‘Russian’ wrestler uses reputation to share Christ
John Baker, Special to the Recorder
February 16, 2011

‘Russian’ wrestler uses reputation to share Christ

‘Russian’ wrestler uses reputation to share Christ
John Baker, Special to the Recorder
February 16, 2011

Ivan Koloff built part of his wrestling career on the

rivalry between America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.).

In the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, the Soviet Union was the

enemy of America. Cold war tensions kept folks on the edge of their seats,

fearful of a nuclear barrage or an invasion.

Koloff donned outfits with the Soviet insignia and taunted

Americans as soft, weak and spineless.

He was known as “The Russian Bear,” but he grew up farming

in Ontario, Canada.

In the Carolina’s, he is best known as the mentor and uncle

of Nikita Koloff. Ivan used his shaved head to promote himself among the

wrestling industry. He won many titles including the World Wide Wrestling

Federation’s title in 1971 in a match against Bruno Sammartino in Madison

Square Garden. Sammartino held the title more than seven years, which is the

longest continuous title reign in men’s wrestling history, according to


Promotion photo

Ivan Koloff learned that pursuing worldly titles in the wrestling world was an empty pursuit.

After years of traveling more than 300 days a year, Koloff

found himself empty and discouraged and dependent on drugs, alcohol, and

tobacco to get through every day. He remained close with Nikita, also not a

Russian but a former football player from Minnesota.

“One afternoon Nikita called me and invited me to a service

at his church. He said ‘Uncle

Ivan, I found Jesus!’ I told him I know all about Jesus, having been raised in

a religious home. But Nikita insisted his encounter with Jesus was personal,

real, and life-changing.”

Ivan drove down to Nikita’s church that evening. As the

minister preached, Ivan found himself under great conviction. Before the

invitation was even given, Ivan was walking the aisle, surrendering his heart

and life to Christ.

“I was filled with great warmth and peace,” Ivan said. “My

life would never be the same.”

Ivan, who lives near Greenville, now travels to share his

conversion experience and to encourage Christians to surrender everything to


Contact [email protected] or visit ivankoloff.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Baker is pastor at Green Hill Baptist

Church, Rutherfordton.)

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