Among the greatest wrestling upsets in NCAA history, three stand out: Larry Owings’ 13-11 victory over Dan Gable in 1970, Dwayne Keller’s 4-2 decision over Rick Sanders in 1968 and Steve Marianetti’s 13-10 triumph of Lincoln McIlravy in 1995.
Those memories still burn bright in the victors’ minds and remind fans and wrestlers that no match is predetermined.
GABLE’S TIME TO LOSE?
Larry Owings was not as legendary as Dan Gable in 1970, but the sophomore from Washington was nearly matching the two-time national champion from Iowa State pin for pin — wrestling in a pigtail round gave Gable five falls to Owings’ four — in the 142-pound bracket of the NCAA tournament before their fated meeting in the March 28 finals in Evanston, Ill.
“I pinned mine a little faster and I liked to think that I did a little bit better than he did,” said Owings, who entered the NCAA finals with a 32-2 record in an era when college athletes were not eligible until their sophomore season.
Owings also was not intimidated by Gable’s college resume that included a 118-0 record in nearly three years at Iowa State and an incomparable 181-match winning streak that dated back to Gable’s high school days at Waterloo (Iowa) West High School.
Nearly 37 years later, Owings — now a retired school teacher living in Aurora, Ore. — agrees that few people believed he could win.