Wrestling, a half-century ago: 1962 NCAAs on film

Where were you in '62?

Perhaps you were lucky enough to have been at the 1962 NCAA Wrestling Championships at Oklahoma State. If not, now you can have a front-row seat to witness the finals, thanks to black-and-white, silent film of the championship matches, posted to YouTube by the host school.

Gray Simons
A few months ago, InterMat took you back to the 1937 NCAAs, with film of the finals and other information on the top event of college wrestling as it was eight decades ago. Now, let's take another trip back in time -- this time, to the 1962 NCAA finals -- to get a taste of wrestling as it was just over a half-century ago.

The 1962 NCAA finals featured some wrestlers whose names you may already recognize, including Elliott Gray Simons, three-time NCAA champ and two-time NCAA Outstanding Wrestler from Lock Haven ... Oklahoma State's Masaaki Hatta, first Japanese NCAA champ ... Oklahoma's Wayne Baughman, three-time Olympian and only U.S. wrestler to win national titles in college, freestyle, Greco-Roman and sombo ... and Joe James, Oklahoma State's first African-American wrestler.

The Cowboys corral the '62 NCAAs

The 1962 NCAA Wrestling Championships were held March 22-24 at what was then called Gallagher Hall (now Gallagher-Iba Arena) on the Oklahoma State campus. It was the 32d edition of the NCAAs ... but only the third time the championships had been held at the Stillwater school, which hosted the NCAAs in 1946 and 1956.

According to Jay Hammond's "The History of Collegiate Wrestling," there were a total of 213 wrestlers from 63 schools ... somewhat fewer than participated at the 1960 NCAAs at University of Maryland. (By contrast, recent NCAA championships have welcomed 330 athletes.)

The '62 NCAAs featured at least one "first" and two "lasts." These championships were the first to incorporate new NCAA scoring rules where a wrestler's first takedown remained worth two points, but subsequent takedowns each counted for one point. This attempt at encouraging "mat wrestling" -- and penalize Oklahoma State's high-scoring "take 'em down and let 'em up" wrestling style -- was an experiment that only lasted a handful of years; by the 1966 season, all takedowns again counted for two points each.

As for the two "last-ever" aspects of these championships ... the 1962 NCAAs were the last to have wrestlers from schools of all sizes compete at a single championship. (This was before today's Division I/II/III structure, with separate championships for each division.) The 1963 season saw the advent of two championships -- "University Division" (larger schools) and "College Division" (smaller schools.) A decade later, today's three-division separate championships structure was implemented.

What's more, the '62 NCAAs were the last NOT to be shown on TV. The 1963 NCAAs, hosted by Kent State University in northeast Ohio, were the first to be televised by ABC for its "Wide World of Sports" anthology series. (From having seen video from the 1964 NCAAs from Cornell University, ABC's coverage was highly edited -- only highlights of selected finals matches were shown -- and the broadcast was shown at least one or two weeks after the event. Live coverage has been around only about a decade.)

Up until ABC-TV (then, later CBS, and, more recently, ESPN) started telecasting the NCAA wrestling championships, it was the responsibility of the host school to film the action, and provide copies to participating schools for rental or purchase. The 1962 NCAA finals film posted here may well be among the last to be recorded by the host school, and not a television network.

The state of college wrestling, 55 years ago

For today's college wrestling fans, some of the aspects shown on the film of the 1962 NCAA finals will be startling. For starters, there's not a singlet in sight; in fact, NCAA rules actually prohibited the uniform style that's been the standard for more than four decades. The standard uniform back then: trunks, usually worn with tights, with shirts optional. (Wrestlers at most Midwest programs such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa and Iowa State competed stripped to the waist; contestants from Eastern schools like Lehigh, Pitt and Penn State usually wore sleeveless shirts.) Headgear is just about as rare on the film; earguards were not required 55 years ago.

If the matches seem a bit long ... well, back in '62, college matches lasted nine minutes, two minutes longer than today.

AWN's preview of the 1962 NCAAs

Predictions and prognostications for wrestling matches and mat championships are about as old as the oldest sport. Each year, wrestling fans, websites and magazines weigh in with their predictions for the NCAA wrestling championships.

It was no different in 1962. Back then, arguably THE source for timely college wrestling news reporting was Amateur Wrestling News, the first national wrestling publication. (This was long before the invention of the internet, wrestling websites such as InterMat, and online wrestling forums.)

Here's how Amateur Wrestling News headlined its preview article about the 1962 NCAAs: "OK State should repeat; Lehigh strong contender" with a subhead "Oklahoma, Pitt, Iowa State rated as runners-up." The opening two paragraphs sing the praises of Lehigh and its successful season, then concludes, "It would appear that there is only one obstacle in their path -- Oklahoma State's defending champions."

Oklahoma State was arguably the dominant program of the era; since World War II, the Cowboys had won nine team titles, and, since the first NCAAs in 1928, a total of 22 championships. The host school was the defending champions from the 1961 NCAAs at Oregon State, with University of Oklahoma placing second, Iowa State in third, Oregon State placing fourth, Pittsburgh in fifth, and Lehigh coming in sixth.

Ronnie Clinton
So ... did Amateur Wrestling News get its forecast right for the 1962 NCAAs?

By the time the last match was wrestled at the '62 Nationals, host school Oklahoma State had run away with the team title, tallying 82 points, and claiming three individual titles: Masaaki Hatta at 123 pounds, Ronnie Clinton at 167, and Bob Johnson at 177. In a distant second place was cross-state rival Oklahoma, with 45 points; three Sooners left Stillwater as champs: Mickey Martin at 130, Bill Carter at 137, and Wayne Baughman at 191 pounds. The Iowa Hawkeyes placed third with 34 points, and one champ: Sherwyn Thorson at heavyweight. In fourth place was Lehigh, with 27 points, and no individual champs.

Plenty of wrestling fans were able to catch the action in person at the '62 Nationals. (Realize that 55 years ago, there was no TV coverage -- live or tape-delay. There were no live streaming services or websites to provide instant coverage.) Despite lousy weather (rain and snow) and the fact that Oklahoma State students were away from campus on spring break, attendance was solid for the 1962 NCAAs. Amateur Wrestling News reported 7,500 fans for the finals, right at capacity for Gallagher Hall at the time. (This was before the major expansion of the arena in 2001.)

One wrestler's recollections of the '62 NCAAs

Wayne Baughman was definitely part of the action at the 1962 NCAAs. The University of Oklahoma junior competed in the 191-pound bracket at Gallagher Hall ... making it all the way to the finals.

Wayne Baughman
If the Baughman name sounds familiar ... for 27 seasons, he served as head wrestling coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy, retiring in 2006. After college, he wrestled at three Olympics ... and became the only American to have won national titles in four wrestling disciplines: folkstyle (high school/college) ... freestyle, Greco-Roman, and sombo.

Baughman had national championship-round experience, having competed in the 177-pound finals at the 1961 NCAAs at Oregon State, losing to Oklahoma State's Bob Johnson in the title match.

Throughout his Sooner mat career, Baughman wrestled at 167, 177, 191 and at heavyweight. (Back then, there were no strict rules governing competition weights; coaches and wrestlers could seemingly decide on whim to move up or down in weight classes, especially to take on -- or avoid -- a particular rival.)

Baughman had won the 191-pound title at the 1962 Big 8 championships a couple weeks before the NCAAs, describing himself as a "solid" 191. However, Oklahoma Sooner coach Port Robertson had other plans for Baughman for the '62 Nationals. "He was really upset with me for wanting to stay at 191," Baughman told InterMat.

The trip from Norman to the NCAAs at Oklahoma State was no joyride, to hear Baughman tell it. "There was a terrible blizzard. To make matters worse, we got a flat tire on the way to Stillwater," said Baughman. "Port made me change the tire. I stripped off a lug nut, which made him even angrier with me."

The Sooners made it safely to the home of their in-state rival. Baughman was the No. 2 seed at 191 (behind Colorado State's Nick Kohls). After drawing a bye in Round One, Baughman's next two matches were solid shut-outs. In the semifinals, the Sooner defeated No. 3 seed Ken Houston of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, 3-2. That set the stage for a Sooners-Cowboys finals, with Baughman going up against Oklahoma State's Joe James.

Joe James
James, a graduate of Tilden Tech in Chicago, was the first African-American wrestler for the Cowboys. However, for most fans, he's even more famous for his muscular, chiseled physique that created a sensation back at the Illinois state championships ... then at collegiate wrestling events.

"We weighed in at 2 p.m., five hours before the finals," Baughman recalled. "I weighed 193, which was the second-day limit for 191."

"To get away from the noise, I went to the old wrestling room. I walked in on James, who at that moment was actually 211."

"I think James looked like a bigger version of Lee Kemp," said Baughman, who estimated that the Cowboy big man had a 48" chest and 30" waist. "So big and powerful, especially in the upper body."

When asked if he was intimidated by James' musculature, Baughman told InterMat, "I was more afraid of his speed, not his strength. I thought he might be sluggish at that weight."

"I could handle power, but I was basically slow."

At least two individuals who were in Gallagher Hall that night -- but off the mat -- did their best to have an impact on the outcome.

"(Oklahoma State head coach Myron) Roderick kept yelling, 'use your speed,'" recalled Baughman.

"I've got to think my wife Betty had a role in my win. She kept yelling at Roderick, trying to distract him, and I think she may have done exactly that."

Mickey Martin
Joe James had scored an escape in the second period, but Baughman earned a reversal in the third to make the score 2-1. Baughman became the third Oklahoma Sooner to win an individual title in 1962, joining teammates Mickey Martin at 130 pounds, and Bill Carter at 137. That trio helped propel OU to second-place in the final team standings at the 1962 NCAAs.

(See the Baughman-James 191-pound title bout at 26 minutes into the '62 NCAA finals film.)

A brief bout-by-bout analysis of the 1962 NCAA finals

The '62 NCAA championships film posted on YouTube by Oklahoma State lasts one hour, sixteen minutes. It's in black-and-white, and silent. Although the matches were wrestled in what was standard order back then -- lightest to heaviest -- the film actually starts with the 157-pound title bout, which the late historian Jay Hammond told this writer was the third-greatest college finals upset ever, ranked behind Larry Owings defeating Dan Gable at the 1970 NCAAs, and Darrion Caldwell upsetting Brent Metcalf in 2009.

  • Match No. 1 -- 157 pounds: Unseeded Jack Flasche (Northern Colorado) dec. No. 1 seed Phil Kinyon (Oklahoma State), 5-2
    Flasche, wearing black trunks and jersey, topped the hairy-chested 1961 NCAA titlewinner Kinyon, who had just missed making the 1960 U.S. Olympic wrestling team, and was so feared, a number of wrestlers went up or down a weight class to avoid tangling with him. (This ranks as Hammond's choice of No. 3 biggest upset in NCAA finals history, with undefeated, defending champ Kinyon being toppled by unseeded Flasche.)

  • Match No. 2 -- 167 pounds (starts at 9 minutes into film): No. 1 seed Ronnie Clinton (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 3 Terry Isaacson (Air Force), 3-2
    Isaacson is wearing a headband. Clinton won despite suffering a severe cut on his right hand prior to the NCAAs that required over 20 stitches.

    Bob Johnson
  • Match No. 3 -- 177 pounds (17 minutes, 30 seconds into film): No. 1 seed Bob Johnson (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 2 Dean Lahr (Colorado), 3-2
    Lahr is wearing headgear. Johnson, the only native Texan to win an NCAA wrestling title, successfully defended his championship won at the 1961 NCAAs. Lahr went on to win 177 titles at the 1963 and 1964 NCAAs.

  • Match No. 4 -- 191 pounds (26 minutes into film): No. 2 seed Wayne Baughman (University of Oklahoma) dec. unseeded Joe James (Oklahoma State), 2-1
    Baughman, wearing white trunks, later wrestled at three Olympics, and coached at the Air Force Academy for more than a quarter-century. The muscular James, the first African-American to wrestle as a starter for the Cowboys, went on to win the heavyweight title at the 1964 NCAAs.

  • Match No. 5 -- heavyweight (35 minutes into film): No. 3 seed Sherwyn Thorson (Iowa) pinned No. 1 Roger Pillath (Wisconsin), 3:21
    Thorson, wearing black jersey and trunks, got revenge on the bare-chested Badger, who had pinned him in the 1962 Big Ten finals. Thorson became the first Hawkeye heavyweight champ. Both Thorson and Pillath went on to pro football careers.

  • Match No. 6 -- 115 pounds (38 minutes into film): No. 1 seed Elliott Gray Simons (Lock Haven) dec. No. 2 Mark McCracken (Oklahoma State), 7-2
    Simons, wearing the black jersey, won his third straight NCAA title, and Outstanding Wrestler honors.

    Masaaki Hatta
  • Match No. 7 -- 123 pounds (45 minutes into film): No. 1 seed Masaaki Hatta (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 3 Frank Freeman (Northern Iowa), 7-4
    Wearing dark trunks and black tights, Hatta, a native of Japan, became the first non-American to win an NCAA title since Canadian Earl McCready claimed three heavyweight titles for the same school (1928-1930).

  • Match No. 8 -- 130 pounds (54 minutes into film): No. 3 seed Mickey Martin (Oklahoma) dec. No. 4 Al DeLeon (Minnesota State-Mankato), 5-2
    Martin, wearing white trunks and headgear, came from behind to win the first of two consecutive NCAA titles. He is the son of Wayne Martin, an Oklahoma Sooner mat champ from the 1930s.

    Bill Carter
  • Match No. 9 -- 137 pounds (1 hour, 1 minute into film): No. 2 seed Bill Carter (Oklahoma) dec. No. 4 Bill Dotson (Northern Iowa), 6-4
    Carter, wearing white trunks, won the third title of the '62 NCAAs for the Sooners. Dotson won the 137-pound crown at the 1963 NCAAs.

  • Match No. 10 -- 147 pounds (1 hour, 8 minutes into film): Unseeded Mike Natvig (Army) dec. No. 1 Kirk Pendleton (Lehigh), 5-4
    Natvig, wearing dark trunks and tights, became the first West Point wrestler to win an NCAA title ... and followed it with a second at the '63 NCAAs. It was the second year Pendleton lost in the finals, falling to Phil Kinyon in 1961 ... but avenging that loss to win the 157 title over Kinyon at the 1963 NCAAs.

    To watch the 1962 NCAA finals online, click here.To view NCAA brackets from 1962, click here.
  • Comments

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    jammen (2) about 8 months ago
    Baron von Raschke wrestled hvy for Nebraska.
    IdeaMark (1) about 8 months ago
    That's right! His real name was Jim Raschke, and, yes, he wrestled in the heavyweight bracket at the 1962 NCAAs, but did not place.
    Mark Palmer
    Senior Writer, InterMat
    Teague Moore (1) about 8 months ago
    Wow, wrestling has changed. Thank goodness.