Sunday, August 8, 2021

Defending The Title: 1980: Those Who Did and Those Who Did Not Defend The Title

 Iowa's Randy Lewis won his second title. 

1980 Champion 118
Joe Gonzales of Cal State Bakersfield 

Injuries hampered Gonzales throughout the majority of his high school career, preventing the wrestling world from realizing his true potential.  Competing for Montebello High School, Gonzales never qualified for the high school state championships. He left California to wrestle for the Sooners of Oklahoma, but found himself unhappy in that environment.  As a result he transferred to East Los Angeles Community College where he won a CCCAA title.  He then transferred to Cal State Bakersfield, where he soon became one of the best the Roadrunners have ever produced.  Winning a NCAA Division II title in 1979, he finished as the NCAA DI runner up.  In his senior season of 1980, he put together one of the most impressive seasons our sport has ever seen. Going 55-0 he won both the NCAA DI and DII titles, scoring 448 takedowns in route.  Post college, he won a bronze medal at the 1982 World Championships.  

Also noted that when NCAA wrestling decided to do away with the 118 lbs weight class, Gonzales was in opposition to that decision. He believes that high school seniors who compete at the lower weight classes of 106, 113 and 120 are being discriminated against as many aren't big enough to be competitive at 125 lbs. While many are currently happy with the collegiate weight classes and see the benefits of having 125 as our lowest weight class, it is interesting to hear the perspective of someone with a different opinion.  

1980 Champion 126
John Azevedo of Cal State Bakersfield 

A two time state champion for Modesto High School, ironically enough like Gonzales Azevedo began his career at Oklahoma transferring back to Cal State Bakersfield.  A three time NCAA Division II champion, Azevedo added the NCAA DI title to his resume as a senior in 1980.  Post college he got into coaching, having stints at Arizona State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Cal State Bakersfield, Drexel and Cal Poly.  His nephew Matt wrestled at Iowa State where he was one match shy of All American honors his senior season in 2001. 

1980 Champion 142 
Lee Roy Smith of Oklahoma State 

Overshadowed by his brother John who won four World Championships and two Olympic Gold medals, as well as his brother Pat, NCAA DI's first four time champion, Lee Roy was a standout wrestler in his own right who deserves more recognition for his accomplishments.  A four time BIG 12 champion, Smith was 5th in the nation as a freshman. Not placing as a sophomore, he came back to place 4th in 1979, ending his collegiate career as an NCAA champion in 1980.  Post college won a silver medal at the 1981 World Cup, following it up with a World Silver at the 1983 World Championships.  He coached at both Oklahoma State and Arizona State. 

1980 Champion 150 
Andy Rein of Wisconsin 

Making the NCAA finals in 1978 as a sophomore, he was 6th in the nation as a junior in 1979, before winning the NCAA title as a senior in 1980.  While in college he won a Pan-American Gold in 1979.  Post college he added three Midlands titles to his resume along with a World Cup Silver in 1982 and a Olympic Silver in 1984.  He coached the Badgers from 1987-1993. 

1980 Champion 158 
Ricky Stewart of Oklahoma State 

After finishing in 7th place as a freshman in 1979, Stewart won his first of what would be two NCAA titles as a sophomore in 1980.  Repeating as champion in 1981, he was 3rd in the nation as a senior in 1982.  He ended his career with a record of 118-17. 

1980 Champion 167
Matt Reiss of North Carolina State 

A true freshman in 1980, winning the NCAA DI title the future looked to be extremely bright for Matt Reiss of North Carolina State.  He placed 8th in the nation as a true sophomore in 1981, before his career sadly came to an end.  I was thinking that he picked up and continued wrestling either NAIA or DIII, but from what I have gathered from reliable sources, his collegiate career did not continue. 

1980 Champion 177
Ed Banach of Iowa 

When you hear the name Banach, one word always comes to mind. Strength and I mean that in every since of the word.  Seeing what he and his brothers overcame throughout their youth? Mental and emotional strength.  Seeing the gorilla type strength he possessed on the mat? Physical strength.  Accumulating 141 victories while an Iowa Hawkeye, many believed after winning NCAA titles in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Banach would became out first four time NCAA champion.  Unfortunately he suffered a hiccup, finishing as the NCAA runner-up in 1982 as a junior.  He came back strong in 1983 finishing off his illustrious career a three time champion.  Post College, along with brother Lou, he captured a Gold medal at the 1984 Olympic games. 

1980 Champion 190
Noel Loban of Clemson 

While we've had international stars from Japan, Russia and a number of other countries compete collegiately here in the United States, you won't find too many from the United Kingdom.  One that you will find is Noel Loban who began his career at Farmingdale State where he won the NJCAA title in 1977. Transferring to Clemson, he did not place at the 1979 NCAA championships, but came back strong to win the NCAA title as a senior in 1980.  Post college representing the union jack, he won Olympic Bronze in 1984, Common Wealth Gold in 1986 and Common Wealth Silver in 1994. 

1980 Champion UNL
Howard Harris of Oregon State 

A state champion for McNary high school, Harris had a very respectable first three years of his Beaver career wrestling at 190.  He was 6th as a freshman in 1977, following it up with back to back 5th place finishes his sophomore and junior seasons.  For his final year at Oregon State, Harris decided to move up to HWT.  Wise decision as he ended his career as the NCAA champion.  169 victories, 87 of them were by fall. 


Lewis already mentioned

Stewart repeats as a junior but does not repeat as a senior

Banach repeats as sophomore and as a senior, barely missing out as a junior 

Reiss does not repeat 

Gonzales, Azevedo, Smith, Rein, Loban and Harris all seniors 

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