Photo of Kyle Snyder by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
The greatest seasons in NCAA wrestling history can and will be debated. Eras are difficult to compare. As time wears on, many forget the stories of the champions, even more so those that they defeated in getting there. Still, the mystique surrounding a wrestler who wins every battle, defeating each foe who steps on the mat against him on his way to a national championship remains powerful. To have a little fun as we continue to wait for the season to begin, I decided to take a look at the best seasons in Division I wrestling history for each different win total, 11 through 55. Some of the decisions were easy, there has only been one wrestler to ever win a D1 title after going 55-0 for example, but others were incredibly tough. Choosing the best 34-0 season had me splitting hairs as the list of legendary athletes who have earned that record is long.
Today we begin our journey looking at win totals from 11 to 15. I used a blend of dominance, historical significance, and who a wrestler beat to make my choices. Win totals can be a little tricky to confirm, especially for older wrestlers, but using Jay Hammond’s historical work and school websites among other sources, this is what I came up with. We’ll be rolling out the list in increments of five throughout the fall so be on the lookout.
Kyle Snyder (Ohio State), 285, 2016
We begin with a memorable season from recent history. Snyder was set to redshirt after his first world title in 2015 and the Rio Olympics looming in August. He had an international schedule planned, but in the middle of the season, it was decided he could also compete for the Buckeyes, moving up to 285 after finishing second at 197 the year before. Kyle returned to the mat on January 17th with a 20-9 major decision of Collin Jensen (Nebraska), entered the post-season having a record of 3-0, then ran the table, winning his first NCAA title by beating two-time defending champion Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State) in one of the greatest NCAA finals matches of all-time, 7-5 in sudden victory. Snyder was named the Outstanding Wrestler in Madison Square Garden.
Edwin Belshaw (Indiana), 134, 1932
In the fifth NCAA Wrestling tournament ever held, Indiana proved to be inhospitable hosts, becoming the first team champions other than Oklahoma State thanks in large part to Belshaw’s win over Ralph Rasor (Oklahoma State) in the semi-finals. Had that outcome have been reversed, the Cowboys would have won instead. Belshaw was the lone individual champion for the Hoosiers, topping Lyle Morford (Cornell College) to claim the crown, as they won their only NCAA wrestling championship, capping a 12-0 season in his third and final college campaign. He was also named the Outstanding Wrestler for the tournament.
Yojiro Uetake (Oklahoma State), 130, 1965
After an undefeated season and an NCAA title in 1964, Uetake won a gold medal for Japan in the Tokyo Olympics that October. He would add another in 1968 as well. Wrestling a limited schedule for the Cowboys in 1965, Uetake was still untouchable, controlling his matches on the way to his second of three perfect years. He would earn the first of his two Outstanding Wrestler awards after taking down Joe Perlitore (Lehigh) in the NCAA finals.
Dan Hodge (Oklahoma), 177, 1956
The apple crusher continued his astounding college career by pinning 11 of his 14 opponents including all four he faced at the NCAA tournament, including Gary Kurdlemeier (Iowa) in the semifinals. Hodge needed just 1:37 to dispatch the number two seed, Roy Minter (Minnesota State), in the finals. As was the case throughout his college career, Hodge was never taken down, helping the Sooners to the team title in a close battle with Pitt. Hodge was named the Outstanding Wrestler, an award he would win again the next season. Hodge’s 1956 sits second on the all-time Sooner fall percentage list behind his own 1957 season.
Ben Bishop (Lehigh), 155, 1934
Only two wrestlers from schools outside of Oklahoma claimed titles in 1934, but Bishop was named the outstanding wrestler after recording his 13th pin of the year to defeat Foy Stout (Southwestern Oklahoma) for the title. That reversed a loss suffered by the Lehigh senior at the 1933 national tournament. Bishop also twice pinned Hody Hooker (Princeton) during his final year, avenging his only EIWA loss. The first of three Lehigh wrestlers to be named OW at the NCAA tournament, Bishop’s 1934 performance remains tied for third on the school’s all-time list for most falls in a season and is the best fall percentage in program history.