Bob Pickett once candidly admitted "there's no glory to wrestling." But the varsity coach is hardly as pessimistic about the sport as this might lead one to believe. For almost 20 years the former 175-pound national champion has virtually lived on the mat, first as a school and college champion and now as coach. Today he is two meets shy of ending his fifth season as varsity coach.
As a schoolboy in Baltimore, not too many seasons ago, he won the Maryland State Championship for three consecutive years. He was undefeated during two seasons of heavyweight competition at Governor Dummer and while wrestling for Yale and Syracuse, where he later coached two undefeated freshman teams, he never lost a bout.
Today Pickett thinks of these years as so much amateur grist to the mill. His real entertainment came while on the U.S.O. tour, when he wrestled under professional rules.
"It was first class fun," he recalls. "All you had to do was roll, kick, and play, and throw in a few agonizing grimaces while your opponent, or cohort, as the case might be, pretended to twist your ankle." To demonstrate he rolled up into a ball and twisted his leg much like a baby trying to put his toes into his mouth.
He also chipped both elbows then, however when he was tossed from the ring onto a non-existent canvas which turned out to be concrete. The injury turned him into a coach.
Since 1950-'51, when he entered the I.A.B. as Harvard's first full-time coach in a number of years, Pickett's teams have never turned in poorer than .500 records. With five wins, two ties, and a single defeat, that by two points, this years' team may be the best since the war. Still ahead are Springfield and Yale, both formidable obstacles, particularly the Bulldog. In 20 years of H-Y competition this tenacious club has never lost to the varsity.
Pickett thinks of these matches to come and some of his stand-out of the past--Captains Johnny Lee, Chick Chandlar, and Ken Culbert--and repeats, "there's no glory to wrestling."
"This is a minor sport. You've got to love it to compete. I've got boys here who are too short for basketball, too slow for hockey, and a bit too muscular for swimming. They're as agile, enthusiastic, and willing to train as any man on a major team. And they work as hard, but you'd never know it for the official recognition they got."
To support his point shout wrestling as a minor sport, Pickett gives Princeton and Pennsylvania as examples of colleges which have abolished the distinction between major and minor sports.
Perhaps in his next five years he will have the pleasure of seeing such a distinction abolished at Harvard. Certainly the time he has personally devoted to the sport puts it is the "major" category.