Charles Hetrick, Oklahoma State wrestler who won a national title and Outstanding Wrestler honors before embarking on a successful high school coaching career, has died, the Oklahoma State wrestling website reported Saturday. He was 93.
As a wrestler for the Cowboys, Hetrick won the 128-pound title at the 1949 NCAA Wrestling Championships at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, upsetting top-seeded Leo Thomsen of Cornell College of Iowa in the finals, 4-1. The Blackwell, Okla. native scored an escape and a takedown in the second period, then rode his opponent for most of the third period to not only win an individual championship, but also help Oklahoma State clinch the team title, according to Jay Hammond’s 2005 book, “History of Collegiate Wrestling”. For these accomplishments, Hetrick was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler. Hetrick was one of two national champs for what was then called Oklahoma A&M, joined by teammate Jim Gregson, who won the title at 175 pounds.
The 1949 NCAAs were notable for at least three reasons beyond Hetrick winning a title. For starters, it was the first national championships to be held in the Rocky Mountains. It was also the first to feature an African-American wrestler, Harold Henson of San Diego State, who competed at 136 pounds. In addition, the finals were marred by controversy in the heavyweight title match. The referee claimed that two-time defending heavyweight champ Dick Hutton of Oklahoma State had not scored a takedown in the closing seconds of the bout, resulting in a tie. Back then, instead of going into overtime, the mat official decided the winner… and he raised the arm of Minnesota’s Verne Gagne in victory. Hutton went on to win his third title at the 1950 NCAAs; however, had the decision gone the other way, Hutton would have become the nation’s first four-time NCAA champ, decades ahead of Pat Smith, Cael Sanderson, and Kyle Dake.
Hetrick wrestled for head coach Art Griffith for two seasons, from Jan. 1949 through the 1950 NCAAs, where he did not place. As a Cowboy, Hetrick compiled an overall record of 19 wins, two losses, and one tie, according to WrestlingStats.com. Eight of his wins were by pin. He was undefeated in his championship season.
After graduating from Oklahoma State in 1950, Hetrick embarked on a nearly quarter-century long teaching and coaching career, first at Salina High School, then at Stillwater High and Bartlesville Sooner High, before retiring from Blackwell High School, his alma mater, in 1974. During that time as head wrestling coach at those schools, Hetrick coached 26 individual state champions and 21 wrestlers to runner-up finishes. He led his squads to three team state titles and had one state runner-up finish. Twenty-six of his high school athletes went on to compete at the collegiate level on scholarship. Of those wrestlers, four won NCAA championships, eight were NCAA runners-up and 10 went on to become Big Eight champions. Twenty-three of his wrestling alumni went into coaching as well. For all these accomplishments, Hetrick was inducted into the Oklahoma High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 1968.
Charles W. Hetrick, Sr. was born in March 1921 in Versailles, Ill. As a child, Hetrick and his family moved first to Kansas, then Oklahoma, settling in Blackwell. As a student at Blackwell High School, Hetrick lettered four years in wrestling and three years in track and in football. He was the co-captain of the wrestling team and state champion his senior year when Blackwell won their first state wrestling championship. He was elected to Boys State and was the first Maroon Spirit at Blackwell High School, an award which embodies the characteristics of “the best of the best,” that being high moral standards, honor, fair play, according to his obituary.
Hetrick entered at Oklahoma State on a wrestling scholarship in the fall of 1941, but left school when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, serving the first three years in the Pacific Theater. Returning to the US in 1944, he married Dorothy Mae Kriter, of Blackwell; the two celebrated their 70th anniversary this past summer. In addition to his wife, “Chuck” Hetrick is survived by four children, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Central at Blackwell First United Methodist Church in Blackwell, Okla. Memorial donations may be made to the Blackwell High School Takedown Club or Judith Karman Hospice in Stillwater, Okla.