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USA Wrestling and NCSA to honor many 1971 Junior Nationals champions during its 50th Junior Nationals celebration

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

The 1971 Junior National champions pose together in Iowa City, Iowa.

All great things must have a starting point, and for USA Wrestling’s Junior Nationals event, that came in 1971 at the Fieldhouse in Iowa City, Iowa. USA Wrestling hosted the inaugural Junior Nationals way back then, held in men’s freestyle only, with top athletes from across the nation.

As part of the celebration of the 50th Junior Nationals this week, USA Wrestling and its sponsor NCSA are bringing in the champions from that first Junior Nationals in 1971 to Fargo, N.D. to be at the 50th event, which has combined with the 16U Nationals and grown to become the largest wrestling tournament on earth, with over 6,000 wrestlers.

USA Wrestling’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee worked to find and invite those 1971 champions, and six of them will be here on Monday and Tuesday. The champions who will be able to be part of the celebration are

105.5 – Nathaniel Byrd, Michigan

114.5 – Joe Corso, Iowa

132 – Kit Shaw, Washington

154 – Dan Holm, Illinois

165 – Chuck Berrier, Iowa

191 – Dave Curby, Michigan

Three of those first Junior National champions have passed away, Jimmy Carr of Pennsylvania at 123, Robin Richard of Oregon at 178 and Jim Witzleb of Illinois at heavyweight. Andre Allen, the 143-pound champion from Illinois, is unable to attend. Richards was named Outstanding Wrestler at the 1971 Junior Nationals.

In addition to being the first Junior Nationals champions, many of these athletes went on to have great achievements in wrestling on the college and international levels, as well as building successful lives off the mat.

Jimmy Carr went on to make the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team while still a teenager, and is one of the famous Carr wrestling family that is still making an impact in wrestling. Jimmy’s brother Nate Carr was a 1988 Olympic bronze medalist, and Nate’s son David Carr won a 2019 Junior World title for the United States, along with other successful family members.

Joe Corso went on to earn a spot on the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, and placed third in the 1979 Senior World Championships. He went on to a successful coaching career with the Sunkist Kids and other organizations, and was one of the pioneer coaches that developed women’s wrestling in our nation.

Dave Curby went on to start for the University of Michigan and served as team captain, winning a Big Ten title in 1974. He founded the International Network of Wrestling Researchers, which has more than 500 members in 75 countries, and also serves as the editor of the International Journal of Wrestling Science. He has served as executive director of Beat the Streets Chicago and founded the Jacob Curby Foundation in honor of his late son Jacob, which has made a major impact on the sport. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame with its Order of Merit in 2019.

Dan Holm went on to compete at the University of Iowa under Dan Gable, where he was an 1975 NCAA champion and three-time All-American. He coached four years for Iowa’s Hawkeye Wrestling Club, and also two years with the University of Illinois.

All of those first Junior Nationals champion made additional impact on the sport, and many still have a strong connection to the sport still.

Among the memories from those Junior Nationals champions coming to Fargo come from Chuck Berrier, who made a last minute decision to attend and hitchhiked to the tournament. When he arrived, he had planned to wrestle at 154 pounds, but a teammate was also there so Chuck decided to wrestle up at 165, only weighing 155, and still won the championship.

Holm said the tournament had special meaning for him, because he had already made a commitment to compete for the University of Iowa, and he knew his coach Gary Kurdelmeier would be there watching him.

Dave Curby remembered staying in Rienow Hall on the Iowa campus with other wrestlers, a short walk from the Fieldhouse, and also enjoyed getting his national championship award from the legendary Hall of Famer Myron Roderick.

The 1971 Junior Nationals champions will arrive on Monday, July 19, and meet and greet with many USA Wrestling dignitaries. They will have a VIP suite in the Fargodome to watch the bloodround of the Junior Freestyle Nationals on Monday night. On Tuesday, July 20, they will participate with the Opening Ceremonies prior to Junior Men’s Freestyle Finals, and will be guests of USA Wrestling at a celebration social on Tuesday evening.

NCSA, is the world’s largest and most-experienced college athletic recruiting network, decided to sponsor this special event for many reasons. They are pleased about the opportunity to highlight and reinforce the collaborative partnership between the USA Wrestling and NCSA organizations and promote various opportunities for athletes that don’t end after high school eligibility is exhausted. NCSA also enjoys celebrating alongside USA Wrestling, the volunteers/state leaders who have been instrumental in making this event a success throughout the years.

USA Wrestling and NCSA are pleased to give today’s participants in the Junior Nationals an opportunity to meet the great pioneers of the sport, those who helped create this wonderful event that has impacted hundreds of thousands of young athletes over the last half-century.

Special thanks to 50th Junior Nationals Celebration Committee co-chairs Heather Roy and Kelli Shuffler and all those who worked to help USA Wrestling recognize this amazing milestone.

About NCSA:

To date, NCSA is the world’s largest and most-experienced college athletic recruiting network, having helped more than 200,000 student-athletes commit to their college choice. As a member of the NCSA recruiting network, you will l get access to:

• Exposure to college coaches: There are more than 40,000 college coaches in NCSA’s network and more than 90% of US colleges have rostered an NCSA athlete.

• College Coach Activity: See how often college coaches view your profile.

• Recruiting resources: Access NCSA educational content, including free online recruiting classes, a breakdown of NCAA recruiting rules and calendars for each division, a comprehensive list of colleges, scholarship information and more.