By Stephen Stonebraker
If you read the first article in this series on Syracuse, you know that in many ways this project for me has been like an episode of UNSOLVED MYSTERIES. A ton of questions, few clues and even fewer answers.
When it comes to the University of Texas Longhorn wrestling program, not much is known. I once called the University of Texas back in 2006 and asked the S.I.D. what information he could provide me on the former wrestling team. He responded back that the school never had a wrestling program. Funny, because records indicate that they did.
Thanks to fellow writer and historian Mark Palmer of intermatwrestle, I know that the Longhorns once defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys in dual meet action.
I also know that the Lornhorns head coach at one time was a guy by the name of R.J. McLean. I have only be able to find a handful of Newspaper clippings from the 1910’s, 20’s & 30’s with his name in them. From what I gather he was the one that started the wrestling program at Texas and that the program folded upon his departure/retirement.
What I’m rather curious about is where exactly the wrestlers on the team came from. I ask this because back in this time there was no youth, middle school or high school wrestling in Texas. Private high school wrestling wouldn’t start in the lone star state until the Mid 60’s when Dory Funk helped to get it started in the Amarillo area. Public High school wrestling wasn’t officially sanctioned/recognized until 1999.
So you can see how this becomes a mystery.
Nevertheless I believe I can name the two best grapplers in Longhorn wrestling history
An NCAA runner-up for the Longhorns in 1928, the success of Hammonds is not as difficult to figure out as is the other wrestler that is about to be mentioned. Hammonds grew up in Hugo, Oklahoma and he did wrestle in high school. Along with being a standout wrestler, he was also a star on the Longhorn track & field team. An NCAA runner-up in Pole Vault, he helped to lead the Lornhorns to conference titles in both 1926 & 1927. Along with his runner-up finish at the NCAA tournament, he was also a member of the 1928 Olympic wrestling team as well as the Olympic Track & field team. To say he was a successful athlete is an understatement.
|John “Tiny” Gooch
The other well known wrestler in Longhorn wrestling history is John “Tiny” Gooch. Along with Hammonds he was also a member of both the track & field team as well as the football team. A native of Ennis High School, in Ennis, Texas one can only guess that it was either Coach McLean or Hammonds that convinced Gooch to give wrestling a try once he got to college. Supposedly like Hammonds, Gooch won a few conference titles.
Here’s where the history gets fuzzy. From what I have been able to gather the only school that ever had wrestling in the SWC (Southwest Conference) was the University of Texas. I’ve read that Southern Methodist strongly considered fielding a varsity team for a long period of time & they did have intramural wrestling, but they never went through with it. So my question is, if Hammonds and Gooch did win conference titles in wrestling, who did they beat?
Neverthless what is known and well recorded is how well Gooch did as a discuss thrower. He took third in the NCAA championships.
Post College, Gooch went on to become a successful lawyer and strongly considered running for governor of Texas as a Republican before deciding against it. We sadly lost Gooch in 1986.
Longhorn wrestling has been something I’ve been intrigued about for over 15 years when I first learned that they had a program. If you have any information regarding the University of Texas’ varsity wrestling program please feel free to share.