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Kemp, Smith, and Burroughs

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In my subjective opinion, the three best American wrestlers of all time are Kemp, Smith, and Burroughs. Here's a breakdown of their college and international performances:

 

Kemp----------NCAA 2---NCAA 1----NCAA 1----NCAA 1

Smith----------DNP-------NCAA 2----RS---------NCAA 1----NCAA 1

Burroughs-----DNP-------NCAA 3----NCAA 1----RS---------NCAA 1

 

Kemp-----------------------------------------------world 1----world 1----boycott----world 3----world 1

Smith-----------------------------------------------world 1----world 1----world 1----world 1----world 1----world 1

Burroughs-------------------------------------------------------world 1----world 1----world 1

 

Kemp is really overlooked. As a true freshman, he lost in the NCAA finals to Yagla in OT by a split referee's decision. Without that loss, he would have been the first four-time NCAA champ. He also earned an MBA in 1983, the year after he won his last world title. I think his academic and professional commitments shortened his wrestling career. But that was the world that existed back then -- fewer sources for funding for top wrestlers. Had Kemp focused only on wrestling while he was in his prime, I think he would have won more golds.

 

What more can be said about Smith. He's a wrestling genius.

 

Where it gets interesting is Burroughs. His NCAA rise was slightly slower than Kemp's NCAA rise. There could be many reasons for that, including the evolution of more sophisticated technique between the 1970s and late-2000s. On the other hand, Burroughs's NCAA rise pretty closely tracks Smith's rise, so who knows. Maybe it's just one of those things.

 

I'm pretty sure Burroughs is the only one of the three who has gone undefeated for three straight years of international wrestling. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) Given the company he's in, that's extremely impressive. He's really injected a lot of life into American wrestling in the last few years. It'll be interesting to see what he does in the future, especially if he focuses only on wrestling.

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Kemp gets overlooked by me a lot because he never had any really big wins like Burroughs or Smith. Smith was beating some of the world's best wrestlers who had awesome technique while Kemp was beating some German guy who didnt do much. Also, Kemp's hay day was when a lot of posters werent old enough to remember, so he kind of gets lost in the shuffle a bit do do lack of exposure to many fans.

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Hard to compare Burroughs against others right now because of his long undefeated streak. How do you compete against "never loses"? When (or if) JB takes some losses in the coming years, it will be easier to place him all-time. Of course if he wins several more golds and never loses he will be an easy #1 decision. FWIW I think Kemp got beat out a few times by Dave Schultz before he retired, anyone know for sure?

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Excellent choices.

 

Mark Schultz?

 

Robin Reed?

 

I would add at least these two to the mix as Shultz was death on the mat and Reed apparently could beat anyone on the team. In the regional qualifier he is supposed to have qualified at three different weights.

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Burroughs won world gold with an injured ankle. AN INJURED ANKLE!

 

Did you get that?

 

AN INJURED ANKLE!

 

Besides you have to take one of Smith's olympic titles with a grain of salt because he actually lost to the Cuban, but got pulled into the gold medal match because of some funky rule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN INJURED ANKLE!

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Kemp gets overlooked by me a lot because he never had any really big wins...

 

You mean like that one over Gable? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the schick - Gable was old, Gable was hurt, Gable was (you can add the one you want). But it was Gable - I think that counts as a pretty big win.

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Kemp gets overlooked by me a lot because he never had any really big wins...

 

You mean like that one over Gable? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the schick - Gable was old, Gable was hurt, Gable was (you can add the one you want). But it was Gable - I think that counts as a pretty big win.

 

Kemp also never wrestled in the Olympics.

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Kemp also never wrestled in the Olympics.

 

Not arguing that point - arguing the comment that he never had any "big" wins.

 

I just wanted to point out another reason that he gets overlooked as a great. I used the word "also" to denote an additional related thought.

 

Personally, I never heard of Kemp as a youth or high school wrestler. I knew all about Gable, Smith and Sanderson, but nothing of Kemp. He was "just another" world champ.

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Kemp gets overlooked by me a lot because he never had any really big wins...

 

You mean like that one over Gable? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the schick - Gable was old, Gable was hurt, Gable was (you can add the one you want). But it was Gable - I think that counts as a pretty big win.

 

Yeah, thats exactly what I mean. Wrestling a retired guy in a local collegiate tournament isnt enough for me to remember Kemp in the same breath as a John Smith or Jordan Burroughs

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Kemp gets overlooked by me a lot because he never had any really big wins...

 

You mean like that one over Gable? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the schick - Gable was old, Gable was hurt, Gable was (you can add the one you want). But it was Gable - I think that counts as a pretty big win.

 

Yeah, thats exactly what I mean. Wrestling a retired guy in a local collegiate tournament isnt enough for me to remember Kemp in the same breath as a John Smith or Jordan Burroughs

Well I grew up in Wisconsin and believe me, I heard of Lee Kemp!

 

Nat, help me out here - the Northern Open was not just a "local collegiate tournament" was it?

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Well I grew up in Wisconsin and believe me, I heard of Lee Kemp!

 

Nat, help me out here - the Northern Open was not just a "local collegiate tournament" was it?

 

Well, old dirty has his wrestling chops, so he is entitled to his opinion. But The Northern Open wasn't a little regional event, a lot of older guys still competing at the international level would be there for the meet, although admittedly, it was not on par with the Midlands of the day where virtually all of the top international style guys would should up.

 

Nor is it fair to say however, that Gable got to the mat to wrestle Kemp using a walker. He was three years removed from his Olympic gold and (rumor has it) was contemplating yet another run at the Olympics and pounding everybody in the Iowa room at the time - but that is just hearsay on my part.

 

Fact is, Gable was still the "man" and the win by Kemp was nothing short of incredible at the time (Kemp was 18). But to those who dismiss the magnitude of the victory by Kemp on that day I can only think they were too young to appreciate the meaning of the match or that they will simply never give Kemp his due. And mind you, I'm not here arguing that Kemp should be mentioned in the same company as some others. What I am saying is that Kemp beating Gable at that point in time was an incredible feat that people shouldn't diminish.

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Personally, I never heard of Kemp as a youth or high school wrestler. I knew all about Gable, Smith and Sanderson, but nothing of Kemp. He was "just another" world champ.

 

FILA has heard of Kemp. Until a year ago, the only American men's freestyle wrestlers who were in the FILA Hall of Fame were: Kemp, Smith, Baumgartner, and Jackson. A year ago, FILA added Gable to the Hall of Fame.

 

So there you have it. FILA thinks Kemp belongs with the best American wrestlers.

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Yeah, thats exactly what I mean. Wrestling a retired guy in a local collegiate tournament isnt enough for me to remember Kemp in the same breath as a John Smith or Jordan Burroughs

 

Usually when one FILA Hall of Fame member (Kemp) beats another FILA Hall of Fame member (Gable), it's a pretty big deal.

 

You say that in 1975 Gable was "a retired guy in a local collegiate tournament." Let's think about that. I think it's safe to say he might have been sharper if he had only taken a year off after the Olympics, and got back to training in 1974 or so. But he didn't have that opportunity. Which sucks. Instead, he was wrestling guys at ISU after the 1973 USSR-USA dual meet. When he faced Kemp, he was undoubtedly considering another Olympic run, and was testing the waters. At that point, he was 27 and three years removed from winning Olympic gold.

 

That is a lot like Sanderson. After winning the 2004 Olympics, he settled into coaching and stayed active by wrestling his athletes. He attempted a comeback in 2011, and placed fifth in the world. He could have been sharper had he been competing most years since 2004, but it is what it is. At that point, he was 32 and seven years removed from winning Olympic gold.

 

If Cael could place fifth in the world at age 32, seven years after winning the Olympics, Gable should have still been extremely good at age 27, three years from winning the Olympics. And Gable was not just any Olympic champ. He's a FILA Hall of Fame member. So whatever you think of Kemp, you have to accept beating Gable was more than just "wrestling a retired guy in a local collegiate tournament."

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Personally, I never heard of Kemp as a youth or high school wrestler. I knew all about Gable, Smith and Sanderson, but nothing of Kemp. He was "just another" world champ.

 

FILA has heard of Kemp. Until a year ago, the only American men's freestyle wrestlers who were in the FILA Hall of Fame were: Kemp, Smith, Baumgartner, and Jackson. A year ago, FILA added Gable to the Hall of Fame.

 

So there you have it. FILA thinks Kemp belongs with the best American wrestlers.

 

I have seen all these guys wrestle in their prime at the Worlds and Olympics, and believe me Lee Kemp was an absolute stud. He would have won the Olympics in 1980; he was absolutely hosed in 1981 with a phantom point going to Knosp of E Ger. to lose 1-0. He was the best for 5 years. He held notable victories over Dave Schultz until 1984, when Dave unleashed his new weapon, the leg lace. In the 1981 Worlds, Dave went up to the 180.5 weight class because he couldn't beat Lee, and he places an incredible 3rd, while Lee wins his 3rd title. I blame Jimmy Carter for denying the legacy that Lee Kemp deserves.

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Lee Kemp gets overlooked yet was a refs decision away from being our first 4 time collegiate champ. He was also denied a strong shot at Olympic gold due to our boycott.

 

As to the title of this thread, there is a terrible bias against Bruce Baumgartner. How does 13 top 3 world finishes in 14 years not qualify as one of the greatest ever? Only Smith--with 6 consecutive championships--can make a claim to be this amazing.

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I have seen all these guys wrestle in their prime at the Worlds and Olympics, and believe me Lee Kemp was an absolute stud. He would have won the Olympics in 1980.

 

I believe he beat the Olympic champ soon after the Olympics at the "World Super Championships" in Japan. Sadly, it's not the same as being an Olympic champ.

 

Kemp was absolutely hosed in 1981 with a phantom point going to Knosp of E Ger. to lose 1-0.

 

I didn't know that. That really sucks.

 

He was the best for 5 years. He held notable victories over Dave Schultz until 1984, when Dave unleashed his new weapon, the leg lace.

 

I agree. I wish he had won 5 in a row to reflect that. Things happen in life, though. I suspect that the MBA he earned in 1983 also had something to do with his unsuccessful attempt to make the 1984 Olympic team.

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I have seen all these guys wrestle in their prime at the Worlds and Olympics, and believe me Lee Kemp was an absolute stud. He would have won the Olympics in 1980.

 

I believe he beat the Olympic champ soon after the Olympics at the "World Super Championships" in Japan. Sadly, it's not the same as being an Olympic champ.

 

Kemp was absolutely hosed in 1981 with a phantom point going to Knosp of E Ger. to lose 1-0.

 

I didn't know that. That really sucks.

 

He was the best for 5 years. He held notable victories over Dave Schultz until 1984, when Dave unleashed his new weapon, the leg lace.

 

I agree. I wish he had won 5 in a row to reflect that. Things happen in life, though. I suspect that the MBA he earned in 1983 also had something to do with his unsuccessful attempt to make the 1984 Olympic team.

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Yeah, thats exactly what I mean. Wrestling a retired guy in a local collegiate tournament isnt enough for me to remember Kemp in the same breath as a John Smith or Jordan Burroughs

 

Usually when one FILA Hall of Fame member (Kemp) beats another FILA Hall of Fame member (Gable), it's a pretty big deal.

 

You say that in 1975 Gable was "a retired guy in a local collegiate tournament." Let's think about that. I think it's safe to say he might have been sharper if he had only taken a year off after the Olympics, and got back to training in 1974 or so. But he didn't have that opportunity. Which sucks. Instead, he was wrestling guys at ISU after the 1973 USSR-USA dual meet. When he faced Kemp, he was undoubtedly considering another Olympic run, and was testing the waters. At that point, he was 27 and three years removed from winning Olympic gold.

 

That is a lot like Sanderson. After winning the 2004 Olympics, he settled into coaching and stayed active by wrestling his athletes. He attempted a comeback in 2011, and placed fifth in the world. He could have been sharper had he been competing most years since 2004, but it is what it is. At that point, he was 32 and seven years removed from winning Olympic gold.

 

If Cael could place fifth in the world at age 32, seven years after winning the Olympics, Gable should have still been extremely good at age 27, three years from winning the Olympics. And Gable was not just any Olympic champ. He's a FILA Hall of Fame member. So whatever you think of Kemp, you have to accept beating Gable was more than just "wrestling a retired guy in a local collegiate tournament."

 

Plus, I believe Kemp was still a teenager when he beat Gable, Nat can correct me if I am mistaken.

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I have seen all these guys wrestle in their prime at the Worlds and Olympics, and believe me Lee Kemp was an absolute stud. He would have won the Olympics in 1980.

 

I believe he beat the Olympic champ soon after the Olympics at the "World Super Championships" in Japan. Sadly, it's not the same as being an Olympic champ.

 

Kemp was absolutely hosed in 1981 with a phantom point going to Knosp of E Ger. to lose 1-0.

 

I didn't know that. That really sucks.

 

He was the best for 5 years. He held notable victories over Dave Schultz until 1984, when Dave unleashed his new weapon, the leg lace.

 

I agree. I wish he had won 5 in a row to reflect that. Things happen in life, though. I suspect that the MBA he earned in 1983 also had something to do with his unsuccessful attempt to make the 1984 Olympic team.

 

I don't know if the MBA really hurt him, he was still in Madison training with the Wisconsin club team with Hellickson, among others.

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Regarding Baumgartner there seems to be a consensus (fair or not) that the skill level and achievements of heavyweights, at least in FS, are lesser than those of smaller guys. Medved has hands down the best statistics of any freestyle wrestler, but is rarely considered as the best FS wrestler of all time. Regarding Kemps big wins... Burroughs himself has only beaten one world champ. Got to think Kemp stacks up just fine in that regard.

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armspin's comment disappeared:

 

Regarding Baumgartner there seems to be a consensus (fair or not) that the skill level and achievements of heavyweights, at least in FS, are lesser than those of smaller guys. Medved has hands down the best statistics of any freestyle wrestler, but is rarely considered as the best FS wrestler of all time. Regarding Kemps big wins... Burroughs himself has only beaten one world champ. Got to think Kemp stacks up just fine in that regard.

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Good match. Kemp was definitely the more physical of the two.

Techniques have changed a lot since then. For the first takedown, Gable was so far out of position that Kemp didn't even bother to change levels. On the other hand, some things don't change. There was a constant call for stalling from the Iowa faithful.

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Good match. Kemp was definitely the more physical of the two.

Techniques have changed a lot since then. For the first takedown, Gable was so far out of position that Kemp didn't even bother to change levels. On the other hand, some things don't change. There was a constant call for stalling from the Iowa faithful.

I realize Gable was up a weight or two, but Kemp sure looked strong, especially considering he was 18 years old.

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