Now you can see some of the top college wrestlers of a half-century ago -- including Yojiro Uetake, Dean Lahr, Joe James and Jack Brisco – thanks to film of the 1964 NCAA Wrestling Championships posted on YouTube.
The black-and-white, silent film shot matside at Cornell University, runs just shy of 90 minutes, showing all ten championship matches in their entirety.
Decide for yourself if Yojiro Uetake – a three-time NCAA champ for Oklahoma State, and two-time Olympic gold medalist for his native Japan -- was indeed one of the fifteen greatest NCAA wrestlers of all time. Watch Dean Lahr, a three-time NCAA finalist for University of Colorado, win his second national title, and Outstanding Wrestler honors. See why Joe James turned heads every time he stripped off his robe… and how he made history as the first African-American starter for the Cowboys, and only the second black from any school to win the heavyweight title.
If you’re a fan of old-school pro wrestling, check out Jack Brisco before he ever climbed into the squared circle, wrestling for Oklahoma State for the 191-pound title.
For today’s fans, it may be startling to see what wrestlers wore at the 1964 NCAAs. Singlets were outlawed by the NCAA; shorts/trunks were standard gear, and, for the first time, wrestlers were required to wear shirts. (Wrestlers at a number of schools, including Iowa, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, had competed shirtless until the NCAA rule change.) While wrestlers could no longer wrestle bare-chested, they could compete bare-headed; headgear was still optional.
What’s more, there are some significant differences between today’s college wrestling rules and those from 50 years ago. In 1964, matches were nine minutes long. Takedowns were worth only one point. For a fall, a wrestler had to hold his opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a full two seconds (not one second as today).
Fans not around in ’64 might also be surprised to learn these NCAAs were only the second wrestling championships to be televised… not live on ESPN, but on a delayed, edited basis on ABC-TV’s “Wide World of Sports.” (Note: This YouTube film is NOT that broadcast of the weekly sports anthology; that episode showed a trio of the title matches in edited form, interspersed with NCAA swimming and diving championships coverage).
Here’s a brief description of what you’ll see on the 1964 NCAA finals film (in the order in which matches appear):
- Match No. 1 – 115 pounds: No. 3 seed Terry Finn (Southern Illinois University-Carbondale) pinned top-seeded Roger Sebert (Iowa State), 4-4, 1:02. The match was tied in regulation; in overtime, the Saluki put the Cyclone’s shoulders to the mat. Finn (wearing headgear) was the first-ever champ for SIU-Carbondale, and one of two crowned in ’64 for the now-defunct mat program.
- Match No. 2 – 123 pounds (starts at 10 minutes into film): No. 1 seed Fred Powell (Lock Haven) dec. No. 2 Howie Gangestad (Minnesota-Mankato), 13-5. Powell wore the light-color jersey.
- Match No. 3 – 130 pounds (starts at 19 minutes into film): No. 1 seed Yojiro Uetake (Oklahoma State) dec. unseeded Jim Hanson (Colorado), 5-2. It was the first of three consecutive NCAA titles for Uetake, wearning black tights on the film.
- Match No. 4 – 137 pounds (starts at 28 minutes into film): Unseeded Mike Sager (Oklahoma) dec. unseeded Gary Wilcox (Michigan), 13-5. The Sooner is wearing light-color trunks and knee pads.
- Match No. 5 – 147 pounds (starts at 35 minutes into film): No. 6 seed Jerry Stanley (Oklahoma) dec. top-seeded Mike Redig (Oklahoma State), 1-1, 4-2. By beating his cross-state rival in the finals, Stanley (white trunks) avenged three losses during the season to the undefeated Cowboy.
- Match No. 6 – 157 pounds (starts at 42 minutes into film): No. 2 seed Gordon Hassman (Iowa State) dec. No. 4 Dick Slutzky (Syracuse), 9-7. Hassman is wearing the shirt with an "I" on it.
- Match No. 7 – 167 pounds (starts at 51 minutes into film): Unseeded Don Millard (SIU-Carbondale) dec. No. 6 Bob Zweiacher (Oklahoma State), 7-2. Millard is wearing headgear.
- Match No. 8 – 177 pounds (starts 1 hour, 1 minute into film): Top-seeded Dean Lahr (Colorado) dec. No. 2 Bill Harlow (Oklahoma State), 8-4. Harlow has headgear. It was the second straight title for Lahr, who lost in the 177 finals in ’62 to Oklahoma State’s Bob Johnson; Lahr was also named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.
- Match No. 9 – 191 pounds (starts 1 hour, ten minutes into film): Top-seeded Harry Houska (Ohio University) dec. No. 3 Jack Brisco (Oklahoma State), 6-3. A 1963 NCAA finalist, Houska (knee pads) went on to be long-time coach at his alma mater; Brisco won the 191 title at the 1965 NCAAs before embarking on an enduring pro wrestling career.
- Match No. 10 – Heavyweight (starts 1 hour, 18 minutes into film): Top-seeded Joe James (Oklahoma State) dec. unseeded Bob Billberg (Minnesota-Morehead), 4-2. James, known for his muscular physique, had been a 191-pound finalist at the 1962 NCAAs; Billberg had been a high school coach in suburban Chicago until his death in a car accident a decade ago.
More stats and facts from the 1964 NCAAs
Having the NCAA wrestling championships in the East helped boost participation to new record-setting levels. According to wrestling historian Jay Hammond’s "The History of Collegiate Wrestling,” 253 wrestlers from 82 schools journeyed to Ithaca, N.Y. (Today’s NCAAs have 330 wrestlers.)
At the end of two days of wrestling, Oklahoma State won the team title going away… despite having four of its six finalists lose their title matches. Oklahoma placed second in the team standings, Iowa State came in third, and Colorado and Southern Illinois-Carbondale tied for fourth.
About the photo: Some of the top wrestlers in the 1964 NCAA finals, from left: Yojiro Uetake (from 1964 Redskin yearbook), Dean Lahr (University of Colorado website), and Joe James and teammate Jack Brisco (from 1963 Redskin yearbook). Note that Lahr, James and Brisco are shown on the ’64 film in shirts, not bare-chested as shown here.
Special thanks to Jay Hammond’s "The History of Collegiate Wrestling" and his WrestlingStats.com website for seedings, match results and other facts and figures concerning the 1964 NCAAs and the men who wrestled in the finals... and thanks to Oklahoma State for posting this incredible film on YouTube.
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