Three months after being welcomed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Curley Culp was inducted into his high school alma mater’s athletics hall of fame, along with his wrestling teammates from 50 years ago, the Yuma Sun reported Friday.
Culp, who won the heavyweight title for Arizona State at the 1967 NCAAs, was among the members of the 1963 Yuma Union High School wrestling squad who were welcomed into the school's athletics hall of fame Friday.
A half-century ago, the Yuma mat squad won the Class AA team title at the 1963 Arizona state wrestling championships. That same year, Culp won his first of two consecutive titles in the unlimited weight class in high school.
Culp and his prep wrestling team – along with 13 individuals – was welcomed into the Yuma High athletics hall at an 11:30 a.m. induction ceremony at the school Friday.
“It’s a great honor,” Culp told the Yuma Sun. “I was visiting with a few of the athletes earlier, and they were talking about those fun times in those 1963, 1964 years that I couldn’t actually remember. I looked at the yearbook. It was a great accomplishment being on that team with Pat Patterson and those players.”
Patterson was the head wrestling coach of the Yuma Criminals, so named because the town is the site of a major state prison.
After winning the Arizona high school state heavyweight championships in 1963 and 1964, Culp then went on to Arizona State, where he was a three-time WAC (Western Athletic Conference) champ, and a two-time qualifier for the NCAAs, pinning down the heavyweight title at the 1967 NCAAs with a fall at 51 seconds in the finals.
Most sports fans know Culp for his accomplishments in football, both at Arizona State and in the NFL, where he played defensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Oilers, and Detroit Lions in a career that spanned 14 seasons. In August, he was welcomed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“I enjoyed both sports, but differently,” Culp said. “I excelled at wrestling, and as you well know the skills that you need to participate in wrestling are kind of a complement to football – the balance, the coordination, the agility. It was a great transition from wrestling to football. It seemed like a great fit for me.”
In the Yuma Sun article, Culp revealed that he had been approached by pro wrestling legend Lou Thesz at the 1967 NCAAs at Kent State (less than an hour from Canton) about a career in the squared circle, but decided to focus on an NFL career instead.
Friday’s induction into the Yuma High athletics hall of fame with his teammates from 1963 is the latest honor for Culp, 67. In addition to having been inducted into the Yuma hall as an individual, Culp has been welcomed into the Arizona State University Sports Hall of Fame, the Arizona High School Hall of Fame, the National High School Sports Hall of Fame, the Arizona Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame… along with the Kansas City Chiefs Ring of Honor, and the Arizona State Ring of Honor. What’s more, Culp was named the No. 3 athlete in Sports Illustrated magazine’s “50 Greatest Sports Figures” of Arizona list in 1999, and No. 6 in The Arizona Republic’s “Athletes of the Century” list that same year.
About the photo: The picture accompanying this article shows the 1963 Yuma wrestling team in their silk robes. Curley Culp is in the back row, far right corner. The image is from the 1963 El Saguaro yearbook.
Want to KNOW more about Curley Culp? Check out an in-depth profile of Culp -- with a focus on his high school and college wrestling career -- at InterMat.
Want to SEE more of Curley Culp? For more than 100 photos of Culp in high school and at Arizona State in football and wrestling -- as well as the NFL and beyond -- take a look at the "1967 Curley Culp" album at NCAA Heavyweight Champs Yahoo group. And, see Culp in action with the YouTube video of the Sun Devil pinning down his heavyweight title at the 1967 NCAAs... and the College Wrestling Examiner article about Culp's fast fall.
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