A Banner Day For Thomas

Jan. 31, 2003

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State will honor Hall of Fame wrestling coach Dale Thomas with a banner in Gill Coliseum bearing the number 616 - his all-time collegiate-record number of dual meet wins - it was announced Friday by OSU athletic director Bob De Carolis. The ceremony to unfurl the banner, the equivalent of retiring a jersey number, will be held in conjunction with OSU's annual Wrestling Homecoming on Feb. 16, when the Beavers meet Oregon at 2 p.m. in Gill Coliseum.

Thomas, 79, coached Oregon State from 1957-90, winning more dual meets than any coach in collegiate wrestling history. In 34 seasons, his teams compiled a dual meet record of 616-168-13.

Thomas' teams won or tied for 22 conference championships, placed in the NCAA's top 10 on 14 occasions and were in the top five seven times, including a runner-up finish in 1973. OSU had 60 All-Americans during Thomas' tenure and 10 NCAA champions.

'Dale Thomas is not only a legend in Oregon State athletics, but in wrestling across the nation and around the world,' De Carolis said. 'He took the top wrestling program on the West Coast and turned it into one of the top programs in the country, and he did it in a fashion that was a credit to the University.

'His contributions to both the sport and to Oregon State make him most deserving of this honor, and Beaver fans will be reminded of Dale Thomas' achievements every time they attend an event in Gill Coliseum.'

Thomas will be the third Oregon State coach to be recognized with a Gill Coliseum banner. The number 599 hangs in honor of Slats Gill and the number 674 hangs in honor of Ralph Miller; the numbers are the career coaching victories of the two men's basketball coaches.

Thomas' banner will be the latest in a long line of tributes to his work.

In 2002, Thomas was honored by the Oregon State University Alumni Association with its Dan W. Poling Alumni Service Award. The award, named for a longtime dean of men at Oregon State, has been presented since 1989 to an Oregon Stater who has given exemplary volunteer service to the University.

Thomas was elected to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1980; the State of Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1991; the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992; the State of Iowa Hall of Fame in 1982; and the Cornell (Iowa) Sports Hall of Fame in 1970.

While OSU's head coach, Thomas began the OSU Wrestling Endowment, which has grown to over $4 million to help support Oregon State wrestling. Since his retirement, Thomas has continued to take an active interest in the wrestling program he guided to national prominence.

As coach, Thomas helped bring numerous important meets and tournaments to Gill Coliseum, including the NCAA Championships in 1961 and 1980; those meets helped make collegiate wrestling a national sport. The National Wrestling Coaches Association East-West All-Star Meet was also held in Corvallis during Thomas' tenure.

Thomas was named the NCAA Coach of the Year in 1961 and 1970 and was Pacific-10 Coach of the Year four times.

Thomas' biographical sketch at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame begins, 'Perhaps no man has left his mark on wrestling in as many ways as Dale Thomas - as wrestler, coach, official, teacher and innovator.'

'There's no doubt that he had the most influence on one state of anybody we've ever had in wrestling,' said Myron Roderick, the former Oklahoma State coach who is now president of the Hall of Fame.

Among Thomas' other accomplishments:

* Helped bring the United States vs. Soviet Union World Cup meet to Corvallis.

* Officiated in the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games and several World Championships.

* Coached the United States' Greco-Roman teams in international competition in 1961 and 1966.

* Initiated the Oregon high school freestyle tournament in 1962; a state tournament was later added for the Greco-Roman style.

* Organized and directed the Wrestling Cultural Exchange program between Oregon high schools and locales including Japan, Europe, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa.

* Started and developed the Kid Wrestling program for young athletes in Oregon. The program later became nationwide.

* Began and ran the Double D Wrestling Ranch in the Coast Mountains west of Corvallis.

Thomas wrestled for Cornell College (Iowa) in the late 1940s and was captain of the school's 1947 NCAA championship team. He won nine national titles in collegiate, freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions and was a member of United States Olympic teams in 1952 and 1956.

Thomas earned his bachelor's degree from Cornell in 1947, his master's degree from Purdue in 1948 and his doctorate from Iowa in 1956.

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