HUGO OTAPALIK: The man that forever changed amateur wrestling in America and the World by John Anastasi

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Thank you for allowing me to write a blog for your ACA site. First of all I read your Rough and Tumble Book with Erik Paulson. I liked the book but there is something important that I think should have been included. I have attended Erik’s seminars and I met you here at our school in Florida. I liked the book but one thing that you didn’t point out is how catch wrestling was amateur wrestling in America until Hugo Otapalik used his power and influence to change the rules of catch as catch can and create what became high school and collegiate wrestling. Mike Chapman, president of the Dan Gable Museum and the American amateur wrestling hall of fame, is also the most respected writers in American amateur wrestling. In Chapman’s book on the History of wrestling in Iowa he writes about Otapalik and explains how amateur wrestling moved from catch as catch can to folkstyle. Hugo Otapalik was the coach of the 1932 US olympic freestyle team, five time chairman of the AAU wrestling committee and organizer of the 1948 and 1952 US olympic trials. Hugo Otapalik is most known as the author of “Modern Wrestling for High School and College” which he authored in 1930 laying out the changes he had made in American amateur wrestling. Otapalik writes in this book “Six Years ago catch-as-catch-can wrestling was an entirely different sort of affair. The men would mix a choke hold with a hook-scissors around the body that would put one of them out for a matter of hours or even days…the sport was too brutal and we needed a tranisition. All strangle holds were barred and such bone breaking holds as the full nelson, toe-holds, and twisting arm locks met their doom. The AAU soon took a hand in seeing that more rules were set up. The National Collegiate Athletic Association stepped up and revised and modernized the rules of the game to such an extent that there is now practically no danger to the growing boy in wrestling…….”

Mike Chapman and others feel that Hugo Otapalik was great for the sport but what Hugo Otapalik did in watering down amateur wrestling in America is unforgiveable in my opinion. I could have understood not allowing submissions for grade school, middle school and even early high school but think of how different things would be today if the rules of pinfall AND submission were still in place in high school varsity and college. Wrestlers are already dominating mixed martial arts at the highest levels but think of how dominant they would be if they had drilled submissions with their wrestling from an early age. Think of Dan Severn against Royce Gracie in the early UFCs and how the outcome of fights in the early days could have been different. It is even doubtful that a jiu-jitsu movement in America would have existed at all had the rules not changed. It is great that there is jiu-jitsu but think of how much better it would have been for wrestlers going into mma had the rules not changed. I didn’t know all of this until I was training for mma after wrestling in high school and college. It isn’t a tough transition but it would have been much easier if the original rules of American wrestling had remained in place.