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Pete Cornell 1947-2012

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Cornell was leading Chuck Jean of Iowa State in the third period of the 1969 finals, when he got reversed and pinned by Jean. That was the big breakout win in Jean's career, who was certainly one of the wildest wrestlers ever to step on the mat. Even Doc Nichols could not keep him in school for a full D-I career.

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In the Hard Corp right to the bitter end -

 

"Cornell and two friends were cycling from Alaska to the Florida Keys on a 3,500-mile trip when they were struck by a tractor-trailer in Dawson, Ga.. approximately 700 miles from their destination. One cyclist walked away from the accident, while a second is in critical condition with a broken neck."

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Michigan high school programs are once again churning out student athletes destined for success in Division I wrestling and beyond. Following the lead of former Michigan state champs who now coach (eg. Zeke Jones and Kevin Jackson), it is refreshing to see programs developing and maintaining interest and strength in places like Allegan (Simaz) as well as Davison (Donohoe, Metcalf and Reader). Rockford as well as Detroit (especially DCC) and smaller communities (eg Dundee, Hesperia, Hudson, Lowell, St. John, Tecumseh and, of course, Temperance-Bedford) are also exhibiting the kind of support and “bragging rights” that, during hs wrestling’s previous zenith in this state, were almost exclusively reserved for the capitol area.

 

 

Back then, Lansing high school coaches like Sexton’s Conrad, Eastern’s Johnson and Everett’s Rollins groomed kids for telephone calls from Grady and Blubaugh and, of course, Coach Keen. Pete Cornell, a two-time state champ for Coach Rollins (who also coached 3x state champ and 3x NCAA champ Greg Johnson) accepted Cliff’s invitation (purportedly because they agreed he could play frosh football) and became one of only six two-time wrestling captains in Wolverine history. Pete also managed AA status in each year of his eligibility (3-5 at 167 in ‘67 and ‘68 and runner-up at 177 in ‘69). (Greg matriculated MSU.)

 

Pete’s wrestling contemporaries from the Lansing area included NCAA champs, Dick Cook (1st at 152 in ‘66 for MSU) and Dave Porter (1-3-1 at UNL in ‘66-’67-’68 for UMICH) and another AA, Jack Zindel (3rd at 191 in ’67 and 6th at 177 in ’69 for MSU). Cornell, Porter and Zindel each played at least one year of college football. Mike Bradley, also a contemporary (but from Ypsilanti and coached by Bert Waterman), was the most accomplished college football player of the bunch and also managed to make the NCAA wrestling finals (2nd at 177 in 1966 for MSU). Ernie Gillum (2nd at 115 in ”66 for ISU) was also coached by Ypsi’s (later Yale’s) Waterman. MSU and UMICH finished as the top two wrestling teams competing in the 1967 NCAA tournament.

 

 

Although I’m certain Jay can correct any of the above I might have gotten wrong, and 100% positive I am guilty of many errors of omission, my intent is pretty simple and straightforward. As a Michigander fortunate to have followed the many accomplishments (yes, “on and off the mats”)of each of these fine individuals who have given so much of themselves not just to the sport but to their families, teammates, friends and communities…..I am terribly, terribly saddened whenever forced to witness the untimely passing of such MEN.

 

Peter Cornell was taken too soon and will be missed by ALL, not just by those who knew him well enough to acknowledge his heroism as well as his humor or were fortunate enough to be among his friends. “Leader and best…” -- only a preface to our memories of this quintessential Michigan Man. "Hail," indeed. "Hail, HAIL!!"

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Cornell was leading Chuck Jean of Iowa State in the third period of the 1969 finals, when he got reversed and pinned by Jean. That was the big breakout win in Jean's career, who was certainly one of the wildest wrestlers ever to step on the mat. Even Doc Nichols could not keep him in school for a full D-I career.

 

Clarifications/corrections from attendees (including Mike Bradley and Jack Zindell as well as Michigan's asst. coach at that time, Rick Bay, and too many current and former Wolverines to list here) at yesterday's memorial service in Ann Arbor for Pete.

 

Many of these attendees, who were actual participants in the 1966-1969 NCAA finals tournaments, and others who were there as fans witnessed the following:

 

Cornell dominated the entire match and was leading 7-1 when a head butt occurred (at approximately the 7:20 mark** into the match), causing Cornell to become disoriented (not unlike Lehigh's most recent heavyweight opponent). Thereafter, believing that he was actually TRAILING at that time, Cornell made an uncharacteristically sloppy attempt at a takedown and was "pancaked" and pinned with approximately 30 seconds left in the match.

 

Admittedly, those offering accounts of that final COULD be visualizing through Maize and Blue lenses their memories of that match, but many Spartans BESIDES, Bradley and Zindell saw it the same way....If there is a tape of it and someone is able to locate and post it here, many would be grateful.

 

Pete's "sendoff" was exceptionally well-attended, somber but good-humored, dignified, heartfelt and deeply appreciated. Particularly poignant were comments from Pete's son, other family members and the last person to speak, Joe Moscato, the third member of this last ride, the guy who was incorrectly reported to have survived "relatively unscathed." Not unlike Joe, many of us will be "...hurting for a VERY long time."

**Remember, back then, matches lasted NINE minutes, broken down into three equal time periods of three minutes each

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I believe the 65-66 season was the last time matches were 9 minutes in length, after which they changed to 8 minutes for several years thereafter (2-3-3 format). Do not recall when they changed to present 3-2-2 format.

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I believe the 65-66 season was the last time matches were 9 minutes in length, after which they changed to 8 minutes for several years thereafter (2-3-3 format). Do not recall when they changed to present 3-2-2 format.
I believe the 65-66 season was the last time matches were 9 minutes in length, after which they changed to 8 minutes for several years thereafter (2-3-3 format). Do not recall when they changed to present 3-2-2 format.

Thanks for your input, RPKD, I guess. I seem to remember vaguely the 2-3-3 format but also do not know when the 3-2-2 change was made.

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I didn't know Pete -- but was a contemporary at MSU. Many great matches between U of M and MSU during that period.

 

I will never forget in 66 -- Bradley beat Cornell in the Big Ten finals -- it was a real nail biter as if Bradley would have lost, we never would have won that first Big Ten Championship.

 

I didn't know Pete was from the Lansing area, as I came from Iowa. But both he and Porter went to U of M -- I guess because at the time U of M was much more successful than MSU.

 

I think, though, I would have really thought twice about turning down Doug Blubaugh. Does anybody know if Pete felt the same?

 

Anyway, great memories of the rivalry where Pete was a big part.

 

Best-

 

DA

 

I

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"The AWN publishes the play-by-play of every final with its post tournament issue. My copy from 1969 is not easily accessible, but I do have notes on the bout. Cornell was leading 4-3 in the third period, when he was thrown to his back and pinned."

 

Yet again, Mr. Hammond, Sir, you have justified your moniker.

 

On campus, today, I visited the Michigan Daily archives on the second floor of the Student Publications Building at 402 Maynard in Ann Arbor to dig up the following quote from UMICH assistant coach at that time (March 1969), Rick Bay: "Pete was ahead during the entire match. He had a 4-3 advantage in the final period and also had riding time. Then he went for a one-leg (sic) takedown, but Gene (sic)caught it, and pinned Pete with a cradle."

 

......and also from the same article but earlier: "Michigan finished in ninth place with 27 points, and boasted one finalist in captain Pete Cornell, who took second at 177 when he was pinned by Chuck Gene (sic) at 7:26."

 

....and at the end of the article: "In evaluating Michigan's performance in the meet Coach Bay commented: 'We didn't have a great team this year but the team performed well in the tournament."

 

While there is no mention of the head butt in the article, those who were present for the match and were willing to speak about it recently all agree not only that it DID occur, but also that the match, at the very least, should have been halted to allow for Pete's recovery from the quite apparent disorientation/daze/dizziness caused by the injury.

 

Again, if anyone knows of a tape and could share it, many would be appreciative.

 

Regardless, thanks again for all your tireless, selfless efforts in support of the world's oldest and greatest sport, Jarius, and all best in your current battles!

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Again, if anyone knows of a tape and could share it, many would be appreciative.

 

 

I just contacted Wayne Boyd who won a title in 1969 and he mentioned that he recently got a copy of his tape from ESPN who recently purchased Wide World of Sports (who used to televise the NCAAs way back when. He thought they probably would have a copy of the Jean Cornell match.

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Does anyone know if the tapes of the 1968 NCAA Championships are available for purchase any where?

 

Does anybody know if my match with Gable (at the midlands) was video taped by anyone?

 

(Sorry -- didn't mean to hijack the thread.)

 

Best -

 

DA

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