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FLASH: Olympic Champion Doug Blubaugh passes away at 76



Doug Blubaugh, one of America's greatest wrestlers, was killed in a motorcycle accident on May 16, 2011, in Tonkawa, Okla. He was 76 years old.
A native of Ponca City, Okla., Blubaugh was an influential figure in college and international wrestling. He was a three-time All-American (1955-1957) and an NCAA champion (1957) for Oklahoma State. His greatest wrestling achievement was winning the 1960 Rome Olympic Games at 160.5 pounds in freestyle with a 7-0 record and five pins. Blubaugh was named the outstanding wrestler in the world for his exceptional performance.

His pin over Iran's Emaili Habbibi (an eventual four-time World and Olympic champion) in the fifth round continues to be a memorable moment in American wrestling history. Blubaugh joined teammates Terry McCann (125.5 pounds) and Shelby Wilson (147.5 pounds) as Olympic gold medalists in 1960.

"Doug Blubaugh was the warmest and most sensitive man I have ever met," said Lucille McCann, widow of Terry McCann. "He was very instrumental in helping Terry to win a gold medal. The night before his final's match, Terry was depressed and unsure he would be able to win.

"Doug followed Terry all night and talked to him and reassured him he could do it. Doug told him he couldn't let everyone down who had helped him get this far. Doug had given Terry the confidence he needed to get the job done. I'm happy to have had Doug in my life. I will miss him."

Blubaugh also served as a coach at many different levels. His most successful stint was as an assistant coach at Michigan State from 1966 through 1972. The Spartans won seven consecutive Big Ten team titles and the 1967 NCAA team title while Blubaugh was there. Michigan State never placed outside the top six at the NCAA tournament during Blubaugh's seven year involvement with the program.

Grady Peninger, head coach at Michigan State from 1963 through 1986, was instrumental to Blubaugh's early success. He was the head wrestling coach at Ponca City for seven seasons. In 1953, Doug Blubaugh became Grady Peninger's first individual state champion.

"Doug was a great person," said Peninger. "There wasn't a bad bone in his body. He was honest to the point that some people took advantage of him. I felt like he was my own son. Doug always felt hard work would settle everything."

In 1972, Blubaugh was named the head wrestling coach at Indiana University. He coached the Hoosiers for 12 seasons before retiring in 1984. Prior to joining the Michigan State program, Blubaugh was an assistant coach at Oklahoma University and Army. He coached on several international teams as well, including head coach of the United States' 1971 Pan American and World Championship teams.

"Doug Blubaugh was a true Oklahoma State wrestling hero," said current Oklahoma State head coach John Smith. "He was a tough farm kid who overcame adversity to become the best wrestler in the world. He was a good friend who will be greatly missed."

Blubaugh was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 1979. He is survived by two sets of identical twin boys (Dale and Dean, Dana and Dann) and one daughter (Dawn).

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Doug Blubaugh's National Wrestling Hall of Fame biography

In the shadowed ruins of Rome's ancient Basilica, Doug Blubaugh battled the world champion from Iran for the Olympic gold medal. Emamali Habibi had never known defeat. Three times the Persian attacked, each time throwing the young American into danger. Then a swift counterattack from Blubaugh hurled his opponent to his back ... suddenly the struggle was ended. Thus did an Oklahoma farm boy reach the apex of a brilliant athletic career, earning the 1960 Olympic gold medal at 160.5 pounds, and with it recognition as the outstanding wrestler in the world. Doug Blubaugh was no stranger to the role of champion. He won NCAA honors for Oklahoma State in 1957 and National AAU Freestyle titles in 1957, when he was named outstanding wrestler, and 1959. A year before his Olympic conquest, he won a gold medal in the 1959 Pan American Games at Chicago, matching the 1955 achievement of his brother, Jack. They were the first brothers to capture Pan Am titles. Blubaugh is remembered, too, for his epic struggles with a former college teammate, Phil Kinyon. Over four years of Freestyle competition, they met 13 times. The first 12 bouts ended in draws, 11 scoreless. Five of these were in the 1960 Olympic trials, before Blubaugh crashed through for the takedown and victory that sent him on to Olympic glory. From a competitive career totaling more than 400 victories against just 17 defeats, Blubaugh turned to coaching and won added respect for his teaching skills and his honesty and dedication. After seven years as an assistant at Michigan State, during which he was Freestyle coach of U. S. teams in the 1971 Pan American Games and World Championships, he spent a decade as head coach at Indiana University. As a champion athlete of awesome achievement, and as a living example to young men of the highest standards of character and integrity, Douglas Morlan Blubaugh is honored as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.



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