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Vaudeville may be dead, but wrestling is alive and well, and the best act going is the souffl�-and-pancake routine of Terry Hall—a combination of moves he executes faster than one can say California State Polytechnic College at San Luis Obispo, which is where Hall is a senior.
Looking at the 5'2�", 118-pound Hall, one would think that if he had any act at all it might be balancing teacups. But when he peels off his warmup suit, takes out his four-tooth bridge and steps on the mat it's obvious where his true vocation lies.
Once on the mat Hall skitters behind his foe, hoists him and dumps him like a sack of flour. That's the souffl�. The pancake is just what it sounds like—the pin that concludes his performance.
"I like to wrestle rough and tough," Hall says. "I don't think you can use just moves and techniques. You have to get physical. When I do a souffl� I hear the crowd oooh and ahhh, and it gets to me, and I know that my next move will be even stronger. Against Michigan State [an SRO crowd of more than 4,000 turned out for the match at Cal Poly last month], the crowd got me up so much that I forgot how tired I was and kept right on going and won 30-4."
According to his coach, Vaughan Hitchcock, Hall is the most exciting wrestler in the land, and that includes Dan Gable, the Iowa State 142-pounder who has won a record 166 straight matches. "You can hear them bubble when Terry comes out," Hitchcock says, "because they know they're going to see something spectacular. The way he picks guys up and swings them around excites people. He's the fastest I've seen in 20 years of watching wrestling, and he's phenomenally strong. Why, he came within a gnat's eyebrow of making the Olympic team in 1968."
Winning has become a habit both for Hall, whose college record is 42-2-1, and for Cal Poly, which has been 107-22-1 since Hitchcock took over in 1962. Until then West Coast wrestling—and California's in particular—had been simply terrible. From 1962 on, however, the Cal Poly Mustangs haven't lost to a California school in 82 matches and for three of the past four years have been NCAA college-division champions. Moreover, last year Cal Poly beat out perennial champion Oklahoma State for fifth place in the NCAA university tournament. And a month ago the Mustangs became the first West Coast team ever to defeat powerful Oklahoma in Norman.
Hitchcock has performed these feats despite having arrived in San Luis Obispo at the worst possible time. Less than two years earlier 16 Cal Poly football players had been killed when their plane crashed on the way home from a game against Bowling Green, a disaster that almost put an end to all sports at the school. Says Hitchcock, "Last year was the first that any of our teams was allowed to fly to any event except the Nationals."
Being unable to fly was actually the least of Hitchcock's troubles. When he arrived in San Luis—locals never add the Obispo—about the most spirited activity was the unending controversy about whether the correct pronunciation was "Looie" or "Lewis."
It was some situation that Hitchcock walked into: almost total campus apathy toward sports, an underfinanced athletic program, a workload that put him in charge of the entire intramural program and a full schedule of PE classes. But he has brought the same measure of success to Cal Poly that he had elsewhere. Hitchcock, who is 36, 6 feet and 210 pounds, has always been a winner. At Washington State he won 38 of 40 wrestling matches, was a guard-linebacker, played in the East-West Shrine game and in 1956 was the school's Athlete of the Year. He was no less successful as a high school wrestling coach, losing only one match in six years.
When Hitchcock got a look at his budget at Cal Poly he thought of going out and blowing it all on a Coke. Instead, he began scrimping. He has often gone from motel to motel to get the lowest possible rate for his team. The Mustangs fly youth fare, which means they are frequently bumped off flights. Indeed, there have been times when one group of wrestlers has been airborne, another has been boarding a plane and a third group has been waiting for a flight.