History of USA Greco-Roman wrestling at past Worlds/Olympics

Updated: September 13, 2023

Photo: Rulon Gardner earned one World championship in 2001 to go along with Olympic gold in 2000 (when he beat Russia’s Alexander Karelin) and Olympic bronze in 2004.

Greco-Roman wrestling was the only style contested internationally in the original modern Olympics in 1896 (men’s freestyle came in 1900 and women’s freestyle in 2004) and two of the three were contested as the first World Championships in 1951 (women’s first Worlds were in 1987).

But the United States had to wait 66 years before it earned a World medal (bronze) by James Burke at 154 pounds at the 1962 Worlds in Toledo, Ohio (which was in the second Worlds that Team USA competed).

Overall, Team USA has earned 33 total World medals (five gold, 12 silver and 16 bronze medals) to go along with 14 Olympic medals (three gold, six silver and five bronze).

In fact, USA’s first World-level gold medals came in the 1984 Olympics where Steve Fraser and Jeff Blatnick made history in Los Angeles. One year later, Michael Houck captured this country’s first World championship in the 1985 tournament in Kolbotn, Norway. A second World title did not come until 1995 when Dennis Hall took home gold from Prague, Czech Republic.

Perhaps Team USA’s greatest era in Greco-Roman wrestling occurred between the 1996 Olympics, when three Americans earned medals, and the 2007 Worlds when that squad not only earned three medals again but captured this country’s only team championship.

Between those 20 years, USA earned 22 medals, including gold medals by Rulon Gardner (who made history by upsetting Russian legend Alexander Karelin in the 2000 Olympics), Dremiel Byers and Joe Warren.

Since the 2008 Olympics, the United States has only earned six medals, including a silver medal by Adam Coon in 2018. The last Greco-Roman medal came from G’Angelo Hancock (bronze) in 2021.

This year’s Greco-Roman World Championships will take place Sept. 21-24 in Belgrade, Serbia. WIN Magazine will provide comprehensive coverage of the Worlds in the next issue, printed Sept. 28. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

Click here to view a year-by-year look at how the USA fared in Greco-Roman wrestling in both the World Championships and Olympic Games.

The following is a list of USA’s All-Time World Gold Medalists:

1 – Michael Houck (90 kg 1985)

1 – Dennis Hall (57 kg 1995)

1 – Rulon Gardner (130 kg 2001), plus one Olympic Gold (130k 2000)

1 – Dremiel Byers (120 kg 2002)

1 – Joe Warren (60 kg 2006)

The following Americans won an Olympic gold medal but not a World Championship:

Steve Fraser (90 kg 1984)

Jeff Blatnick (+100 kg 1984)

Click here to view a history of Team USA in men’s freestyle at the Worlds and Olympics.

Click here to view a history of Team USA in women’s freestyle at the Worlds and Olympics.