Schultz-Banach bout among the best
Championship matches make indelible mark on wrestling fans
It is considered by many wrestling aficionados to be one of, if not the best, NCAA finals match of all time.
There have been plenty of major upsets, matches to remember and moments etched in memories. But as far as star power and a match living up to the hype, the 1982 NCAA final at 177 pounds between Mark Schultz and Ed Banach ranks with the best.
Banach, born in New Jersey, won national championships for Iowa as a freshman in 1980 and as a sophomore in 1981. No wrestler had won four NCAA Division I titles.
Schultz, a native Californian, had only taken up wrestling as a senior in high school. But the brother of legend Dave Schultz quickly picked it up, proven by a California state championship in his first year of competition.
After a year at UCLA, Mark Schultz transferred to Oklahoma to join his brother. In 1981, he won an NCAA title at 167 pounds. A year later he bumped up to 177 pounds where Banach had laid claim to the top spot the two previous seasons.
At the 1982 NCAA Championships in Ames, Iowa, the two were on a collision course.
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Banach, the top seed, pinned his first opponent in 39 seconds. Another pin, a 17-5 victory, followed by a first-period pin of the talented Charlie Heller of Clarion sent Banach into his third consecutive NCAA championship match.
Schultz, the No. 2 seed, had a pin and two easy wins before just getting by Iowa State’s Perry Hummel 2-1 in the semifinals.
The final matchup certainly didn’t disappoint.
The two immediately went into an over-and-under tie up which usually results in somebody getting thrown to their back. The first salvo came from Schultz, but Banach countered the throw attempt to take a 4-0 lead early. After a reversal, Banach escaped to lead 5-2.
Again, the two went over-and-under. This time it was Banach who went to his back as Schultz tossed the Hawkeye for four points and a 6-5 lead after one period.
A Schultz escape and slick duck-under quickly made it 9-5 in favor of the Sooner. Banach reversed and spent the rest of the second period cranking on a chicken wing to no avail. Schultz escaped late to take a 10-7 advantage into the final period.
An escape cut Schultz’s lead to 10-8. Guess where they went again? Over-and-under, of course.
One last power struggle resulted in Banach again going to his back. Schultz’s counter led to five points and an insurmountable 15-8 margin. A riding time point fashioned the final score at 16-8.
It wasn’t the first time the two had met on a wrestling mat, including a handful of summer workouts.
“There was a particular throw -- a belly-to-belly suplay -- but there was a particular setup that I used for that particular throw to get Mark and I did it many, many times,” said Banach in a 2005 Des Moines Register article. “During the finals I didn’t remember to do the setup. When I threw the move, we teetered for a little bit and he ended up catching me on my back [in the third period while trailing 10-7].”
Schultz claimed his third NCAA title in 1983, along with Banach, who wrestled at 190 pounds as a senior.
In 1984, both claimed Olympic gold medals in freestyle.
For many old wrestling fans, especially those who watch the NCAA finals, every time two athletes lock up in an over-and-under, the great Schultz-Banach matchup immediately comes to mind.
More championship match nuggets
• The 1982 NCAA Championship included the first finals edition of Oklahoma State’s Kenny Monday and Iowa State’s Nate Carr. Carr won the 150-pound title bout in 1982 with an overtime takedown. A year later, the two met in the final again, and again, it would require overtime for Carr to come out victorious.
• The Old Guard will always bring up the contest between Washington’s Larry Owings and Iowa State’s Dan Gable from 1970. Gable, a senior, entered the 142-pound final with a 100-0 career record and two NCAA titles. Gable did not lose a match in three years at Waterloo High School as well. He pinned four opponents on his way to the final on the campus of Northwestern. Owings, just a sophomore, also had four pins on his march to the final.
Owings led 6-2 early in the second period after a physical fireman’s carry. Entering the final period it was an 8-6 Owings' advantage. A quick reversal and it was tied at 8. The Husky then avoided going to his back multiple times before an escape made it 9-8. The decisive sequence saw Owings take Gable to his back for a 13-9 margin, too much to overcome in the final 30 seconds.
“I wanted to face Gable for the championship,” said Owings on the first day of the 1970 NCAA tournament. “I faced him in the Olympic Trials in 1968 and he beat me. I was a high school senior and he was already a national champ. I made up my mind back then that I wanted to meet him again and beat him.”
It would be Owings’ only title. In both 1971 and 1972, he advanced to the final but lost matches. Gable won an Olympic gold medal in 1972.