By now you are probably well aware that Northwestern graduate Jake Herbert will represent the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Did you know that Jake is not the first Northwestern wrestler to become a U.S. Olympian? Two others competed at the games and won Olympic medals, but Herbert looks to become the first Wildcat to bring home gold.
You have to go all the way back to 1924 to find the first NU wrestling Olympian, Bryan Hines. According to his Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame bio, Hines wrestled with a sprained ankle in Paris, but still managed to win a bronze medal in the men's bantamweight freestyle division. After the Olympics, Hines returned to Evanston and coached Northwestern during the 1926 season.
John ("Jack") Riley came the closest to a gold medal at the Los Angeles games in 1932. A heavyweight freestyle wrestler, Riley made it all the way to the finals where he faced the returning Olympic heavyweight gold medalist, Johan Richthoff of Sweden. Riley ended up taking silver as Richthoff won his second gold medal.
Northwestern head coach Drew Pariano recently met with Riley's son, John, and he shared some historical photos of his father from around the time of the 1932 Olympics.
Both of the photos in this blog are of Riley and the one at the top is of him standing outside the Olympic Village during the 1932 games. InterMat did a special story on the 1932 U.S. wrestling team prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and noted that Los Angeles was the first venue to feature an Olympic Village.
Riley also was an All-American tackle on the Northwestern football team and did not take up wrestling until junior year. His late start did not matter, as he was a two-time NCAA Champion at heavyweight (1931, 1932) and 1931 Big Ten Champion.
Be sure to tune into the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, August 11, to see if Jake Herbert can add another medal to the Northwestern wrestling program's collection!