With the Olympics right around the corner, and a mixture of veterans and rookies in this years lineup, I thought I'd dive into the history books (Wikipedia) to get a dose of perspective. How does this years lineup stack up against some of the greatest Olympians, and Olympic teams that we have sent? What does "good" look like compared to what "great" looks like? We have been throwing a lot of hypothetical matchups around, so I thought this additional research would give me some help when it comes to "knowing what I'm talking about". Either way, I'm approaching it with the weights that Wikipedia has distinguished as the Olympic Weights. Other than that, additional criteria to make the team does include World Championships in other years, and if you have your own shoes or not. With that being said, let the freak outs begin.
Bantamweight, 54kg - 57kg, Kendall Cross
This one shouldn't be too difficult to digest. The United States of America has 2 gold medals in this weight class since 1960. Those two golds belong to Kendall Cross and Henry Cejudo. I am 100% confident that if that hypothetical match happened, that Cross wins 10 of 10 times (also Cejudo hypothetically misses weight in half of those matches), and in addition to that, he had a wild road just to make the Olympic team. At this point most people are aware that he had to go through Terry Brands, a two time world champion at the US Olympic Trials just to make the team. Impressively done, but also I love watching his match. Kendall Cross doesn't bluff, and goes out on the mat to entertain and score points.
Lightweight, 65kg - 70kg, Danny Mack Gable
Danny Mack has done some pretty amazing things. The Soviets had vowed that they would do everything in their power to find someone to beat him in the 1972 Olympics. They didn't even score a point against him, just like the rest of the world. Additionally, Gable won a World Championship the year before. The dude is straight up gangster and can't and won't be stopped. I'm pretty sure that if there were a nuclear war, that Dan Gable is our ace in the hole, and we would just unleash him no our enemies. They would know he is coming, but would be powerless to stop him (yes, I am aware that Dan Gable is currently 67 years old). At this point, I'm not convinced that he's not currently our best option at 65kgs for the 2016 Olympics.
Welterweight, 71.67kg - 78kg, Jordan Burroughs
Believe it or not, this was a difficult decision to come to. Let's walk through some of the US names that have won gold medals at this weight. Dave Schultz, Kenny Monday (Gold and Silver), and Brandon Slay have all have taken home Golds, and that doesn't include the 6 others from 1904 - 1972. With that being said, it was almost Kenny Monday who took this, being that he already has a Gold and an Olympic Silver medal. With that being said, I went with Burroughs for a couple reasons (it's weird to have to defend Jordan Burroughs right now). First of all, the dude has 3 other World Championships, and a Bronze in there, from when he started wrestling internationally. The dude is currently favored to win his second Olympic Gold Medal. Lastly, he has his own shoes and Kenny Monday doesn't. Here is Jordan Burroughs doing Jordan Burroughs things.
Middleweight, 73kg - 87kg, Cael Sanderson
Is it a shock that Cael Sanderson is the best in the world here? It shouldn't be. Sure, Mark Shultz won a World Championship as well as an Olympic Championship, and Kevin Jackson won Olympic Gold and World Gold as well. Additionally, Cael only has an Olympic Championship, and a silver at the World Championships the year before. Here is my argument;
- Cael entered the World Championships in 2011 on a bet that he had made his team. He beat a World Silver Medalist at the world trials in Jake Herbert. Then he placed 5th in the world. He placed 5th in the world because of a bet.
- He has a highly successful line of wrestling shoes.
- He did this thing in college where he didn't lose one single match. Seems difficult to do.
- He has coached 5 National Champion Teams. That's one more NCAA Championship than he has as an individual.
Strange that I need to defend Cael Sanderson, moments after making my case for Jordan Burroughs, but I guess that happens when you are talking about the best. On to the next one.
Heaveyweight, 82.5kg - 100kg, Kurt Angle
It's true, it's true. Kurt Angle was a monster in the early 90's. People forget, the dude was a 3x NCAA finalist at heavyweight, and 2x champion, despite weighing just above 200 pounds. After graduating, he went on to win a World Championship in 1995, and an Olympic Gold in 1996. Varner has Olympic Gold, but a World Bronze, and Snyder has the most recent World Title, but this is his first Olympics. It's possible he wins this year, but Angle wears the crown at the moment. This doesn't even take into account the numerous world championships he has won throughout his professional wrestling career!
Super Heavyweight, 100kg - 130kg, Bruce Baumgartner
That was a bad man right there. In 1982, he won a National Championship as a Senior for Indiana State University. In 1983 he won a World Bronze Medal. In 1984 he won an Olympic Gold Medal. In 1985 Bruce won a Bronze in the world championships. 1986, World Gold. 87, World Bronze, 88, Olympic Silver. 89, World Silver, 90, World Silver. We are 8 years into his career since his first title as a Senior in college. 91, Gold at the Pan Ams (I haven't been mentioning his Pan Am golds because they seem like Bruce Baumgartner JV tournaments). 92, another Olympic Gold Medal. He then wins World golds in 93, 95, and a Silver in 94 before capping his career off with a bronze in the 96 Olympics.
Lets be clear on something. That last paragraph is simply the years and medals that he won for 14 straight years. I didn't mention his super sweet mustache, his badass name, or just how smooth he was as a heavyweight wrestler. He had a MONSTER double leg for a heavyweight. Mind you, this is super heavyweight. These dudes were able to way as much as 286.6 pounds, and he just figured he might as well dive at there legs. He's the best, so lets watch him do what he does best.
Well that pretty much settles it. The undisputed, unwavering, and difinitive answer to this hypothetical question. It should go with out saying that these guys win every hypothetical match up at their respective weights. I did not include the Olympic weights that are no longer considered Olympic weights, but with that being said, John Smith is a true G, but he may not even make this list if he could cut down or bulk up in weight. Now let the hypotheticals start up on who gets to be the team captain. My money is on Gable!
One final addition. By popular demand, I have decided to add John Smith to this list. It really would be a shame to not include someone who is very clearly on the Mt. Rushmore of American Wrestling to this list, despite his weight class being eliminated. It's too bad also because we were really good at 60-63kg's. From 1984-1996, we won all four Olympic Gold Medals. One from Randy Lewis, Two from John Smith, and one from Tom Brands. Good stuff America. Here's John Smith.
Discontinued Featherweight, 60-63kg, John Smith
One piece about John Smith that should be noted. From 1987 - 1992, he only won Gold Medals. There aren't other medals listed at all on his Wikipedia page. Simply 2 Olympic, 5 Worlds, and 2 Pan Am Gold Medals listed. It's no wonder he doesn't have the worlds strongest neck having to carry all of that hardware around all day. Not to mention his extensive shoe collection. Check out "John Smith Wrestling Shoe" under Google Images (my favorite are the old school Mat Wizards). The dude was unstoppable internationally for 5 years, and then he has been dominating the College Wrestling scene ever since. John Smith, good dude, quick leg attacks, and certainly worthy of a place on this dumb list.