As we conclude our trip through the American wrestlers who have made the most world and Olympic teams in each style, we reach the type of wrestling featured in the first modern Olympic Games, Greco-Roman. We’ve been through men’s freestyle and women’s freestyle, but there are legendary American wrestlers that we haven’t yet covered. Greco athletes rarely receive the attention they deserve and there may well be names on this list that many wrestling fans aren’t familiar with. Many of these athletes have been instrumental in the development of the US system since their competition days came to an end and continue to build the future of USA Greco.
Wayne Baughman, 8
Though Justin “Harry” Lester, Spenser Mango, and Matt Ghaffari also made eight Greco world or Olympic teams and Baughman’s eight leaves him just outside the top five, I wanted to include him because he also made two freestyle teams and has the distinction of placing in the top five in the world in freestyle in 1965 and Greco in 1968. The long-time Air Force head coach was a three-time NCAA finalist for Oklahoma, winning the title in 1962. He followed his senior season in 1963 with his first Greco world team and missed only one year of championship competition at the world-level from that year through 1972. Baughman was a three-time Olympian, all in Greco, and was a member of the 1965 world team that pulled double duty, wrestling freestyle in Manchester, England and Greco in Tampere, Finland. His other freestyle team came in 1967 when he finished sixth. Baughman accumulated 16 national titles on the mat, to go with his 10 world-level teams, in four different styles, collegiate, freestyle, Greco, and Sambo.
4) Mark Fuller, 9
We highlighted Bruce Baumgartner’s legendary career in the men’s freestyle portion of this list and Fuller stands next to Big Bruce as the only American wrestlers to make four Olympic teams. Unfortunately, Fuller was denied an opportunity to compete at his first Olympic Games in 1980 due to the boycott, but he would make the trip in 1984, 1988, and 1992. The two-time Junior World Championship gold medalist at 48 kg, on either side of that 1980 Olympic team, Fuller bounced back and forth between 48 kg and 52 kg throughout his career, mainly wrestling in the lightest class. Though he never medaled at the Senior level, Fuller remained a constant for USA Greco over a long, accomplished career.
4) Dan Chandler, 9
From 1975 through 1984, Chandler owned the 82 kg weight class domestically, making every team save one, in 1982. His best run of performances came in the lead up to the boycotted 1980 Olympics when he finished sixth, sixth, and fifth from 1977 through 1979. Chandler wouldn’t be able to find that form again after the boycott but continued to be a force in the United States. However, the Minnesota native’s biggest impact on Greco in the US came as a coach, which he began before he had even retired from competition. Chandler was a coach on the Team USA staff at every Olympics from 1988 through 2012. He has helped make the Minnesota Storm the premier Greco club in the country and the six-time USA Wrestling Coach of the Year continues to develop Greco athletes today.
1) Dremiel Byers, 10
After attending college for one year on a football scholarship, Byers was forced to leave school. Football’s loss was wrestling’s gain. Byers made his first world team in 1999, just after Matt Ghaffari’s final team and just before Rulon Gardner won back to back world-level titles. Byers was sixth that year, but when he got his second chance, he claimed the United States’ third straight heavyweight gold, winning the 2002 World Championship. Gardner would push Byers back off the team for two more years after that before Dremiel finally claimed the spot for good in 2005. For the next eight years, it was Byers’ spot and he tacked on a world bronze medal in 2007 as well as a silver in 2009. That 2007 bronze helped Team USA to it’s most recent Greco world team title. The two-time Olympian was the cap to an era during which the US won 10 Greco medals at the highest weight class in a 19-year span. Byers was also the last big man to make a team before Robby Smith took over in 2013.
1) Dennis Hall, 10
Hall’s first Senior level world team came in 1990 when he was just 19 years old. The first of three Olympic teams came two years later and his first world-level medal followed two years after that, a bronze in 1994. Hall would continue his ascendancy by becoming the fourth American ever to claim a world-level gold in Greco by winning the World Championships in 1995. His Olympic silver in Atlanta in 1996 made him the second American to win three world-level Greco medals, after Dennis Koslowski, and he remains tied with Koslowski, Byers, and Rulon Gardner for the second most by an American behind Matt Ghaffari’s four. Despite making the world team in 1997, 1998, and 1999, Hall was unable to add to his medal haul and when he was upset at the 2000 Olympic Trials by Jim Gruenwald, it appeared Hall’s international career might be over. Instead, he returned to make the Olympic team in 2004 at a career low weight of 55 kg, but he lost in the first round in Athens. Since then, Hall has popped up at the 2012 Olympic Trials and the 2016 US Open. You can never rule him out, but it seems that his chances to make a record breaking 11th team have gone.
1) Shawn Sheldon, 10
After making his first three teams from 1986-88 without coming close to medaling, Sheldon missed the 1989 World Championships when Mark Fuller moved up to 52 kg. When Fuller went back down to 48 kg, Sheldon got back in the line-up and found the best form of his career. After close calls at the Cadet, Junior, and Espoir level without medaling, Sheldon finished fifth again in 1990 before finally standing on the podium with a world silver in 1991. He would make the next four teams, from 1992 through 1995, as well, finishing in the top-10 three times, including a fourth-place finish at the Barcelona Games and another fifth in 1995. Brandon Paulson would knock him off for the Olympic spot in 1996, on his way to an Olympic silver medal, but Sheldon kept at it, making one last team in 1998 to become the first American to make 10 Greco teams.