Alumni help reinvigorate wrestling program
Monday, January 25, 2010
What started as a fundraiser for a wrestling alumnus struggling with cancer has evolved into a Husky wrestling alumni group. The group is an example of how engagement and passion benefit the University and the individuals involved, according to Morris Kurtz, athletic director.
Since its debut in 1952, the wrestling program has produced 11 individual national champions. Husky wrestlers have earned All-America status more than 70 times since 1958 and, as alumni, have competed at the Pan American Games, the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
“Those were formative years and I think anyone who has wrestled, their personality and capacity for life are enhanced by their participation in wrestling,” said Grant Nelson ’63, who earned a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national title in 1963.
“When you think back on that, you have gratitude for the experience,” Nelson said. “To re-engage and help perpetuate that (gratitude) for the current generation of wrestlers and students is a good thing.”
In the 30 years prior to 2003, the wrestling alumni group made attempts at meet regularly. But the idea truly took hold following a golf fundraiser for Doug Gruber ’76. Wrestling alumni helped raise more than $3,000 for their teammate’s medical expenses.
“One of the other benefits from the outing was the camaraderie we enjoyed,” said Jerry Schmitz ’77, an outing coordinator who earned All-American honors in 1976. “The golf outing then became our event and a way to get people together.”
The 2003 event served as a springboard and other outings were planned. An Alumni Day event is ser for Jan. 23.
In 2004, the 1962-63 team was inducted into the St. Cloud State Athletic Hall of Fame in recognition of its third place national finish and three individual national titles.
The Hall of Fame event created momentum. Key players emerged, including Schmitz, Nelson, Steve Wenker ’75, Jim Harstad ’79, Mark Bauerly ’76, Gary Smith ’65, Greg Ganyo ’81 and Dennis Moske. Former coaches John Oxton, Jack Gause ’63 and Steve Grimit also helped build the group.
In recent years, St. Cloud State wrestling has regained national attention. In 2007-08, the Huskies placed 12th in the nation and had a 13-2 dual record. Last winter, the team improved to eighth in the nation, the best finish since 1986.
“The success is due to the hard work done by many people including our administrators, students, community people and our alumni,” said Steve Costanzo, the current coach.
“With this type of success, I think you will continue to see more people become involved with our alumni group,” Wenker said. “Everyone loves a winner.”