Monday, September 28, 2009

Honoring greatness

They call themselves “Mac’s Boys”. National Wrestling Hall of Fame historian, Jay Hammond has said of them, “It could easily be argued that (they were) the best collegiate wrestling program in the country from 1946 – 1952.” Hammond points out that, “… they crowned 16 individual champions in those years. Oklahoma State had 12 champs, and no other school had more than five in that time frame.” Their numbers include three 3X individual NCAA champions, an Olympic Champion and a silver medallist and enough Distinguished Members of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame that they could have their own wing.

In 1950 they did something that only nine other schools have done – they won the NCAA “big school” team championship. Who are these guys? They’re the wrestlers of Iowa State Teachers College – now the University of Northern Iowa. Led by their legendary coach, Dave McCuskey, and boasting champions like Bill Smith, Gerry Leeman, Bill Koll, Keith Young and Bill Nelson their influence on the sport carries forward to today.

On October 18th the 1950 ISTC NCAA Championship team will be inducted into the UNI Athletic Hall of Fame. Many team members are already in the UNI ‘hall” as individuals. Inducting the entire team is an extraordinary honor. Wrestling writer, Kyle Klingman, says, “This will be a great day for Northern Iowa and for the sport of wrestling.”

UNI Athletic director, Troy A Dannen, commented on the induction and its importance.

“Of the 17 programs at UNI, wrestling has the longest and most consistent history of competitive success, and the 1950 national championship team certainly stands as the best of the best among those teams. While there has been individual recognition given throughout the years to some members of that team, recognition of the achievement of the team as a whole is long overdue.

Wrestling is at the bedrock of the sports foundation of our state. Northern Iowa, as a Regent institution with 90 percent of our students native Iowans, must always reflect the values and culture of our state. As an athletic department, this validates the ongoing commitment to the sport of wrestling. But you can never move forward successfully without knowing where you have already been, and the future success of wrestling at UNI is tied to the great history of success symbolized by the members of this team.

Basically, we recognize this team not only to salute their achievement, but to understand the competitive honor and glory we obtain tomorrow is only possible because they were the standard bearers, and we can never forget how our program was built, and who built it.”

Mac must be awfully proud of “his boys”.

1 comment:

bonnie said...

Bill Koll was my wrestling instructor in a PE class at UNI(then SCI) in 1965. He instilled in me an admiration for those skilled in this sport that has always kept me supportive.