In 2018, Ohio State finished second to Penn State at the NCAA tournament. Many current wrestling writers, fans, spectators, coaches and commentators felt that Ohio State was the “best ever” to finish in second place at the NCAA tournament.
A few months ago I did a write-up that included some research on Bobby Douglas. Douglas was an Olympian and one of the most successful coaches in the history of the sport. After an undefeated 1965 regular season at Oklahoma State, Douglas had a concussion in his first match at the NCAA tournament and was unable to continue competing. Ultimately the Cowboys fell to Iowa State 87-86, and missed out on what would now be one of 35 NCAA titles.
The 1965 #okstate wrestling team was arguably the best NCAA wrestling team to not win the team title. Finished 2nd behind Iowa State 87-86, after a first-round injury to Olympian Bobby Douglas. Crowned 3 NCAA champions-Tadaaki Hatta, Yojiro Uetake, Jack Brisco-5 other AA's pic.twitter.com/UZSx5Q6lDT
— Seth Duckworth (@Seth_Duckworth) May 15, 2019
Even with Douglas out, the Cowboys still looked capable of winning that tournament. This Sports Illustrated article chronicles the incredible comeback win by Iowa State and the shock waves it sent through Stillwater and the state of Oklahoma. I thought I’d dig through and see how this 1965 Oklahoma State might stack up against the 2018 Ohio State team that recent history has crowned to be the “best runner-up”.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Yojiro Uetake (130) — 1st vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder (285) — 1st
This is a battle of two all-timers in the sport. Both had Olympic gold medals before graduating college and one went on to win another later in his career. The youngest Olympic gold medalist in Kyle Snyder vs. one of very few two-time gold medal winners in Uetake.
Both these guys were off-the-charts talents. One thing I thought may give Uetake an edge was bonus points. Kyle Snyder never scored many of them, but as I dug through Uetake’s bracket in 1965, he really didn’t either this year. Uetake was untouchable, though. He never lost a match in his career and as impressive as Snyder is he did show some vulnerabilities in losing a few college matches. Ultimately in these NCAA tournaments both won with Snyder picking up a few more bonus points.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Tadaaki Hatta (115) — 1st 115 vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello (125) — 3rd
Two lightweight NCAA champions in Hatta and Tomasello had comparable bodies of work in their careers with some argument to be made for Tomasello having the better overall resume. In Hatta’s time freshmen could not compete, so he only had three trips to the NCAA tournament, winning in 1965 and finishing third in 1966. Tomasello won as a freshman and placed in all four other seasons, but in the two seasons we’re comparing here Hatta was the NCAA champ while Tomasello finished third. This would give the scoring edge to the Cowboy and the overall body of work to the Buckeye.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Jack Brisco (191) — 1st vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Kollin Moore (197) — 4th
The third of Oklahoma State’s three NCAA champs at this tournament vs. the heavy favorite to take home next year’s 197 pound title. With the trajectory of Kollin Moore looking like he’ll pick up an NCAA title next season, it’s likely that this is another comparison where the overall body of work for each of these guys will look very similar. Brisco was a runner-up in his junior season and an NCAA champion in his senior season. Moore has followed a similar pattern, but in the years we’re comparing each wrestler, Brisco finished as the NCAA champion while Moore finished fourth, giving a definite edge to the Cowboy in this debate. Brisco also notably went on to a Hall of Fame Career in professional wrestling.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Bill Harlow (177) — 2nd vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Myles Martin (184) — 2nd
Both runners-up in this season and both NCAA champs at one point in their careers. Martin won his title as a freshman at Ohio State while Harlow won his as a senior at Oklahoma State. Both were in their junior seasons here as Harlow fell to Iowa State’s Tom Peckham and Martin to Penn State’s Bo Nickal. Both finished the exact same spot in the bracket, but you could give Martin a slight edge as he scored a few bonus points where Harlow decisioned his way through.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Russ Winer (HWT) — 2nd vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Joey McKenna (141) — 3rd
The defending NCAA champ, Russ Winer’s match ultimately was what the team title in 1965 came down to. After a fall by Jack Brisco in his final at 191, Oklahoma State needed Winer to knock off Jim Nance, who doubled as the fullback for the Syracuse football team. Winer fell 5-3 giving ISU the team title. McKenna finished third in that 2018 season at a very tough weight, and was also the runner-up his senior year.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Dennis Dutsch (123) — 4th vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher (133) — 4th
Both guys finished fourth and the only bonus scored was one major decision from Dutsch. Dutsch finished fifth the year prior and Pletcher has finished fourth twice in his career. Pletcher still has his senior year remaining.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Gene Davis (137) — 4th vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Micah Jordan (157) — 6th
Gene Davis finished fourth and Micah Jordan finished sixth. Both these guys had big time careers beyond just this season. Davis was a three-time All-American, an NCAA champion, and an Olympic Bronze Medalist. Jordan was a three-time All-American and NCAA finalist.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Mike Reding (157) — 5th vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Bo Jordan (174) — 5th
Both wrestlers finished fifth here, both were All-Americans in every season they were eligible to compete, and both were NCAA finalists.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Roy Brewer (167) — DNP vs. ’18 Ohio State’s Te’Shan Campbell (165) — DNP
Both won a few matches at the NCAA tournament and neither placed. Both similar careers in qualifying for the NCAA tournament multiple times, but neither placed.
’65 Oklahoma State’s Bobby Douglas (147) — INJ DEF vs. ’18 Ohio State-‘s Keshawn Hayes (157) — DNP
As mentioned earlier, Bobby Douglas was knocked out of the tournament with a concussion in his very first match. He was undefeated, the No. 1 seed and expected to cruise to an NCAA title. Hayes was the No. 6 seed and put together a solid career, but did not place here. The consensus among most is that Douglas — who later went on to be an Olympian and very successful coach — would have almost certainly won the NCAA tournament if it weren’t for his concussion. That’s something that’s certainly up for discussion and debate as we’ll never know for sure.
Final Disposition: The 1965 Oklahoma State team was better.
The full body of work of the Ohio State wrestlers is difficult to view at this point, some are still in college and others are early in their international careers. Here’s how some of the key metrics in the individual seasons stack up.
|Oklahoma State||Ohio State|
And those come with one of OSU’s best sidelined with injury. With that metric and strong bodies of work for most of the Oklahoma State guys, it looks as though the 1965 Oklahoma State team deserves the title of “best second team ever.”
Note: Since weight classes have changed since 1965, I opted not to attempt to compare this like up a dual lineup. It’s just a comparison of the top guys from each team and how they’re scoring might compare at the NCAA tournament.