This book is the remarkable, untold story of the greatest team you’ve never heard of, the wrestling team of Cornell College, a private Methodist liberal arts college with only 415 male students, which won the NCAA wrestling championship in 1947, defeating all the major powers by a substantial margin. This tiny Iowa college thus became the first school outside of the state of Oklahoma ever to win the team championship since teams were officially recognized by the NCAA; no other private school before or since has done so. Not only that, but with the help of the town of Mount Vernon, and a fund-raising drive, the champions traveled to San Francisco and won the equally prestigious National AAU championship two weeks later, thus completing the “grand slam” of amateur wrestling.
The story is informed by the Great Depression and World War II, as well as the GI Bill, which leveled the playing field for several years after the war. It involves a coach direct from central casting, a nurturing small college, three freshmen superstars from the same Iowa high school, and five service veterans, all of whom bonded as a team to defeat all comers.
Were it not for a serious car crash the following year that injured two of its stars, there is no telling how much more the team might have achieved. The Dream Team of 1947 is a classic David and Goliath story that transcends the sport.
Book Cover Photo: Cornell College starting lineup in dual meet against Michigan State, at home in Alumni Gym, February 21, 1947. From left: Dale Thomas, Al Partin, Fred Dexter, Kent Lange, Rodger Snook, Lowell Lange, Leo Thomsen, Dick Hauser.