Honoring ISU's Golden Wrestling Legacy

With five Olympic Gold Medalist wrestlers, Iowa State is in some select company. This Friday, in accordance with the World Team Trials at Hilton Coliseum this weekend, ISU will honor its five living greats in what is sure to be a memorable evening.

Prior to 1996, if you brought up Iowa State wrestling in a conversation, Dan Gable's name would probably be the first name mentioned. Ask that question today, and you would get a Cael Sanderson response. They both have left their marks on the Iowa State Wrestling program.


Any discussion of Iowa State wrestling may begin with Sanderson or Gable, but we should also include a few more names in the discussion. Glen Brand, Ben Peterson, and Kevin Jackson are wrestlers who have also had impacts on the tradition of Iowa State wrestling, and they should also be remembered for their contributions and accomplishments.


There are many other Iowa State wrestlers who also deserve to be included in discussions of the ISU "tradition", and The Golden Legacy dinner being held on June 17th before the World trials will bring the five ISU wrestlers who have won Olympic Gold Medals together to honor them.


Whether you are a fan of wrestling or not, you probably already know about Sanderson and Gable, so I thought it would be appropriate not only for me but everyone to learn more about the other three that will be honored.


I'm not old enough to have seen Glen Brand compete, but if the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Newton, Iowa, puts your name on the Hall of Fame, you must be highly regarded. Each year Iowa wrestling personalities are inducted into the Glen Brand Wrestling Hall of Fame in Newton which was created in 2002 to recognize the accomplishments of wrestlers or wrestling contributors from the state of Iowa or individuals who attended school in Iowa.


His storied career started at Clarion High School before heading to Iowa State, and he is considered one of the most honored athletes in Iowa history. He was also one of the first inductees into the Hall of Fame of Iowa. He stopped wrestling long ago due to an injury, but his support of wrestling has continued through the years. He volunteered as a Coach at the YMCA in Omaha where he now resides, and as a booster to Nebraska-Omaha wrestling, his name is associated with one of the largest tournaments run each year, the Kaufman/Brand Open held in Omaha.


Career highlights:

  • Won 51 of 54 bouts (30 pins)
  • Two-time Conference Champ
  • Two-time All American (2nd in 1947, 1st in 1948)
  • 1948 Olympic Gold medallist (1st ISU athlete & 1st Iowa citizen to capture gold medal)
  • 2002 inductee in Hall of Fame of Iowa
  • National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee

Unless you really follow Iowa State wrestling, you probably don't remember that the Iowa State team finished first at Nationals in 1970. Most of the focus was on Dan Gable. I was an Iowa State fan, but I began following wrestling after watching the Wide World of Sports coverage of Nationals that year. The 1970 team had six All-Americans, one of them named Ben Peterson. After a fourth place finish in 1970, he became the eighth ISU wrestler to win multiple individual National titles. His accomplishments at ISU were only the beginning of things to come. He qualified for three Olympic teams, winning two medals. Unfortunately he never had a chance at a third medal due to the boycott of the 1980 Olympics.


Career highlights:

Three time Big 8 Champion

Two time National Champion

Three time All American

1972 Olympic Gold Medallist

1973 World Games Silver Medallist

1975 Pan American Games Gold Medallist

1976 Olympic Silver Medallist

1977 inductee Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame

National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee

2002 inductee in Hall of Fame of Iowa


Thanks LSU! Had it not been for the Tigers dropping wrestling, Kevin Jackson would have never have come to Ames to become a Cyclone. Instead, he transferred to ISU and he capped his college career in 1987 finishing second and became a four-time All-American while helping the team win the National Title.


Being a four-time All-American is a great accomplishment, but what followed is a career that has him considered one of the greatest freestyle wrestlers in US history. He has competed on five U.S. World or Olympic teams. He was named the Resident Coach for USW Wrestling in 1998 and as of January 2001 is the National Freestyle Coach for USA Wrestling.


Career highlights:

Four-time All-American

1991 & 1995 World Championship Gold Medallist (Fourth place 1993)

1992 Olympic Gold Medallist

Three time World Cup Champion

Two time Pan American Games Champion

Three time U.S. National Champion

Five time runner up U.S. National Championships

1991 USA Wrestling Wrestler of the Year

1991 USOC Wrestler of the Year

1992 Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year

1995 John Smith Award as USA Wrestling Freestyle Wrestler of the Year

2002 inductee in Hall of Fame of Iowa

National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee

1 of 5 US wrestlers to claim 3 career World level titles

Coached US to 2nd place at 2003 World Championships

Coached US to 3 straight World Cup titles

Coached US to 1st place at 2003 Pan American Games Championship


The five Olympic Gold Medallist winners with ties to ISU ranks second to only Oklahoma State, and it's exciting that this is taking place in conjunction with the World trials. I've heard the dinner is a sellout, so if you have a ticket, you should be in for a great evening. I've been fortunate to be able to get to know a few Iowa State wrestlers over the years, and one of the things I have always enjoyed is sitting back and listening to some of the stories. Some are repeatable, some are not. I have a feeling Friday night will probably have a little of both.


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