Sun Devil Wrestling Honors Black History Month

Feb. 28, 2008

TEMPE, Ariz. - In 1965, Charlie Tribble, an African-American wrestler for Arizona State University, competed in the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Wyoming and placed third at 177 pounds by pinning Roger Mickish of Oklahoma in 1:40. By securing three falls in 4:28, Tribble also was named the Gorrarian Award recipient (most falls in least time). His Top 8 finish made him one of the first three All-Americans in Sun Devil wrestling history as well as one of the keystones the program built off on its way to 18 conference titles and one NCAA Championship.

As Black History Month comes to a close this week and the current Sun Devil wrestlers prepare for their chance to continue to build upon what many Sun Devils have done before them, we look back at some of the African-American student-athletes that helped mold ASU into one of the premier programs in the west. From Tribble to Shawn Charles to Brian Stith and beyond, the African-American history runs deep at ASU.

Two years after Tribble's success, two-sport standout Curley Culp pinned his way to national recognition, becoming the program's first national champion. The football All-American earned the same honor the mat as he pinned his final three opponents, including Nick Carollo of Adams State in 0:51 in the final. Since his win, five other Sun Devils have gone on to collect seven total national titles.

The late 1970s saw the emergence of Roye Oliver, who earned three All-America honors, becoming the first Sun Devil to earn the national acclaim three times in a career. Oliver started by placing fifth at 150 pounds in 1976 before duplicating that finish one year later. In 1979, he placed eighth at 158 pounds to break a tie with McMinn, Sr., for the most All-America honors in Sun Devil wrestling history.

Ten years later, Townsend Saunders began a streak of five years in a row that a Sun Devil African-American earned national acclaim as the junior college transfer placed second at 142 pounds in 1989 before placing third at 150 the next year. The 1990 national meet also began a streak of four years in a row that Shawn Charles earned All-America honors, making him the first Sun Devil to do so in program history. Charles, competing at 126 pounds, placed fifth in 1990 and seventh in 1991 before finishing as the national runner-up in both 1992 and 1993. Since Charles, only three others have earned four All-America honors in their ASU careers.

The turn of the century saw Quinn Foster place eighth at 149 pounds in 2000 to spark a mini run that also saw David Douglas place seventh at 133 pounds in 2001 and fifth in 2002. Three years later (2005), Brian Stith earned his first All-America honor by placing sixth at 157 pounds before surprising the nation with his run to the finals in 2006 where he placed second.

Individual success was not the only gold these men brought to the program as each played a role in two Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championships and 16 Pacific-10 Conference crowns. Under the direction of coach Bobby Douglas, the Sun Devils shocked the wrestling community by winning the 1988 NCAA Championship, not only making ASU the first school west of Oklahoma to win a national wrestling title, but also making Douglas the first African-American coach to win the NCAA tournament.

Douglas, who coached ASU for 18 years and guided the team to nine Pac-10 titles and nine Top 10 national placements, competed in the Olympics for the United States and has served as the national team's coach on five occasions at the Summer Games. Douglas also had many other firsts in wrestling for the African-American community and, for his success and dedication, was inducted into the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame. On his plaque of enshrinement, it lists Douglas as:

'The first black American to wrestle in the Olympics, the first to captain our Olympic team, and the first to coach wrestling at a major university. He showed, by example, that others could reach such goals.'

Douglas' teams also added a pair of national runner-up finishes in 1989 and 1990 that featured a pair of African-American wrestlers, including Mike Anderson and G.T. Taylor. Both men continue to help the Sun Devil program as they are members of the local community and actively participate on the ASU Wrestling Advisory Board.

The current edition of the Sun Devils will travel to Eugene, Ore., for the 46th Pac-10 Conference Wrestling Championships, Sunday through Monday, on the Oregon campus.

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