Bill Farrell, a major force in wrestling as an athlete, coach and leader despite not having wrestled in high school or college, died Saturday in a hospice on Long Island at age 82.
Ferrell was a wrestler, coach and administrator at the New York Athletic Club, and the top wrestling executive at ASICS America, making that company a leading producer of wrestling shoes and related products.
Those accomplishments aside, Farrell may be best known for leading the U.S. freestyle wrestling team to new levels of international success. In his first year at the helm, the 1969 team placed second in the World, the highest U. S. finish to that time, with Rick Sanders and Fred Fozzard becoming the first two U.S. matmen to win gold medals. In 1970, the U.S. team also came in second.
At the 1972 Olympics, Farrell coached the U.S. freestylers to even greater heights. At the Munich Games, American matmen earned medals in six of ten weight classes, with three -- Dan Gable, Wayne Wells, and Ben Peterson -- winning gold.
Here are the college credentials of the medal-winners from the U.S. freestyle squad led to greater glory by coach Farrell:
- Richard Sanders: Two-time NCAA champ (1966, 1967) for Portland State won a silver medal at 57 kg;
- Dan Gable: Two-time NCAA titlewinner (1968, 1969) for Iowa State claimed the gold medal at 68 kg;
- Wayne Wells: 1968 NCAA champ for University of Oklahoma who won the gold medal at 76 kg;
- John Peterson: Wrestler at University of Wisconsin-Stout earned silver at 82 kg;
- Ben Peterson: Won two titles for Iowa State at the NCAAs in 1971 and 1972, then was gold medal winner at 90 kg;
- Chris Taylor: Two-time NCAA heavyweight champ at Iowa State (1972, 1973), 6' 5", 440-pound "Gentle Giant" was the bronze medalist in the top weight class.
In an article in Amateur Wrestling News not long after the U.S. triumph in 1972, Farrell said, “To say that I am pleased with the performance of our Freestyle wrestling team would be the mildest way of stating my position. With few exceptions I believe that everyone is very elated with the results of 1972. One should be satisfied with six medals, but after you have won six, it is very easy to visualize the winning of at least two more.”
Farrell was welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 1987. In addition, he was also inducted into the Helms Hall of Fame, the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame, the O’Dea High School Hall of Fame, among others. He was named Man of the Year for wrestling, received a Lifetime Service Award from USA Wrestling, as well as numerous other major recognitions.
“Our sport lost an icon today, someone who was truly personally responsible for the development and growth of wrestling worldwide,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender. “We truly celebrate Bill’s involvement and leadership in wrestling. His legacy will last forever.”
A memorial is planned for William P. Farrell; as details are finalized, they will be made public.
Want to know more? Read this detailed tribute to Bill Farrell at TheMat.com, the website for USA Wrestling.
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