Bill Koll  began coaching wrestling at the Iowa State Teachers College (UNI) in 1953 after Dave McCuskey left to lead the University of Iowa team. He coached five individual national champions and 20 All-Americans (including one three-time and five two-time All-Americans). By the end of his twelfth year, he had a 71-42-6 record, had coached eight winning seasons, and his teams had placed eight times in national tournaments.
His first season at the ISTC was successful. They ended with a 4-2-1 record, with one individual national champion, and a fourth place NCAA Division I team finish.
Jim Harmon (left) won first place in the 157 pound division at the 1953 NCAA championships. Others who placed in their divisions at the competition include Pat McCarron (123) at third place and Gus Gatto (191) at fourth place. Two years later Bill Weick (right) placed first at 157 pounds and Gus Gatto again placed fourth at 191 pounds.
The 1956 wrestling season was one of the most outstanding seasons for Koll. His team, consisting of sophomores and one junior, went undefeated, out-scoring all 10 teams on the schedule. Four of those teams, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Illinois, were Big 10 teams. Four wrestlers traveled to the NCAA tournament that year in Oklahoma. Dick Formanek (177), Ken Salyer (167), and John Vovos (130) were all defeated in the first round. Dick Heaton (147) was defeated in the second round and took home third place.
Tom Murphy stays on top
of a Cornell opponent in 1957.
For the 1957-58 school year, Koll took a leave of absence to finish his doctorate degree. Ed Lyons  (Left) coached the team to an impressive 8-2-1 record with only three returning lettermen. Six wrestlers competed in the NCAA Championships. Dick Heaton at 157 pounds was the only wrestler to make it as far as the semifinals; he placed fourth in his division. Gerry Geinger (167), Larry Guldberg (115), Jerry Lane (137), and Chuck Patton (147) were all defeated in the first or second rounds.
Dick Heaton in 1959.
Five wrestlers competed but did not place in the 1959 NCAA championship: Larry Guldberg (115), Chuck Patten (147), Jerry Ray (157), Jerry Lane (130), and Arland Waters (167). The team also did not place at the meet.
The Panther's 1961 season was much more successful. They ended the year with a 10-2 record and tied eighth place at the NCAA tournament. One of their losses was to Iowa State 11-16. The State College of Iowa (SCI), as UNI was called from 1961-1967, had not wrestled the strong Cyclones since 1952. Also that year, the first annual North Central Conference (NCC) tournament was held. The SCI tied for first place and won five of the eight championships. The winners at that meet were Bill Dotson, Frank Freeman, Jerry Ray, Chuck Patten, and Don Wilson. At the NCAA tournament, David Jensen (130) placed second and Frank Freeman (123) placed fourth.
Frank Freeman (top) holds a
Michigan wrestler in 1962.
Although the last three seasons under Coach Koll were losing seasons, the team competed well at the championship tournaments. In 1962, the SCI placed fifth in the NCAA tournament, its highest placing since 1953. Frank Freeman (123) and Bill Dotson (137) each earned second place in their divisions while Dave Jensen placed fourth at 130 pounds. At the second annual NCC tournament the Panthers cleaned up. The team members won six individual titles and placed second in two other divisions. The winners were David Jensen, Frank Freeman, Bill Dotson, Jim Sanford, Don Wilson, and Bob Stevens. The second place winners were Wayne Cormaney and Wendell Williams. In addition, David Jensen was named outstanding wrestler of the tournament.
In 1963 the team made the transition to NCAA Division II wrestling by competing in both Division I and Division II championship tournaments. The team placed third at the Division II tournament, the highest placing under Coach Koll. Bill Dotson also made school history that year by being the first SCI wrestler to win championship titles in both divisions.
Bill Dotson in 1963.
Others who placed in the Division II tournament include:
- Gary Pollard (115) 3rd place
- Jim Sanford (147) 1st place
- Dick Austin (157) 2nd place
- Ron Mehlin (167) 4th place
- Steve Heomann (177) 4th place
In Koll's final season as coach, the team took first place at the NCC conference and four wrestlers won championship titles. At the NCAA Division II tournament, Bob Trautman (137) placed fourth, while his teammate Jim Monroe (167) took second.
Panther Team Placings at NCAA Championships, 1953-1964
- 1953 4th place
- 1955 11th place
- 1956 10th place
- 1958 14th place (tie)
- 1961 8th place (tie)
- 1962 5th place
- 1963 3rd place*
- 1964 8th place*
* Division II
Compiled by Susan A. Basye
Special Collections and University Archives