National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Blubaugh defeat of Habibi is one of Olympics’ greatest upsets

By Berry Tramel
The Daily Oklahoman
Doug Blubaugh grew up poor. But he also grew up tough, on a Kay County farm in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Skeeter, Blubaugh was called by his cousin, Fred Boettcher.

Doug Blubaugh Gold Medal and Cutout for Facebook

Life-size cutout of Doug Blubaugh and a case with his gold medal from the 1960 Olympics and a pair of his glasses are displayed at the museum.

“Ol’ Skeeter would go to the field with a water jug and work for three days,” Boettcher said. “All he had was whatever he took in a sack. It’d be 110 degrees. I don’t know how he ever made it.”

Tough came in handy when Blubaugh found himself on his back in the 1960 Olympics, with a wrestling legend intent on recording a quick pin. Blubaugh was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1979.

Iranian Emam-Ali Habibi was the 1956 Olympic champion and the 1959 world champion. Habibi also would win world titles in 1961 and 1962. In Rome for the 1960 Olympics, Habibi was considered the world’s greatest wrestler. And when Habibi faced Blubaugh in a preliminary-round 160-pound bout, a quick end seemed likely when Blubaugh found himself on his back in the bout’s first minute.

Yet on Aug. 14, Blubaugh goes into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, mostly because of what he did in the moments after Habibi muscled Blubaugh onto his back.

Blubaugh bridged, arching his midsection to keep his shoulder blades off the mat. And we’ll let Don Sayenga, writing for Amateur Wrestling News, pick it up from there:

Doug Blubaugh wrestling in the 1960 Olympics is featured in the lounge at the museum.

Doug Blubaugh wrestling in the 1960 Olympics is featured in the lounge at the museum.

“Doug would have counted it no embarrassment to lose to a world champion, but he could not accept being pinned in less than a minute. He drew from every reserve of strength, balance, willpower, and technique in his body. Suddenly the audience gasped in amazement. Doug reversed out of the bridge, and the Iranian was on his own back! ‘I knew the bout wouldn’t go 12 minutes,’ he (Blubaugh) said later. ‘One of us had to get pinned.’ He clamped with all his might against Habibi’s high-arch bridge. The fall was signaled in less than three minutes.”

Blubaugh went on to win Olympic gold and was voted the world’s most outstanding wrestler of 1960. Blubaugh went on to pin Mohammad Bashir of Pakistan in a 59-second semifinal, then decision Ismail Ogan of Turkey for the gold medal.

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