Doug Blubaugh, 1960 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle, 1957 NCAA mat champ, and college wrestling coach who was killed Monday night in a motorcycle accident in Tonkawa, Okla., is being remembered by friends not just for his on-the-mat accomplishments… but for so much more.
Here are just some of those tributes:
- John Smith: “Doug Blubaugh was a true Oklahoma State wrestling hero,” said the current Cowboy wrestling head coach, himself a two-time Olympic gold medalist in freestyle and Oklahoma State mat alum. “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.”
- Dan Gable: “I had nothing but the most respect for Doug Blubaugh,” the 1972 Olympic gold medalist wrestler and legendary University of Iowa coach told Takedown Wrestling’s Scott Casber on Tuesday. “He was immensely important to me in my transition from one level to another as far as getting good. All the time since that, we have both respected each other to the highest end.”
- Jack Spates: “He was one of the icons of our sport,” according to the recently-retired University of Oklahoma head coach who told Scott Casber Tuesday, “He touched a lot of lives. He accomplished things as a competitor that so very, very few people in history could only dream about. So in many ways he was a rich man.”
- Grady Peninger: “Doug was a great person,” said the man who was wrestling coach at Ponca City High School when Blubaugh won the Oklahoma state title in 1953… then was head coach at Michigan State when Blubaugh was an assistant. “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… He couldn’t have been closer if he’d been my son or my brother. He was just a great friend.”
- Matt Hamill: “Today is a sad day for me. Doug Blubaugh, my great friend, mentor and master since 5th grade passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident at the age of 76,” said Hamill, a three-time NCAA Division III champ at Rochester Institute of Technology who is now a star in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships). “It is heart wrenching for me to see him pass away. He was the greatest ambassador for wrestling and his contributions to the sport will never be forgotten. Doug dedicated all his sweat and blood to see me become successful. To this day Doug has been influential in my life and most recently spent a week at my house sharpening up my wrestling for my last fight. Thank you Doug and farewell…..”
- Sam Komar: “In my opinion, he affected more people to aspire to the sport of wrestling than anybody I’ve ever known,” said the two-time NCAA All-American who wrestled at Indiana University when Blubaugh was head coach. “He was timeless with his knowledge of the sport. Anytime something new and creative came along, he was always right there to take advantage of it.”
- Chuck Ford: “This is a huge loss for me personally and to the wrestling community as a whole,” a former Indiana high school coach who worked at Blubaugh’s camps. “Even though he was 76, he continued to conduct his camps. He had a huge group of followers that just wouldn’t let him go.”
- Wayne Boyd: “Doug is so much more than his accomplishments. He was a National champion, Olympic champion, coach, clinician and celebrity,” said the 1969 NCAA champion wrestler from Temple University. “But he should be remembered for the man he was at the time of his passing: humble, strong, a little or a lot crazy, near blind on a moped in an Indian city in Oklahoma where he was struck by a truck. I’m surprised it hurt him, but after all he was human. A human being I’ve known, loved and respected for over 40 years. Smart, trusting, kind, generous and a Superman with coke bottle lenses that allowed him to see the world just a little differently than the rest of us.”
- Lucille McCann: “Doug Blubaugh was the warmest and most sensitive man I have ever met,” according to the widow of Terry McCann, who, along with Blubaugh and Shelby Wilson, earned gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics. “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.”
Want to know more? For the College Wrestling Examiner obituary for Douglas Morlan Blubaugh covering his life and career, click here. For reports on Blubaugh’s death, check out TheMat.com, KOCO, and InterMat. For more details on the 1960 Rome Olympics, read the 2010 feature at InterMat. Listen to audio interviews with 1972 Olympic gold medalist Dan Gable and recently retired University of Oklahoma coach Jack Spates conducted by Scott Casber for Takedown Wrestling. For funeral arrangements, click here.
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