Friday, July 23, 2021

Defending The Title: 1955: Those Who Did and Those Who Didn't Defend Their Titles

 Myron Roderick of Oklahoma State won title #2 of 3, as Northern Iowa's Bill Weick came back to win title #2 after serving two years in the United States Army. Pete Blair of Navy finished off his career with title #2. 

1955 Champion 115
Terry McCann of Iowa 

A state champion from Illinois, McCann won his first title for the Hawkeyes here in 1955, repeating again in 1956.  He went on to win an Olympic Gold medal in 1960.  Later coaching a club team in Chicago, McCann helped to found USA wrestling.  

1955 Champion 123
Ed Peery of Pittsburgh 

Following in the footsteps of older brother Hugh, Ed would win three NCAA titles as well for his father Rex who had won three NCAA titles of his own for Oklahoma State.  His first in 1955, he'd win again in 1956 and 1957.  Post his career he took over as the head coach at Navy. He led the Midshipmen to 8 EIWA team titles, crowning 48 individual EIWA champions, in a dual record of 311-89. 

1955 Champion 137 
Larry Fornicola of Penn State 

Going 156-5 in high school, Fornicola was a highly sought after recruit that would only see defeat three times during his Nittany Lion career in 93 matches.  He won the NCAA title here in 1955 as a senior.  He later went on to coach at Keystone when the school was still a community college.  He led the Giants to 216 dual victories, producing 14 NJCAA All Americans. 

1955 Champion 147
Eddie Eichelberger of Lehigh 

A product of Granby High School in Virginia, after finishing as the 1954 NCAA runner-up as a sophomore, Eichelberger won his first NCAA title in 1955 as a junior. He'd repeat again as a senior in 1956. 

1955 Champion 167 
Fred Davis of Oklahoma State 

After finishing in fourth place at the 1954 NCAA championships, Fred Davis won the 1955 NCAA title as a junior. He'd finish his career as the 1956 NCAA runner-up.  Post his collegiate career, he started up the wrestling program at McClain High School in Tulsa.  He then took over the reigns at Brigham Young University where he coached 18 All Americans & 59 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) individual champions, winning 15 WAC team titles.  Winning 210 duals, he led the Cougars to their highest NCAA finish ever, fourth in 1973. 

1955 Champion 177
Danny Hodge of Oklahoma 

What can you say about the legendary Danny Hodge that hasn't already been said?  The Perry, Oklahoma product is one of the most recognized and celebrated figures in our sport.  Three time NCAA champion in 1955, 1956, and 1957 he went 46-0 during his illustrious career, securing 36 falls.  Winner of an Olympic Silver in 1956, he is the only collegiate wrestler to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.  He then went on to have an outstanding career in professional wrestling, also dabbing in professional boxing. 

1955 Champion UNL
Bill Oberly of Penn State 

Taking NCAA All American honors of third place in 1954 and 1956, Oberly's NCAA title came in his junior season of 1955.  Post college, Oberly found success as a real estate broker and later as the owner of Broadway Motor Court Hotel in New Jersey. 

Ironically enough, during the late 1950's, Oberly went on CBS television and demonstrated the differences between professional and amateur wrestling.  Not quite what you might imagine reading this in 2021.  No he didn't go on and on about how one was real and the other was predetermined. Instead his demonstration was in the technical aspects.  For example a pin in amateur wrestling is one slap of the mat, vs in professional wrestling the referee needs to slap the canvas three times.  Quite interesting to see the perspectives and differences 70 years ago. 

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