge won three NCAA titles and pinned almost everyone during his career in the 1950s. He also went on to win an Olympic silver medal. E Hodge went out there during every match and did what he does best, pin your opponent and capture the win.
Logan Stieber, (Ohio State)
The only player to win four NCAA titles along with the Hodge Trophy, Logan Stieber even led his Buckeyes to a national team title during his phenomenal career. A few well-worthy names he has taken down are two-time NCAA champion Jordan Oliver, a two-time NCAA champion at 133 Pounds and later on, the two-time Hodge Trophy winner Zain Retherford at 141 pounds. He was as much of a clutch performer as you could be, as he was his best when it counted most. It was hard to knock off Stieber off his feet, and he was lethal in the top position in college as well. He then went on to win a world title in freestyle wrestling for the U.S. later on.
Pat Smith, (Oklahoma State)
Pat Smith was the first wrestler in history to win four NCAA titles. He had the longest unbeaten streak and finished his career with a record of 98-0. At 158 pounds, Pat Smith won more than his fair share of fights for him to make history at the college level and definitely deserves a spot in the top five on this list.
Pat’s older brother, John Smith, Pat Smith’s elder brother is, however, considered the greatest Olympic-level wrestler in history with two Olympic gold medals and four world titles under his belt. Though Smith was a three-time NCAA finalist at Oklahoma State, capturing two titles while going 154-7-2 in college.
Dan Gable, 1967-1970 (Iowa State)
Referred to as the Cael Sanderson of his time, Dan Gable was a dominant, push-the-pace style wrestler that attracted fans beyond wrestling. An inspiring legend in his home state and as well as the country due to his work ethic and drive to succeed in wrestling, Gable won national titles in 1968 and 1969 at 130 and 137 pounds.
He won every college match, and the only match he dropped was his last match against Larry Owings in the 142-pound finals in 1970. And even with that setback, Gable went on to win the world and Olympic titles for the U.S before accepting the coaching position at the Iowa Hawkeyes and leading them to 15 NCAA titles.
YojiroUetake, 1960-1963 (Oklahoma State)
Former Iowa State coach Bobby Douglas had this to say about Uetake, “he was the best he had ever seen at the collegiate level”. And Douglas would know since he also coached Cael Anderson, the number one wrestler on our list. Anderson and Uetake were teammates with the Cowboys. At 130 pounds, Uptake won three NCAA titles for Oklahoma State in the 1960s and remained undefeated in college. He won the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament twice as well. Uetake was rarely challenged to his full potential at the college level due to his dominance. He also won Olympic gold medals for Japan in 1964 and 1968.
Kyle Dake 2010-2013 (Cornell University)
A highly underappreciated wrestler is Kyle Dake. Kyle is the only wrestler to have won four NCAA titles in four different weight classes (141, 149, 157 and 165 pounds). As a senior, he won the Hodge Trophy in 2013. A wrestler with a diverse skillset and he is adept at any style of wrestling and knows how to tackle his opponent. Absolutely deadly from the top position in college, in 2018, Dake won a world title as well. He also gained the upper hand in his final match against David Taylor, who came back to win his second Hodge Trophy the next year.
Cael Sanderson 1988-2002 (Penn State)
No argument with the number one spot; Cael Sanderson was the best wrestler of all time at the college level. The only wrestler to go unbeaten in a four-year span with a career record of 159-0 from 1998-2002 and has won three NCAA titles, two as a sophomore and one as a senior. A skilled technician who knew how to push the pace and be mobile for a guy his size, he was also a three-time Hodge Trophy winner.
Some of the notable names he has taken down are world medalist and UFC champion Daniel Cormier, world silver medalists Brad Vering and Brandon Eggum, and world bronze medalist Justin Ruiz during his college career. A wide-open, attacking style is where he piled up points and put on a show and will always be remembered as the best college wrestler of all time.