Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
There is an old expression that says, "If you find a tortoise sitting on top of a fence post, you can be sure it had to have help getting there." Tonight I would like to thank those that helped this old tortoise get to the top of the fence post.
Although wrestling is the oldest of sports and in fact is recognized as the first Olympic sport, amateur wrestlers are looked on as a strange breed. With our emphasis on heads in armpits, cross body rides, and crotch lifts we are difinitely different. So I must thank my parents for not only allowing me but also encouraging me to be different. They were the first to help me up the fence post.
In high school I took to wrestling quite naturally. For wrestling you need strength, endurance, and quickness. Fortunately you do not need foot speed, hand-eye coordination, or intelligence. By the time I got to Harvard I was already what is called a "mat rat." A mat rat is a wrestler who works out all the time, lifts weights, runs, travels far and wide for extra competition, has at least on cauliflower ear, and doesn't smile much. Some attribute my lack of smiling to a dour disposition. However, I attribute it to a black front tooth. The black tooth was a product of high school football straight arm to the face. It was kind of ugly indeed so I didn't smile much. It even got uglier. In freshmen football practice, Bob "Shag" Shaunessy, our eventual varsity football captain, knocked the black tooth completely out when he missed the blocking dummy I was holding and hit me in the face. The field house crew sent me to a Harvard dentist. In a brilliant move, the dentist decided not to replace it until I had finished all contact sports four years later in my senior year. The black hole, however, was a definite advantage in wrestling. Every time I would go out on the mat to meet my opponent I wouldn't smile until we shook hands and that black hole was worth at least a two point takedown. So thanks Shag for promoting my wrestling career.
I do need to give credit to my football line coach Jim Lentz. Jimmy definitely pushed me up the post. I asked him once if I should quit football and concentrate on wrestling and pre-med. He, being one of me staunchest supporters, insisted that I stay out for football and switch my position to center where I could fully utilize my questionable quickness. He pointed out that as a center it was a big advantage to know exactly when the ball was going to be centered. More important he said that I needed football because football would humanize me and teach me how to get along with people, more so than wrestling. I think Jim Lentz had a point. Thanks Jim.
My wrestling coaches Bob Pickett, the varsity coach, and Johnny Lee, the freshman coach, were instrumental in any and every success that I had. They taught me, nutured me, humored me, and expecially kept me focused for four years when the rigors of pre-med stressed me out. It was Bob Pickett who told me in my freshman year that in four years I could be Eastern Champ. Unfortunately in my senior year I lost to Ed Hamer from LeHigh in a close match in the Eastern Finals. Hamer went on to become national champ that year.
Johnny Lee encouraged me to go beyond the tight confines of our wrestling room and introduced me to Jimmy Peckham. Peckham was a US National, International, and Olympic champion as wekk as a coach of all those teams. Jim's domain was a downtown Boston venue called he Boston Young Men's Christian Union, a somewhat dilapidated building where the competition was both fierce and instructive. It was also next to Jake Wirth's, a famous Boston pub, which had the best beer in town. Among other things, Jim taught me self sacrafice. In my junior year, I had to lose 20 lbs. in one week to drop down a weight class so we could beat Columbia. I lost the weight and we won the meet. Today with very tough restrictions on in season weight loss you couldn't do it. But Jim was a fabulous mentor.
Rick Sullivan, a fellow classmate and wrestler, taught me what enthusiasm and dedication really are. Rick had two serious anterior cruciate ligament knee injuries. Most wrestlers would simply retire because this was long before modern ACL reconstructions. Not Rick. With arduous rehab and braces, he continued to perform and actually reached his zenith after college becoming a nationally ranked wrestler representing Harvard exceptionally well.
Joey Noble, roommate, classmate, fellow wrestler, and wretling captain taught me that you could do two sports and do them well. As well as wrestling, he also captained a championship lightweight crew that went to Henley. Joey should be up here too. Thanks Rick and joey. You were my heroes.
Traveling far and wide as a mat rat in high school is when I first met Steve Friedman. Steve was a Long Island High School Champ. We were in different weight classes at that time. He eventually went to Cornell, captained their team, and became an Eastern Champ. We finally did meet head to head in a dual meet at Harvard in my senior year. It was the first Ivy meet after the football season and I was supposedly not in wrestling "shape." Surprisingly, I won the match on endurance. Thanks Steve for puching me.
Last of all, the permissive influence of the "Harvard Experience" helped me up the post. Where else in the world could you study Dostoevsky in the moring (Russian 101), measure aldehydes and ketones in quantitative analytical chemistry at noon, work out with a Greco-Roman Olympic Champ in the afternoon, and spend the evening at a B'Nai B'rith Football award dinner in New talking to Ray Fitzgerald from The Globe.
Most of all it was people that put this tortoise on the fence post. My thanks to them, to Harvard, and thanks to the Varsity Club.