Wrestling was one of the many accomplishments exhibited by the students at the University’s demonstration of its system of physical training held in Infantry Hall on March 3, 1898, although scant attention was received from the Brown Daily Herald, which conceded, “The wrestling contests were interesting, too,” and continued, “A particularly pleasant feature was the music furnished by the Brown Symphony Orchestra.” Wrestling continued to be part of the annual physical education demonstration. The legendary Frank (G. Franklin) Herrick was engaged by Athletic Director Frederick Marvel on an informal basis in about 1906 to give wrestling lessons to students two days a week, which was extended to three or more days through voluntary contributions by the students. Herrick retired from professional wrestling and remained to coach at Brown until 1932. A Harvard physician once said that Herrick in his prime possessed the best physique of 10,000 men he had examined. His physique was the basis of his other occupation. He was the model for the sculptor of the ten-foot figures of the New York Stock Exchange, and it is his well-developed arm that appears on boxes of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda. Among Herrick’s favorite recollections was a meet with Yale, which was tied 3-3 and about to be settled by the last bout in which Yale’s contender was one McKay, six feet two, 235 pounds, and intercollegiate champion the previous year. Herrick had no match for him, until he thought of Bob Spellman ’23, who hadn’t wrestled that day because of a sore side. Bob weighed only 158 pounds, but Herrick convinced him that he could show him how to beat McKay. The crowd laughed, but after the regulation bout ended in a draw, Spellman managed to get on top on McKay and hold him for five seconds to save the day for Brown.
Herrick also never forgot a heavyweight bout between Bert Shurtleff ’22 and the captain of Springfield for the New England championship. At the request of the Springfield coach Herrick had agreed to waive the rule forbidding coaching of the wrestlers during the bout, so that both coaches were down on the mat with the contestants when the lights went out unexpectedly, just as Shurtleff was about to get a fall. Herrick yelled “Don’t move, Bert” and lit matches quickly enough so that Shurtleff’s victory did not go unobserved. In 1922-23 Brown won all six dual meets and the New England Intercollegiates. Two more Spellman brothers, John ’24 (who was light heavyweight champion of the 1924 Olympics) and Frank ’28, followed Bob Spellman as captains of the wrestling team. Another brother combination, Albert ’29 and Harry Cornsweet ’29 both had career records of 19 wins and one loss from 1927 to 1929. Brown was second in the New England championships in 1925 and again in 1927, and first in 1929, after an undefeated season. In March 1931 Brown hosted the first National Intercollegiate wrestling meet ever held on the east coast. A new coach, Richard K. Cole, brought a new style of western wrestling to Brown in 1932. Brown won the New Englands again in 1936 and 1937, but wrestling was discontinued after the 1939-40 season. The sport was revived after the second World War with the arrival in 1946 of Ralph Anderton ’30, New England champion in the 135-pound class in his senior year, as coach. The season of 1950-51, the best in 20 years, ended with an 8-1 record, the only loss being to Yale, and Dave Michael ’51 finished his collegiate career without a single defeat in dual competition. At the Eastern Intercollegiate Wresting championships that year five Brown squad members reached the quarter finals, but none advanced beyond the second round. Other outstanding seasons were 1954-55 (7-1-1) and 1956-57 (7-2). In the first Ivy season of 1956-57 Brown won five and lost only to Cornell. Frank Smith’s ’51 record of regular season matches without defeat rose to 22. Other leading wrestlers in Anderton’s years were Dana Eastham ’53, Ted Ferriter ’53, Joe Muse ’56, George Seaver ’59, Bill Wood ’62, and Ken Linker ’64. Anderton’s overall record for his seventeen years at Brown was 69-71-9.
In 1973 wrestling was in danger of being dropped. The terms for its continuance were withdrawal from Ivy League competition and participation in the New England League under the guidance of a joint football/wrestling coach, Joe Wirth. Wrestling was reinstated when new athletic director John Parry decreed that every sport deserved full support of the University. The wrestling team rejoined the Ivy League in 1982-83, and in 1984-85 was able to secure the place vacated by Colgate in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. With a new full-time coach, Dave Amato, by 1985-86 the team had improved enough to finish 16-8 (3-3 in the Ivy League). In 1987 Bob Hill ’88 became Brown’s first Easterns champion as he won the 150 pound class title. The team was sixth in the EIWA in 1988 and fifth in 1989.
The wrestling coaches who followed Anderton were John F. Huntsman in 1963-64, Robert M. Litchard from 1964 to 1967, Mike Koval from 1967 to 1971, Jim Brumbaugh from 1971 to 1974; Joe Wirth from 1974 to 1980; Jim Tressler from 1980 to 1983; and Dave Amato since 1983. Amato’s nine-year coaching record is 128-62-2.