Thursday, May 21, 2020

Gone, Lost & Forgotten: Their Best = Furman

Baseball being my second favorite sport & the sport I follow the closest after wrestling, it broke my heart to read that the Paladins were discontinuing their program.  A rich tradition which included NCAA tournament appearances in 65', 69', 79', 91' & 05'.  SOCON championships won in 91' & 05'.  I often remind wrestling fans that we aren't the only ones in the fight. Other sports fight for survival among collegiate athletics the same way that we do.  They hurt as do we when they lose their programs.  So long Furman baseball, another dream dissipated into the oblivion for reasons you'll never convince me are justified.

Truth is Furman wrestling was never successful.  From their start in the 1964-1965 season until their end after the 1990-1991 season they spent the majority of the time in the basement of the Southern Conference. A few tournaments they finished above one or two other teams, but for the most part they were always in last place.   What doesn't make sense to me though is that they waited until they finally began to have a little bit of success & that's when they dropped the program.  Twenty-six years to finally crown their first NCAA qualifier & it's announced shortly after that Paladin wrestling is coming to an end.   They scored 25 points at the SOCON championships, the most they had ever scored.  Makes one wonder if perhaps Furman had wanted to drop long ago & someone said, "At least let us get one qualifier first."

Jim Thigpen
When Thigpen arrived on campus after a short stint in the military, the Paladins didn't have a wrestling program.  He along with some other students went to the administration & asked if they could start a team.  They were granted permission & thus began Furman wrestling.   Post graduation, Thigpen whose other love was theatre opened up his own theatre, Trutus theatre in Columbia, South Carolina. 

Dan Cathy
Vice President of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy was a wrestler for the Paladins.

Marty Fajerman
142 lbs 

In the Paladins final season on the mat, Marty Fajerman who came to Furman with 125 victories in high school, became Furman's first & only SOCON champion.  He graduated with a record of 118-8-1, ranked in the top twenty in the nation.   He later coached at UNC-Greensboro (A program we have also lost) & then got into coaching wrestling at the youth level.

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