Wrestling USA: All-time greatest wrestler for each NCAA Division I program

Oklahoma State's Pat Smith became the first four-time NCAA Division I champ (Photo/George Tiedemann, Getty Images)

Looking for a sure way to get a discussion going among wrestling fans?

Ask this basic question: Who is the single all-time greatest wrestler for each NCAA Division I mat program?

The March 15, 2018 issue of Wrestling USA weighed in with its selections for GOAT (greatest of all time) wrestlers for current and a number of discontinued D1 programs.

The list is based on factors such as individual NCAA titles, quality of NCAA wins/losses, and overall college records. It does not include current college wrestlers, and, with a few exceptions, does not include wrestlers who competed prior to 1960 "because of a lack of information and personal eyewitnesses."

The Wrestling USA list includes just over 100 student-athletes. For purposes of this article, we are sharing the magazine's GOATs for InterMat's current ranking of Top 25 NCAA Division I programs. (The magazine's list is in alphabetical order by school, with a concise write-up for each athlete as to why he was named all-time best for his alma mater.)

1. Ohio State -- Logan Stieber: Three years ago, became only the fourth four-time D1 champ
2. Penn State -- David Taylor: Two-time NCAA champ, four-time finalist
3. Missouri -- Ben Askren: Four-time finalist, twice NCAA champ (2006, 2007)
4. Michigan -- Mark Churella: Three-time NCAA champ (1977-79)
5. NC State -- Nick Gwiazdowski: Three-time NCAA finalist, two-time heavyweight champ (2014-15)
6. Iowa -- Tom Brands: Three-time NCAA champ (1990-92)
7. Lehigh -- Mike Caruso: Three-time NCAA champ (1965-67)
8. Virginia Tech -- Devin Carter: Three-time NCAA All-American and NCAA runner-up in 2014
9. Oklahoma State -- Pat Smith: First-ever four-time NCAA Division I titlewinner (1990-92, 1994)
10. Arizona State -- Dan St. John: The Sun Devils' first two-time NCAA champ (1989, 1990)
11. Cornell University -- Kyle Dake: The only four-time NCAA champ to win titles in four different weight classes (141 lbs. in 2010; 149 in 2011; 157 in 2012; 165 in 2013).
12. Illinois -- Jesse Delgado: Won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2013 and 2014 at 125.
13. Wyoming -- Dick Ballinger: The Cowboys' only NCAA champ, winning the 167 title in 1960.
14. South Dakota State -- Pat Dorn: Back when Division II wrestlers could also compete at the Div. I championships, Dorn was a two-time D2 champ (1987, 1988) who earned All-American status at the 1988 D1 Nationals.
15. Rutgers -- Anthony Perrotti: Two-time NCAA All-American for the Scarlet Knights in 2014 and 2015.
16. Northwestern -- Jake Herbert: Two-time NCAA champ (2007, 2009) and four-time All-American.
17. Nebraska -- Jordan Burroughs: Three-time NCAA All-American, twice a champ (2009, 2011). 2012 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle.
18. Duke -- Conner Hartmann: Three-time NCAA All-American (2014-16).
19. Minnesota -- Damion Hahn: Four-time NCAA All-American, two-time NCAA champ (2003, 2004).
20. Northern Iowa -- Bill Koll: One truly "old-school" legend on this list. Undefeated three-time NCAA champ (1946-48). First two-time NCAA Outstanding Wrestler honoree.
21. North Carolina -- T.J. Jaworsky: Three-time NCAA champ for the Tar Heels (1993-95).
22. Lock Haven -- Gray Simons: Three-time NCAA champ (1960-62) and a two-time Olympian (1960, 1964).
23. Oregon State -- Les Gutches: Three-time NCAA All-American, two-time national champ (1995, 1996). 1996 Olympian.
24. Rider -- John Cavalheira: First Rider wrestler to earn NCAA All-American honors twice (1997, 1998).
25. Central Michigan -- Casey Cunningham: CMU's only national champ, Cunningham won the 157-pound crown at the 1999 NCAAs.

In addition to the ranked teams listed above, InterMat wanted to share the names of the honorees from Division I schools that have won at least one NCAA team title in their history:

Iowa State -- Cael Sanderson: The only undefeated four-time NCAA Division I champ, Sanderson won three titles at 184 in 1999-2001, and a fourth at 197 in 2002.
Oklahoma -- Mark Schultz: Three-time NCAA champ, first at 167 in 1981… then twice at 177 in 1982-83.
Michigan State -- Greg Johnson: Three-time NCAA champ at 118 pounds (1970-72).

Want to see the entire list? Click on the Wrestling USA link, then scroll through the pages until page 17.

Want to see a list of the GOATs of Oregon State? Recently, the Corvallis Gazette-Times put together its list of the dozen best Beaver wrestlers.


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dbestsport (3) about 9 months ago
Ed Ruth was a 3X champ who won 84 matches in a row. How is he not #-1 for Penn St. Lincoln McIlravey was a 4X finalist with only 3 career losses. How is he not #-1 for Iowa. And as great as Delgado was, IMar has already exceeded his accomplishments. Just saying...
IdeaMark (1) about 9 months ago
Just to be clear, these are the selections of Wrestling USA magazine. I wanted to share some of them to get a conversation started (and it looks like I've succeeded, judging by emails and comments here and on social media. As for IMar... he's still competing. The magazine made a point of NOT including any current collegiate wrestlers.
Mark Palmer
Senior Writer, InterMat
dbestsport (1) about 9 months ago
Got it on IMar (although an exception may be warranted for him). I was also getting the conversation started. Looks like I succeeded as well. I would also include Dieringer for Okie State. 3X champ, Hodge trophy winner, with a 134-4 career record.
Brian H Eichhorn Jr (3) about 9 months ago
I think there's an argument for J'den Cox for Missouri as well, given his 3 titles and a fourth AA. In addition, he has continued with an Olympic and worlds bronze. Askren was amazing, but there's a strong argument for Cox...
david1212 (1) about 9 months ago
Thank you for this awesome article. How about Cary Kolat at Lock Haven? I know he was there 2 years but he has to be the greatest wrestler they ever had. Will Zain jump Taylor at Penn State soon?
Willie (2) about 9 months ago
Yojo Uetake for Oklahoma State University.
Three time champion only because Freshmen were not allowed to wrestle. Never beaten on a college mat. Per Myron Roderick - " I never saw him tested".
Pat Smith is excellent but Uetake takes it a few levels higher.
gordo33 (2) about 9 months ago
If I am not mistaken, isn't Anthony Ashnault already a 3x all-american for Rutgers - who may very well have completed his career (6th year petition pending)?
markb (1) about 9 months ago
Dick Ballinger was a 3 time All-American, 2 time finalist, and NCAA champ in 1960. At least list all his accolades.
Monsieur Tarzan (1) about 9 months ago
Zain Rutherford could be Penn State's best: 3 NCAA championships, ended his college career on a 93 match win streak.

I don't think anyone would be surprised if David Taylor gets an Olympic medal before he through though.