Jack VanBebber

He vanquished the nation's finest wrestlers seven times, but when Jack VanBebber set out to conquer the world, he had to hitch-hike. At the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, while awaiting his final bout for the gold medal, VanBebber suddenly learned that the time schedule had been altered and he was due on the mat within the hour, six miles away. No transportation was provided, or available, so he set out afoot. After two miles, a passing motorist gave him a ride to the arena.

Once at the scene, however, his opponent proved no more effective than his earlier victims. And "Blackjack" VanBebber became champion of the world with a decision over Eino Leino of Finland, a four-time Olympian who already owned gold, silver and bronze medals.

VanBebber was undefeated as a collegiate wrestler for Oklahoma State University in 1929, 1930 and 1931, winning three NCAA championships at 155 and 165 pounds. He captured National AAU titles his junior and senior years, then moved to Los Angeles in 1932 and won another.

The only defeat of his wrestling career came in an early round of the Olympic trials, but he rallied to win the trials and successfully defended his 158.5-pound assignment during final challenge bouts in Los Angeles. For more than 50 years he was the only American-born wrestler to win three NCAA titles and an Olympic gold medal.

VanBebber served four years in the infantry during World War II, three of them in the Pacific theater. He then joined the Phillips Petroleum Company for 39 years until his retirement, and taught wrestling to sons of company employees and to Boy Scouts.

In 1950, a national poll of U.S. coaches, officials and sports editors selected him as one of the country's Top 10 amateur athletes in the first half of the 20th Century.

In recognition of his outstanding achievements as a competitor, Jack Francis VanBebber is honored as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Awards:

Year
1976
Award
Distinguished Members
Chapter/Region
National

All American Awards:

Season
1931
School
Oklahoma State
Tournament
Division I
Weight
165
Place
1
Season
1930
School
Oklahoma State
Tournament
Division I
Weight
165
Place
1
Season
1929
School
Oklahoma State
Tournament
Division I
Weight
155
Place
1

College Season Records:

Season
1931
School
Oklahoma State
Class
Senior
Bouts
5
Wins
5
Losses
0
Ties
0
Falls
3
Win PCT.
100
Place
1st
Season
1930
School
Oklahoma State
Class
Junior
Bouts
10
Wins
10
Losses
0
Ties
0
Falls
5
Win PCT.
100
Place
1st
Season
1929
School
Oklahoma State
Class
Sophomore
Bouts
7
Wins
7
Losses
0
Ties
0
Falls
1
Win PCT.
100
Place
1st
Season
Career
Bouts
22
Wins
22
Losses
0
Ties
0
Falls
9
Win PCT.
100

Our Mission: To honor the sport of wrestling by preserving its history, recognizing extraordinary individual achievements, and inspiring future generations