Wrestling in the Real World
(Columnist's note: The following story was related to me by Tod Jeffers, a great wrestling enthusiast and Mid-Day Talk Show host on WKKX 1600 am.)
The late Dr. Bill Koll, a graduate of Iowa State Teachers College (now Northern Iowa University), was undefeated for three years, won three consecutive NCAA National Titles, and was the first collegiate wrestler to receive two outstanding wrestler awards at nationals. His double leg was unstoppable, and his phenomenal accomplishments on the mats are legendary to this day.
A veteran of WWII, having seen the worst of humanity at Omaha Beach on D-Day, Dr. Koll feared no man, on or off the mats. It's what happened off the mats that I will now share with you.
Bill Koll was the head wrestling coach at Penn State from 1964 to 1978, where he compiled a coaching record of 127-22-7. During his final year as coach, Koll's Nittany Lions traveled to Springfield College, near Boston, for a dual meet. They arrived in town the night before the meet and were staying at a motel in a fairly rough neighborhood.
As was Coach Koll's custom, he would always take a walk the night before away matches to find an appropriate restaurant for his team's breakfast the next morning. He had been gone for a couple hours and Tod Jeffers, traveling with the team to report on the match, began to worry. Finally, he received a call from Coach Koll . . . from the police station!
At this time, Coach Koll was 55 years old, could hardly see without his glasses, weighed approximately 150 pounds, and limped from an old wrestling injury. As he was walking down the streets of Boston, two muggers targeted him as their next victim. A little old man would be a cake walk.
Approaching Coach Koll and demanding his wallet, Koll simply said "No!" Thus, they decided to rough him up. Boy, were they in for the shock of their lives.
When the dust (literally) cleared, Coach Koll had already double legged one of the muggers to the ground, breaking his arm with a twisting hammerlock (illegal, I might add). The second mugger ran screaming down the street, as the police arrived.
While on the phone, Jeffers asked Coach Koll if he was okay.
"Hell, no, Tod! The damn hoodlums broke my glasses; I can't see! Come down and get me. Now!"
The next morning at breakfast Coach Koll began trying on some of his wrestlers' glasses. "These will do," said Koll to Jerry White, an All-American at the time.
Tod Jeffers just smiled and shook his head.
(Columnist's note: Next week's Part Two involves another mugger's unfortunate encounter with a local coach.)