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Japanese Wrestlers of the 1960s Helped OSU Remain the Dominant Program of the Era

A handful of Japanese wrestlers had a huge impact on OSU wrestling and the sport in general.

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As each month that recognizes the heritage of various people comes around, I do my best to recognize it in a blog post. I’ve written on the color barriers broken by African American Oklahoma State wrestlers, the history of some of the programs’ Native American wrestlers, and even the military service of some Oklahoma State wrestlers on Veterans Day.

One area I’ve not touched on is Oklahoma State wrestling’s connection to Japanese wrestlers, which similar to all of it’s other history is something unmatched by any other program. With it being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I thought I’d dig in.

The predominate connection begins with Myron Roderick and Ichiro Hatta. Hatta was the father of Tadaaki and Masaaki Hatta, and was an Olympian and legendary coach in Japan. Hatta was named Commissioner of Sports in Japan after World War 2 and was tasked to reinstate sports in the country. The story goes that Roderick and Hatta developed a connection and friendship while Roderick was wrestling at the 1956 Olympics. When Roderick became coach in 1957, he used that connection to bring in recruits in Japan. The result brought who most consider the greatest wrestler of all time to Stillwater.

Photo Courtesy of the O’Colly Archives

Yojiro Uetake

A few other Japanese wrestlers came to OSU via the Hatta-Roderick connection before Uetake, but none were more impactful or legendary than Uetake. The man defines the phrase Greatest of All Time. He went 57-0 and never lost a college match, winning three NCAA titles from 1964-66. He was the NCAA Tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler in both 1965 and 1966 and won Olympic Gold Medals in both the 1964 and 1968 Olympics. He somehow manages to get overlooked on some of the top wrestling lists because he only won three NCAA titles, but during his time they didn’t let freshmen compete. Most prognosticators believe he would’ve comfortably went undefeated and won a fourth title had he been able to compete as a freshman.

Masaaki Hatta

Masaaki is the son of Ichiro Hatta and the brother of Tadaaki. He came to OSU from 1960-62 and still holds one of the highest career win percentages ever at Oklahoma State. He finished second at the NCAA Tournament twice and was an NCAA champion in 1962.

Tadaaki Hatta

Hatta was another son of Ichiro Hatta and came to Oklahoma State in 1964. He won the NCAA tournament in 1965 and finished third in 1966 on the same teams with Uetake. He also won two Big 8 titles during his time at OSU. Later on he became the Women’s Freestyle coach and lead the 1991 World Team in Tokyo.

Yoshiro Fujita

Fujita was another dominant NCAA champion for the Cowboys. He came in a little later than the rest of this group, wrestling in the 1971 and 1972 seasons. He held a career 48-1 record and has the third highest win percentage all time amongst Oklahoma State wrestlers. In 1971, he helped lead the Cowboys to a team title after losing two regular season duals to Iowa State.

This group combined for six individual NCAA titles and helped lead the Cowboys to a total of six team championships during their time in Stillwater. Oklahoma State remained the dominant program of the 1960s and early 70s in large part due to the connection between Myron Roderick and Ichiro Hatta and this legendary group of wrestlers that made their way from Japan to Stillwater.

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