Alexander Karelin

Ask anybody who was an amateur wrestler “who is the greatest wrestler ever?” and they will probably give you a short list of names.  Dan Gable, John Smith, Bruce Baumgardner, Cael Sanderson, but the name most universally recognized around the world is Alaxander Karelin.

Karelin was born in Novobirsk, Siberia, weighing 15lbs at birth Karelin was a beast from the beginning.  As a boy he hunted on skis and developed his strength carrying logs through the forest.  His coach convinced him to wrestle at the age of 13 and Karelin trained by running through thigh deep snow for 2 hours at a clip and rowing a boat on Siberian lakes until his hands bled.

A reporter once asked Karelin about his greatest challenge and he told the story of wrestling a refrigerator.  It was a huge fridge, and Alexander bear hugged the appliance and carried it to his apartment, 8 floors up.  Another reporter talks about Karelin standing in a hotel lobby, lifting his leg straight over his head, and touching a hanging chandelier with his size 15 big toe.  Standing 6′ 3″ and 286 pounds Karelin blended speed, strength, and stamina to compete for an unprecedented 13 years in international competition without losing a match.  He went a full 6 years without surrendering a point.  This is international competition, where some men train their whole life for one Olympics.  Karelin won gold medals in 1988, 1992, 1996 at the Olympics.  He was world champion from 1989 – 1999.

Karelin’s signature move, the reverse body lift, was thought impossible for heavyweights to execute until he started doing it.  In live competition against the best wrestlers in the world Karelin would lock his hands around the waist of his downed opponent, lift them to hip height, and then throw them over his head in a back arch.  All the while the 286lb men were twisting, turning, bucking, pulling on his fingers, anything possible to prevent themselves from being thrown.  His throw was so devastating that some wrestlers would turn their back to the mat and surrender points rather than get thrown.

Karelin owned several nicknames, Alexander The Great, The Russian Bear, Sasha, and The Experiment.  The latter nickname was in regards to wide held belief that Alexander was using steroids, hgh, and any other number of illegal drugs.  When asked about this nickname bestowed on him Karelin answered “I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs.”

Entering the 2000 Olympics Karelin was the hands down favorite to win the gold medal for a 4th time in a row.  The Russian hero came up 1 point short in his bid for a 4th medal.  In the Olympic final Alexander Karelin and Rulon Garnder wrestled for 6 scoreless minutes, neither man able to gain an edge.  In the first period of overtime the wrestlers started in the clinch, a position where both men have a bear hug on the other.  Points are scored from this position via takedown, throw, or if your opponent can not maintain his grip.  After 13 years of undefeated international competition, 6 years of never allowing a point to be scored, and 3 consecutive Olympic gold medals in a row, the Russian Bear’s grip failed him.  Karelin lost his grip for a split second, but that was all it took, the most dominate wrestler ever had finally lost.

Karelin retired from wrestling after the 2000 Olympics to fully dedicate himself to family and politics.  He was elected to the State Duma in 1999, 2003, and 2007, and is serving on the committee for international affairs.  Most know Karelin for his athletic dominance and menacing appearance, but Sasha is much deeper than that.  Alexander loves the ballet, opera, and theater.  He is a voracious reader of Russian history and has written poetry.

On a personal note almost as soon as I started wrestling I was aware of who Karelin was, I was at the same time fascinated, inspired, and motivated.  I wanted to be Karelin and I wanted to beat Karelin.  Maybe it’s fitting that in his final match of competition he was defeated by a pudgy farm boy from Wyoming.  Maybe the rule change that cost Karelin his undefeated streak should never have been made.  What ever the case for those 6 minutes Karelin was equalled and for one second he was bested, but make no mistake about it, athletes like Karelin come around once in a lifetime.  I’m glad he was in my  lifetime.

Posted by: John

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9 Responses to “Alexander Karelin”

  1. Sick post… Worth the wait, my brother and I had a Karelin poster in our room in high school. The man is a legend.

  2. One of the few athletes who in their sport be truly considered the greatest of all time. One of the greatest Olympians of all time. And the start of infamous taunting of a certain member of a certain family for rooting against America. This is one person I am willing to take the abuse for.

  3. ricepattielegs Says:

    the ultimate lead baby. loved it jdub

  4. Nice post big man, my only knowledge of him was watching his last match in the Olympics. What a badass.

    • Speaking of badass:

      Are you an ultra-sweet motherfucker? Do you wear your sunglasses at night (because the sun never sets on badasses)? Do you wake up every morning and loudly exclaim “DAMN it feels good to be a gangster”? Are you Chuck Norris? Is your favorite movie “The Boondock Saints”? Can you grill like none other? Are you “simply the shit” at everything? Are you cooler than the other side of the pillow? Do you cause hell 24/7? Are you in the military? Do you eat rocks and shit lightning? Do you drink whiskey and piss fire? Have you ever walked into a room and known right off the bat that you are the most bodacious sumbitch there? Do you play any sport that draws more blood than the American Red Cross? Do you descend from Vikings? Have you ever drank enough beer to pee your way out of an avalanche? Do you get hard just thinking about how awesome you are?

      If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then you just might be a badass.

      • NoBullBodacious Says:

        BODACIOUS !!!!

        B.A.D.A.S.S. !!!!!

      • Well is it badass to have one of your childhood goals to be to wake up on a beach and not know how you got there like in Navy Seals?

  5. He got fucken robbed in that match. Yeah Rulon bested him in that match with those rules. But those arent the rules that had Karelin undefeated and unscored against. It’s never easy to accept when a legends leaves I guess.

  6. And I’ll admit it I was the one giving Nicky shit for rooting against America. I loved the idea of it being an American to beat that monster but not like that, again awesome post Johnny.

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