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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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.