Most would agree that the best wrestlers are Russian. The Russian national wrestling team produces the most champions and have the deepest bench. What I find fascinating, especially against the back drop Vladimir Putin’s controversial attempt to rebuild the Tsarist Empire, is that most, if not all, of these dynamic wrestlers, are not Russian at all.
Below is a map of the the birth places of the 7 members of Russia’ freestyle team the 2012 London Olympics.
2 from Karbardino-Balkaria, 2 from Dagestan, 1 from North Ossetia, 1 from South Ossetia and 1 from Abkhazia. The last two being de jure part of the county of Georgia, though de facto breakaway states propped up by Russian military.
While birthplace does not necessarily confer nationality (and Russia have a very complicated, non-Western take on nationality), Russian wrestlers are nearly invariably non-Russians.
The lack of Russian nationality identification may be behind the proclivity for Russian wrestlers to emigrate to other nations and compete internationally for different FILA federations. Below is the count of wrestlers at the London Olympics who were born in Russian Federation territory:
Respublika Severnaya Osetiya-Alaniya 7
Kabardino-Balkarskaya Respublika 2
Respublika Sakha 1
Respublika Ingushetiya 1
Karachayevo-Cherkesskaya Respublika 1
18 Wrestlers sought medals for different countries. Almost all of them came from the Caucasus region. The exceptions to the rule were Aleksey Shemarov (born in Kaliningrad, competes for Belarus), Nikolay Noev (born in Yakutsk, competes for Tajikistan), and Nick Matuhin (born in Moscow, wrestles for Germany).
Including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the the number of freestyle wrestlers from the Caucasus region at the 2012 Olympics was 35. Twelve came home (wherever that may be) with medals. Quite an achievement!