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Legendary Cowboy Wrestler Stanley Henson Dies This Week at Age 101



Stanley Henson, a legendary Cowboy wrestler, passed away Wednesday at the age of 101. Henson, who was the oldest living NCAA champion, won his first of three national titles in 1937 for Oklahoma A&M. He had a remarkable record, losing only one match. He was also a two-time state champion at Central High School in Tulsa.

“A lot of our wrestlers in the last four or five years got to meet Stanley Henson, and each time we met him it was a special moment for all of us,” head coach John Smith said in a statement. “He was a great part of our program’s legacy, and the last living wrestler that I know of that wrestled under Coach Gallagher. He had great memories of Coach Gallagher and always told me great stories and how highly he thought of him, and that motivated me as a coach.

“I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Henson and share stories during our trip to Northern Colorado earlier this season, and it’s a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. While it is unfortunate that he’s gone, he has left some great memories for all of us and a great legacy. Our hearts are with his family today.”

Henson’s impact reached far beyond the mat; he was a longtime surgeon and also served in WWII. Many consider Henson to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time.

“He lost one match, and avenged it later,” said Mike Chapman, former Coloradoan sports editor and author of 15 books on the history of wrestling said a few years ago. “All the old-timers I talk to consider him – without exception – one of the top four or five wrestlers of all time.”

Here’s Intermat on his legacy.

Charlie Mayser, legendary coach at Iowa State in the 1930s, said, “(Henson) is positively the greatest wrestler to come along in generations, and I’ve seen some of the best.” The Cyclone coach later said, “That Henson — he’s just not human!” Contemporary wrestling historian Mike Chapman said this of Henson: “All the old-timers I talk to consider him — without exception — one of the top four or five wrestlers of all time.”

After five years as a physical instructor and wrestling assistant at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Henson attended medical school at University of Maryland and trained at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. for four years before moving to Fort Collins, Colo. to work as a surgeon, becoming the first doctor to perform open-heart surgery at the local hospital. In addition, he was a pioneer in the field of sports medicine. He still resides in Colorado with his wife of more than 75 years, Thelma. Henson was welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1978. [Intermat]

Henson kind of sounded like the man in this interview from a few years ago.

Henson, who had a 56-1 career record, still has swagger. When asked to identify himself in grainy footage from 1936, Henson made it simple.

“If there’s a guy on the bottom, it’s not me,” he said. [Coloradoan]

Henson recently received the 2017 Gallagher Award from OSU, which is presented annually to “an OSU alumnus who exemplifies the spirit and leadership eminent in the tradition of champions.”

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