2024 Olympic Games Watch Party

College Success Still Best Predictor For Winning Olympics

College Success Still Best Predictor For Winning Olympics

Skip college if you want, but history says winning an Olympic gold medal will be difficult if you do.

Jul 5, 2024 by Kyle Klingman
College Success Still Best Predictor For Winning Olympics

So you want to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling? High-level college success predicts if that will happen. 

Since the 1932 Olympics, 39 of 40 gold medalists have wrestled in college and placed at their respective national championships. Henry Cejudo is the exception.

Winning the NCAA Division I Championships or reaching the finals is a must on the men’s freestyle side — or close to it. 

Of the 35 men’s freestyle Olympic champions, 27 won NCAA titles, and five reached the finals. 

John Peterson (82 kg), Bobby Weaver (48 kg), and Henry Cejudo (55 kg) are outliers. Peterson finished fifth at the 1971 NAIA championships, Weaver finished third at 118 pounds during the 1982 NCAAs but competed internationally at 105.5 pounds, and Cejudo didn’t attend college. 

Takeaways: Reach the NCAA finals if you want to win an Olympic gold medal at a weight higher than 55 kg or, if you're John Peterson, train consistently with NCAA and Olympic champions from Iowa State (Dan Gable and brother Ben). 

University of Illinois star Allie Morrison wrestled won the 1928 Olympics but didn’t attend the inaugural 1928 NCAA Championships in Ames, Iowa.

The United States has two Olympic champions in women’s freestyle, and both (Helen Maroulis and Tamyra Mensah-Stock) won WCWA titles — the recognized women’s college championship at the time. 

There’s a correlation between college success and Greco-Roman, too. All three gold medalists finished in the top five at the NCAA D1 tournament.  

Check out the charts below for a breakdown of our current Olympic team and U.S. gold medal results since 1932. 

2024 Olympic Wrestling Team

StyleWeightNameCollege Credentials
MFS57 kgSpencer Lee3x NCAA champion
MFS65 kgZain Retherford3x NCAA champion
MFS74 kgKyle Dake4x NCAA champion
MFS86 kgAaron Brooks4x NCAA champion
MFS97 kgKyle Snyder3x NCAA champion
MFS125 kgMason Parris1x NCAA champion
WFS50 kgSarah Hildebrandt2x WCWA champion
WFS53 kgDom Parrish2x WCWA champion
WFS57 kgHelen Maroulis4x WCWA champion
WFS62 kgKayla Miracle4x WCWA champion
WFS68 kgAmit ElorNo College Compeition
WFS76 kgKennedy BladesNo College Compeition
GR77 kgKamal BeyNo Folkstyle College Competition
GR87 kgPayton JacobsonNo Folkstyle College Competition
GR97 kgJoe RauNCAA D3 champion
GR130 kgAdam Coon2x D1 NCAA finalist

U.S. Olympic Wrestling Champions Since 1932

NameStyleWeightOlympic GoldCollegeBest NCAA D1 Finish
Robert PearceMFS56 kg1932Oklahoma State1st
Jack VanBebberMFS72 kg1932Oklahoma State1st
Pete MehringerMFS87 kg1932Kansas2nd
Frank LewisMFS72 kg1936Oklahoma State1st
Glen BrandMFS79 kg1948Iowa State1st
Henry WittenbergMFS87 kg1948CCNY2nd
Bill SmithMFS73 kg1952Northern Iowa1st
Terry McCannMFS57 kg1960Iowa1st
Shelby WilsonMFS67 kg1960Oklahoma State2nd
Doug BlubaughMFS73 kg1960Oklahoma State1st
Dan GableMFS68 kg1972Iowa State1st
Wayne WellsMFS74 kg1972Oklahoma  1st
Ben PetersonMFS90 kg1972Iowa State1st
John PetersonMFS82 kg1976Wisconsin-Stout5th in NAIA
Bobby WeaverMFS48 kg1984Lehigh3rd
Randy LewisMFS62 kg1984Iowa1st
Dave SchultzMFS74 kg1984Oklahoma State/Oklahoma1st
Mark SchultzMFS82 kg1984UCLA/Oklahoma1st
Ed BanachMFS90 kg1984Iowa1st
Lou BanachMFS100 kg1984Iowa1st
Bruce BaumgartnerMFSHWT1984, 1992Indiana State1st
Steve FraserGR90 kg1984Michigan5th
Jeff BlatnickGRHWT1984Springfield3rd
John SmithMFS62 kg1988, 1992Oklahoma State1st
Kenny MondayMFS74 kg1988Oklahoma State1st
Kevin JacksonMFS82 kg1992Louisiana State/Iowa State2nd
Kendall CrossMFS57 kg1996Oklahoma State1st
Tom BrandsMFS62 kg1996Iowa1st
Kurt AngleMFS100 kg1996Clarion1st
Brandon SlayMFS76 kg2000Pennsylvania2nd
Rulon GardnerGR130 kg2000Ricks/Nebraska4th
Cael Sanderson MFS84 kg2004Iowa State1st
Henry CejudoMFS55 kg2008No CollegeNot Applicable
Jordan BurroughsMFS74 kg2012Nebraska1st
Jake VarnerMFS96 kg2012Iowa State1st
Kyle SnyderMFS97 kg2016Ohio State1st
Helen MaroulisWFS53 kg2016Missouri Baptist/Simon Fraser1st in WCWA
David TayorMFS86 kg2020Penn State1st
Gable StevesonMFS125 kg2020Minnesota1st
Tamyra Mensah-StockWFS68 kg2020Wayland Baptist1st in WCWA