InterMat Rewind: Looking back at first college All-Star event

For more than a half-century, the NWCA All-Star Classic has been an annual event on the college wrestling calendar going back to 1967. Until this year.

Last month, the National Wrestling Coaches Association announced that the 2019 All-Star event would not take place this fall.

Here's how the NWCA announcement described the event: "Typically serving as the kick-off to the collegiate season, The All-Star Classic has matched up numerous national champions and All-Americans through the years, including many No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups."

Why no NWCA All-Star Classic this fall?

Here's the explanation provided by Mike Moyer, NWCA Executive Director:

"On behalf of the NWCA Board of Directors, I wanted to let you know that we have decided to suspend the NWCA All-Star Classic for the 2019/20 year. Over the past 6 months, we have received some terrific ideas and concepts from our constituents on how we can 'revitalize' the All-Star Classic to meet the unique needs of our college wrestlers, coaches, and fans. Some of the proposed ideas and concepts required some extensive vetting which has made it impractical to still host the All-Star Classic this Fall..."

InterMat thought the time was right to take a look back at the very first NWCA All-Star event -- the 1967 East-West Classic -- which took place in early April of that year.

Not always the kickoff for the college wrestling season

Although the All-Star event has been a fixture of college wrestling since 1967, it hasn't always been the season-opening event. In fact, the NWCA All-Star Classic has been the kickoff event for only a decade-and-a-half ... going back to 2005, when the event made its first appearance at the beginning of the collegiate season when held at the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in metropolitan St. Louis. In the early years -- 1967 through 1971 -- the All-Stars had been the capstone event of the college wrestling season, taking place a week or two after the conclusion of the NCAA wrestling championships. For just over three decades -- from 1972 through 2004 -- the All-Star Classic took place pretty much in mid-season ... sometime from late January up to March, before the NCAAs.

An East-West format

For two decades -- 1967 through 1987 -- the All-Star Classic used an East vs. West format, with individual wrestlers placed on either an East or West team. (In 1967, the wrestlers were assigned to the East or West team based on the geographic location of the college for which they wrestle.) The event was organized and scored like a regular college dual meet.

At the 1967 East-West Classic, each team had two legendary college wrestling coaches. The East team was led by Cliff Keen of the University of Michigan, and Lehigh's Gerry Leeman ... while coaching the West team were Oklahoma State's Myron Roderick and Harold Nichols of Iowa State.

Referee for the 1967 East-West Classic was Rex Edgar. A decade earlier, Edgar had wrestled for the University of Oklahoma, winning a Big Seven title and NCAA All-American honors, placing third in the 167-pound bracket at the 1957 NCAAs. (Fun fact: Edgar had been a high school and college teammate of the legendary Dan Hodge, three-time NCAA champ at 177 pounds, whose name graces the Hodge Trophy, the annual award presented to the top college wrestler in the nation by WIN Magazine. By the way... Edgar is the other wrestler featured with Hodge on the cover of the Sports Illustrated April 1, 1957 issue... the only issue in the 60+ year history of the magazine featuring amateur wrestlers as amateur wrestlers.)

The world in 1967: On the mat ...

The 1967 East-West Classic was held Saturday, April 8 at Gallagher Hall (now Gallagher-Iba Arena) at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. A near-capacity crowd of 6,700 fans gathered to see the top college wrestlers of the era do battle. (Note: the building was substantially expanded and upgraded in 2000.)

The event was conducted under the collegiate rules in effect in 1967. New that year: a match format of three periods, the first lasting two minutes, followed by two periods of three minutes each, for a total of eight minutes (the year before, bouts lasted nine minutes total, consisting of three, three-minute periods). Wrestlers were required to wear the gear of the era -- a three-piece uniform consisting of sleeveless shirt, trunks, and tights. Headgear was required. (Today's singlets would not be permitted until the mid-1970s; the shirtless look of college legends such as Dan Hodge of Oklahoma had been outlawed in the early 1960s.)

True to the college wrestling rules at the time, at the 1967 East-West Classic had eleven individual weight classes -- 115, 123, 130, 137, 145, 152, 160, 167, 177, 191 pounds and heavyweight -- the same number as at tournaments such as the NCAA championships, and two more than typical college dual meets (which did not normally have 115 and 191 bouts).

Note that 50+ years ago, the heavyweight weight class was called "unlimited" because there was no top weight limit. That came along in the mid-1980s; today's upper limit is 285 pounds. Prior to setting an upper weight limit, there were a handful of NCAA champs who tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds.

... and off the mat

The year 1967 was a tumultuous one in the world beyond wrestling. The Vietnam War was taking place half a world away ... with student protests at a number of college campuses across the country. There was also unrest in many major cities in the U.S. as part of the civil rights movement. In its quest to put a man on the moon, NASA suffered a tragic setback when three U.S. astronauts were killed in a fire inside the space capsule during a January training exercise for the first Apollo mission at Cape Kennedy.

It was also a historic year in terms of popular culture. The top new movies of 1967 included "The Graduate", "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." In terms of pop music, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder were among the biggest acts. Among the top hits of the year: "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees, "Windy" by the Association, "Happy Together" by the Turtles, and "Light My Fire" by the Doors. Among the most popular TV shows of the 1966-67 season: "Bonanza", "The Andy Griffith Show", "Green Acres", "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Bewitched."

The 1967 East-West Classic, Match-by-Match

At the 1967 East-West Classic, matches were wrestled in ascending order -- lightest to heftiest, starting with the 115-pounders, and concluding with the unlimited class, better known as heavyweight. (Back then, there was no such thing as random weight draw or setting a match order to conclude the dual with what was expected to be the most exciting match.)

115 pounds: Glenn McMinn (Arizona State/West) dec. Jim Anderson (Minnesota/East), 3-2

Glenn McMinn had placed third at 123 pounds at the 1967 NCAA championships at Kent State University in northeast Ohio two weeks earlier. Jim Anderson came in second at 123 at the '67 NCAAs.

Here's how two publications of the era described the first match of the 1967 All-Star event:

"The opening 115-pound match set the pace for the match as Glenn McMinn of Arizona State edged the East's Jim Anderson of Minnesota with 10 seconds left in the final period for a 3-2 decision," according to John Fennich, sports editor for the Daily O'Collegian, the student newspaper at Oklahoma State, in his coverage of the first-ever East-West Classic at his school's iconic wrestling venue.

Bob Dellinger, sports editor for The Oklahoman -- the daily newspaper for Oklahoma City -- wrote this description for Amateur Wrestling News magazine: "McMinn used a headsnap to drop Jim Anderson of Minnesota with only 11 seconds left in the action-packed opener."

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

McMinn was honored with a Lifetime Service to Wrestling by the Arizona chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005.

123 pounds: Rick Sanders (Portland State/West) tied Bob Fehrs (Michigan/East), 2-2

Prior to wrestling at Portland State, Rick Sanders was a three-time Oregon state wrestling champ for Lincoln High School in Portland. While in college, Sanders launched a successful freestyle career, winning national and world titles.

Bob Fehrs, team captain for Michigan Wolverines, was a three-time Big Ten champion (1965-1967), and three-time NCAA finalist the same three years, losing each of those title matches to Lehigh's Mike Caruso.

Here's how two publications described the 123-pound All-Star match:

"Robert Fehrs of Michigan and Rick Sanders of Portland State each got a reversal and left the 123 championship in doubt as the match ended in a draw," according to the O'Colly's Fennich.

"Fehrs had all but the last gasp of a single-leg takedown on Sanders for more than a minute of the first period but didn't score until he managed to reverse when Sanders went too high with a three-quarter Nelson midway in the second," Dellinger wrote for Amateur Wrestling News.

"Sanders, outstanding wrestler in the NCAA, reversed for the tie with 1:07 to go and had Fehrs in deep trouble with a near predicament at the buzzer."

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Bob Fehrs received a Lifetime Service to Wrestling by the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2017. Rick Sanders was a two-time silver medalist in freestyle wrestling for the U.S. at the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968 and Munich in 1972. Sadly, just weeks after the '72 Munich Games, Sanders was killed in a vehicle crash while hitchhiking in Yugoslavia in October 1972. He was just 27. Sanders was posthumously inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. in 1987.

Note: Portland State eliminated its wrestling program in 2009.

130 pounds: Mike Caruso (Lehigh/East) dec. Jim Hanson (Colorado/West), 6-3

Mike Caruso was coming off having won his third EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) title and third NCAA title, having won the 123-pound championship at the 1967 NCAAs at Kent State a couple weeks earlier (defeating Michigan's Bob Fehrs in the finals for the third consecutive time), to conclude a near-perfect 57-1 record at Lehigh. Jim Hanson had placed fourth in the 130-pound bracket at the 1967 NCAAs.

Writing for Amateur Wrestling News, Bob Dellinger wrote, "Caruso, three-time national champ, scored a quick four points on a fireman's carry into a predicament in the first 20 seconds and posted a workmanlike 6-3 decision over Jim Hanson of Colorado for his 51st consecutive triumph."

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Mike Caruso was welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 1991 ... and was honored by the New Jersey chapter of the Hall of Fame as an Outstanding American in 2001.

Sadly, Hanson's alma mater, the University of Colorado, axed its wrestling program in June 1980.

137 pounds: Gene Davis (Oklahoma State/West) dec. Don Behm (Michigan State/East), 7-3

Gene Davis was the first of two Oklahoma State wrestlers to come out as winners in their home gym (Gallagher Hall) at the 1967 All-Star event (the other being Jim Rogers at 145). Davis was a two-time Big 8 champ in 1967 and 1968, and a three-time NCAA All-American, winning the title at the 1966 NCAAs, and placing third at the '67 NCAAs. As a Cowboy, Davis compiled a 62-5-1 record.

"Gene Davis was Oklahoma State's first representative who saw action, as he decisioned Michigan State's Don Behm, 7-3," reported the Oklahoma State student paper, the O'Colly.

Dellinger, writing for Amateur Wrestling News, provided additional details: "Davis had too much of everything for Don Behm of Michigan State, scoring takedowns with 14 seconds left in the first period and 29 seconds from the end. He controlled the match until Behm reversed with 14 seconds left for a 7-3 score."

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Both wrestlers in the 137-pound match at the first All-Star event later found themselves welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as Distinguished Members: Gene Davis, in 1985 ... and Don Behm, in 2004.

145 pounds: Jim Rogers (Oklahoma State/West) dec. Don New (Cornell University/East), 8-5

Jim Rogers was a two-time Big Eight champ (and three-time conference finalist) and three-time NCAA All-American, coming in fourth place at 145 at the 1967 Nationals. Rogers crafted a 45-16 record at the Stillwater school.

"At 145, Jim Rogers of Oklahoma State held off a last-period effort by Cornell's Don New to take the match, 8-5," according to the Daily O'Collegian.

"Rogers played cat-and-mouse with Don New of Cornell, piling up a six-point lead with three takedowns and a reverse in the first three minutes and staying on the move the rest of the way for an 8-5 decision," reported Amateur Wrestling News.

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Jim Rogers was presented with the Lifetime Service to Wrestling honor by the Oklahoma chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004 ... while Don New received a similar honor -- the Lifetime Service to Wrestling rom the Upstate New York chapter of the Hall of Fame -- in 2015.

152 pounds: Lee Ehrler (UCLA/West) dec. Jim Kamman (Michigan/East), 8-7

Both wrestlers had earned All-American honors at the 1967 NCAAs ... in different weight classes. Jim Kamman won the 152-pound crown for the Wolverines, while Lee Ehrler placed third at 160 pounds at the Nationals at Kent State.

"Top crowd-pleaser of the night was Ehrler, whose unorthodox style and superb balance shocked national champ Jim Kamman of Michigan, 8-7," wrote Amateur Wrestling News' Dellinger. "Ehrler broke a cradle for a reverse and near-fall in the first period, survived a second-period ride, then used a spectacular Greco-Roman fallback for another nearfall 1:29 from the end. Kamman managed his second takedown with nine seconds left but lacked two seconds of having enough time advantage to tie it."

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Both 152-pounders at the 1967 All-Star event later earned Lifetime Service to Wrestling honors: Lee Ehrler from the California chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2015 ... and Jim Kamman, from the Minnesota chapter of the Hall of Fame, in 2008.

Lee Ehrler died in December 2018 at age 73, having been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) not long before his passing.

Surprised to see "UCLA" and "wrestling" in the same sentence? The Bruins of southern California once had an NCAA intercollegiate wrestling program. Not anymore.

160 pounds: Joe Domko (Southern Illinois University-Carbondale/East) dec. Vic Marcucci (Iowa State/West), 3-2

Talk about an overachiever: Joe Domko, who lost his first match at in the 167-pound bracket at the 1967 NCAAs, managed to defeat the defending national champ at that weight, Vic Marcucci, at the 1967 East-West Classic. Though the All-Star match between Domko and Marcucci was actually closer than that statement may sound ...

"Joe Domko of Southern Illinois got a takedown with 13 seconds left to break 1-1 tie with NCAA champion Vic Marcucci from Iowa State to take the 160-pound match for the East," according to the daily student newspaper at Oklahoma State.

Here's Amateur Wrestling News' take on the 160-pound bout: "Domko used a double-leg tackle with seconds left to beat Vic Marcucci of Iowa State -- who barely missed a takedown at the buzzer -- 3-2."

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Vic Marcucci was welcomed into the Glen Brand Wrestling Hall of Fame at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa in 2009.

Joe Domko passed away in August 2014 at the age of 69.

SIU-Carbondale said goodbye to intercollegiate wrestling in 1989. (Note: Miles away from Carbondale, SIU-Edwardsville in suburban St. Louis still maintains a NCAA Division I mat program.)

167 pounds: George Radman (Michigan State/East) dec. Fred Fairbanks (Washington State), 9-3

In the 167-pound match at the East-West Classic, it was a battle of two All-American honorees from the '67 NCAAs, as Michigan State's George Radman -- 167-pound champ -- faced Washington State's Fred Fairbanks, who placed fifth in the same bracket.

"The East took the 167-pound clash as Michigan State's George Radman showed the style that nabbed him this year's NCAA championship and topped Fred Fairbanks of Washington State, 9-3," the Daily O'Collegian reported.

One additional detail included in Amateur Wrestling News' brief recap of the match: Radman scored three takedowns.

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

The Washington State varsity wrestling program was eliminated after the 1986 season.

177 pounds: Don Parker (University of Northern Iowa/West) dec. Dave Mucka (Moravian College/East), 3-2

Don Parker came to Gallagher Hall for the 1967 East-West Classic as a two-time NCAA Division II champ at 177 (1966, 1967) who went on to place sixth at the same weight at the 1967 NCAA Division I championship. (Back then, Division II champs automatically qualified for the D1 tournament.)

Dave Mucka of Pennsylvania's Moravian College placed sixth in the 177 bracket at the 1967 NCAA Division II championships.

The 1967 All-Star event was the second time Parker and Mucka met on the mat. The UNI mat champ defeated Mucka in the 177-pound finals at the 1966 National Division II championships.

"Don Parker of the State College of Iowa (now UNI) nabbed the final win for the West as he edged Moravian's Dave Mucka, 3-2 at 177," according to the Daily O'Collegian student paper.

"Parker's armdrag felled Dave Mucka of Moravian with 29 seconds left for a 3-2 win," added Amateur Wrestling News.

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Don Parker was presented with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's Medal of Courage in 2014. In 1998, he sustained a serious neck injury while hunting which left him paralyzed ... yet was still able to coach wrestling from a wheelchair.

Dave Mucka passed away in August 2004.

Haven't heard of Moravian wrestling? The private college located in Bethlehem, Pa. said goodbye to its intercollegiate wrestling program at the end of the 1986 season.

191 pounds: Tom Schlendorf (Syracuse/East) dec. Fred Fozzard (Oklahoma State/West), 5-3

Tom Schlendorf -- a two-sport star (football and wrestling) for Syracuse -- had compiled an 84-8-1 record on the mat for the Orangemen. In 1967, Schlendorf completed his athletic career at the upstate New York State school by being named Syracuse Athlete of the Year.

Fred Fozzard, the third Oklahoma State wrestler to take to the mat in his home gym at the inaugural All-Star event, was a two-time Big 8 conference champ and 1967 NCAA titlewinner (and three-time NCAA All-American). He entered the East-West Classic with an overall collegiate record of 54-4-3.

John Fennich, sports editor for the Daily O'Collegian, wrote about the match as one might expect from someone who normally covered Cowboy wrestlers: "Oklahoma State's Fred Fozzard, NCAA 177-pound champ, lost the 191-pound match, 5-3, to national titleholder (at that weight) Tom Schlendorf of Syracuse after matching the Eastern grappler point-for-point through the opening period."

Writing for Amateur Wrestling News magazine, Bob Dellinger provided a few more details of the match at 191: "Fozzard led Schlendorf on a single-leg takedown midway of the second period but Schlendorf's reversal five seconds before the middle buzzer and won the match with a headsnap takedown seven seconds from the end."

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Fred Fozzard was welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 2012.

Sadly, Tom Schlendorf passed away in July 2007.
The Syracuse Division I wrestling program ceased to exist about twenty years ago.

Heavyweight: Dave Porter (Michigan/East) pinned Curley Culp (Arizona State/West), 3:38

Dave Porter and Curley Culp shared a number of things in common. Both made names for themselves in wrestling and in football in both high school and college. Both were two-time state mat champs -- Porter in Michigan, Culp in Arizona. And both had NCAA heavyweight titles earned prior to the 1967 East-West event: Porter at the 1966 NCAAs ... and Culp at the 1967 Nationals.

The Porter-Culp heavyweight match at the 1967 All-Stars got big-time coverage. In fact, both the Daily O'Collegian student paper and Amateur Wrestling News gave the concluding bout heavyweight attention, as it was the deciding factor in the event's overall outcome.

"A near-capacity Gallagher Hall crowd witnessed a tremendous come-from-behind effort by the East which was capped by the victory punch delivered by Dave Porter, NCAA heavyweight champion in 1966, pinned Curley Culp of the West, NCAA champion in 1967, giving the East a 19-17 win," according to the O'Colly.

"The order was a pin and that's what Michigan's Porter served for the East as he trailed the Arizona State 265-pounder going into the second period, 9-5. With 22 seconds left in the second period, Porter decided to press the issue with a reversal and body press for the fall."

Bob Dellinger weighed in with his account of the finale.

"The heavyweight grudge match was a rouser from the start," wrote Dellinger. "Three times Culp threw Porter to the mat in the first two minutes, piling up a 6-2 lead."

"Porter started the second period on top and by blocking a switch, locked Culp in a nearfall. Culp broke away and took Porter down a fourth time for a 9-5 lead. But Porter quickly reversed and as Culp attempted to sit out, threw the Arizona State behemoth on his back and flattened him in 3:38 with a body press."

In the years since the 1967 East-West Classic ...

Dave Porter won his second heavyweight title at the 1968 NCAAs ... but, two weeks later, at the 1968 East-West Classic, Porter lost to Curley Culp, 5-3.

Culp went on to a professional football career as a defensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings which spanned fourteen seasons. He was welcomed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio in August 2013.

Porter was a long-time high school teacher and coach at Grand Ledge High School in Michigan before retiring in 2005. In 2010, Porter received the Lifetime Service to Wrestling from the Michigan chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Two years later, in August 2012, Porter passed away after a long illness at age 66.

In the end ...

After eleven matches featuring the top college wrestlers -- most of them NCAA All-Americans, including a number of recently crowned NCAA champs -- the very first All-Star event was one for the history books.

At the 1967 East-West Classic, the East team scored a come-from-behind win -- claiming victory in four of the last five bouts -- to win the team title over the West, 19-17.

Special thanks to Amateur Wrestling News for scanning the pages of their coverage of the 1967 East-West Classic and sharing them with this writer... so that I could share this information with InterMat readers.


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