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06 Sep 1960
Rome 1960

Wilson and Blubaugh return home happy with wrestling golds

School friends Shelby Wilson and Doug Blubaugh grew up together in the same Oklahoma town and learned to wrestle together. They competed together at school, then at college, and both later qualified for the US national team.

Wilson's path to the Games had been a difficult one. A lightweight, he finished only third in the US trials, but then beat both the first and second placed finishers at the American training camp to earn his ticket to Rome. Blubaugh, by contrast, was seen as the strongest wrestler in his division – welterweight division – but his prospects of glory were curbed by the seemingly invincible five-time world champion Emam-Ali Habibi of Iran.

The two Americans had contrasting styles. Blubaugh was a huge, physically imposing man, who opponents said was built as solidly as a tree. Wilson did not have the same physical advantages, and relied instead on finesse and tactical acumen.

The two friends could barely have hoped that things would go as well as they did in Rome. Wilson did not register a single fall as he won all his matches. Remarkably, it was the first major tournament he had ever won.

Blubaugh, meanwhile, was in similarly inspirational form. He came up against Habibi and beat him with some ease, throwing the Melbourne gold medallist after less than three minutes. In all, Blubaugh threw five of his opponents, won another bout by default and had to go the full distance only once, in his final contest against Turkey's Ismail Ogan.

It meant the two friends returned home to Oklahoma with gold medals around their necks. It was not the last time they would join together. Later, they both went on to become wrestling coaches.

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