Want to see what college wrestling looked like 50 years ago? You don’t need a time machine; just take a look at film of the 1962 NCAA wrestling finals posted to YouTube this month by Oklahoma State, host school of the event.
This newly posted film, weighing in at 1 hour, 16 minutes, shows all ten title bouts at the 1962 NCAAs in their entirety. It’s a more complete version of the video featured in a January 2012 article at College Wrestling Examiner, which showed edited versions of eight matches (all except 191 pounds and heavyweight).
While no one will confuse this film with ESPN’s coverage of recent NCAA mat championships, for the most part, this YouTube video is surprisingly clear and sharp. In this black-and-white film from 1962, there are no sweeping overhead camera shots; the camera is positioned matside, offering an up-close-and-personal view of the wrestlers. The film is silent; the only information provided are title cards before each match, listing the weight, and the last names of the two competitors, with an asterisk beside the champ’s name.
If you weren’t around in ’62, you might be surprised by what the wrestlers are wearing… or, perhaps more accurately, what they’re NOT wearing. Headgear was optional, and, as you’ll see from the film, rarely worn by the finalists. Even rarer: singlets. In fact, you won’t see a single singlet, as they were prohibited by NCAA rules. Wrestlers back then wore trunks; shirts were optional. (The NCAA outlawed bare-chested wrestling in the mid-1960s.)
The film begins with the 157-pound title match, which is great place to start, as no less an authority as wrestling historian Jay Hammond declared it to be among the top three upsets in NCAA finals history (right behind 1970’s Larry Owings-Dan Gable, and 2009’s Darrion Caldwell-Brent Metcalf), as unheralded Jack Flasche knocked off defending champ Phil Kinyon of Oklahoma State in the Cowboys’ home gym.
Here’s a brief description of what you’ll see on the film (in the order in which matches appear):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
More fun facts about the 1962 NCAAs
The 1962 NCAAs were held at what was then called Gallagher Hall – now Gallagher-Iba Arena – at Oklahoma State. According to Jay Hammond’s 2005 book The History of Collegiate Wrestling, 63 schools brought 213 wrestlers to Stillwater. (By comparison, recent-vintage NCAA championships have featured 330 wrestlers.)
At the end of the competition, host school Oklahoma State ran away with the team title with 82 points, and three individual champs: Hatta, Clinton, and Johnson. Cross-state rival Oklahoma placed second, with 45 points, and three titlewinners: Martin, Carter, and Baughman. The Iowa Hawkeyes were third in the team standings, with one champ, Thorson, at heavyweight.
See for yourself: Watch the newly posted, complete film of the 1962 NCAA finals on YouTube (courtesy Oklahoma State)… see photos of ten mat legends from the finals at College Wrestling Examiner…. and see photos of the All-Americans at VintageAmateurWrestling Photo Annex 2 Yahoo group.
Want to know more? To gain a historical perspective on college wrestling in the past, check out these InterMat Rewind features on uniforms, shoes, mats and rules… and on old-school strategy.
Special thanks to Jay Hammond’s The History of Collegiate Wrestling book and his WrestlingStats.com website for seedings, match results and other facts and figures concerning the 1962 NCAAs and the men who wrestled in the finals… and thanks to Oklahoma State for posting this incredible film on YouTube.
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