Sunday, April 24, 2022

Down Goes The #1! Part 3

 There were so many times during the 1960's when the #1 seed got knocked out before the NCAA finals, that I had to separate the decade into two separate categories. Today we'll be taking a look at 1960 through 1965. 

1960 157 - U.S. Ron Pifer Penn State Upsets Sid Terry Oklahoma 8-5 in Round 2 

Coming fresh off two Pennsylvania state titles won in 1957 & 1958, Penn State's Ron Pifer made the most of his first NCAA tournament performance when he knocked off returning NCAA runner-up & #1 seed Sid Terry 8-5 in round two.  Pifer would go on to place 4th, while Terry did not place.  Pifer would then earn All American honors twice more for the Nittany Lions, taking runner-up honors in 1961 & 3rd place in 1962.  He went on to coach at Army.  Terry ironically enough became a Flight Instructor for the Air Force. 

1960 191 - U.S. Jack Stanbro Ithaca Upsets #1 Gordon Trapp Iowa 6-2 in Semi-finals 

An unseeded wrestler from itty bitty Ithaca College who had been a Section IV champion in New York in the days before the Empire State had an official high school championship came out of nowhere to upend Iowa's #1 seed Gordon Trapp 6-2 in the semi-finals.  Jack Stanbro would end up finishing as that year's silver medalist, as Trapp came back to take 4th.  Trapp had placed 3rd in 1959.  Stanbro would later coach before turning his attention to wrestling photography. 

1961 137 - #5 Ron Finley Oregon State upsets #1 Bill Carter 5-4 in Semi-Finals 

It was a wild semi-final match between two juniors that saw Oregon State's Ron Finley pull off a 5-4 upset over #1 Bill Carter of Oklahoma.  Finley would finish as the NCAA runner-up as Carter had to settle for 3rd.  In 1962, Finley would come short of a second NCAA medal as Carter won the title that he had been denied in 61'.  Despite not placing at the NCAA's as a senior, Finley days of glory were ahead of him.  He won PAN-AMERICAN Gold in 1963 as he made the Olympic team in 1964.  He then turned his attention to coaching where he took over rival Oregon, as he lead the Ducks to three conference team titles. 

1961 167 - #5 Don Conway Oregon State Upsets #1 Thad Turner Lehigh 8-8, 2-1 in the Semis

Finley wasn't the only Beaver to pull off a huge upset at the 1961 NCAA's. Teammate Don Conway also knocked off the #1 seed in his bracket, ironically enough also in the semi-finals & also as the #5 seed! It was the first time Conway had earned All American honors & he figured he might as well go out on top as he went on to win the NCAA title.  His opponent, Thad Turner of Lehigh who had been the NCAA runner-up in 1960, fell one match short of placing. So difficult to accept the fact that there was a time when even making the NCAA Semi-finals didn't guarantee you All American status. Nevertheless both Conway and Turner turned their attention to coaching post their collegiate careers. Conway coached at UCLA as Turner went on to eventually take the reigns at Lehigh. He led the Mountain Hawks to 8 EIWA conference titles as well as a high 3rd place team finish at the NCAA's in 1979. 

1961 177 - U.S. Art Siml Illinois Upsets #1 Jim Detrixhe Lehigh 6-4 in Round One 

Art Siml's claim to fame while at the University of Illinois is when he knocked off #1 seed Jim Detrixhe of Lehigh 6-4 in round one of the 1961 NCAA's. He would finish one match shy of All American honors. Detrixhe who was a junior at the time, came back to place 4th as a senior in 1962.  He would later lose his life during the Vietnam War in 1966. He was one of a select few who owned a victory over Wayne Baughman during college. 

1962 130 - #4 Al DeLeon Mankato State Upsets #1 Tom Huff Iowa 4-1 in Semi-Finals 

In Dan Gable's entire wrestling career he was only beaten a handful of times & he was only pinned once. It's hard to believe that the man who pinned him, Iowa's Tom Huff who ironically also won three Iowa high school state titles for Waterloo West, never won a national title. He was slated to his junior season of 1962, but it was Minnesota State Mankato's Al DeLeon, a three time state champion out of Blue Earth, who would upset Huff 4-1 in the semi finals. DeLeon, who had placed 4th in 1961, would take 2nd as Huff worked his way back to 3rd.  Huff would finish as the NCAA runner-up the following season of 1963. DeLeon would turn to coaching, taking over the historic Britt program in Iowa. 

1962 - U.S. Tom Mulder Michigan State Upsets #1 Ron Finley Oregon State 5-4 in R1

"T-Bird" as he was known to coaches, friends and teammates stopped Ron Finley dead in his tracks for a bid at the NCAA title after finishing 2nd in 1961, when he upset him in the first round 5-4. 

1962 191 - U.S. Joe James Oklahoma State Upsets #1 Nick Kohls Colorado State 3-2 in QF

Joe James only lost three times his entire collegiate career and one of those times was in the finals of the 1962 NCAA championships, after he had upset his way into the finals, including a 3-2 victory over the #1 seed Nick Kohls of Colorado State. James who was only a sophomore at the time, went on to take 3rd place in 1963, before capping off his collegiate career with a NCAA title in 1964. In between his junior and senior seasons, he became the first black from the United States to win a PAN-AMERICAN Gold medal. 

1963 115 - U.S. Gil Sanchez Colorado State Upsets #1 Lowell Stuart Fall 5:49 in Semi Finals

A three time Skyline Conference Champion, Sanchez had yet to make All American Status during his career. Having already established himself with a top 6 finish, he secured himself a spot in the finals when he pinned #1 seed Lowell Stewart of Iowa State in the semi-finals.  Sanchez would place 2nd, as Stewart, another Waterloo West product took 4th. 

1963 123 - #4 Mike Johnson Pittsburgh Upsets #1 Mark McCracken Oklahoma State 7-3 in SF

Big things were expected out of Mike Johnson a four time state champion with an 84-0 high school record that included never being taken down. Although his collegiate career didn't quite turn out the way he was hoping, his shining moment came in 1963 during his junior season when he upset #1 Mark McCracken 7-3 in the semi-finals in route to a 2nd place finish.  McCracken who had finished 2nd in 1962, came back to take 3rd. 

1963 167 - #4 Steve Combs Iowa upsets #1 Terry Isaacson Air Force 2-1 in Semi-Finals 

Ironically enough, even though neither wrestled for an Illinois school, both Combs of Moline High School & Isaacson of Oak Park were Illinois natives. Not much scoring took place between the two, as the Hawkeye edged the Falcon by 1 point.  Isaacson who had placed 2nd in 1962 as a sophomore, would take 4th, finishing up his career with a 6th place finish in 1964. An all state quarterback in high school, Isaacson had come to the Air Force to play football, but decided to wrestle as well.  Combs, a senior at the time, would make the Olympic team in 1968.  He then took over the USWF, growing membership from 9,000 to 90,000. 

1963 UNL - #4 Larry Kristoff SIU-Carbondale Upsets #1 Joe James Oklahoma State 1-1 SF

Having upset the #1 seed as a sophomore in 1962, Joe James of Oklahoma State was now on the receiving end of an upset when Southern Illinois Carbondale's Larry Kristoff defeated him 0-0, 1-1 on a referee's decision in the semi-finals. Kristoff who had won the NCAA Division II (College Division as they called it in those days) would end up finishing 2nd, as James came back to take 3rd.  Both juniors at the time, James would win the NCAA title as a senior in 1964, as Kristoff won another Division II title, but failed to place at DI's.  Kristoff would go on to international success, earning two bronze and three silver medals at the World Championships, also starting the wrestling program at SIU-Edwardsville. 

1964 130 - U.S. Jim Hanson Colorado Upsets #1 Mike Johnson Pittsburgh R1 

We talked about Mike Johnson earlier as he pulled off a huge upset in the semi-finals of the 1963 NCAA championships. Unfortunately for him, he'd be the victim of a huge upset himself in 1964 when Colorado's Unseeded Jim Hanson took him out 8-4 in round one. Hanson would place 2nd that season.  After not placing in 1965 as a junior, Hanson came back to take 4th in 1966 as a senior.  He was later piolet during Vietnam. 

1964 137 - U.S. Gary Wilcox Michigan Upsets #1 Bob Buzzard Iowa State 2-1 in Semi-finals 

Despite earning All American honors in 1963 with a 6th place finish, Gary Wilcox of Michigan was still unseeded when he pulled off a 2-1 upset over Iowa State's #1 Bob Buzzard in the 1964 NCAA Semi-finals.  Buzzard a product of East Waterloo came back to take 4th as Wilcox finished 2nd. Buzzard would earn All American honors again in 1965 with a 3rd place finish, earning a spot on the Olympic Team in 1972. 

1964 157 - U.S. Bill Lam Oklahoma Upsets #1 Jack Flasche Northern Colorado 4-3 in QF

Jack Flasche, a three time conference champion, had won a NCAA title in 1962 as a sophomore.  With a standout season, he was predicted to win another title in 1964 as a senior, but he would lose a heartbreaker to unseeded Bill Lam of Oklahoma 4-3 in the quarterfinals.  Lam would then lose in the semi-finals, but work his way back to a 3rd place finish.  In 1965, Lam made the NCAA finals, taking runner-up honors. Unfortunately he suffered broken ribs in 1966 & was unable to participate in the national tournament.  Lam would go on to a successful coaching career at the University of North Carolina & today runs Wrestling With Life. We sadly lost Flasche in a auto accident in 2010. 

1964 167 - U.S. Don Millard SIU-Carbondale Upsets Tom Peckham Iowa State F-7:05 in QF

Don Millard marks yet another small school wrestler that was more than happy to show the big school wrestlers that he could hang. A two time Illinois state champion out  of Pekin High School, Millard made the most out of his final season as a Saluki. He won the NCAA DII title (College Division back in those days) &  then pulled off a huge upset when he stuck #1 seed Tom Peckham of Iowa State.  Millard would win the NCAA DI title as Peckham took 5th.  Peckham a three time state champion out of legendary Crestwood High School, would not see defeat at the NCAA tournament again, as he won back to back titles in 1965 and 1966.  He made the 1968 Olympic team, finishing one match shy of a medal. 

1964  UNL - U.S. Bob Billberg MSU-Moorhead Upsets #1 Jim Nance Syracuse 2-1 in QF

There's one thing that Syracuse football & Wrestling superstar Jim Nance didn't do much during his illustrious career and that was lose. The two time NCAA champion who won titles as a sophomore in 1963 & as a senior in 1965, stepped on the mat and he almost always got his hand raised at the end of the match. One of the only times he didn't was against Bob Billberg, from the NAIA program Minnesota State Moorhead. Billberg who had won the NAIA title, upset Nance 2-1, in route to taking NCAA DI runner-up honors. In 1965 as a junior, Billberg finished 3rd in the NAIA & that was not a good enough finish to be invited to the NCAA DI's.  He'd come back strong as a senior in 1966 though, winning a second NAIA title & again finishing second in NCAA DI.  

1965 115 - #4 Glenn McMinn Arizona State Upsets #1 Rich Warnke Lehigh 7-7, 3-1 S.V. in SF

Now here is an interesting story. Rich Warnke didn't win the EIWA's. Matter of fact, he didn't even place at them. He went 0-1 at the tournament. Even more interesting, up to the EIWA tournament, he had be a reserve for most of the season. Yet, he still went to the NCAA's as the #1 seed. How in the world did that work? Well, back in these days the NCAA had a 115 lbs weight class, where as the EIWA's lowest weight class was 123. Both Warnke & teammate Mike Caruso wanted to drop down to 115 for the NCAA's.  Caruso from 123 & Warnke from 130.  Warnke won the wrestle-off against Caruso. This alone gave the seeding committee reason to seed Warnke #1.  He darn near lived up to expectation as he had one heck of a match with Arizona State sophomore Glenn McMinn in the semi-finals. McMinn would finish as the NCAA runner-up as Warnke took 3rd.  Now we've seen some miraculous things happen in collegiate wrestling before, but I doubt we'll ever see this again. Can you imagine entering the NCAA tournament with a 4-1 record & you're given the #1 seed just because you were able to beat your teammate? That's insane.  Granted Mike Caruso was a three time NCAA champion in his own right, but that's still asinine.   As to McMinn he would not place in 1966 as a junior, but he would come back for a strong 3rd place finish in 1967 as a senior. He ended his career at Arizona State with a record of 104-11. 

1965 137 - #5 Wayne Hicks Navy Upsets #1 Bob Buzzard Iowa State 8-4 in SF 

Buzzard would again be on the receiving end of an upset when he dropped an 8-4 decision to Wayne Hicks of Navy in the NCAA semi-finals. He came back strong to finish 3rd as Hicks took 2nd.  Hicks a junior at the time, did not place at the 1966 NCAA's, although he did win his second EIWA title. 

1965 147 - Bobby Douglas of Oklahoma State has to Medical Forfeit out of the Tournament 

As far as I'm concerned, Bobby Douglas makes yet another case for the toughness of NAIA wrestling. He began his career at NAIA West Liberty, where he won an NAIA title & finished 2nd at the NCAA DI's as a sophomore in 1963. He then transferred to Oklahoma State, where in 1965 as a senior he was picked to win the NCAA title, but he suffered a concussion which ended his collegiate career. If you read a lot of JT#1 you know that I often go to bat for the NAIA & Douglas is often a go to for me in my testimony. Not many people can say they own an 11-1 freestyle tech fall over Dan Gable. Bobby Douglas, an NAIA wrestler can.


Be sure to check out DOWN GOES THE #1! Part 4 which will cover times from 1966 through 1969 when #1 seeds went down before the NCAA finals! 

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