History Lesson: 1934 NCAA Championships

A Look at U-M's First Turn as Host of the National Meet

By Lauren Bogema, U-M Athletic Media Relations Student Assistant

In 1934, the average American could throw his $0.97 shirt, his $4.50 shoes, and his $24.75 suit into a bag, toss his $0.32 tube of toothpaste, his $0.46 bottle of shampoo, and his $0.34 bottle of shaving cream on top and be ready for a weekend vacation.

He could hop in his $515 Ford V8, grab a $0.50 meal at a roadside diner, and arrive in Ann Arbor, Mich., where his $1.50 ticket would allow him to watch the NCAA Wrestling Championships hosted by the University of Michigan.

Prior to the 1934 tournament, only two other tournaments (1929, '30) had included official team scoring, and Oklahoma State won the title both times. The NCAA, reluctant to crown an official team champion for fear that it would devalue the conference team championships, had halted team scoring for three years, declaring an unofficial team champion instead. However, official team scoring was instituted again after Michigan head coach Cliff Keen agreed to host nationals.

The tournament featured other changes in addition to the team scoring. The university's Intramural Building held two mats so matches could be run simultaneously throughout the meet. The mats themselves were another innovation; rather than the normal 20-foot, roped-off ring, each mat for the championships was 24 feet square with no ropes. The scoring system awarded five points for an individual championship, three for runner-up and one for third. One point was also awarded for each fall scored during the progress of the meet.

Art Mosier was U-M's lone All-American at the 1934 NCAA event.

The 1934 NCAA Wrestling Championships featured 23 schools and 77 wrestlers, the largest individual entry list in its history. The field included five defending national champions, including three from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State). With three returning champions and a full eight-man roster, the Aggies were the obvious favorite heading into the tournament and were looking to reclaim the title after unofficially sharing it with Iowa State the previous year.

Michigan, on the other hand, entered the tournament without its complete lineup. Joe Oakley was forced to withdraw from the 118-pound bracket the day before the tournament began due to a nagging injury to his arm, which he had broken during the dual season. As a result, captain and Big Ten champion Art Mosier, conference runner-up Louie Parker, and Jack Harrod all dropped a weight class lower for the NCAA tournament. Despite the roster shakeup, Michigan entered seven men into the championships and maintained high hopes for Mosier at 145 pounds.

Of Michigan's wrestlers, however, only Mosier and Harrod advanced to the semifinals on the final day of competition. Mosier battled through two matches, defeating Southern Conference champion Charlie Pritchard of Washington & Lee to earn a spot in the semifinals. Harrod took a similar route at 135 pounds, beating Arch Keller of Ohio University to make it through to the second day.

Southwestern Oklahoma and Big Ten champion Indiana both placed six men into the semifinals of the tournament, while Oklahoma A&M added five of its own. All five defending national champions -- Rex Peery, Ross Flood, Alan Kelley of Oklahoma A&M, Ralph Teague of Southwestern Oklahoma, and Patrick Devine of Indiana -- all advanced to the semifinal round. Oklahoma A&M and Indiana were tied with five points each after the quarterfinals as each school had scored five falls on the first day to lead the pack.

After the quarterfinal matches were complete, Oklahoma A&M held a slight advantage over its competition. The Aggies advanced their three defending champions into the finals and earned 10 points, while Indiana claimed three finalists and eight points, and Southwestern Oklahoma had four and six.

Peery, undefeated in dual meets in his college career and an eventual three-time collegiate champion at 118 pounds, pinned Alvie Natvig of Northern Iowa in 2:10 to return to finals to face Howard Bush of Indiana. Flood, also a three-time collegiate champion at 126, scored a key victory over Oliver Cellini of Indiana to reach the finals. After downing U-M's Harrod, Devine became the third defending champ to advance. Kelley, Oklahoma A&M's third defending champion to make it to the final round, pinned Perd Handley of Northwestern in 8:10 at 145, and Lehigh's Ben Bishop handed A&M its first loss of the tournament at 155 when he downed Frank Lewis in his only match not decided by a fall. Defending heavyweight champion Teague pinned Indiana's Otto Kuss in 7:43 to put all five defending champions from 1933 into the finals in Ann Arbor.

In the first meet of the finals, Oklahoma A&M opened up a six-point advantage when Peery pinned his opponent to win his second NCAA title at 118. Flood quickly followed with a pin of his own to repeat at 126, opening up an 11-point gap that the Aggies would not relinquish. Indiana's chances at the team crown were crushed when its defending champ, Devine, was forced to withdraw from the competition due to an arm infection, and Oklahoma's Wayne Martin automatically took the title at 135. Teague successfully defended his crown for Southwestern Oklahoma by pinning Barney Cosneck of Illinois.

As Michigan's sole competitor in the finals, Mosier faced off against defending champion Kelley. The two had opposite approaches on the mat -- Mosier's style was smooth while Kelley preferred quick action -- but Kelley's speed won out in the match. Mosier held a slight advantage after two minutes of sparring but was unable to hold the lead, and Kelley reclaimed his title at 145 pounds on a referee's decision. Mosier went on to defeat Handley in the consolation round to give the Wolverines their only points of the tournament.

Oklahoma A&M held a 22-13 lead on Indiana and Oklahoma entering the consolation round, effectively wrapping up the team title. Indiana, the only Big Ten school with an NCAA champion (Richard Voliva at 175 pounds), performed well in the wrestlebacks to earn a second-place finish, trailing the Aggies 29-19. Michigan finished the tournament with three points and earned a three-way tie for seventh place.

Note: This story was featured in The Riding Times an inside look at U-M wrestling.

Sign up for Michigan Insider to be the first to learn about 2017-18 Michigan wrestling ticket opportunities.