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He doesn't talk all the time. It just seems as if he does. Last week cauliflower-eared Charlie Speidel, wrestling coach at Penn State for 35 years, had even more than usual to talk about. His team was competing in the NCAA championships at the University of Maryland.
In the Penn State equipment room last Wednesday the baggage was being gathered for the 185-mile trip by car to College Park, Md. Charlie, 61, sat on one of the tables in the equipment room, the stubby legs on his 5-foot-5 frame dangling far from the floor.
"Hi, Doc," boomed Speidel as Sam Minor, the team captain, came by. "I don't know what route we drive, Sam. Let the drivers decide. I tried to tell 'em last time and everybody got lost."
Charlie had started slowly. Now his words were tumbling out faster, racing each other. "We get 6,000 here for our dual meets. They love the action. College rules permit more maneuverability than Olympic rules. Why, in Greco-Roman wrestling we have to eliminate 90% of our tricks because they don't allow holds below the waist." He gripped himself about the waist with tight little fingers, and threw up his arms.
"We don't want to have to start training our kids in grade school just so they can win a gold medal 20 years later. We think our college rules bring out the finest wrestling. They test a boy in all aspects of the sport—offense, defense, the works. For years America won the Olympic wrestling when they were using our catch-as-catch-can college rules, and then in 1928 they voted us down, because we have just one man on that committee, and how are you gonna win an election with one vote? Now if a man's shoulders just roll over the mat—they call that a touch fall—he's pinned in the Olympics. A man can get pinned without even knowing his shoulders have touched the mat, and that's not right. A man gets overcautious. We're trying to get 'em to change the rules back. Olympic wrestling puts too much emphasis on strength. Why, they think its wonderful if you can make yourself rigid like an iron horse and hold like that."
He bounded down from the table. "Let's go, Doc."
Speidel has gone to a lot of tournaments, but he was bubbling with the enthusiasm of a kid with a bag of marbles as he got in the back seat of a black Lark driven by Ed Czekaj, business manager of athletics. He kept right on talking.
"We've got to get back to the basics in this country: reading, writing, arithmetic and," as he poked a hard finger into his rib cage, "care of the body. Too many of our boys have narrow shoulders and wide hips.
"When you're out there wrestling you're on your own." Charlie turned sideways and his voice shifted to the excited, raspy staccato of a Jimmy Cagney. "Suddenly you realize nobody can help you." He clutched his throat. "The other guy's tough. You're afraid." His eyes widened, his hands jumped in front of his chest and locked in icy fear. "What are you going to do?"
He sat back and looked out the window.