The Greco-Roman Wrestling is one of the oldest and most loved martial arts throughout history. It’s contested by some of the toughest and baddest men on the planet. The toughest of these tough fighters are competing in the super heavyweight division.

Within that division, one man has dominated the game like no one else for more than a decade.

Many Greco-Roman wrestlers are remembered for achieving very great results, but the man we’re talking about here is exceptional!

Alexander Karelin

The Russian bear or Aleksander “The Great” Karelin, all of his nicknames shows that he was phenomenal. I don’t think any athlete in any kind of sport has such Karelin’s record.

Alexander Karelin was the boogeyman of the Amateur Wrestling, he was a physical marvel weighing 130kg and standing at 1.93cm. Most of his opponents had lost the bout psychologically before it had even begun.


“I must be truthful. Yes, I see fear in the eyes of my opponents”
– Alexander Karelin

Back in 2000 Sydney Olympic games final. The Russian super heavyweight champion Aleksander Karelin hadn’t lost any bout for 13 years.

His record was 887 wins and 1 loss, Including 12 consecutive European gold medals and 1 junior European gold medal. 9 consecutive world gold medals and 2 Junior world gold medals. 3 consecutive gold Olympic gold medals in Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, and Atlanta 1996 (he won it one-handed after he suffered a chest injury).

No one had scored a point against him for almost 7 years, from July 1992, until Sep 2000. The day he suffered his 1st defeat after 13 years undefeated, ending up winning the only silver medal in his career.

Aleksandr Karelin was the smartest, the strongest, and the toughest wrestler in the world. Some wrestling moves are hard to execute in the super heavyweight division, as the Reverse Body Lift.

It requires tremendous power, and just a few had the strength to execute it. For Alexander Karelin, it was a piece of cake and it became his signature move. So that people have called it The Karelin Lift.

The question is; who was the man who defeated Aleksandr Karelin?

Rulon Gardner

Gardner was a farmer from the US. Unlike Alexander Karelin, Rulon Gardner hadn’t that impressive international record. He was a fat guy weighing 120kg and standing at 1.87cm without a huge muscle mass like Karelin.

He didn’t seem as powerful as he is, but he made up for his lack of experience in strength and stamina. His strength and stamina had developed during years of hard work on the farm.

Rulon Gardner had a very controversial hobby, which was wrestling with real cows! But cows couldn’t do what Aleksandr Karelin could!

As he had dealt with stronger and more skillful wrestler than Gardner. So, even the most optimistic person in the world didn’t imagine that Rulon Gardner can defeat Alexander Karelin, but despite all that he won!

In Sydney Olympic finals Sep 25, 2000, Rulon Gardner entered the history by being the 1st man to defeat Alexander “The Great” Karelin after 13 years of unbroken record.

He became the super heavyweight Olympic gold medalist and left Alexander with the 1st Silver medal in his life.

After Sydney’s Olympic games, Gardner’s career didn’t reach such heights again. He won a gold medal in the 2001 Patras world championship. A silver medal in the 2003 Santo Domingo Pan American Games. And a bronze gold medal in Athena Olympic games 2004.

After his bronze medal match, he took off his shoes and put it in the center of the mat as a retirement symbol.

Aleksandr Karelin vs Rulon Gardner (Sydne Olympic Final)

Despite Gardner’s grappling experience with cows, he didn’t seem to stand a chance against Karelin. As obvious from the above comparison that Aleksandr Karelin overcomes Gardner in everything.

Gardner played the game very smart. He was defensive from the beginning, while Karelin as usual, was taking the initiative to catch him, attempting to apply a reverse lift. But, he couldn’t get him off the floor.

The score was even at the end of the 1st round and Karelin was still unable to deal with Gardner’s size. So, he started to be more aggressive, as he was in a situation that he didn’t use to be in.

The 2nd round started with a clinch, and here Karelin’s biggest life mistake had come when he released his lock!

After a double check from the referee’s side, he confirmed that Karelin had broken the clinch first. According to the rules at this time, 1 point was given to Rulon Gardner.

The 2nd round ended while Gardner leading by a single point, and the overtime was required. Alexander Karelin had just 3 minutes left to defend his unbeaten record.

Karelin’s biggest chance came when Gardner took the Par Terre position. He attempted to set up for a reverse lift, but Gardner didn’t budge off the ground.

Karelin looked very tired, and for the 1st time in his career, Aleksandr Karelin looked human! Maybe because he had fought earlier in the same day, but anyway he wasn’t the same Karelin we known.

every attempt to throw Garter seemed vain, and Gardner was playing the defensive game very well, not leaving any gap to Alexander to score from. He kept pushing him away, and in the last 3 seconds, Aleksandr Karelin decided to admit the defeat.

It was unbelievable, no one was unable to believe what just happen! A farmer guy defeated Alexander “The Great” Karelin.

Karelin then left his shoes on the mat to announce his immediate retirement from the Greco-Roman Wrestling.

Did Alexander’s image affect after this bout?

Definitely no, he still the face of the Greco-roman wrestling and still remembered as the greatest wrestler of all time. One or two losses can’t affect his position in the fans’ hearts.

You don’t need to be undefeated to be the greatest. Mohamed Ali has been defeated and knocked out, but he still remembered as the greatest boxer ever. While the man who knocked him out is not ranking even between the top 10!

“Sometimes the way you handle the loss gives you more greatness”

If there is one fact to learn from combat sports, it would be that there is no impossible.

You always have a chance even if your opponent is better than you in everything, even if all people including your coaches told you that you can’t win. DON’T listens to them. There is always a chance.

Stand like a man in the competition, remember that your opponent is human, keep your mind calm, do all that you can do, and you might end up being the champion.

Always remember, when the nominated wins, its normal, but when the underdog wins, its legendary. So, whenever you’re the underdog, you have a chance to be a legend!

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