Have any college wrestlers experienced the “I’ve been jobbed!” feeling that boxer Manny Pacquiao must have felt when he was sure he had won his fight with Timothy Bradley June 9… only to have his opponent’s arm raised?
Some collegiate mat fans might cite a couple incidents from the past five years… but there’s a strong example from the 1949 NCAA championships that denied a wrestler the opportunity to become the first four-time NCAA champ.
That questionable call from 63 years ago came to mind after reading InterMatWrestle.com senior writer T.R. Foley’s two most recent installments of Foley’s Friday Mailbag.
In the latest installment Friday, Foley addressed the issue of whether defending champ Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State was denied an end-of-match takedown in the 2012 NCAA 133-pound title bout won by Ohio State’s Logan Stieber.
In his June 15 Mailbag, Foley was asked by a reader, “Did you see the Pacquiao-Bradley screwjob? Can you think of a wrestling match where someone got jobbed that bad?”
The InterMat writer responded, “The worst screwjob is recent NCAA wrestling probably belongs to [referee] Gary Kessel’s non-call in the 2006 NCAA Division I finals at 165 pounds. Ryan Churella (Michigan) decked Johny Hendricks (Oklahoma State) in the second period, but Kessel was out of place, or just had a brief lapse in concentration and missed the call.”
For those who feel Pacquiao, Oliver and Churella got jobbed, you might want to add Dick Hutton to your list.
Hutton wrestled heavyweight for Oklahoma State (then called Oklahoma A&M) from 1946-1950. At the 1949 NCAAs — hosted by Colorado State University — Hutton was a two-time defending champ and the top seed in the bracket. The Cowboy big man made it to the finals, where he faced 1948 NCAA 191-pound champ Verne Gagne of the University of Minnesota, who moved up to heavyweight.
Both Hutton and Gagne were World War II veterans. Both had wrestled for the U.S. at the 1948 London Olympics. Both stood 5’10”; however, the built-like-a-bear Hutton, 25, tipped the scales at 240 pounds, while the boyish-looking Gagne, 23, came in about 30 pounds lighter.
Here’s how the Daily O’Collegian, the student paper at Oklahoma State, reported the outcome at the time: “The score against Gagne was tied 1-1, and the referee awarded the match to Gagne, who had gained his 1 pt. escape sooner than Hutton. The referee awarded the match to Gagne, despite a takedown by Hutton just as the bell sounded ending the match.”
Decades later, in his History of Collegiate Wrestling, historian Jay Hammond wrote, “The bout ended in a 1-1 tie, and referee Finn Eriksen awarded the bout to Gagne based on a small margin (much less than a minute) in time advantage [riding time]. The rules in 1949 did not allow for overtime, and the single referee would decide the winner should a match end in a tie.”
Hammond continued, “Many observers of the match felt Hutton’s takedown was completed before the end of the bout and he should have received the referee’s decision based on superior aggressiveness in the match. Jack Griffith, son of then OSU coach Art Griffith, noted that his father regarded the decision as a ‘great injustice’ and stated that ‘Hutton chased Gagne all around the mat.'”
Fast forward to the 1950 NCAAs, held at the West Gym of what is now University of Northern Iowa. Gagne had graduated; Hutton, a senior, found himself in the finals for the fourth straight year, facing off against Fred Stoeker of the host school. Again, the match ended in a tie. Again, the referee was the deciding factor… and, again, Finn Eriksen declared Hutton’s opponent to be the winner. However, the NCAA rules committee had amended the rules, allowing matside officials to override any call they thought was wrong. Luckily for Hutton, these other officials declared him the winner.
It has been reported that Hutton later said, “I don’t think that ref liked me.”
Hutton ended his college career with a near-perfect 42-1-1 record, the one loss being to Gagne at the 1949 NCAA finals. Had the call gone the other way in the gym at Colorado State, Hutton would have been the first four-time NCAA mat champ, decades before Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith and Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson. (Until about 1970, freshmen were not allowed to wrestle varsity or compete in the NCAAs, except for a brief time immediately after World War II. Hutton started his college career during this window.)
Interestingly, after graduating from college, both Hutton and Gagne became professional wrestling champs.
Hutton passed away in Tulsa in 2003; Gagne resides in the Twin Cities.
The 1949 NCAAs were historic for another reason: Harold Henson of San Diego State became the first African-American to wrestle at the NCAAs. Read his story in this 2008 InterMat Rewind feature.
Want to know more? For photos and info on both Dick Hutton and Verne Gagne, check out NCAA Heavyweight Champs Yahoo group.
The Olympics are coming… and there’s plenty of other news, too! Keep up with all this summer’s developments in wrestling, including the 2012 London Olympics, awards, coach hirings, firings and retirings, new programs and other developments year round… by clicking the “subscribe” button at the top of the page to make sure you don’t miss a single article from College Wrestling Examiner, winner of Amateur Wrestling News’ Dellinger Award as wrestling writer of 2011. It’s absolutely FREE!
College Wrestling 101: Links to College Wrestling Examiner articles answering basic questions about wrestling, including rules, scoring, uniforms, more
Follow College Wrestling Examiner Mark Palmer on Twitter