Top 100 American Wrestlers Of All-Time

The Top 100 Countdown: 50-41

The Top 100 Countdown: 50-41

FloWrestling's countdown of the Top 100 American wrestlers of all time continues with 50-41.

Dec 10, 2021 by Kyle Klingman
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The countdown continues as FloWrestling releases its top 100 greatest American wrestlers of all time. The inaugural episode was released on November 4 and will end with the announcement of the greatest wrestler of all-time on January 10, 2022.

Below are biographies of the next 10 wrestlers in the countdown with information about their careers and why they made the list.

100-91
90-81
80-71
70-61
60-51

50. Joe Williams

Williams signed with the University of Iowa as one of the top recruits in the nation. He only lost one match in high school and that was because he illegally slammed his opponent. His career as a Hawkeye didn’t disappoint. Williams placed seventh at the 1994 NCAA tournament as a true freshman before winning three straight NCAA titles from 1996 through 1998. 

His win in the 1998 167-pound finals proved to be his most significant. He defeated future Olympic gold medalist Brandon Slay of Penn to win his third title in as many years. Williams made the 2004 Olympic team and was a bronze medalist at the 2001 and 2005 World championships. He was also a 10-time Midlands champion. 

49. Elena Pirozhkova

Pirozhkova was a Russian-born American wrestler who moved to Greenfield, Massachusetts, at the age of three. By the time her career was over, she would be one of the greatest wrestlers in U.S. history. 

Pirozhkova competed on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams and was a member of six World teams. She won gold in 2012, silvers in 2010 and 2014, and bronze in 2013 — all at 63 kg — for a total of four World medals. Pirozhova also won seven straight U.S. Open titles (2009-15). 

48. Barry Davis

Davis is the self-proclaimed greatest wrestler from the University of Iowa. And he has a case. He currently holds the record for the most career college wins for a Hawkeye at 162 — a program record that may never be broken. 

The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native placed seventh as a true freshman before winning NCAA titles in 1982, 1983, and 1985. All three of his finals opponents were eventual World silver medalists. Davis has a collection of medals of his own. He won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics and a bronze and silver medal at the 1986 and 1987 Worlds, respectively. He’s also one of five Division I wrestlers to medal at the Olympic Games and still have college eligibility. 

47. Robin Reed

Way back in the roaring 20s, Reed would take on all-comers — and he always won. Not only did he pin his way through the 1924 Olympics, which, of course, makes him a gold medalist, but he never lost a match during his career. Reed was known for being able to beat everyone on the 1924 Olympic team, too. 

He actually entered the 1924 Northwest Olympic Trials and won four different weight classes. Although the NCAA Championships hadn’t begun, Reed won every match during his college career at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State). He also won National AAU titles in 1921, 1922, and 1924, which was considered the premier U.S.A. wrestling tournament at the time. 

46. Brandon Slay

Slay did what many considered impossible at the 2000 Olympics Games by slaying legendary Russian wrestler Buvaisar Saitiev. How good was Saitev? He completed his international career in 2008 as a nine-time World and Olympic champion (three Olympic and six World). 

The above-mentioned match between Slay and Saitiev actually happened in the first round of the 76-kilogram freestyle pool competition. The bout went into overtime and Slay won with a blast double leg to secure the win. He reached the gold medal finals but lost to Germany’s Alexander Leipold. However, Leipold was later stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for a banned substance. 

Slay became the rightful winner and an Olympic gold medalist. He was also a 167-pound finalist at the 1997 and 1998 NCAA Championships. 

45. Henry Wittenberg

Wittenberg never wrestled in high school but he went on to place third at the 1938 NCAA tournament and second in 1939 for City College of New York. After his loss in the finals, Wittenberg is believed to have won over 300 matches in a row. 

His career highlight was winning a gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics followed by a silver medal at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Wittenberg was the first American wrestler to win multiple Olympic medals in a fully contested field. 

44. Dremiel Byers

The United States has a tradition of producing great Greco-Roman heavyweights — and Byers is at near the top of the list. He won every color of medal at the World Championships: gold in 2002, silver in 2009, and bronze in 2007. That’s on top of making Olympic teams in 2008 and 2012 and six World teams. 

Byers’s bronze medal at the 2007 Worlds was particularly significant. His win essentially locked the team title, which was the first and only time the United States has won a Greco-Roman World team title. That gives Byers a unique distinction: he is the only American to win an individual Greco World title and a team World championship. 

43. Thomas Gilman

Prior to 2021, Gilman didn’t have the credentials to be in the top 100. Now, he’s made the top 50. How did he do it? Gilman won a 57-kg bronze medal at the 202One Tokyo Olympics followed by a 2021 World title a few weeks later. 

Gilman had Russia’s Zaur Uguev on the ropes in the opening round but fell in the closing seconds. Uguev won gold and Gilman wrestled back for bronze. The Council Bluffs, Iowa, native entered the Olympics as a 2017 World silver medalist after posting one of the most impressive runs in U.S. history. Gilman entered the last chance qualifier and won every match along the way before dropping his finals match at the 2017 Worlds.

In college, Gilman was a three-time All-American for the University of Iowa, placing fourth as a sophomore in 2015, second in 2016, and third in 2017. 

42. Logan Stieber

Steiber is the newest member of one of the most elite clubs in wrestling. He is one of four wrestlers to win four D1 NCAA Championships — and he is the first of the group to win a World title. 

The Monroeville, Ohio, native picked up 133-pound NCAA titles for Ohio State in 2012 and 2013 and 141-pound titles in 2014 and 2015. The 2015 title was significant since it was part of the first NCAA team championship for the Buckeyes in program history. Stieber made three World teams, including World gold in 2016. 

41. Stan Dziedzic

Dziedzic was a three-time All-American for Slippery Rock, placing third at the 1970 NCAA Championships, first in 1971 and second in 1972. He went on to a successful international career highlighted by a World title in 1977 and an Olympic bronze medal in 1976.

Making the 1976 Olympic team wasn’t easy, either. Dziedzic had to outlast Wade Schalles — #89 on this list — and past World teamer and two-time NCAA champion Carl Adams. Adams, coincidentally, defeated Dziedzic during the 1972 NCAA tournament finals. Dziedzic survived one of the toughest Olympic Trials brackets in U.S. history to earn the 74-kg spot at the 1976 Olympics.