Thursday, August 19, 2021

Defending the Title: 1996: Those Who Did and Those Who Did Not Defend the Title

 Les Gutches of Oregon State ends his career as a two time NCAA champion 

1996 Champion 118
Sheldon Thomas of Clarion 

We don't see too many NCAA wrestlers come out of Delaware, but one of the best ever is four time champion Sheldon Thomas who competed for St. Marks High School.  Wrestling collegiately for Clarion, Thomas put together a career record of 124-18 placing 5th as a sophomore, winning the national title as a junior and capping off his career with a 3rd place finish in 1997.  He later coached at Pennsylvania. 

1996 Champion 126
Sanshiro Abe of Penn State 

A native of Tokyo, Japan, Abe had an outstanding career for the Nittany Lions.  4th in 1993 as a freshman, he was 3rd in 1994 as a sophomore & 2nd as a junior in 1995 before capping off his career with a national title in 1996. Later that summer he represented Japan at the Olympic Games. 

1996 Champion 134 
Cary Kolat of Lock Haven 

A four time Pennsylvania state champion for Jefferson-Morgan high school, many believe Cary Kolat to be the greatest high school wrestler ever. While their are many arguments to be made as to why, in my opinion the greatest testimony is in the fact that while he was still in high school he placed twice at the Midlands Championships! A 3rd and 4th place finish before he even graduated.  In College Kolat began his career at Penn State, where he made the NCAA finals as a true freshman in 1993.  As a true sophomore he finished in 3rd place.  He would then transfer to Lock Haven where after taking the 1995 season off he came back to win back to back NCAA titles in 1996 and 1997.  Competing internationally Kolat won two Pan-American Golds, three World Cup Golds & a silver, along with World Bronze and World Silver. 

What he has done as a coach deserves far more credit and recognition than I can give it. Campbell wrestling has been around since 1968 & to be quite Frank, it didn't achieve much in the nearly 50 years it was around until Kolat took over as head coach.  He took a team that not many were even aware of and turned them into four time Southern Conference champions, crowning individual champions and their first ever All American.  Kolat is now the head coach at Navy. 

1996 Champion 142
Bill Zadick of Iowa 

A four time Montana state champion for Great Falls High School, Zadick went 87-13 for the Hawkeyes placing 5th at the 1995 NCAA championships as a junior before capping off his career at national champion in 1996.  Post college he won Pan-American bronze, World Cup bronze and silver as well as World Gold.  2021 being one of our most successful Olympic years, Zadick was coach. 

1996 Champion 150 
Chris Bono of Iowa State 

A three time Florida state champion for Bolles high school, Bono went 128-34 during his career as a Cyclone.  His NCAA title would come in his junior year of 1996, having placed 5th as a sophomore in 1995, finishing his career as the NCAA runner-up in 1997.  Currently the head coach of Wisconsin, Bono has also coached at Iowa State, UT-Chattanooga and South Dakota State. 

1996 Champion 158
Joe Williams of Iowa 

A four time state champion for Mount Carmel high school in Illinois, Williams had a phenomenal career for the Iowa Hawkeyes.  Finishing in 7th place as a true freshman in 1994, he all but owned his next three seasons winning NCAA titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998.  He went 129-9 overall. Brother T.J. was also an NCAA champion for Iowa as brother Steve won NJCAA titles.  Post college Joe won Pan-American Gold twice & World Bronze twice.  He also holds the records for the most amount of Midlands titles, with 10. 

1996 Champion 167
Daryl Weber of Iowa 

A two time state champion for Don Bosco of Gilbertville, Weber took back to back 6th place finishes as the NCAA tournament in 1994 and 1995 before capping off his career as the NCAA champion in 1996. Post college, Weber turned to coaching where he has lead Christiansburg High school to multiple Virginia high school state championships, producing multiple state champions and state place-winners. 

1996 Champion 190 
John Kading of Oklahoma 

Kading came to Oklahoma from Illinois where he was a two time state champion for Glenbard South.  A four time All American for the Sooners, Kading's NCAA title would come in his junior season of 1996.  He was 6th as a freshman, 5th as a sophomore and 2nd as a senior.  Post college he coached at Northwestern and ironically enough Mount Carmel. 

1996 Champion HWT
Jeff Walter of Wisconsin 

When the two time Pennsylvania state champion out of Shikellamy high school first came to Wisconsin he thought it would be to compete at 190 lbs.  Yet as time went on even though he felt undersized he found competing at HWT to be more enjoyable than the the cut to 190.  Placing 4th at the NCAA championships in 1995, Walter finished out his Badger career as the NCAA champion in 1996.  Along with these honors on the mat, Walter was also a four time Academic All American. 


Gutches previously mentioned 

Thomas, Bono and Kading did not repeat 

Kolat repeated in 1997

Williams repeated in 1997 and 1998

Abe, Zadick, Weber and Walter were all seniors 

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