Denny McCabe, champion at inaugural Midlands, passes

Denny McCabe, two-time Army wrestling champ and titlewinner at the first-ever Midlands tournament who was also a longtime contributor to online amateur wrestling forums, passed away Feb. 18 after a long illness. He was 75.

Denny McCabe as a high school senior in 1961
Dennis Michael McCabe was born in Chicago on August 7, 1943, the son of William and Theresa Boden McCabe. He first took up amateur wrestling at age 11, continuing his mat career at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Ill. in north-suburban Chicago. He placed third in the 165-pound bracket at the 1961 Illinois state wrestling championships held at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

McCabe then headed further south to continue his education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (which no longer has intercollegiate wrestling). One of his Saluki teammates: heavyweight Larry Kristoff who wrestled for the U.S. freestyle team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

While wrestling for the SIU Salukis, McCabe participated in the first Midlands, the now-classic Christmastime tournament established by then-Northwestern coach Art Kraft, first held at the LaGrange (Ill.) YMCA in December 1963. McCabe captured the 190-pound crown at the inaugural Midlands event.

While at SIU, Denny McCabe was one of the top-ranked 191-pounders in the U.S., expected to be in the hunt for the title at the 1964 NCAAs with wrestlers such as eventual finalists Jack Brisco of Oklahoma State, and Ohio University's Harry Houska. Sadly, just two weeks before the national championships at Cornell University, McCabe blew out his knee, and was forced to watch from the sidelines.

McCabe served in Vietnam, where he won All-Army and All-Service wrestling titles in 1968.

Returning to the U.S., McCabe settled in the Tucson area. He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree and Master of Arts Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Arizona which led to a career as a substance abuse counselor.

Denny McCabe with Dan Gable
Although McCabe also played football and baseball in his youth, as an adult he found his calling in sharing his knowledge of wrestling in unique ways. He was a popular fixture on various online amateur wrestling forums as "denny" and was the subject of a number of interviews with this writer for historical features for InterMat on topics such as the Midlands, wrestling strategy, and wrestling gear of the past. McCabe's obituary also indicates that he "supported and aided Arizona high school and college wrestling teams."

In addition to his wife Dyann and son Phillip Mayer, Denny McCabe leaves behind two stepsons, Bill Clemons and Mark Clemons, as well as his sisters, Maureen Schaedel (Robert) and Theresa Rothe (Steve); sister-in-law Ruth McCabe; and a number of nieces and nephews.

A graveside service to honor Denny McCabe will take place Thursday, Feb. 28 at 11:00 a.m. Mountain time at Evergreen Cemetery, 3015 N Oracle Road in Tucson followed by refreshments and remembrances at St. Odilla's Parish Hall at 7570 N. Paseo del Norte in Tucson.


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