"By the fall of 1971, hopefully, we will organize a National Wrestling League along the lines of the NFL, NBA and NHL, with teams in six or eight cities. Competition would be for a national team championship, with a tournament at the end of the season to determine individual national champions.
"The success of this tournament will breed other tournaments, and with them more and bigger prizes. And top wrestlers who eventually sign with teams will be able to earn a fair living like most pro athletes."
The tournament did turn out to be successful as far as entertainment went. A gymnasium full of noisy rooters would have made it more successful. So would a ring bigger than 28 feet in diameter—it was too easy for a man in trouble to get out of the circle and stop the action. The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, while insisting on its 5% of the gross, waived the requirement for ring ropes. Maybe it shouldn't have.
The afternoon preliminary bouts provided some surprises. One of them was that the four heavyweights wrestled first. Normally they go last. "All my life I've wanted to see the heavyweights go first," said Fitch, who, at 5'4", wouldn't have to bend over to put a hammerlock on a mouse.
Heavyweight Bill Smith, 41, 1952 Olympic gold-medal winner, was defeated 3-0 by Rich Schumacher out of East Stroudsburg. Three-time NCAA champ Larry Hayes from Jesup, Iowa, was pinned by Adam Waltz, the wrestling coach at Renovo (Pa.) High. Two-time NCAA champ Dave Auble of Ithaca, N.Y., wrestling in the 135-pound class, lost in overtime to Bob Guzzo of Canton, N.Y.
Only about 300 people were in the stands for the afternoon bouts. Many had complained that $8 was too much to pay for the two sessions (it was $6 for students and coaches). At first the NWC insisted that fans who only wanted to come Saturday night still had to pay full price. That policy was changed when the early ticket-sale figures came in. Enthusiastic high-school coaches who had thought they could peddle 20 or 30 tickets came to Fitch's room and sheepishly admitted they had sold two.
"It's a shame to have this quality card wrestling before a half-empty house," said Fitch. "I wish I didn't have to keep writing checks so I could watch the bouts myself."
"Other than the Olympic Trials, a field like this has never been assembled before," said Lehigh Coach Thad Turner.
Most of the finals were excellent. In the 150-pound class, Bill Stuart, a medical student at the University of Maryland, wrestled even with Waltz for two periods, then tore him up in the third, 12-1. In the 165-pound class, where all four men were ex- NCAA champions, Attorney Greg Ruth of Norman, Okla. beat Bob Kopinsky, the plebe coach at Navy, 10-4. The best match of all was between Guzzo and Harvard Assistant Coach Bob Fehrs in the 135-pound class. They finished the third period tied 6-6, Fehrs winning in overtime 4-1.
When he was at Michigan, Fehrs was runner-up three times in the NCAA championships. Mike Caruso, who beat him each time, was a spectator Saturday, having turned down an invitation to participate.