Before The Midlands, there was The Wilkes (and still is, though it is mostly for JV wrestlers now).
Many of you fellow old-timers on the Forum surely remember ‘The Wilkes’ , the Rose Bowl of Wrestling, from back-in-the-day. Going thru a scrapbook from the 50s yesterday, I came across an article on the December, 1955 Wilkes tournament. I pass along some highlights:
A capacity crowd saw the finals at the Wilkes College gym. A total of 7.500 people attended the two-day (four sessions) event.
Pitt won the tournament, followed by Michigan, Syracuse and Cornell. Penn State might have won it but several of their guys wrestled ‘unattached’.
Billy Sheridan presented the trophies to the individual champions. Keith Morris, Public Relations Director for Sports Illustrated, presented the team title and runner-up trophies to Pitt and Michigan.
Numerous Olympians and former AAU, NCAA and EIWA champions participated in the tournament. Cornell graduate Frank Bettucci won his 6th Wilkes title at 147 pounds. Sid Nodland, a former AAU champion from Mepham & PSU, won at 123 pounds.
The 1954 NCAA champion from Pitt, Larry Fornicola, won at 137 and was named Outstanding Wrestler. NCAA runnerup Mike Rodriguez edged Pitt’s Dave Johnson in the 157 pound final. Olympian and NCAA champ Ed DeWitt won at 167 and NCAA runner-up Joe Krufka won at 177. The Oberly brothers, Bill and W.Johnston (then only 17 years old) from Washington, NJ won the titles at 191 and Hwt.
A Lehigh freshman (and my friend since grade school), Leon Harbold, won the title at 130 pounds, pinning former AAU champion George Creason in the finals. Leon won the trophy for being the highest point-scorer in the tournament.
Times sure have changed for wrestlers and fans up in Wilkes-Barre.