Personal Memories of Penn State Wrestling

Marty Strayer (1965)
My thoughts on my wrestling career at Penn State:

Matches that I wrestled and remember the most.

I think it was my first match that I ever wrestled in Rec Hall, and it was against Rick Bay of Michigan. I won the match and after the meet was over the Michigan coach (Cliff Keen) came over to congratulate me, telling me that I defeated a very good wrestler. I found out later that he had never lost a high school match. If I had known that, I probably would have lost. I preferred not to know the records of my opponents. I'll never forget that coach Keen did that. Most coaches would not, but it really helped me to gain the confidence in myself that I needed.

Probably the match I remember the most was when I won my first EIWA championship in 1964. The Easterns that year were in Lancaster at F&M. Manheim, Pa., is my home town so basically I was wrestling in front of the home town fans. I defeated the second-seeded wrestler, Lee Hall, who was from Pitt. He was a two-time PA state champion, and in high school I never got higher than District 3 runner-up. I was fortunate to win the match, 3-0.

The practice room.

Basically we had no real practice-room memories that are worth relating until Bill Koll arrived in the Fall of 1964. I remember thinking, "Why could I not have had this man coach me for four years?" He was a great coach and wonderful practice-room technician except for the ever present cigar.

Parent and fan support.

To the best of my knowledge, my parents never missed a home or away Penn State match. My father did miss one of my three NCAA tournaments due to a business trip that he had in Brazil. That one was in my first year, and the Nationals were at Kent State. Unfortunately he missed one of my best matches ever when I defeated the number-one seed from Oklahoma State.

Team members.

George Edwards, MarkPiven, Steve Erber, and I were teammates and continue to be close friends today. In the wrestling room we all pushed each other, and I am proud to say that all of us were successful not only in our wrestling careers but also in our professional careers after Penn State.

Coaches who challenged me to that "Big" win.

That would have to be Dave Adams. In 1963 in the PSU/Pitt match I wrestled Jim Harrison, who went on to be the 167-1b NCAA champion that year. Harrison was a big strong fellow from Granby, Va. I was tall and by appearance didn't look very strong. Coach Adams that week in practice worked with me to prepare me for Harrison's style of wrestling, which included the famous Granby Roll. Dave taught me the crab ride, which virtually eliminated the opponent's using the Granby Roll. The bottom line was that I defeated Jim Harrison and went on to meet him in the Eastern finals that year at Navy. Unfortunately, I lost to him in the finals but the crab ride remained with me for the rest of my career. Thank you, Coach Adams!

Bus trips and hotel stays.

Way too many to write about. Coach Koll using his suit jacket as a pillow is probably what I remember the most. He was priceless.

What wrestling has meant to me.

I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to wrestle—especially at Penn State. Wrestling has literally influenced every aspect of my life. So many good things have happened to me because of wrestling. Four of my five wrestling coaches, Clyde Witman, John Reese, Charlie Speidel, and Bill Koll, are enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, OK. That statement alone says a lot about my wrestling career. One might say that it took four Hall of Fame coaches to turn a really bad wrestler into a reasonably decent one. Perhaps a better way to say this is that it took four fine men to teach the critically important lessons of life that one can only appreciate if they were at sometime in their life a wrestler.
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