Saturday, August 14, 2021

Defending The Title: 1987: Those Who Did and Those Who Did Not Defend the Title

 Bloomsburg's Ricky Bonomo won his third NCAA title as we crowned 9 new champions.  

NOTE: This was the first year HWT had a weight limit. Up until this season, HWT was UNL. Now the limit was 275 lbs.

When Iowa State... - Obsessed About NCAA Wrestling
1987 Champion 126
Bill Kelly of Iowa State 

If you're looking for one of those feel good, motivational stories, look no further than Bill Kelly of Iowa State. The two time Illinois state champion of Richards High school, had thus far in his career had two disappointing NCAA tournaments.  As a sophomore and junior, he finished each tournament one match shy of All American status.  As a senior, he not only makes it to the NCAA finals, but in one of the most dramatic endings ever, he sticks his opponent to not only win an individual title but to help his team win the NCAA team title.  Down in the third period, he locked up a spladle & secured the fall which secured the team title for the Cyclones. It remains to this day, one of the most exciting endings to an NCAA final. 
John Smith evolved wrestling for future generations | Sports |
1987 Champion 134
John Smith of Oklahoma State 

The Living Legend John Smith.   After finishing as the NCAA runner-up in 1986 as a sophomore, he dominated the field winning back to back NCAA titles in 1987 and 1988.  Finishing his collegiate career 154-7, it was on the international level where he would really shine. While some wrestlers such as Bruce Baumgartner have more medals than Smith, all the medals Smith earned were gold.  This includes, 2 Pan-American, 2 Good Will Games, 4 World and 2 Olympic.  Today John Smith is the head coach at Oklahoma State. His teams have won close to 500 duels.  He's produced over 30 NCAA champions and close to 150 All Americans.  5 NCAA team titles and many BIG 12 team titles. 

Peter Yozzo (2005) - Roger S. Penske/Lehigh Athletics Hall of Fame - Lehigh  University Athletics
1987 Champion 142
Peter Yozzo of Lehigh 

A three time EIWA champion, Yozzo was 3rd in the nation as a sophomore in 1985, taking NCAA runner-up honors as a junior in 1986, before capping of his career with a NCAA title in 1987.  He had a successful career as CEO of different companies, as he coached high school wrestling in California. His daughter Nicole played softball for Lehigh. 

Tim Krieger - Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame
1987 Champion 150 
Tim Krieger of Iowa State 

Another feel good story about the 1987 NCAA championship Iowa State Cyclone team is Tim Krieger.  A three time state champion out of Mason City, Krieger was 5th in the nation as a freshman, winning the NCAA title here as a sophomore.  Injuring his knee as a junior, he lost in the NCAA finals.  It looked like the knee injury might end his career.  He spent the entire spring and summer getting three knee surgeries and recuperating from them.  He came back stronger than ever for his final season in 1989, going undefeated and winning the NCAA title.  His record was 116-3. His only losses were the two he suffered at the NCAA tournament as a freshman and then the loss in the finals of 1988.
1987 Champion 158 
Stewart Carter of Iowa State 

In my opinion, of all of the great stories of the 1987 Iowa State championship team, the story of Stewart Carter is the best. Competing for Waterloo Columbus, Carter was 3rd-3rd-2nd in his last three years of high school wrestling.  While he enjoyed wrestling a lot, he didn't feel he was good enough to wrestle at the collegiate level, especially at a school like Iowa State.  He entered his freshman season feeling that his wrestling days were behind him.  Yet as later summer turned to fall and fall began to turn to winter, Carter noticed that there were kids that were on the wrestling team that he had wrestled well against in high school. Some he had even beaten.  If they could make the team, maybe he could too.  He walked on to the Cyclone team that season.  For three seasons (83', 85', 86' took a redshirt in 84') Carter wrestled fair amount of varsity matches, but was never the starter come time for the BIG 12 championships.  Finally as a senior in 1987, he got his chance.  In his only BIG 12 tournament & in his only NCAA tournament, Carter won titles going 32-6 on the season. 

Royce Alger - Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame
1987 Champion 167
Royce Alger of Iowa 

A three time State champion for Lisbon, Alger was 5th in the nation in 1986 before winning back to back NCAA titles in 1987 and 1988.  On the international stage he won two Pan-American Golds, 2 World Cup Golds and a World Silver.   

1987 Champion 177
Rico Chiapparelli of Iowa 

Chiapparelli was a senior when he won the NCAA title for the Hawkeyes.  He later got into MMA where he was known as "The Baltimore Butcher" and he has had some work as an actor in Hollywood. 

1987 Champion 190 
Erick Voelker of Iowa State 

Another NCAA champion that never won a high school state title.  Voelker's best finish as the state championships for Dallas Center Grimes was 3rd.  A three time BIG 12 champion, Voelker won the NCAA title here in 1987 as a sophomore. Finishing 3rd in the nation as a junior he came back in 1989 as a senior to win his second NCAA title.   

1987 Champion HWT 
Carlton Haselrig of Pittsburgh-Johnstown 

We have arguments all the time over who is the best wrestler.  Dan Gable? Cael Sanderson?  Yojiro Uetake? These debates have been going on 50 years and they'll continue for another 150.  As long as collegiate wrestling exist, so too will the arguments.  However, how about this question?  Who is the best overall athlete wrestling has ever seen?  I don't know if you can find a better overall athlete than Carlton Haselrig. 

His high school didn't even have a wrestling program.  Haselrig was going over to another high school to help train one of their best wrestlers because they knew of Haselrig's talent and ability from when he was in wrestling as a kid at the YMCA.  At the end of the school year, despite not having an official team, Haselrig's high school petitioned that he be allowed to enter the qualifying tournaments.  Having not wrestled a match all season, he completely dominated the field winning a state title.  

His original intentions were to play football at Lock Haven.  Yet a knee injury ended those hopes and he returned back home taking classes at Pittsburgh-Johnstown.  He soon found himself on the wrestling team as he finished 3rd at the 1986 NCAA Division II championships.  It was one of only two losses he would face his entire collegiate career.  Winning 143 matches, Haselrig won 3 NCAA Division II and 3 NCAA Division I titles between 1987 and 1989.  

Having never played a down of collegiate football, he then went on to have a stellar career in the NFL playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets.   

In my opinion Haselrig could have shined at anything he had wanted to be a part of.  Baseball, basketball, hockey, boxing, you name it.  The guy had the ability to be a star in any athletic field he chose. Luckily for us, he chose wrestling. 


Bonomo already mentioned 

Smith and Alger repeated in 1988, as Haselrig repeated in 1988 and 1989.  Krieger and Voelker would not repeat in 1988 but would come back to repeat in 1989. 

Kelly, Yozzo, Carter and Chiapparelli were seniors 

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