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Purdue NCAA, Big Ten wrestling champ Joe Patacsil dead at 86

Purdue wrestling champ Joe Patacsil, holding his 1950 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year trophy
Purdue wrestling champ Joe Patacsil, holding his 1950 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year trophy
Photo from the 1950 Debris (Purdue yearbook), logo from Purdue University, both used with permission

Joe Patacsil, NCAA and Big Ten wrestling champ for Purdue University who went on to a long career as a high school coach in Indiana, has passed away, his college alma mater announced Friday. He was 86.

Patacsil died in his home Wednesday in Logansport, Ind., where he coached wrestling for more than three decades.

A product of Chicago’s Tilden Tech High School, Joseph Patacsil won the 127-pound title at the 1946 Illinois state championships. He then headed southeast to West Lafayette, Ind. where he became one of the most decorated Boilermaker wrestlers in the long history of the program.

Patacsil became only the second NCAA champ for Purdue, winning the 128-pound title at the 1950 NCAAs at Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa), defeating Walt Romanowski of Cornell College of Iowa in the finals. His team finished second in the team title race at the 1950 NCAAs, Purdue’s highest finish to date. The Boilermakers recorded four top-six finishes as a team at the NCAA Championships during Patacsil's career

Patacsil just missed being the first national champ for the Boilermakers, as teammate Arnold Plaza earned that honor by winning the 121-pound championship one year earlier at the 1949 NCAAs.

In addition to his NCAA title, Patacsil was a two-time Big Ten champ, winning back-to-back 128-pound conference crowns in 1949 and 1950. He was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year in 1950. His performance at the conference championships helped propel Purdue to three straight Big Ten team titles from 1948-1950.

After graduating from Purdue, Patacsil shared his wrestling knowledge by launching the wrestling program at nearby Logansport High School. In 32 years as head coach, Patacsil led the Berries to a 265-91 record from 1957 until his retirement in 1990. He also set the foundation for an enduringly successful program. Overall, the Logansport wrestling program has won 32 sectional titles, which is tied for the fifth most in state history, according to the “Logansport Pharos-Tribune”. In addition, the Berries have won 14 NCC and nine regional titles. The Berries have also had eight individual state champions.

“He was definitely on the Mount Rushmore of Logansport coaches,” said LHS Principal Matt Jones.

For his accomplishments as wrestler and coach, Patacsil has been honored by a number of Halls of Fame. In 1973, Patacsil was inducted into the Indiana Wrestling Hall of Fame as a coach. In 1999, Patacsil and his teammate Arnold Plaza were both welcomed into the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame. In addition, he has been installed at the Tilden Tech High School Hall of Fame, and the Illinois State Wrestling Hall of Fame, according to his obituary in the Logansport paper.

As the announcement of Joe Patacsil’s passing at the Purdue wrestling website states, “The Patacsil family is synonymous with Purdue wrestling, spanning three generations. His son's Ted and Frank starred at Purdue in the 1980s and grandsons Jake and Sam carried the family torch in the 2000s.”

In addition to his service to the sport of wrestling, Patacsil served in the US Air Force for four years.

Visitation will be 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Kroeger Funeral Home in Logansport. The Mass of Christian Burial will be 10 a.m. Monday at All Saints Catholic Church, with Father Michael McKinney officiating. Burial, with full military honors, will be in St. John’s Cemetery.

Contributions may be made to the Joe Patacsil Scholarship Fund, through the Cass County Community Foundation, P.O. Box 441, Logansport, IN 46947.

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