Dr. Stanley W. Henson, who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 1978, passed away on Wednesday, at the age of 101. At the time of his passing, he was 101 years old which made him the oldest living NCAA Champion in any sport.
“We are saddened to hear of Dr. Stanley Henson’s passing,” said Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “He was a magnanimous human being and will always be considered among the greatest collegiate wrestlers of his era and in NCAA wrestling history. He served in the navy in World War II and returned from the war to forge a renowned career in medicine as a surgeon and leader in sports medicine. He led a wonderful life and will be missed.”
In the never-ending debate over who has been America’s greatest wrestler, Henson always receives plenty of support. He wrestled two years at Tulsa Central High School for Hall of Fame coach Art Griffith, winning two state championships and being named Outstanding Wrestler as a senior.
He then wrestled at Oklahoma State University for Hall of Fame coach Edward C. Gallagher, and was defeated only once in three seasons while winning NCAA championships in 1937, 1938 and 1939 and leading the Aggies to the team title all three years. In 1937 he became the first sophomore to be voted Outstanding Wrestler of the national tournament. He continued to excel the next two years, but the nation’s coaches were not yet ready to present their cherished award to any man a second time.
Henson also won the Pan American Exposition in 1937 and scored a 1938 double with the National AAU freestyle title. During a European tour in the fall of 1938, he suffered a severe shoulder injury, which hampered him during his senior year but could not prevent him from winning a third title, this one at 155 pounds after two at 145.
As his junior year drew to a close with two championships, Henson was already thinking more of medical school than of wrestling. After leaving Oklahoma State, he spent five years as a physical instructor and wrestling assistant at the United States Naval Academy. He then was able to concentrate fully on the study of medicine, completing his degree in 1950 at the University of Maryland.
A highly respected surgeon, he was one of the first to combine his athletic and medical interests in the rapidly growing field of sports medicine, where he became a nationally known lecturer and consultant. Dr. Henson worked at the renowned Mayo Clinic before moving to Colorado and becoming the first surgeon in Fort Collins, an accomplishment he prized above his success as a wrestler.
He served in the navy in World War II and was aboard the USS San Francisco when it supported the famous Marine assault on Iowa Jima.
His brother, Josiah Henson, was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 2006.