Thanks to Fred Tripp for alerting me to this story...
Brand Remembers Olympic Gold 60 Years Later
AMES, Iowa ? When Glen Brand came to Iowa State to get an engineering degree in 1946, he couldn?t have imagined that just two years later, he would be in London?s Wembly Stadium as the first wrestler at an Iowa college to win an Olympic Gold Medal. In fact, had it not been for a slide rule in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, he would never have started that journey at all.
Brand recorded a stellar high school wrestling career at Clarion, where he lettered three times as a grappler, and twice in football and track. Clarion is a wrestling hotbed in north central Iowa. World War II intervened, however, and Brand spent 33 months in the Marine Corps, including a stint as a radioman on Guam. It was there that his life took a new direction.
?I was walking along a runway,? Brand told the Des Moines Register in 2005. ?And there was a group of men standing around the end of it. There was a young Marine lieutenant in charge, and he had a pencil, a clipboard and a funny block of wood that he was moving around, doing something with. I had never seen a slide rule.?
Brand expressed an interest in engineering to a fellow Marine who immediately told him that Iowa State University had a great program for engineering. Later another soldier told him during a talk about wrestling that Iowa State had a great wrestling program. Brand took heed and the road to London began.
It didn?t take long after Brand?s arrival at ISU for legendary Cyclone coach Hugo Otopolik to see that this 24-year-old veteran was special. Brands didn?t lose a match as a freshman (freshmen were eligible at the time) and placed third at the 1946 NCAA meet.
?It was during 1946 that (Otopolik) told me ?Glen I think you have a good chance to make the Olympic team,?? Brand said. ?I started working harder after that.?
Otopolik knew what he was talking about. The Cyclone head coach had led the 1932 U.S. Olympic wrestling team at the Los Angeles Games.
By the time the 1948 U.S. Olympic Trials were held in Ames, everyone knew what Otopolik had known two years earlier. Brand was indeed special. He started the trials with a 36-3 record in college, including the 1948 NCAA 174-pound title, which was wrestled by Olympic rules.
Brand beat seven opponents, including Joe Scarpello of Iowa, in the Trials? final match, to earn a ticket to the London Games. Scarpello had beaten Brand in the 1947 NCAA final and Brand had beaten the Hawkeye in the 1948 NCAA championship match.
The U.S. team crossed the Atlantic on S.S. America.
?We would run around the circumference of the ship to stay in shape,? Brand said. ?We worked out and wrestled as well.?
In London, the team stayed in World War II barracks, rustic after use by the British Air Force. The 1948 Olympics were quite austere as Great Britain and the world slowly recovered from World War II. The first day of the London Games, Brand missed the opening ceremonies.
?The wrestling started the day after the opening ceremonies,? Brand said. ?Our coach wanted us to stay in our barracks to rest. In those days, the athletes would have to stand for up to three hours (at the opening ceremonies). Our alternates, who would wrestle if we were hurt and help us train, took our places for the opening ceremonies.?
When the U.S. team arrived at Harringay Arena competition site, Brand separated himself from his American counterparts.
?Our team was sitting on the front row of the bleachers,? Brand recalled. ?The small weights wrestled first so I had some time. I wanted to be all by myself. I said ?I?m going up to the top bleachers.? I went up, up, up until I reached the last row. If I stood on my toes I could touch the ceiling. I was all alone, just the way I wanted.?
Brand watched the lower weight wrestling from his perch and spied his 174-pound competition. He experienced the seminal moment of his Olympic experience heading back down the steps to get ready for competition.
?While I was going down these steps, I said ?oh my god, all of these guys that I have seen in my weight, I can beat every one of them,?? Brand said.
In the first round, Brand beat Iran?s Abbas Hairiri, 3-0. In the second round Brand pinned R.B. Arthur of Australia in 4:21, setting up a semifinal match against 31-year-old veteran Adil Candemir of Turkey. Wrestling was a national sport in Turkey and Candemir was one of his country?s best.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, freestyle wrestling matches consist of three two-minute periods. In Brand?s era, the matches were physical, 15-minute dogfights. Conditioning was a huge factor and Brand knew it.
?I told myself that I was going to wrestle this Turk so hard that he will run out of gas and won?t be able to keep up with me energy-wise,? Brand said. ?I did everything possible to make him work hard. After about 12 minutes, he had enough.?
Brand lifted and threw Candemir to his back. The Turk was a beaten man.
?At 13:24, he laid out flat on his back, spread his arms and legs out as far as he could,? Brand said. ?He was done. He was beat physically, mentally and spiritually and I pinned him.?
Brand went on to pin Erick Linden of Sweden in the gold medal match to become the first wrestler from an Iowa University to win a gold medal in wrestling. His biggest thrill was yet to come.
The day after Brand won the gold medal, the award ceremonies were conducted before 95,000 fans in Wembly Stadium. Brand will never forget taking the highest plateau of the award stands, donned in his U.S. sport coat and tie.
?They played the U.S. national anthem and raised the American flag as I was handed my medal in front of 95,000 cheering spectators,? Brand said. As the music played, I got goose bumps. It was the biggest thrill of my entire life.?
That is saying something. Brand finished his collegiate career winning 51 of 54 bouts. He sat out the 1949 season with a shoulder injury and returned for his final collegiate campaign in 1950. He was 7-0 when injuries ended his career at ISU and doused any dreams about returning to the Olympic Games.
Brand had already turned his determination to engineering. After graduating from Iowa State he went on to found Brand Hydraulics in Omaha, Neb. He still goes to work there at age 85. The company has come a long way from 1956, when he started the firm with $400 in the bank.
Brand has won numerous honors and awards for his wrestling achievements, and for his support of wrestling through the years. He is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Iowa State Hall of Fame, and his name graces the hall of fame of the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo.
Considering his numerous vocational achievements after wrestling, when Glen Brand says the Olympic medal ceremony was the biggest day of his life, it had to be a special moment indeed.