Oklahoma wrestling program has long, rich, successful history

Oklahoma's Mark Schultz defeated Iowa's Ed Banach in the 1982 NCAA finals

Now that it's official -- Lou Rosselli is the new head wrestling coach at the University of Oklahoma -- the question has to be asked: what kind of program is the long-time staff member at Ohio State and Edinboro University inheriting?

Despite some recent struggles, the Sooner wrestling program has a long, rich, successful history spanning nearly a century. A number of top wrestlers have competed for Oklahoma, including NCAA champs of the past decade such as Cody Brewer (2015), Kendric Maple (2013) and Teyon Ware (2003, 2005) ... 1980s legends such as Melvin Douglas, Dan Chaid, Dave Schultz, Mark Schultz and Andre Metzger ... 1960s superstars such as Wayne Wells, Wayne Baughman, Mike Grant ... and greats of the 1950s, including Dick Delgado, Stan Abel, Tommy Evans, and the one and only Dan Hodge.

The Sooners, by the numbers

Since the wrestling program was launched at Oklahoma in 1920, the Sooners have put up some pretty impressive numbers over the years:

  • Seven NCAA team titles (only Oklahoma State, University of Iowa and Iowa State can claim more);
  • Sixty-seven individual national titlists ... and 271 NCAA All-Americans;
  • Twenty-three conference crowns ... and 182 individual conference champions.

    University of Oklahoma's first national title in any sport came in 1936, when the Sooner wrestling program, led by head coach Paul V. Keen, took the NCAA team title 80 years ago. (In case you were wondering, that coach Keen was the brother of Cliff Keen of University of Michigan coaching fame.)

    The Sooners scored six more NCAA championships: three with Port Robertson as head coach (1951, 1952, and 1957) ... two under Tommy Evans (1960 and 1963) ... and the most recent with Stan Abel at the helm in 1974. (Note: Of these title-winning coaches, three -- Robertson, Evans, and Abel -- all wrestled for the Oklahoma Sooners. Paul Keen wrestled at cross-state rival Oklahoma State.)

    In the four decades since Oklahoma has won an NCAA team title, the Sooners have finished among the top 10 at the national tournament 27 times, including four runner-up finishes.

    It's been a while since the Sooners have claimed a conference title -- the 2002 Big 12 championship, to be exact, under then head coach Jack Spates.

    Rosselli -- the fourteen Sooner mat coach

    Lou Rosselli becomes the fourteenth head wrestling coach at Oklahoma, replacing Mark Cody, who, in five seasons, guided the Sooners to a 55-34 overall record, for a winning percentage of .618.

    The first OU mat coach was Dewey Luster, who could claim a lackluster 0-2-0 record during the 1920 season. After a rapid succession of coaches who each lasted a year or two at the most, Paul Keen came in 1928 to become the first truly successful Sooner wrestling coach. In his dozen seasons at the helm, Keen led his wrestlers to a 51-34-3 overall record, for a .597 winning percentage.

    Port Robertson, a top wrestler under Paul Keen, was head wrestling coach from 1947-1959, then returned for one season in 1962 when Tommy Evans had a military obligation. In that time, the big, burly, no-nonsense Robertson and his mat greats like Hodge, Evans, Abel and Delgado compiled an 88-27-7 record, for a .750 winning percentage.

    Tommy Evans took the reins in 1960, and was in control until 1973 (other than that '62 season). The Sooners built their highest win percentage under any coach -- .775 -- with a record of 140-40-2.

    Stan Abel was head coach for two decades -- 1973-1993. His Sooners were 279-123-8, for a .690 winning percentage.

    Jack Spates succeeded Abel as coach, compiling a 243-97-13 record and .709 win percentage in his time until retiring in 2011, handing over the program to Mark Cody.

    When introduced as the fourteenth head wrestling coach in Sooner athletics history, the 46-year-old Rosselli said, "I look forward to leading this Oklahoma program and building on its significant tradition. OU is a very strong and storied program with a ton of potential, and I'm hoping I can lead it to an eighth national title."

    Readers who want to know more about Oklahoma Sooner wrestling history should check out "Port Robertson: Behind the Scenes of Sooner Sports" by Ed Frost ... and Mike Chapman's "Oklahoma Shooter: The Dan Hodge Story."
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