COMMENTARY | How did wrestlers Dan Gable and Aleksandr Karelin even get on the same list?
An ESPN poll has asked fans to vote for the Greatest All-Time Combat Athlete -- a list which includes MMA fighters Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Royce Gracie. Olympic wrestlers Gable and Karelin also are candidates on the list.
MMA fighters aside, I'm curious as to how Gable and Karelin can be considered for the same award. The gap between the two athletes is so wide that I can't believe anyone would think there's even a comparison.
Gable became a legend for his coaching work with the University of Iowa, and he was a talented wrestler, to be sure. During his college career at Iowa State University, he amassed a 118-1 record and won his first 117 matches. He went on to win the 1970 AAU title, the 1971 Pan American Games title and the 1971 World Championship gold medal. At the 1972 Olympic Games, Gable won a freestyle gold medal without giving up a single point to his competitors.
That's quite a resume, but Karelin has an impressive resume of his own.
Karelin, a Soviet and Russian Greco-Roman wrestler, won Olympic gold medals at the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, and he added a silver in 2000. He won nine world championship gold medals. Karelin went undefeated for more than 13 years, and in six of those years, he didn't give up a single point to his competitors. When he won the silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games, the heavyweight lost to American Rulon Gardner by a single point. The final score was 1-0 in Gardner's favor.
Again I ask, where is the comparison? How can someone with a single Olympic gold medal and a single world championship medal be compared to someone with four Olympic medals and nine world championship medals? How can someone who didn't give up a point in six years of international competition be compared to someone who didn't give up a point in a single Olympic Games?
The short and sweet answer is that there is no legitimate argument to be made.
Gable is a great wrestler, but some argue that's he's not even the greatest American wrestler in history.
Karelin could just be the greatest world-wide wrestler of all-time. There is no comparison.
Read more from this author: Will Jordan Burroughs Help Grow Wrestling in the United States?
Sandra Johnson is a longtime fan of Olympic sports. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46
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