NC State's Darrion Caldwell stunned Iowa's Brent Metcalf in the NCAA finals in 2009 (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Normally, this is the time of year when college wrestling fans are focused on the NCAA Wrestling Championships. This year, things are different, with the NCAA canceling championship events for all winter sports, including all three divisions of wrestling championships, because of the coronavirus COVID-19.
To help wrestling fans deal with the loss of the top college mat tournaments this year, InterMat thought it could help by providing links to online videos, including classic one-on-one championship matches such as Gable vs. Owings ... along with videos of old-school films that provide you with a matside seat at NCAA championships going back as far as 1937 ... and, a link to video of the finals of the 2020 Big Ten conference championships held earlier this month.
All-time NCAA individual matchups: The upsets ...
The late amateur wrestling historian Jay Hammond -- author of the classic "The History of Collegiate Wrestling" book -- shared with this writer his choices for the three individual finals matches that rank as the greatest upsets in NCAA championship history. Here they are, in ranked order. You can watch them online:
1. Larry Owings defeats Dan Gable, 1970 NCAAs
Iowa State senior Dan Gable had not suffered a loss in his entire combined high school and college wrestling career. However, Larry Owings -- a sophomore from the University of Washington -- had set his sights on denying Gable his third NCAA title -- and perfect record -- at the 1970 NCAAs at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., dropping down to 142 pounds with the stated purpose of avenging his loss to Gable at the 1968 Olympic Trials. Watch the video and see how Owings figured out a way to make Gable's prep/collegiate mat record be 181-1.
2. Darrion Caldwell upsets Brent Metcalf, 2009 NCAAs
Prior to the 149-pound finals at the 2009 NCAAs, most fans figured that Iowa's Brent Metcalf, the defending champ, would notch another victory to his 69-match win streak. However, North Carolina State's Darrion Caldwell had other plans. The Wolfpack wrestler took Metcalf down twice in the first period -- the first time that had happened to the Hawkeye -- ultimately winning the match -- and the title -- 11-6. Here's how the N.C. State sports information department reported what happened after its wrestler had his arm raised in victory: "Following the match, as Caldwell began his victory celebration, Metcalf gave Caldwell a big shove and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, costing Iowa a valuable team point ..."
3. Jack Flasche tops Phil Kinyon, 1962 NCAAs
Link: 1962 NCAAs on film
How did this match from nearly 60 years ago earn the No. 3 spot on Hammond's list of all-time great NCAA finals upsets? In a nutshell, Flasche, an unseeded 157-pounder from University of Northern Colorado, handed Oklahoma State's Phil Kinyon -- top-seeded, undefeated defending champ who just missed making the U.S. freestyle team for the 1960 Rome Olympics -- his first collegiate defeat ever, in his home gym, Gallagher Hall. As Hammond put it, Kinyon was so feared, a number of wrestlers went up or down a weight class to avoid tangling with him. Another college wrestler of the era told InterMat that Kinyon was "hairy as a bear and built like a brick s**t house." Flasche-Kinyon is the first match on a video of the entire 1962 NCAA championships.
... and a couple undefeated all-time college mat greats
1. Pure perfection: Cael Sanderson defeats Jon Trenge, 2002 NCAAs
Iowa State's Cael Sanderson made history by concluding his collegiate mat career with a perfect 159-0 at the 2002 NCAAs in Albany, N.Y., defeating Lehigh's Jon Trenge in the 197-pound finals, 12-4. With his win, Sanderson became only the second four-time NCAA Division I champ (Oklahoma State's Pat Smith did it first) ... but the future Penn State head wrestling coach became the first undefeated four-timer. (Trenge is now wrestling coach at his Pennsylvania high school alma mater.)
Can't get enough Cael? Here are links to other Sanderson NCAA championship matches:
• 2000 NCAA 184-pound semifinals vs. No. 4 seed Brandon Eggum of University of Minnesota, 6-1. (Eggum is now head coach at Minnesota.)
• 2000 NCAA finals @ 184 vs. No. 2 seed Vertus Jones of West Virginia University, 19-6.
• 2001 NCAA 184-pound title match vs. No. 3 seed Daniel Cormier, Oklahoma State, 8-4. (Cormier, UFC superstar and champ, is now a California high school wrestling coach.)
(Note: Sanderson was the top seed in his weight class each year he wrestled at the NCAAs.)
2. Pure perfection: Dan Hodge pins down another NCAA crown
Dan Hodge was one of the all-time great college wrestlers. Wrestling at the University of Oklahoma in the mid-1950s at 177 pounds, Hodge compiled a perfect 46-0 record as a Sooner, with 30 of those wins by pin ... earning him the nicknames "Dangerous Dan" and "Homicide Hodge." In addition to his pinning prowess, Hodge was feared for his crushing grip-strength. One of his college rivals -- who later became a Big Ten and NCAA champ -- said something to the effect of, "When you knew you were going to wrestle Dan Hodge, you didn't get too many good nights' sleep."
Hodge also owns the distinction of being one of only two three-time NCAA champs to have pinned all three of his finals opponents. (The other: Oklahoma State heavyweight Earl McCready, 1928-30.) At his second title match -- at the 1957 NCAAs in Pittsburgh -- Hodge pinned Ron Flemming of Franklin & Marshall at 7:31 of what was scheduled to be a nine-minute match.
The Hodge-Flemming bout is available for viewing on YouTube. One of the persons who wrote comments on the video was Flemming's wife: "Hodge had not been scored on. Hodge took Ron down, Ron escaped, reversed him, and the crowd went wild. My husband said, after that, Hodge had such a tight hold on him, he thought he was going to stop breathing. Later, Hodge told Flemming's coach, Roy Phillips of F&M, that Flemming was the strongest man he ever wrestled."
Old-school NCAA championships captured on film
Long before the finals of the NCAA Wrestling Championships were first shown on TV -- or available for viewing online -- a number of host schools filmed the title matches, and made copies of those films available to other colleges. This tradition appears to have begun with the 1937 NCAAs at Indiana State ... and ended a quarter-century later, with the delayed broadcast of highlights of the 1963 NCAAs at Kent State in Ohio on ABC-TV's popular sports anthology show, "Wide World of Sports."
1. 1937 NCAA finals: First on film
Link: 1937 NCAAs on film
The finals of the 1937 NCAA Wrestling Championships -- held at Indiana State in Terre Haute -- provide a glimpse of college wrestling as it was more than eight decades ago, in what may be the oldest surviving film of the NCAAs available for viewing online.
The 1937 NCAAs -- the tenth edition of the national wrestling tournament which first took place at Iowa State in 1928 -- was notable for being the first NCAAs to have been hosted by a school which did not have an intercollegiate wrestling program at the time ... nor does it today. However, before the school cut the Sycamore mat program, it produced Bruce Baumgartner, two-time NCAA heavyweight champ in the early 1980s who went on to worldwide medal-winning acclaim in international freestyle competition.
The black-and-white, silent film of the finals -- posted to YouTube by Oklahoma State -- is approximately 50 minutes long. Back then, there were only eight weight classes: 118 pounds, 126, 135, 145, 155, 165, 175, and heavyweight (called unlimited, because, back then, there was no top weight limit as there is today). Matches lasted ten minutes regulation, with up to two, three-minute overtime periods. Most surprising: there was no point scoring system back then.
Oklahoma State -- the national powerhouse program of that era -- won the team title, and half of the individual champs, including Stanley Henson, on his way to three NCAA titles. In second place in the team standings was University of Oklahoma, with one champ, Bill Keas.
2. 1946 NCAAs: First after the end of World War II
The cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Wrestling Championships wasn't unprecedented. From 1942 to 1945, the Nationals were canceled because of World War II, when most male college students were serving in the military, or employed in the defense industry ... and transportation was a major challenge, thanks to gasoline rationing. After the war ended in August 1945 -- just before students would normally be going back to college for fall -- the NCAA wasn't sure it would conduct a national championship the following spring. However, Oklahoma State and its head coach, Art Griffith, offered to host the 1946 NCAAs, and did, albeit with fewer competitors than in previous years (just 54 wrestlers from 17 schools), mostly from Midwest colleges.
Oklahoma State won the team title with 25 points and two champs: David "Buddy" Arndt at 136, and George Dorsch at 175 pounds. University of Northern Iowa placed second with 24 points, and a trio of titlewinners: Cecil Mott at 121, Gerry Leeman at 128, and Bill Koll at 145 pounds.
3. 1956 NCAAs: Wrestling in the heart of the Fifties
The 1956 NCAAs, held at Oklahoma State, welcomed 50 mat programs with a total of 177 wrestlers. The host Cowboys won the team title with 65 points, and one individual champ, Myron Roderick at 130 pounds ... with cross-state rival University of Oklahoma coming in second in the team title race, with 62 points and two champs: Dan Hodge at 177 pounds, and Gordon Roesler at heavyweight. (Sadly, the Hodge match is NOT on the film.) Among the 1956 champs with names you might already know: Iowa's Terry McCann at 115 (who went on to win gold at the 1960 Olympics) ... and Ed Peery of Pitt at 125 (a member of the legendary Peery wrestling family).
4. 1962 NCAAs: No shirts, no headgear ...
Link: 1962 NCAAs on film
As you watch the film of the 1962 NCAA finals, you can't help but notice that it was a time of transition. Not a singlet in sight; most wrestlers wore trunks ... without shirts. Headgear was strictly optional. And ... it was the first year of the NCAA's experiment which devalued all takedowns to one point, except for the initial one scored by each wrestler, which remained two points. (Within a couple years, the NCAA reverted back to classic two-points-for-all-takedowns scoring.)
The 1962 NCAA Wrestling Championships returned to Gallagher Hall at Oklahoma State. When it was all over, the host team won the team title with 82 points and three individual champs: Masaaki Hatta at 123 pounds, Ronnie Clinton at 167, and Bob Johnson at 177. In a distant second was Oklahoma, with 45 points and three titlewinners: Mickey Martin at 130, Bill Carter at 137, and Wayne Baughman at 191. Iowa came in third with 34 points, with Hawkeye heavyweight Sherwyn Thorson winning an individual champ.
2020 Big Ten Wrestling Championships
Not necessarily interested in climbing into the Wayback Machine to catch wrestling action? The finals matches from the 2020 Big Ten Conference Wrestling Championships are each available for viewing online, as telecast from the Rutgers Athletic Center by Big Ten Network on March 8, 2020.
• 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. Devin Schroder (Purdue)
• 133: Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) vs. Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State)
• 141: Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) vs. Nick Lee (Penn State)
• 149: Pat Lugo (Iowa) vs. Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)
• 157: Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) vs. Kendall Coleman (Purdue)
• 165: Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State)
• 174: Mark Hall (Penn State) vs. Michael Kemerer (Iowa)
• 184: Aaron Brooks (Penn State) vs. Cameron Caffey (Michigan State)
• 197: Kollin Moore (Ohio State) vs. Eric Schultz (Nebraska)
• 285: Gable Steveson (Minnesota) vs. Mason Parris (Michigan)
Want to share links to other amateur wrestling videos already available online? Please let us know!