The complete, unedited film of the 1962 NCAA Wrestling Championship finals – recently posted to YouTube by host school Oklahoma State – provides a clear view of what college wrestling looked like 50 years ago, before today’s singlets… when headgear and shirts were optional… and freshmen weren’t allowed to wrestle varsity.
One thing hasn’t changed: Wrestling is still very much an individual sport, a sport of singular achievement. On the first day of competition at the 1962 NCAAs at Gallagher Hall (now Gallagher-Iba Arena), 213 wrestlers started a journey with the hope of winning one of ten individual titles. Over two hundred left Stillwater, Okla. disappointed. Just shy of a dozen left with their reputations burnished as mat legends.
Let’s meet some of these individuals featured in action on the 1962 NCAA finals film on YouTube… wrestlers who are still respected as being the best of their era, in the order in which they appear on the film (which starts with the 157-pound match, and shows all ten weight classes)…
See for yourself: Watch the newly posted, complete film of the 1962 NCAA finals on YouTube (courtesy Oklahoma State)… 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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Phil Kinyon, Oklahoma State — 157-pound runner-up
Phil Kinyon, a two-time state champ at Stillwater High in Oklahoma (1953-54), stayed close to home for college, wrestling at Oklahoma State… only after serving a number of years in the Navy. Prior to enrolling at Oklahoma State, Kinyon wrestled freestyle, just missing a place on the 1960 U.S. Olympic team after a series of a dozen bouts with Doug Blubaugh (who wrestled for the Cowboys in the late 1950s).
In three years wrestling varsity for the Cowboys, the chiseled, hirsute Kinyon compiled a 39-3-4 dual-meet record, winning three Big 8 conference titles (1961-63), and making it to the finals of the NCAAs the same three years, winning the 157-pound title at the 1961 NCAAs by defeating Lehigh’s Kirk Pendleton. However, at the 1962 NCAAs, Kinyon, a 26-year-old junior who was the top seed at 157, was defeated by unseeded Jack Flasche of Northern Colorado, 5-2, in what at least one wrestling historian considers to be the third biggest upset in NCAA finals history behind Dan Gable losing to Larry Owings in 1970, and Darrion Caldwell beating Brent Metcalf in 2009.
Photo of Kinyon after winning the 157-pound title at the 1961 NCAAs, wearing the gear Oklahoma State wore in the early 1960s: trunks, tights, no shirt. See another photo of Kinyon in action, vs. Lehigh’s Pendleton, from their 1963 NCAA 157-pound title match.
Watch the complete film of the 1962 NCAA finals, which opens with the Flasche-Kinyon bout…
Ronnie Clinton, Oklahoma State – 167-pound champ
At the 1962 NCAAs, Ronnie Clinton was wrapping up a successful career at Oklahoma State. In three seasons, he had built a 50-3-2 overall record, grabbing three Big 8 titles (1960-62), and appearing in three NCAA finals. After losing in the 1960 NCAA 167-pound title bout, Clinton won the championship in the same weight class in 1961… and successfully defended his title in Gallagher Hall (his home gym), beating previously undefeated Terry Isaacson of the Air Force Academy, 3-2. What makes Clinton’s second title all the more impressive: he had severely cut his right hand just before the ’62 NCAAs trying to fix a dripping faucet at home, and required 15-30 stitches each day before stepping onto the mat. After graduating from Oklahoma State, Clinton went on to coach the wrestling program at Eastern Illinois University. He passed away in Springfield, Ill. in 2008.
Photo of Ronnie Clinton (right) with Oklahoma State teammate Masaaki Hatta.
Watch the film of the 1962 NCAA finals; the Clinton-Isaacson match is second, starting at about 9 minutes into the video…
Bob Johnson, Oklahoma State – 177-pound champ
Bob Johnson owns the distinction of being the first wrestler who competed in high school in Texas to win an NCAA title. Johnson attracted the attention of Oklahoma State by doing well in prep tournaments in Oklahoma; for example, at one major event, he defeated future Oklahoma Sooner Wayne Baughman. As a Cowboy, Johnson scored 32 wins and just one loss in dual meets. He was a two-time Big 8 finalist, winning the 177-pound championship in 1962… and a two-time NCAA champ, first winning the 177 crown at the 1961 NCAAs (again, beating Baughman), then successfully defending his title with a 3-2 win over Colorado’s Dean Lahr. (Lahr went on to win the title at 177 at the 1963 and 1964 NCAAs.)
This photo shows Bob Johnson holding his 1961 NCAA trophy.
See the Johnson-Lahr 177-pound title bout on YouTube; it starts about 17 minutes into the film…
Wayne Baughman, Oklahoma – 191-pound champ
A product of Oklahoma City, Richard Wayne Baughman was introduced to wrestling as a junior, when he got kicked off his high school basketball team for fighting. His football coach, requiring his athletes to compete in a second sport, sent him to the wrestling room, where the coach declared Baughman to be “slow and clumsy.” Baughman had the last laugh, coming into his own at the University of Oklahoma, where he was a two-time Big 8 conference champ (1962-63), and a three-time NCAA finalist, winning the 191-pound title by edging cross-state rival Joe James of Oklahoma State, 3-2, at the 1962 NCAAs. Baughman went on to wrestle at three Olympics, becoming the only American to have won national titles in four wrestling disciplines: folkstyle (high school/college), freestyle, Greco-Roman, and sombo. For 27 seasons, Baughman served as head wrestling coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy, retiring in 2006.
This photo shows Baughman in control of an unidentified opponent.
The Baughman-James 191-pound title match on YouTube starts at 26 minutes into the film…
Joe James, Oklahoma State – 191-pound runner-up
Ask wrestlers and fans from the early 1960s about Joe James, and they’ll most likely mention his incredible carved-from-granite physique. Even in high school, the Chicago native caused a sensation when he stepped onto the mat at the 1960 Illinois high school state championships, placing third at heavyweight for Tilden Tech. As the first African-American to wrestle at Oklahoma State, James continued to impress fans and intimidate opponents. As a Cowboy, James built a dual-meet record of 33 victories, no losses, and two ties. He was a two-time Big 8 champ (1962, 1964) and three-time NCAA All-American, losing to Wayne Baughman in the 191-pound finals at the 1962 NCAAs… but winning the heavyweight title at the 1964 NCAAs.
Photo shows Joe James in his collegiate prime.
To see the Baughman-James 191-pound championship match on YouTube, click here. (It’s 26 minutes into the film.)
Sherwyn Thorson, Iowa – heavyweight champ
A native of Fort Dodge, Iowa, Sherwyn Thorson was a star on the football field and on the wrestling mat. At least twice in his wrestling career, he achieved new heights by avenging humiliating losses. When he lost in the heavyweight finals at the 1958 Iowa high school state tournament, he made a point of beating the champ repeatedly in the wrestling room at the University of Iowa, earning the starting spot in the unlimited weight class for the Hawkeyes. Thorson made it to the heavyweight finals of the 1962 Big Ten championships, where he was pinned by Wisconsin’s Roger Pillath. Two weeks later, Thorson avenged that loss, putting the Badger’s shoulders to the mat to win the heavyweight title at the 1962 NCAAs, becoming the first Hawkeye big man to win an NCAA crown. He was also one of the first heavyweights to openly work out with weights to add strength to his 6’2”, 235-pound frame. Thorson went on to play professional football in the Canadian Football League for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Photo shows Sherwyn Thorson’s powerful physique as a University of Iowa wrestler.
To see the heavyweight grudge match between Thorson and Pillath, check out the YouTube video (it’s about 35 minutes into the film.)
Gray Simons, Lock Haven – 115-pound champ
Elliott Gray Simons, Jr., was introduced to wrestling in eighth grade. He made a name for himself at prep powerhouse Granby High School in Norfolk, Va. where he competed for legendary coach Billy Martin, Sr., earning a Virginia state title in 1956. Simons then headed west to Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, where he compiled a 91-2 overall record that included an incredible 84-match win streak. The 5’5” Virginian won four NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) titles, and three NCAA championships from 1960-62, including his final title on the film, defeating Oklahoma State’s Mark McCracken, 7-2. Simons was named Outstanding Wrestler of the NCAAs in 1961 and 1962. In addition to his collegiate success, Simons wrestled freestyle, representing the U.S. at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. He had a long coaching career, culminating with 17 years as head coach at Old Dominion University in Virginia, a job he held until retiring in 2004.
Photo of Gray Simons on the cover of the 1963 Scholastic-Collegiate Wrestling Guide.
To see the Simons-McCracken match, it’s on YouTube at about 38 minutes into the film…
Masaaki Hatta, Oklahoma State – 123-pound champ
A native of Japan, Masaaki Hatta became only the second wrestler born outside the U.S. to win an NCAA champion. (The other was Canadian-born Earl McCready, three-time heavyweight champ (1928-30), also for Oklahoma State.) While wrestling for the Cowboys, Hatta compiled a 32-0-2 dual-meet record. He was a two-time Big 8 champ, and a three-time NCAA finalist. In 1960, Hatta lost to Cornell’s Dave Auble; at the 1961 NCAAs, he fell to cross-state rival DuWayne Miller of Oklahoma in the title match. The third time was a charm, as the top-seeded Hatta topped No. 3 seed Frank Freeman of Northern Iowa, 7-4, to win the 123-pound crown.
Masaaki Hatta is shown here with his Oklahoma State coach, Myron Roderick.
To see the 1962 NCAA 123-pound finals featuring Hatta and Freeman, check out this YouTube video at about 45 minutes into the film
Mickey Martin, Oklahoma – 130-pound champ
Michael Wayne Martin was born in Hollywood, Calif., but he will forever be associated with wrestling in the state of Oklahoma. He wrestled at Tulsa Central High, where he earned an Oklahoma state title. Mickey followed in his father Wayne Martin’s footsteps by wrestling at the University of Oklahoma, where he was 39-6-2 overall. The younger Martin won back-to-back Big 8 and NCAA titles in 1962 and 1963, earning Outstanding Wrestler honors at the ’63 NCAAs… again, following his father who earned the same award at the 1936 NCAAs, making the Martins the only father-son duo to earn OW honors. At the 1962 NCAAs, Mickey Martin won the 130-pound crown by defeating Al DeLeon of Minnesota State-Mankato, 5-2.
This photo of Mickey Martin is from the cover of the 1964 the Official Collegiate-Scholastic Wrestling Guide.
To see the Martin-DeLeon 130-pound title match on YouTube, it’s about 54 minutes into the film…
Mike Natvig, Army – 147 pound champ
A native of Decorah, Iowa in the far northeast corner of the state, Michael Natvig was a two-time finalist at the 1957 and 1958 Iowa high school state championships… but never won a title. Natvig started his college career at the University of Iowa, but, after one season, transferred east to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Wrestling for fellow Iowan LeRoy Alitz, Natvig compiled a 47-7-1 overall record. He was a two-time EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) finalist, winning the title in 1963 after losing in 1962 to Lehigh’s Kirk Pendleton. Natvig avenged his 1962 EIWA loss by defeating the top-seeded Pendleton in the 147-pound finals at the ’62 NCAAs, 5-4. (It was the second straight finals loss for Pendleton, who finally found redemption by winning the 157-pound crown at the 1963 NCAAs, beating Oklahoma State’s Phil Kinyon.) Natvig became the first Army wrestler to win an NCAA mat title… and he followed it up with a second at the 1963 NCAAs.
To see the Natvig-Pendleton 147-pound finals at the 1962 NCAAs on YouTube, it’s about 1 hour, 8 minutes into the film…
Kirk Pendleton — 147-pound runner-up
Kirk Pendleton, a Bryn Athyn Academy (Pennsylvania) graduate, ranks as one of the most accomplished wrestlers ever to step onto a mat for Lehigh University. Pendleton, who was referred to as “Crusher” by the Lehigh student newspaper, was the first Lehigh wrestler to go undefeated in dual-meet competition in more than 50 years, with a 35-0 dual record, with 19 pins, and 64-2-0 overall. Pendleton was a three-time EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) champ (1961-63), winning Outstanding Wrestler honors and the Fletcher Award for scoring the most points at the 1963 EIWA championships. Pendleton was a three-time NCAA finalist, losing to Oklahoma State’s Phil Kinyon in the 157-pound finals at the 1961 NCAAs, then falling to Army’s Mike Natvig in the 1962 NCAA 147 title bout.
The third time was the charm for Pendleton at the 1963 NCAAs. In the 157-pound match, a heavily bandaged Pendleton avenged his loss to Kinyon two years earlier, beating the muscular Cowboy 5-2. Lehigh head coach Gerry Leeman had total confidence in Pendleton, telling the Bethlehem Globe-Times before the ’63 NCAAs, “Kinyon’s going to lose … Kirk can’t get to the finals three times and lose. He’s just too good.” In a video interview with Larry Nugent in the mid 1990s, Pendleton recalled that during the ’63 title bout with Kinyon, with about 30 seconds or less remaining, the wrestlers went out of bounds. Pendleton said that, as they went back to the center of the mat, Kinyon said something to the effect of, “Congratulations, champ.”
Photo of Kirk Pendleton, white trunks and headgear, torso wrapped in bandages, trying to hold onto Oklahoma State’s Phil Kinyon in the 1963 NCAA 157 finals at Kent State University in Ohio.
To see the Natvig-Pendleton 147-pound finals at the 1962 NCAAs on YouTube, it’s about 1 hour, 8 minutes into the film…