January 2013

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Just Call Him Si By Chris Brewer F ormer University of Iowa wrestling national champion Simon Roberts was recognized as honorary captain when the Hawkeyes defeated Iowa State, 32-3, on Dec. 1 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They were two historic dates separated by only four years. They featured the same two co-stars, and they should always be remembered for their milestone moments in Iowa and NCAA wrestling history. Roberts, a native of Davenport, Iowa, won the 1957 NCAA championship at 147 pounds. He became the sixth wrestler in school history to win a national title, and the first African-American national champion in NCAA wrestling history when he defeated Iowa State's Ron Gray, 2-2, 2-0, in overtime. Roberts called Gray the best wrestler in the country, and when reminded that for at least one day on the national stage that moniker belong to Roberts, he humbly replied, "I guess so. I'm sure he's looking for me. We had two matches and I was fortunate to come out on top of both of them." "I wasn't supposed to win the title," said Roberts. "The guy I beat was undefeated. It was a guy named Ron Gray. He was quite a wrestler at Iowa State and at Eagle Grove, Iowa, when he was in high school. He was kind of a legend in wrestling in the state of Iowa." Gray may have been the legend, but Roberts was the trailblazer. Before their historic 1957 title bout, Roberts defeated Gray in the Iowa high school state finals to become the first African-American to win an Iowa state high school wrestling championship. Roberts compiled a 62-8-4 record at Iowa from 1956-58. He placed third at the Big Ten tournament in 1956 and finished runner-up the following year. He eventually won the conference title at 147 pounds in 1958. While wrestling for Davenport Central High School in 1954, Roberts won the 133-pound state title. He was a member of Central's 1989 Hall of Fame class, and inducted into the Iowa Wrestlers Hall of Fame in 1988 and the National Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1994. 29

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