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Gene Lybbert, 1952 NCAA champ for Northern Iowa, passes

Gene Lybbert, successful wrestler at two of the top mat programs in the state of Iowa in the post-World War II era -- Cresco High School, and University of Northern Iowa -- passed away Saturday, June 1 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He was 89.

Gene Lybbert
Born outside Cresco in northern Iowa in January 1930, Eugene "Gene" Lybbert first made a name for himself at Cresco High, one of the legendary prep wrestling programs in the state from the 1930s into the 1950s which produced, among others, future Iowa State head coach Harold Nichols and future Iowa Hawkeye head coach Gary Kurdelmeier. Lybbert was a two-time finalist for Cresco at the Iowa high school state wrestling championships, as a runner-up at 105 pounds in 1947, and placing second at 112 pounds in 1948, the year the program placed second in the team rankings at state.

Lybbert continued his academic and athletic career at Northern Iowa (then called Iowa State Teachers College) in Cedar Falls, wrestling for head coach Dave McCuskey. A two-time NCAA All-American, Lybbert wrestled most of his matches at 130 pounds. At the 1951 NCAAs, Lybbert placed third in the 130 bracket. The following year, Lybbert won the 130-pound crown at the 1952 NCAAs at Colorado A&M in Fort Collins. He compiled a 27-2 record at ISTC, with six pins.

After graduating from ISTC, Lybbert served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He then worked as a teacher and wrestling coach for four years in Blue Earth, Minnesota where he guided his teams to three consecutive state team championships from 1956-58.

For all his wrestling accomplishments, Lybbert was welcomed into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in his hometown of Cresco in 1987, the UNI Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989, and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007.

Lybbert remained connected to the Northern Iowa Panther wrestling program up until his death, according to the Des Moines Register.

"Gene's presence and support for the program has been unmatched," Northern Iowa head coach Doug Schwab tweeted Monday. "He will be missed by the whole UNI wrestling family."

Visitation for Gene Lybbert will take place Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at Richardson Funeral Service in Cedar Falls. The funeral service will take place Friday at St. Patrick Catholic Church, with one hour of visitation prior to the 10 a.m. service, with burial with full military honors immediately after the service in Greenwood Cemetery, also in Cedar Falls.

The family requests that memorials be made to the church, the University of Northern Iowa wrestling program, or the Hon. Nordly & Gene Lybbert Athletic Training Scholarship at UNI.

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