Saturday, April 9, 2022

Down Goes the #1! - Part I

 Few things excite collegiate wrestling fans more than upsets. They're stimulating, they're thrilling & often they are the most discussed topic when they take place. Obviously some have a higher precedence than others, but I believe they all have a story worth telling.  In "Down Goes the #1" we're going to take a look at the times when the #1 seed was defeated starting with the NCAA Division I tournament. 

1940 121 - U.S. Casey Fredericks Purdue upsets #1 Frank Burgess of Franklin & Marshall in QF 

An official score is not given of NCAA wrestling's first official upset of a #1 seed. Before this moment their were certainly victories at the NCAA's that would be by today's stands considered "upsets" but 1940 marked the first tournament were official seeds were given.  Neither Fredericks or Burgess would be All Americans this tournament, but that has to do with the fact that in 1940 only the top three places were awarded. The way the brackets were conducted was much different than what it is today as well.  Along with being collegiate wrestling's first wrestler to upset a #1 seed at the NCAA's, Fredericks would go on to coach the Ohio State Buckeyes from 1948 to 1976. He lived a long, illustrious life, passing away at the age of 90. 

1940 UNL - U.S. George Downes Ohio State upsets #1 George Chiga Oklahoma State in R1

The plan was for Canadian born George Chiga, who had made the Canadian Olympic team in 1936 to go in and capture an NCAA title for the Cowboys, but senior George Downes of Ohio State had other plans for his final NCAA tournament. Again an official score is not given, but Downes upset the Cowboy as he went on to win the NCAA title. 

1941 128 - U.S. Loy Julius Iowa upsets #1 Ray Stone Iowa State in QF

As the Iowa Vs Iowa State rivalry continues to this day, it's hard to believe that it was going on some 81 years ago, but it was.  U.S. Loy Julius gave the Hawkeyes a huge win in the NCAA quarterfinals when he upended Cyclone Ray Stone 7-5.  Julius was unable to garner a win in the semi-finals but he did come back to win his All American match, eventually placing 4th.  Despite the rough outcome for Stone, he went on to find his calling in coaching, coaching various high school programs in Iowa & Wisconsin.  Julius went on to serve in the Army Air Corps during World War II & later taught Dentistry at Creighton University. 

1941 UNL - #4 Larry Pickett Yale upsets #1 Loyd Arms Oklahoma State in SF

It's hard to believe when someone is as good at wrestling as what they are, that wrestling isn't their first love, but that is the case with Maryland born Larry Pickett of Yale.  Loyd Arms of Oklahoma State entered his first NCAA tournament as a sophomore, planning to win his first national title when Pickett put him on his back & secured the fall at 4:55.  Pickett went on to take home runner-up honors as Arms fought back hard to finish 3rd.  Post college Pickett coached a variety of sports, including wrestling & his favorite sport baseball at the high school level. He lead his baseball program to 209 wins & 9 conference titles.  Taking time off to serve our nation in WWII, Arms would come back to win an NCAA title in 1946 as a junior, finishing off his career with a 4th place finish in 1947. Ironically enough it may be safe to say that wrestling may not be the sport Arms is most known for either. He went on to play in the NFL for the Chicago Cardinals. 

Now here are some facts about the rest of the 40's that may surprise you.  I'm sure that you are well aware that there was no NCAA tournament in 1943, 1944 or 1945 due to World War II.  However, did you know this little fact about 1942? 

In 1942 All of the #1 seeds won national titles

1946 was an interesting season itself as their were no seeds. 

1947 165 - #4 Bill Nelson Northern Iowa upsets #1 David Shapiro Illinois in SF 

One thing collegiate wrestling fans are obsessed with is sensational freshmen. Perhaps this fixation with seeing wrestlers do well in their first season of varsity wrestling began with Northern Iowa's Bill Nelson.  While defending NCAA champion David Shapiro of Illinois (who is also noted in history as being one of our first transfer wrestlers having originally started off wrestling for Indiana) entered the NCAA tournament with plans of ending his career a two time champion, it was rookie Nelson who stopped him dead in his tracks with a 6-5 decision in the semi-finals. Shapiro dusted himself off & came back to a 4th place finish as Nelson won the national title.  Many wrestling historians believe that Nelson could have very well been the first wrestler to win four NCAA titles if it hadn't been for an injury his sophomore season.  He went on to win two more titles as a junior & senior, going on to a glorious career of coaching. 

1948 was perhaps the strangest year collegiate wrestling has ever seen, especially in terms of the national tournament.  

1949 all of the #1 seeds made the finals. 


In Part 2 of Down Goes the #1! we will be taking a look at the 1950's. 

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