2024 Olympic Games Watch Party

How An Olympic Wrestling Legend Won A Match, 34-2

How An Olympic Wrestling Legend Won A Match, 34-2

Russian superstar Buvaisar Saitiev took advantage of a strange rule at the 2003 World Championships in New York City.

May 28, 2024 by Kyle Klingman
How An Olympic Wrestling Legend Won A Match, 34-2

Buvaisar Saitiev might be the greatest wrestler of all time. The Russian legend won three men’s freestyle Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004, 2008) and six World titles (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2005). 

The long and gangly superstar would often lull his opponents into a false sense of security and score in multiple ways. His speciality was par terre where he could turn the best wrestlers in the world. 

Jean Diatta of Senegal didn’t care about credentials when he faced Saitiev in the 74 kg pool competition at the 2003 World Championships in New York City. The outmatched Diatta scored the opening takedown against Saitiev with a blast double in 28 seconds for a 1-0 lead. 

The Madison Square Garden crowd audibly gasped at the unexpected moment. 

The takedown didn’t sit well with Saitiev. He went on a scoring barrage, earning an 11-1 tech within two minutes and 22 seconds into the first period. But, the match didn’t end there.

FILA, the international governing body at the time, implemented a continuation rule where the winning wrestler could continue after a technical superiority. This was useful in pool competition if a fall was the only way to earn enough points into the bracketed tournament. 

Saitiev extended the bout, resulting in a 34-2 thrashing. 

You can watch the match below, but keep a few things in mind. 

— These World Championships were originally scheduled for 2001 but 9/11 postponed the tournament until 2003.

— Saitiev was a one-time Olympic champion and four-time World champion at this point. He lost to American Brandon Slay in pool competition at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and did not medal. Slay eventually won gold. 

— This was Diatta’s last international competition. 

— Takedowns were worth one point, feet-to-back takedowns were three, and grand amplitude throws were five.

— Turns were two points but hand-to-hand exposure was worth one. An additional point could be earned if a wrestler held his opponent for five seconds in the danger position. 

— Joe Williams was the U.S. representative at this weight but didn’t make it out of the pool competition. 

— Satieiv won a World title with wins over Diatta, Nikolay Paslar of Bulgaria (4-1), Talgat Ilyasov of Australia (9-1), Hadi Habibi of Iran (6-3), and Murad Gaidarov of Belarus (2-2) for the gold.