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lewboo

Lee Kemp

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With the World Team Trials in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend, and with the 1979 World Team being honored, I would like to take this time and let the wrestling world know a few facts and opinions from Lewboo about one of America’s greatest wrestlers EVER!!!! No, I am not talking about myself, lol, but rather about the GREAT LEE KEMP!!!!! I had the pleasure off being teammates of Lee Kemp on 2 World teams, a Pan American team, a World Cup team, and a boycotted Olympic team, and became a great fan and friend of a great wrestler and a great person. Looking at this, I just realized I was on 5 different teams with Lee in addition to several USA vs. Russia dual meets, including the one in Rapid City, SD in 1980 when I became the Toughest Kid on the Block! On those teams, Lee Kemp won every time he was my teammate!!!!! He was Jordan Burroughs before there was a Jordan Burroughs!!! In this little story I am about to tell, I may compare Lee Kemp to some of today’s stars, and to some of yesterday’s stars to let you know just how great Lee Kemp really was!!! And so let me get on with my little story about Lee Kemp’s career.

The year was 1972 and a sophomore in high school in Ohio named Lee Kemp finished his 2nd year of wrestling at 132 pounds with a record of 11-8-3. That same year, one of America’s greatest wrestlers ever, and my idol and coach for many years, the legendary Dan Gable wrestling at 149.5 pounds went 20-0 for the entire year, winning the Tbilisi tournament, the Olympic Trials, and the Olympics, with only 1 point being scored on him the entire year!! Flash forward 3 ½ years, to November of 1975 where a sophomore in college, who had still not yet turned 19 years old, beat the great Dan Gable 7-6 in the finals of the Northern Open!! That spring, in 1976 a now 19 year old Lee Kemp would also beat Stan Dziedzic, who would go on to win a bronze medal in the Olympics that year and then win a World title in 1977. Pretty strong work for a kid who had only been wrestling for 5 years. Lee Kemp was just getting started!

Flash forward to Edmonton, Canada, in 1982 where Lee Kemp would win his 3rd World title in 5 years, along with a bronze medal in 1981, and, like Jordan Burroughs, a three year unbeaten streak at the senior world level. That’s right, Lee Kemp was an undefeated World Champ in 1978, an undefeated World Champ in 1979, and an undefeated Olympian in 1980, who did not get to compete in Moscow because of politics, and he also beat the Olympic champion that year. Lee Kemp was also an undefeated World Champion in 1982. That is four undefeated years out of 5 at the senior level, making 5 straight World and Olympic teams!!! Jordan Burroughs just finished 3 straight undefeated years internationally at the senior level, winning two World titles and an Olympic Gold Medal!!! Now he has finally lost one match and has been threatened in several others, and has some great, great challengers in Kyle Dake, David Taylor, and Andrew Howe!! During Lee Kemp’s run, he had several great challengers, like Dave Schultz, Mark Churella, and Chuck Yagla and others. But just like Jordan Burroughs, he continued to win and win and win. I say this with tremendous respect for both Lee Kemp and Jordan Burroughs, they both know how to WIN!!!! During this 5 year run, Lee Kemp was 9-0 against the great Dave Schultz, finally losing to him once in 1983, then beating him in the US Open, but opting out of the world team trials. Dave then won the Worlds in 1983, and then beat Lee Kemp 3 out of 3 in the Olympic Trials in 1984, with 2 of the 3 wins coming on criteria.

I mention Jordan Burroughs with Lee Kemp for their 3 straight years of going undefeated internationally at the senior level, because I know how hard that is to do, and how few Americans have done it. Lee Kemp has 4 undefeated years at the senior level, Jordan Burroughs has 3, and I don’t know of anyone else with 3. I believe John Smith with 6 World and Olympic titles in a row has a total of 2 undefeated years, not in a row. I don’t know of anyone else with two. Dan Gable has one, Dave Schultz has zero, Tom and Terry Brands has zero, Randy Lewis has zero, Bruce Baumgardner has either one or zero, Kenny Monday has zero, Cael Sanderson has zero, Kevin Jackson has zero, Mark Schultz has one or zero, John and Ben Peterson have zero, Chris Campbell may have one or zero, Ed and Lou Banach have zero, I think Kurt Angle has zero. I am not sure on some other world and Olympic champs, such as Wayne Wells and any others before 1972. Lee Kemp made 5 consecutive World and Olympic teams, from 1978-1982, going undefeated in 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1982.

Lee Kemp is still America’s youngest world champion, winning his first World title in 1978 before he turned 22. He won his second World title before he turned 23. To put that in perspective with some of today’s stars, Kyle Dake, David Taylor and Logan Stieber are all 23 years old. Lee Kemp is the youngest NCAA finalist of all time, as he did not turn 18 until December 24, of his freshman year in college. He was three months younger as a true freshman in college than Aaron Pico will be this year in what would be his junior year of high school!!! Lee Kemp went 30-5 as a true freshman, beating NCAA champion Chuck Yagla once, and losing to him on split referee’s decision in the NCAA finals. At the same age, Logan Stieber was a junior in high school, and Kyle Dake and David Taylor at the same age were seniors in high school. Lee Kemp then went undefeated in college the next three years, winning

3 NCAA titles. At the age of 21 years and 3 months, he was the youngest 4 time All-American of all time and the youngest 3 time NCAA Champ of all time until Kyle Dake came along.

I am writing this to let some of you know how great and at such a young age Lee Kemp was, and it was an honor being his teammate many times! Also congrats to the 1979 World Team, and also to Andre Metzger who beat me out to make the 1979 World Team and become America’s youngest world medalist!!

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Great thread! I happened to see Lee Kemp wrestle at the Northern Open back in 1981! No one would score on him. He was a tree trunk out there! Very nice summary Randy! By the way, Randy Lewis is still one of my top five wrestlers in the USA of all time!

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Besides being a great wrestler, a nice guy......and a gentleman off the mat...and one heck of a businessman. The son of a friend of mine roomed with him at UW-M really respected him. Actually he could be gentleman o the mat as well I sat in the corner of the an ex-UW-PS wrestler with Coach Jim Koch in the finals of the Northern Open one year. Our kid was a fine wrestler-multi time Div II and NAIA(Parkside did both back then) as well as an NAIA champ and State Champ from Big Foot. He came over and said; "any advice?" I said something to the effect"does't matter, you are(expletive deleted)"; he look at Jim who said: "yep, he's right; just enjoy the experience." Maybe not so good coaching but realistic. Lee let him shoot and get in and then counter him and more likely than not would take him to his back. Our kid was a tough competitor and fight off his back and Lee would let him up and they'd go thru the same scenario. Now days, it would have ended in a TF, but the point was that our kid got 7 minutes with one of the best wrestlers of all time and did learn from and enjoy the experience. Great story, Lewboo!(And I enjoyed watching your comeback as an old dude a couple of year ago....I was cheering for ya all the way!!!)

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Thanks Lewboo. It's a treat to have your perspective on great wrestlers. I feel sorry for anyone that didn't get to watch you in college. You were fearless, and definitely the toughest kid on the block. Great read, like always.

 

I watched Lee wrestle in Stillwater against Paul Martin, a friend, and a man I admire as much as any I've ever known. Paul was ahead 3-4 points with about 10 seconds to go, and had Lee on bottom...at the time it broke my heart to see my team mate lose, but through time I have realized it was a treat to see one of the all time greats, make a hall of fame come from behind victory.

 

IMO, Lee doesn't seem to get the accolades that some of the greats receive and that he absolutely deserves. I suppose that is because he was usually in low scoring methodical, perfect strategy type of matches. Perhaps, too soon after Gable for his style to be appreciated, who knows. I guess that's what shocked me in Stillwater. He needed something huge to ward off the upset, and he had it when he needed it. I actually think he would be more appreciated now than he was in the mid-late 70's.

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lee kemp was the only "famous" wrestler i ever heard about as a kid. i started wrestling in the early 80's and my coach often talked about lee kemp's style of wrestling and the 3 world titles he won.

 

i love the above story, learned new stuff and am even more impressed with lee kemp.

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Good stuff .... Loved that era of wrestling.

 

I'm thinking he beat our local Washington "star" who at that time was at the UW Huskies. Tom Brown was a stud, and pretty sure it was that Fr. Year he ran into Kemp in the finals? 1976? We were devastated, as we thought it was finally Tom's time to be a NCAA Champ.

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By the way, Randy Lewis is still one of my top five wrestlers in the USA of all time!

 

He never medaled at any world championship or olympics other than the boycotted one, and even then he was placed on that team by lawyers. Although he did defeat some legendary wrestlers these were mostly at exhibition-like dual meets. If you know anything about these you'd know international wrestlers don't exactly bring their A-game to these exhibitions. Just putting things in perspective since your statement of "top five wrestlers in the USA of all time" is a big claim.

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Is everyone gonna ignore the elephant in the room? This is the style and technique of one of the best ever? Maybe for his era, I agree 100%. Cejudo, Pico, Kolat, Abas, all of these kids at the same age make this video seem somewhat less than GOAT status. No offense to Kemp, he is great, by A/B this video with any of USA's highschool studs and then give me your real opinion. Here come the old school codgers.

 

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I couldn't agree more. The superior positioning that is instilled in these kids before they get out of high school, is impressive to say the least. I love the direction this wonderful sport is moving. I believe the motivation may finally be there for amateur wrestling to climb slightly higher in the list of USA favorite sports. Let's see what happens now that the National Duals will be part of the equation. In my generation Lee Kemp was considered a piece of granite which could not be moved out of position. I see noticeable improvement in positioning by young wrestlers. We are moving back up the World Order, I believe. One thing that is unique, and possibly telling of the times is the fact that both Lee Kemp and Mark Schultz were able to dominate the World Scene while not getting on a mat until they were in grade 9 *Lee, and grade 11 *Mark. In my opinion they were both athletes which were genetically gifted at least 50 years into the future.

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By the way, Randy Lewis is still one of my top five wrestlers in the USA of all time!

 

He never medaled at any world championship or olympics other than the boycotted one, and even then he was placed on that team by lawyers. Although he did defeat some legendary wrestlers these were mostly at exhibition-like dual meets. If you know anything about these you'd know international wrestlers don't exactly bring their A-game to these exhibitions. Just putting things in perspective since your statement of "top five wrestlers in the USA of all time" is a big claim.

 

Note that smokeyjoe lists Lewis as one of his top five wrestlers in the USA. This is, after all, the college forum.

 

Lewboo was a three time NCAA finalist, including second as a true freshman, champ the following two years, and missed the finals as a senior largely because of a serious elbow injury he incurred in a dual meet (still managed to place 7th despite basically wrestling with one arm). In other words, his collegiate career was comparable to Kemp's (and really anyone else's) in terms of accomplishment.

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