Top 5: Iranian Wrestlers

By Andrew Hipps

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (May 12) -- With 43 of its 69 Olympic medals coming on the mat, it's safe to say that Iran has an important and rich wrestling tradition. 

The spark of future greatness happened during the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki when the nation won an improbable five medals. Since that hot start the country has kept up its winning ways, crowning Olympic and world champions year after year, with its strongest Olympic performance coming at the 2012 Olympics in London, where six Iranians won medals, including three gold.

Those performances were driven by individual accomplishments and these are the five men of the mat who have proven to be the best in their nation's history.

5. Hassan YAZDANI

Hassan YAZDANI, nicknamed "The Greatest," is currently one of the world's top wrestling stars. His first world medal came in 2015 when he earned a silver at 70kg. The following year, Yazdani won the Olympic gold medal at 74kg. He then went on to win world titles in 2017 and 2019, along with a world bronze in 2018. Yazdani has a 17-2 record in world championship competition, with both losses coming to the world champion.

4. Rasoul KHADEM

Rasoul KHADEM was one of the world's top upper-weight wrestlers in the 1990s. Khadem became an Olympic champion in 1996 at 90kg after winning an Olympic bronze at the Barcelona Olympics four years earlier at 82kg. He won back-to-back world titles in 1994 and 1995 before his run to Olympic gold in Atlanta. At the 1996 Games, Khadem's Olympic gold-medal victory came over  Makharbek CHADARZEV (URS/RUS), a five-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. He added a world silver medal in 1998. Khadem was also a five-time Asian champion.

3. Abdollah MOVAHED

Abdollah MOVAHED had a dominant run as a freestyle lightweight from 1965 until 1970, winning five world titles and an Olympic gold medal while going undefeated. He competed at the Olympic Games three times, winning gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. In 1970, Movahed won his second Asian Games title while also serving as the flag bearer for Iran in the Opening Ceremony.

2. Hamid SOURIAN

Hamid SOURIAN established himself as one of the all-time greats in Greco-Roman wrestling. He claimed six world titles, with his first one coming in 2005. He went on to win three straight world titles from 2005 until 2007. Sourian won back-to-back world titles in 2009 and 2010 before adding his sixth world crown in 2014. At the 2012 Olympics in London, Sourian became Iran's first-ever Olympic champion in Greco-Roman. Two other Iranians, Omid NOROUZI and Ghasem REZAEI, joined Sourian as Olympic Greco-Roman champs in London. He had an incredible streak of 34 consecutive wins at the world championships before it was snapped in 2015 when he lost by disqualification to Rovshan BAYRAMOV (AZE).

1. Gholamreza TAKHTI

Gholamreza TAKHTI, nicknamed "Jahān Pahlevān," captured three Olympic medals from 1952 until 1960. Takhti's first Olympic medal came in 1952 when he earned a silver in Helsinki, Finland. Four years later, Takhti became an Olympic champion at the Melbourne Olympics in 1962. He added a third Olympic medal in 1960 when he finished with a silver at the Rome Olympics. In addition to his Olympic medals, TAKHTI won four world medals, including world gold medals in 1959 and 1961. He was inducted into the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007.