But you wake up and realize you're not in the familiar arena that is now named Scottrade Center (formerly known as Kiel Center and Savvis Center) that has hosted the NCAAs more than once in the past decade. Instead, you're sitting on bleachers in what looks like a big metal shed with an arching roof. You try to get your bearings and feel a bit more comfortable when you see the familiar foam-core wrestling mats on the floor. But where are the electronic scoreboards? And, after the wrestlers finish their warm-ups and peel off their sweatsuits, they're wearing trunks over tights … a good number of them without shirts. Not a singlet in sight.
You think you've entered The Twilight Zone. But, no, you've traveled back in time … a half-century back, to be exact. You're at the 1958 NCAAs …
Planes, trains and automobiles
Most wrestlers and fans at the 1958 NCAAs at the University of Wyoming didn't use time-travel to get there; they took the train … or arrived by car. A half-century ago, rail passenger service was the most common way to travel great distances in the U.S. (According to interviews and research, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and the University of Iowa all went west by car, while the four wrestlers competing for Kent State University took the train.)
If you drove to Laramie, it was a long, long trip on two-lane roads; the Interstate highway system we take for granted today was launched in 1956. Today's familiar roadside sights such as fast-food restaurants, shopping malls and national chain motels were rare in the late 1950s (though, according to an ad in the student paper, there was a McDonald's in Laramie in 1958); Wal-Mart and Starbucks had yet to be invented. At least gas was cheap! For the price of one gallon of gas in 2008, you can buy about ten gallons in 1958.
Unlike today, flying was a big deal 50 years ago -- an expensive, time-consuming, noisy proposition on a propeller-driven aircraft. (Passenger jets were just being introduced on cross-country and international routes.) There was limited air service to Laramie, and all flights went to Denver. And … according to the pocket brochure about the 1958 NCAAs put out by the host school, if you wanted a taxi to take you from the airport into town, you had to make prior arrangements!
The world was a very different place in many other ways. In 1958, credit cards were rare… and debit cards were far in the future. There were no ATMs. No cell phones. No iPods. (Transistor radios were state-of-the-art for on-the-go entertainment.) No laptop or desktop computers. No Internet. No cable TV -- just three major broadcast networks. Color TV was just coming into American homes. Missed a favorite program? You'd have to wait until reruns; no VCRs or DVRs. Want to see a movie? No DVDs; you had to go to the movie theater.
The 1958 NCAAs, by the numbers
Let's take a look at the site of the 1958 NCAAs. The University of Wyoming –- the only four-year public university in the state –- is located in the Rocky Mountains, with an elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level. Fifty years ago, according to the student newspaper, The Branding Iron, total campus enrollment was 3,276 students (up from 2,968 the year before) in Laramie, a city with a population of nearly 20,000 at the time.
It was the first time that Wyoming had hosted an NCAA championship event in any sport. The 1958 NCAAs also took the prize as being the most western location for the wrestling tournament at the time. (The 1949 and 1952 NCAAs, held at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, were almost as far west.) In 1965, the NCAAs returned to Laramie … and, since then, the NCAAs have been held even further west, in Arizona and Washington State.
The 1958 NCAAs were held in the Memorial Field House, a World War II era structure with an arching roof, located at the heart of the campus of the University of Wyoming.The 1958 NCAAs were held in the Memorial Field House, a World War II era structure with an arching roof, located at the heart of the campus of the University of Wyoming. According to the brochure sent to wrestling programs prior to the event, the Field House seated approximately 9,500 fans … about half as many seats as found in recent-vintage NCAA venues such as Oklahoma City's Ford Center, the Palace at Auburn Hills, and the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The event itself was held on just two days -- Friday, March 28, and Saturday, March 29. The preliminaries started on Friday at 1:00 p.m.; the quarterfinals began at 7:30 that evening. On Saturday, the semifinals started at 1:00 p.m., with the finals at 7:30.
By today's standards, ticket prices were a bargain. What was called a "season ticket" -- a reserved seat for all four sessions -- could be purchased in advance for $6.00 for adults, and $3.00 for students and children. Adult tickets for individual sessions cost $1.50 for the first three sessions, and $2.50 for the finals.
Hungry? Dinner at the University of Wyoming was a bargain, too. The campus cafeteria served up a multi-course meal for wrestlers and guests, including head lettuce salad, steak, potato, vegetable, honey and toast, ice cream, and coffee, tea or milk for only $1.50. If you were really watching your pennies, the same meal was available with poached eggs instead of steak for one dollar!
1958 vs. 2008
The NCAA wrestling championships was a significantly smaller event fifty years ago. According to Jay Hammond's book The History of Collegiate Wrestling, 51 schools sent 187 wrestlers to the 1958 NCAAs. By comparison, according to the pre-event brochure produced by the University of Wyoming, the 1957 NCAAs held at the University of Pittsburgh welcomed 62 programs with a total of 217 grapplers competing in ten weight classes. Hammond points out that, at the 1958 NCAAs, there were fewer than sixteen wrestlers in the 115-pound and heavyweight brackets. (By comparison, recent NCAAs have at least 32 wrestlers per weight class, with approximately 320-330 wrestlers competing in the ten weight classes.)
While on the subject of weight classes… just like today, the 1958 NCAAs featured competition in ten weight classes. The weights were somewhat different than today's; fifty years ago, the classes were 115, 123, 130, 137, 147, 157, 167, 177, 191 and unlimited. (At the time, there was no top weight limit for heavyweights.) Interestingly, back in the Fifties, two of the weight classes -- 115 and 191 -- were added specifically for the national championships, and were not wrestled in dual meets in most college conferences.
"It was an open tournament -- anyone who wanted to wrestle, just showed up," according to Shelby Wilson, who wrestled at 137 pounds for Oklahoma State. "A team could bring anyone at the last minute. There were no qualifying events as there are now."
Shelby continues, "Teams weren't as 'deep' as they are now. One year I remember we took eight guys to the NCAAs from a team of only fifteen. There are more guns on a team nowadays than back then."
"We did have more scholarships back then. I think there were twenty at Oklahoma State when I was there; most were full rides. The program tried to give scholarships to the guys who needed help the most. There just wasn't as much financial aid in those days."
"A typical season for us was 11-12 dual meets."
Les Anderson, who wrestled at 130 for Iowa State, says, "There weren't many schools that showed up with full teams. I remember that Cliff Keen brought only a few of his Michigan guys. (Coach Harold) Nichols took a full team."
"Iowa State was re-emerging as a national contender for the first time in 10-15 years."
Wrestling surfaces, scoreboards and more
One of the aspects of the 1958 NCAAs that Les Anderson remembers very clearly was the wrestling mats. "They were the new foam mats, Resilite, round ones. Iowa State had purchased one that year, and we used it for our home meets. Most guys were used to wrestling on the old horsehair mats."
Indeed, the small pocket brochure mailed to schools before the national championships shows a layout of the main floor of the Memorial Field House, featuring five round mats spaced closely together, arranged almost like the five-ring Olympic symbol.
These non-digital scorekeepers -- one for each mat -- used cards to keep participants and fans informed about the score, the period, and how many minutes remained in the periodThe official program, sold to spectators at the event, highlights another "first" -- new scoreboards. These non-digital scorekeepers -- one for each mat -- used cards to keep participants and fans informed about the score, the period, and how many minutes remained in the period. Each wrestler was assigned a number; at the top of the scoreboard were the two numbers of the contestants during that bout.
Speaking of scoring … the 1958 NCAAs were only the second to include provisions for overtime. For nearly a decade after World War II, for matches tied at the end of regulation, the referee had determined the winner. In 1958, overtime consisted of two, two-minute periods, with each wrestler starting one overtime period on top.
Regular matches were nine minutes long, consisting of three, three-minute periods; consolation round bouts lasted six minutes. Not only were the matches longer, so were the pins. To get a fall, a wrestler had to hold his opponent's shoulders to the mat for a full two seconds.
College wrestling gear was also significantly different fifty years ago. Headgear was not required, and, in fact, was a very rare sight. Today's one-piece singlets were nowhere to be found on a college wrestling mat; in fact, they were actually prohibited by NCAA rules. In 1958, the standard uniform consisted of trunks worn over tights, with a sleeveless shirt optional. Wrestlers from many Midwest and western colleges -- including the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa, Iowa State and Kent State -- usually competed bare-chested. It was up to the host school to determine whether shirts were required; however, the host could not force a team that traditionally competed in shirts to strip off their jerseys.
Rocky Mountain highs
One concern about having the NCAAs at the University of Wyoming was its location high in the Rocky Mountains. When asked about the altitude, Shelby Wilson immediately said, "It's only a problem if you're not in shape." He quickly followed, "Recovery was an issue. We took portable oxygen with us. It helped us recover faster after a match. If you don't recover, it might affect you in the next match. Altitude will cut your wind."
"The high altitude didn't affect us," says Les Anderson. "We had wrestled a dual meet out there earlier in the season."
Ask the defending champ at 147 pounds for the University of Iowa, Simon Roberts, about the altitude and he responds, "I know I ran out of gas in my first match, but, for me, getting started in any tournament was always tough. The altitude may have been a factor."
"(Iowa head coach) Dave McCuskey always worked us hard in the wrestling room. I don't remember going out any earlier than normal, or changing our workouts before the trip."
"However, we took a western trip that year, right around Christmastime, wrestling at schools in Wyoming and Colorado," Simon recalls. "That may have been with the idea of preparing for the NCAAs."
Leading up to the 1958 NCAAs …
In the weeks preceding the 1958 NCAA wrestling championships, the University of Iowa won its first-ever Big Ten conference team title, edging out host school, University of Illinois, by three points. In the Big Eight (predecessor to the Big Twelve), the Iowa State Cyclones ended the University of Oklahoma's eight-year reign as conference champs, beating the Sooners and the Oklahoma State Cowboys -- who tied for second -- by just two team points. Cornell University claimed the EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) team title, with Lehigh placing second. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, the University of Maryland ran way with the team championship, winning nine out of ten individual titles. Virginia Tech easily took the Southern Conference team title, with West Virginia a distant second. In the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate championships, Cal Poly edged out the University of Oregon, with expected team champs Oregon State placing fourth.
Unlike today, how well a team did at the conference championships did not determine how many of its wrestlers could compete at the NCAAs; a team could bring as many wrestlers as it could afford. (As Les Anderson says, "An individual could hitchhike to the NCAAs by himself, if his team wasn't planning to go.")
The March 24, 1958 issue of Amateur Wrestling News provided an extensive preview of the upcoming NCAAs. The main cover story's subhead said a lot: "Big Eight Team Slated to Win; Iowa and Cornell Strong." The lengthy article said that the team title would probably go to Iowa State, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma… however, the defending team champs, the Sooners, lost four of their wrestlers to graduation, including Dan Hodge, the three-time NCAA champ at 177 pounds (1955-1957).
Six of the individual champs crowned at the 1957 NCAAs at Pittsburgh were still in school: Oklahoma's Dick Delgado, 115-pound champ; 130-pound titlewinner John Johnston of Penn State; Lehigh's Joe Gratto, champ at 137; Iowa's 147-pounder Simon Roberts; Pitt's Tom Alberts, the 167-pound champ; and heavyweight Bob Norman of Illinois. However, Alberts was unable to defend his title because of a shoulder injury sustained during the 1958 season.
When the seeds were determined and brackets drawn up, Iowa State had the most seeded wrestlers, with six; Oklahoma State had five. Oklahoma, Iowa, and Cornell University each had four seeds.
The crystal ball the writers at Amateur Wrestling News consulted before crafting their 1958 preview issue seemed to have been working… at least in terms of predicting the top teams. According to Jay Hammond's The History of Collegiate Wrestling, at the end of the quarterfinals, Iowa State and Oklahoma State were battling for the team title, with only two points separating the two Big Eight schools. The Oklahoma Sooners were in third place.
It was a rough national championship for three of the individuals defending their titles at Laramie. The champ at 130, Penn State's John Johnston, had dropped down to 123… where he lost in the semifinals. Joe Gratto, 137-pound titlewinner, had moved up to 147, but lost in the semifinals, too. The top seed in that same weight class, Iowa's Simon Roberts was knocked out of title contention in his first match.
Now, let's look at the highlights of each weight class:
Only twelve men competed in a bracket set up for sixteen. Defending champ Dick Delgado of Oklahoma was the top seed; the Sooner pinned his way to the finals, getting falls over opponents from Utah State, Minnesota State-Mankato, and Western State. Oklahoma State's Bobby Taylor seeded second. The Cowboy drew a bye in the first round, got an 8-5 victory over Iowa State's Frank Altman in the quarterfinals, and a referee's decision over third-seeded Ray Osborne of Maryland.
Dick Delgado (Photo/1958 NCAA Championships Program)The finals at 115: Delgado and Taylor -- the top two seeds from fierce rival schools in the state of Oklahoma -- faced off in the title bout. Quoting The History of Collegiate Wrestling: "Dick Delgado had no difficulty repeating as champion at 115 pounds and easily defeated Bobby Taylor of Oklahoma State 8-3. Delgado was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament."
Joining Delgado and Taylor as All-Americans at 115: Gene Williams of Western State, who placed third… and the Cyclones' Frank Altman, finishing fourth. (In 1958, only the top four placers in each weight class earned All-American honors.)
The 1957 champ at 130, Penn State's John Johnston, was the top seed in his new weight class, with 1953 champ Dick Mueller of the University of Minnesota the second seed. Neither man made it to the finals. The Golden Gopher lost his first match to unseeded Don Bernard of Iowa State, 5-0. Johnston got a 5-1 win over Kansas State's Jim Miller, and a 4-2 victory over Maryland's Ray Haney in the quarterfinals before being upset by fourth-seeded Bobby Herald of Oklahoma State, 4-3, in the semifinals.
Herald defeated his first opponent, Portland State's Alvin Christie, 10-4, and won his next two matches by the same 4-3 margin to find himself in the finals. His finals rival, Pittsburgh's Paul Powell, was unseeded, having beaten Cal Poly's Harold Simonek 5-3 in his first match, Iowa State's Don Bernard in the quarterfinals, 7-4, and sixth-seeded Joel Neusschwander of Oregon State 9-4 in the semifinals.
The finals at 123: It was Cowboy vs. Panther, fourth seed vs. unseeded. According to the April 7 issue of Amateur Wrestling News, "Paul Powell, Pittsburgh's unbeaten sophomore, who missed the Eastern Intercollegiates because of the flu, was very impressive in beating Bobby Herald, Oklahoma State, by 11-4." The four All-Americans at 123 (in this order): champ Paul Powell, runner-up Bobby Herald, third-place finisher John Johnston, and fourth place's Don Bernard.
Big Ten champ Max Pearson of the University of Michigan earned the top spot in the 130-pound bracket. The senior Wolverine got a 10-3 win over Colorado's Garth Rogers, but had to go into overtime in the quarterfinals to beat freshman Stan Abel of Oklahoma, 7-7, 4-0. In the semifinals, Pearson got a 5-1 win over fourth-seeded Carmen Molino of Cornell University. Seeded second was Big Eight champ Les Anderson of Iowa State. The Cyclone sophomore got a 9-6 victory over unseeded Jerry Headington of Utah, a 4-2 win over Oklahoma State's Ted Pierce (also unseeded) in the quarterfinals, and, in the semifinals, defeated Pittsburgh's sixth-ranked Vic DeFelice by the same score.
Max Pearson (Photo/University of Michigan Media Guide)The finals at 130: Almost true to expectations, the top two seeds made it into the finals in a showdown of Big Ten vs. Big Eight champs. Here's how Les Anderson remembers it: "I fell behind Max; it was one of the few matches where this had happened. (Coach) Nichols thought I was going to lose. At one point I came out from underneath and held Pearson in a half-Nelson." The native of Clarion, Iowa capped off his perfect 18-0 season with a 7-5 win over the Michigan veteran. (Les Anderson also won the 130-pound title at the 1960 NCAAs, then later became long-time assistant coach at Iowa State.)
"I actually thought my toughest match of the tournament was against the guy from Utah. Somehow, a short guy like me ended up with more points than him."
Les Anderson and Max Pearson both took home All-American honors, as did third-place finisher Stan Abel, and Oklahoma State's man in fourth, Ted Pierce.
Big Eight champ Shelby Wilson of Oklahoma State was the top seed. The Cowboy got a 12-4 victory over Cornell of Iowa's Tom Winder, defeated Iowa State Teachers College's (now Northern Iowa's) Jerry Lane 8-3, and, easily handled Lock Haven's Joe Hammaker 14-5. (All three opponents were unseeded.) In the semifinals, Shelby Wilson faced off against fifth-seeded Dean Corner of Iowa State, and shut out the Cyclone 5-0.
Lehigh's Dick Santoro was seeded second, making it all the way to the semifinals… where he lost to Paul Aubrey of Oklahoma. Before his upset win in the semifinals, the sixth-seeded Aubrey got a 7-3 decision over Portland State's Wilbur Bauer, shut out Northern Colorado's Max Mitchell (5-0), and beat third-ranked Tom Hall of Cal Poly 5-3 in the quarterfinals.
The finals at 137: For the second time of the evening, it was an Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State finals, with Cowboy Shelby Wilson going up against a very familiar foe, the Sooners' Paul Aubrey.
Here's how the Oklahoma State grappler from Ponca City remembers their rivalry: "I wrestled Paul five times. I pinned him in high school and then he beat me in the (Oklahoma) state tournament in the finals. I wrestled him in my first college match at O.U. and won 12-2. I was hurt the rest of the year and did not meet him again until the finals of the Big Eight and I won again 17-10. A week later, beat me in the finals at the '58 NCAAs."
Amateur Wrestling News described the title bout this way: "Paul Aubrey, Oklahoma, furnished one of the big upsets of the tournament when he edged Shelby Wilson of Oklahoma State, 11-9." (After college, Aubrey flew for the Marines in Vietnam, then, according to Shelby Wilson, was a pilot for United Airlines out of Dallas, and was instrumental in fostering high school wrestling in Texas. He has since passed away. Shelby went on to win the gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, then coach high school and college wrestling. To read his Rev.Wrestling.com profile, click HERE.)
In addition to the finalists, also earning All-American honors at 137 were two Eastern wrestlers: Lehigh's Dick Santoro (third), and Joe Hammaker of Lock Haven (fourth).
In this weight class, the two top seeds were both defending champs: Iowa's Simon Roberts, 147-pound titlewinner, was seeded first in the bracket… while 137-pound champ Joe Gratto of Lehigh was the second seed.
Simon Roberts – who made history at the 1957 NCAAs by being the first African-American national wrestling champ – lost his opening-round match to Earl Dearing of Oregon in overtime, 2-2, 4-0.
Recalling the loss of fifty years ago as if it were yesterday, the Hawkeye says, "My opponent was a real tall, lanky guy. I always had trouble with that kind of wrestler. I had been leading during regulation and then he reversed me. That sent it into overtime. I started running out of gas -- not sure if it was the altitude. In the last seconds of overtime he put it out-of-reach."
Joe Gratto shut out his first opponent 4-0, pinned his second, and got an 8-5 win in the quarterfinals… but was denied another shot at an NCAA title in the semifinals by third-seeded Ron Gray of Iowa State, who beat the EIWA champ 5-2.
Leading up to that match, Gray had pinned his first opponent (Cal Poly's Jerry Canfield), the shut out his second and third opponents (Carleton's Jim Miller, 6-0, and Indiana's sixth-ranked Nick Petronka, 3-0, respectively) to make it to the finals.
The man Gray would wrestle for the title: Unseeded Dick Vincent of Cornell University, who upset fourth-seeded Jack Anderson of Minnesota State-Mankato, 7-4, in his first match, and Illinois' Werner Holzer, the fifth seed, 7-3, in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Vincent pinned Oregon's Dearing.
The finals at 147: It was Ron Gray's second straight trip to the finals, having lost to Simon Roberts the year before. This time, Gray got what The History of Collegiate Wrestling described as a "workman-like" 6-2 decision over Dick Vincent, making him the second Cyclone to win a title that night. (Gray went on win a second NCAA crown in 1959, then became long-time head wrestling coach at Kent State University in Ohio.)
All-American honors at 147 were awarded to champ Ron Gray, runner-up Dick Vincent, Minnesota State-Mankato's Jack Anderson (placing third), and Indiana's Nick Petronka (fourth place).
In what the NCAA preview issue of Amateur Wrestling News described as
"probably the toughest weight class," the top seed was Oklahoma State's Dick Beattie, recently crowned Big Eight champ. Beattie held his first opponent (South Dakota State's Gusav Gleiter) scoreless 8-0, got a 4-2 win over Colorado's Stan Lampe, and, in the quarterfinals, beat Oklahoma's Sid Terry 7-3. However, the Cowboy's title quest was nearly derailed when fifth-seeded Dick Heaton of Iowa State Teachers College took the match into overtime… but Beattie prevailed, 4-0 OT.
Seeded second was Dave Johnson of Pittsburgh, the three-time EIWA champ. His title quest was over pretty much before it began; in his first bout, he lost in overtime to unseeded John Doyle of Kansas State, 3-3, 1-0.
So who was the wrestler who faced Beattie in the finals? Dale Ketelsen, the third-seeded wrestler from Iowa State. The Cyclone got a 6-2 win over Illinois' Bill Gabbard, defeated Wyoming's Frank Brownlee 3-2 in the quarterfinals, and, in the semis, got a 7-1 victory over Oregon's Jim Beaton (all unseeded opponents).
Dick Beattie (Photo/Amateur Wrestling News)The finals at 157 pounds: It was a rematch of the Big Eight 157-pound title bout between Dick Beattie and Dale Ketelsen. Two weeks earlier, the Cowboy had defeated the Cyclone 3-2 at Iowa State. Apparently, the two familiar foes wrestled cautiously; in what Amateur Wrestling News described as "the dullest match of the finals," each man got one escape during regulation to tie the score at 1-1. In overtime, same scoring pattern, same 1-1 result. Beattie was awarded the title on a referee's decision. (Dick Beattie went on to win a second title at the 1959 NCAAs.)
In addition to Dick Beattie and Dale Ketelsen, All-American honors went to Illinois' Bill Gabbard (third) and ISTC's Dick Heaton (fourth).
The top seed at 167 was home-crowd favorite, Dick Ballinger of the University of Wyoming; the Cowboy pinned his first opponent (Pittsburgh's Alex Skirpan), got a 8-2 victory over Minnesota's Bill Wright in the quarterfinals, and edged Michigan State's unseeded Jim Ferguson 2-1 in the semifinals.
Roy Minter of Minnesota State-Mankato was seeded second. He made it all the way to the semifinals, where he lost to Duane Murty, the third-seeded wrestler from Oklahoma State, 4-3.
Duane Murty -- recently crowned Big Eight champ, and twin brother of Cowboy teammate Wayne -- had won two of his matches decisively (7-1 over Southern Illinois University-Carbondale's Gary Burdick, and 9-3 over Springfield's sixth-seeded Ralph DiMuccio), while two were closer (4-2 over Oregon's George Krupicka, and 4-3 over Minter).
The finals at 167: It was a battle of Cowboy vs. Cowboy: Lanky sophomore Dick Ballinger, the first Wyoming Cowboy wrestler ever to reach the NCAA finals, was riding in on a perfect season… but the senior-class Oklahoma State Cowboy wrecked perfection with a 4-2 win. Duane Murty became the second wrestler from the Stillwater school to win an individual championship at the 1958 NCAAs, hot on the heels of teammate Dick Beattie. (Ballinger won the 167-pound title at the 1960 NCAAs.)
The All-Americans at 167: Duane Murty (champ), Dick Ballinger (runner-up), Michigan State's Jim Ferguson (third), and Minnesota State-Mankato's Roy Minter (fourth).
An entire weight class put up a huge sigh of relief when Dan Hodge graduated from the University of Oklahoma in the spring of 1957 after pinning his way to a perfect record in three years of varsity competition. (Back then, NCAA rules prohibited freshmen from competing at varsity.) The top seed at 177 was Iowa State's Frank Powell, Big Eight champ and undefeated all season… while Big Ten champ Tim Woodin of Michigan State was second. After drawing a bye, the Spartan Woodin pinned Russ Camilleri of San Jose State at 5:04… then put Kansas State's Gary Haller's shoulders to the mat at 3:52 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Woodin shut out third-seeded John Dustin of Oregon State 3-0.
As expected, Frank Powell won his first three bouts rather convincingly, by the scores of 5-0, 8-2, and 9-3. However, his title dream was derailed by the University of Iowa's Gary Kurdelmeier. The fourth-seeded Hawkeye upset the Cyclone 6-4 in the semifinals to find himself up against Tim Woodin.
The finals at 177: Talk about familiar foes: Woodin and Kurdelmeier had just wrestled each other two weeks earlier in the 177-pound finals at the Big Ten championships. In the conference title bout, the strapping Spartan put Kurdelmeier's shoulders to the mat at 8:21 using a half-Nelson and body scissors, according to Amateur Wrestling News.
Tim WoodinRevenge may have been on Gary Kurdelmeier's mind as he faced off against Tim Woodin in the title bout. The Iowa senior "pulled an upset by out-horsing" (to use AWN's words) the Big Ten champ from Michigan State, who "found it impossible to break Kurdelmeier's leg ride." Final score: 6-2. (Kurdelmeier went on to become head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes in the early 1970s, laying the foundation for the Dan Gable dynasty by hiring the Cyclone wrestler as an assistant coach after Gable won the gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Woodin found himself in the 191-pound finals at the 1959 NCAAs but lost to Syracuse's Art Baker; after graduation, he went on to become masked professional wrestler Mr. Wrestling. Both finalists are deceased.)
The top four placers at the 1958 NCAAs at 177, in order of finish: Gary Kurdelmeier, Tim Woodin, Iowa State's Frank Powell, and Oregon State's John Dustin… all earning All-American honors.
This light-heavyweight weight class, added for the NCAAs and not usually wrestled in most conferences, featured wrestlers who dropped down from heavyweight or up from 177. The two top-ranked 191-pounders usually wrestled heavyweight: #1 seed Dave Dunlop of Cornell University, EIWA champ… with Iowa State's big man Roger Pohlman seeded second. However, neither man made it to the finals. Dunlop lost his second match 8-4 to unseeded Adnan Kaisy of Oklahoma State, a native of Iraq and college roommate of Shelby Wilson. Pohlman made it as far as the semifinals, where he lost to third-seeded Ken Maidlow of Michigan State, 4-1.
Maidlow, who usually wrestled heavyweight for the Spartans, had some close bouts on his way to the title match, defeating Oklahoma's Gene White and Iowa's sixth-seeded Jim Craig by the same 3-2 score before upsetting the Cyclones' Pohlman.
The other man in the finals? Fifth-seeded Pete Newell of Colgate, who had traveled to Laramie as the sole representative of his team. Newell had won his first match 5-2, then pinned fourth-seeded Dick Kubes of Minnesota State-Mankato at 8:56 of the quarterfinals… then beat Adnan Kaisy in overtime, 4-0 OT.
The finals at 191: Ken Maidlow made up for any the disappointment Michigan State fans may have been feeling after the 177-pound finals by pinning Colgate's Pete Newell at 4:52… the only title bout to end in a fall at the 1958 NCAAs.
The All-Americans at 191: Champ Ken Maidlow … runner-up Pete Newell… third-place finisher Jim Craig of Iowa… and Oklahoma State's Adnan Kaisy, placing fourth.
The bracket for the big men was a bit light, with only fourteen grapplers in a sixteen-man bracket. The top seed was the defending champ, Bob Norman of Illinois, who, two weeks before the NCAAs, had defeated eventual 191 NCAA champ Ken Maidlow in the Big Ten heavyweight finals in overtime. (That conference did not normally have wrestlers at 191.) Seeded second was the NCAA heavyweight champ from two years earlier, Gordon "Goose" Roesler of the University of Oklahoma, who grew up in the same town as Dan Hodge -- Perry, Oklahoma.
Bob Norman pinned his first opponent, Utah State's Bob Steinke, at 7:36. In the quarterfinals, he got an 8-3 win over Oklahoma State's Earl Lynn; in the semifinals, the Illini big guy beat fifth-ranked Dave Hanks of Brigham Young 6-2 to find himself in the finals the second straight year.
In his first match, Gordon Roesler edged Iowa's Barron Bremner 4-3, shut out Northern Colorado's Walter Goltl 4-0 in the quarterfinals, and got a 2-0 overtime win over Nebraska's third-seeded Dan Brand in the semis.
Bob Norman (Photo/Big Ten Century of Excellence)The finals at heavyweight: It was a Battle of the Champs – the Big Ten vs. Big Eight heavyweight titlists who were both once NCAA champs, too. Long and lean 1956 national champ Gordon Roesler scored the first takedown… but Bob Norman managed to come back from that deficit to win his second consecutive title with a 5-3 win over the Sooner… becoming only the second 1957 NCAA champ to repeat in Laramie. (Bob Norman's grandson Jake Norman is a 197-pound sophomore wrestler at Illinois.)
In addition to Bob Norman and Gordon Roesler, All-American honors went to third-place finisher Earl Lynn of Oklahoma State, and Nebraska's Dan Brand, who placed fourth.
1958 team standings
By the time the finals were concluded on Saturday night, Oklahoma State had earned top team honors, with 77 team points, two individual champs (Dick Beattie, and Duane Murty), and six All-Americans. In second place was Iowa State, with 62 points, two champs (Les Anderson and Ron Gray) and six All-Americans. The University of Oklahoma, team titlewinners in 1957, placed third, with 50 points, two champs (Dick Delgado and Paul Aubrey) and three All-Americans.
The Class of '58 weighs in on today's college wrestling
Ask today's wrestlers, coaches and fans whether they think college wrestling was better fifty years ago… and it's likely that most would say the quality of wrestling today far surpasses what was on display at the 1958 NCAAs. But at least two of the wrestlers who competed in Laramie would disagree.
"It's kind of disheartening to see how (college wrestling) has turned into a brawl," asserts Shelby Wilson, 137-pound finalist in 1958. "You should want to out-fox opponents, not brawl with them. At Oklahoma State, we moved around, circled -- what was called 'run, Aggie, run' by some."
Individual NCAA champions in 1958"As a society today, we like gladiators -- two guys banging into each other. In the past, wrestling was more an art."
"Nowadays, wrestlers keep making the same mistakes week after week," continues Shelby, who had a long career as a high school and college coach. "We had plenty of time to work on technique."
"The last guy who really had technique was Cael Sanderson."
Les Anderson, 1958 NCAA 130-pound champ from Iowa State, seems to be of a similar mind: "There was more fundamental wrestling back then. There was more chain wrestling, less willingness to settle for the easiest thing – for example, going for a reversal instead of just an escape."
"The style back then was less 'clinging' -- not as much latching onto your opponent, and pushing him around for a stalemate."
"Our style today is killing fan interest," continues Les, a long-time assistant coach at his college alma mater. "We need to award guys who are aggressive, who take shots, who stay active."
When told of his fellow wrestlers' not-so-positive perspective on today's college wrestling, 1957 NCAA 147-pound champ Simon Roberts responds, "I differ with Shelby and Les. There's so much more to the sport now -– more sophistication in the training, especially in weight work, diet, and in the strategy during matches."
Perhaps the only way for those of us who didn't wrestle at the Memorial Field House at the University of Wyoming in late March 1958 to see for ourselves would be to travel back in time … or watch films of the wrestling action. DVD copies of the original silent films of the 1958 NCAAs are available for purchase direct from the host school. For contact information for the University of Wyoming archives, email mark@RevWrestling.com.
Bringin' it home
During our phone interview for this article, Shelby Wilson shared an amusing story about the trip home from Laramie back to Stillwater that he prefaced with the words, "Hardly anyone knows this story."
"On returning from Wyoming, there were four of us the car: Coach Roderick, my roommate Adnan Kaisy (the Cowboys' man at 191 pounds, originally from Iraq), and 115-pounder Bobby Taylor."
"The car was a Plymouth station wagon with a six-cylinder engine, from the Oklahoma State motor pool."
"We're driving all night long, with Myron (Roderick) behind the wheel. He got tired, and asked if I would take the wheel. I wanted to see how fast that Plymouth would go; I took it up to 97 miles per hour."
"Myron woke up, took the wheel, and we noticed there was a clicking sound coming from under the hood. Not too much longer, the engine locked up. We were stuck in a tiny little town, Slapout, Oklahoma. I'll never forget the name."
"We had the national (team) trophy with us. We were ready to hitchhike, with that trophy."
"We found a local guy with a pickup with a tow bar -- he hooked up the Plymouth to his truck, and towed us to Stillwater with us riding in the car."
"When we got back to town, he put the car back in its parking space at the OSU motor pool lot."
Thanks for coming along for the ride!
In addition to the invaluable information from Jay Hammond's "The History of Collegiate Wrestling" and 1958 issues of Amateur Wrestling News, thanks to the University of Wyoming for sharing a wealth of source material, including newspaper articles, photos, the pocket brochure mailed to schools before the tournament, and the event program for the 1958 NCAAs. And, of course, special thanks to Les Anderson, Shelby Wilson and Simon Roberts for sharing their stories.
To see more photos of wrestlers at the 1958 NCAAs -- and look at the pocket brochure and event program -- visit this photo album at the Vintage Amateur Wrestling Yahoo group: Click HERE.
Fun Facts from the 1958 NCAAs
According to Amateur Wrestling News …
• There were 25 falls, 22 overtime matches, and nine referee's decisions
• Speaking of referees… two of the on-the-mat officials at Laramie are names that may be familiar to InterMat Rewind readers: Bob Siddens, long-time head coach at Waterloo West High School in Iowa (Dan Gable wrestled for him) … and his college roommate at Iowa State Teachers, Bill Koll, head coach at Iowa State Teachers College (now Northern Iowa) and Penn State, and father to Cornell University coach Rob Koll. (To read a profile of Rob and Bill Koll, click HERE.)
• The only full squad at Laramie was Oklahoma State. Iowa State, Iowa, and Oklahoma State had nine entries in ten weight classes. Colorado State had eight wrestlers, while Cal Poly and Wyoming each had seven. The biggest team to travel the greatest distance: University of Maryland, with six wrestlers.
Born in '58
• The Chevy Impala was introduced as a 1958 model … and is still one of the most popular cars sold in America
• The Toyota first rolled onto American soil in 1958
• Bankamericard, the first nationally-accepted credit card not tied to a specific retailer (predecessor to today's VISA and MasterCard), first charged its way into America's purses and wallets
• The first Daytona 500 was run in 1958
• The first Grammy Awards for excellence in recorded music were handed out in 1958
• The first Marriott hotel opened in suburban Washington, D.C. in 1958
• The Boeing 707 and other U.S.-made passenger jets first took flight in 1958
• Pop music icons Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson were all born in 1958