Updated: June 7, 2012

By WIN Staff

1964 Olympics: Nebraskan Brand led U.S. effort with a bronze medal

Dan Brand remembers the 1964 Tokyo Olympics like they were yesterday. But he realizes his accomplishments from 40 years ago have largely been forgotten.

“When people ask when I wrestled in the Olympics, I say ‘before the Civil War,’” Brand said. “Because 1964 might as well be 1864 to some people.”

USA Wrestling claimed Brad Vering of Howells, Neb., was the first Nebraskan to make a World or Olympic Team in wrestling. That is news to Brand, who was born and raised in Lincoln.

His family moved to Bellevue, Neb., when he was 16, and he graduated from Bellevue High School in 1953. He then graduated from the University of Nebraska. Now he’s 68 years old and a retired engineer living in Oakland, Calif.

“I am a Nebraska boy who is very proud of where he came from,” Brand said. “Fame is fleeting, I guess.”

Brand placed fifth in freestyle wrestling at the 1960 Rome Olympics at 191 pounds and won a bronze medal in Tokyo in 1964. He also was fourth in the world in 1961 and third in 1962. His 1964 medal was the only one earned by the U.S. that Olympics.

Brand planned to hang up his singlet after 1960, but Nebraska coach Bill Smith talked him out of retirement.

“Bill was hired as the coach at the San Francisco Olympic Club, and he recruited me to come there in 1961,” Brand said. “He found me a job as a civil engineer.”

Brand learned from Smith to use his height advantage. He adopted a move called a whizzer throw, in which he locked over an opponent’s arm, turned his hips and kicked his opponent’s legs out from under him.

Brand finished third in the 1964 Olympics after dropping a controversial bout to Hasan Gungor of Turkey in the semifinals. Gungor was a 1960 gold medalist. The three mat judges ruled the match a draw. The match then went to a jury, which awarded the win to Gungor.

Brand was only U.S. medalist in freestyle or Greco. Four Americans finished just out of the medals in fourth place: Dave Aubel (125.5) and Bobby Douglas (139) in freestyle, Richard Wilson (114.5) and Ron Finley (139) in Greco. Four other freestylers finished in the top seven, while three finished at least seventh in Greco.


1968 Olympics: Sanders and Behm left Mexico City with silver medals

There would not be any gold medal for the United States during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, where the grapplers competed in a local ice-skating rink, Pista de Hielo.

But the Americans showed some depth as two wrestlers in freestyle earned an Olympic medal; one-half of the four medals earned by any team in the Western Hemisphere.

Leading the way were Richard Sanders at 114.5 and Donald Behm at 125.5, both earning silver medals.

Sanders, a native of Portland, Ore., won four preliminary matches — all by fall — before losing to Shigeo Nakata of Japan in the finals. Behm, who called Lansing, Mich., his home, finished second to Japan’s Yojiro Uetake, after he won four preliminary matches, one by fall, and recorded a draw.

Just missing out of medal contention were Wayne Wells (154.5) and Thomas Peckham (192) who finished fourth. Wells, who would later earn a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, reached the sixth round where the Houston, Texas, native was eliminated by eventual silver medalist  Enio Valtchev of Bulgaria. Peckham, a native of Ames, Iowa, also was eliminated by a silver medalist, Munkhbat Jigjid of Mongolia.

The United States’ chances of another medal winner were diminished when Bobby Douglas, the captain of the team, was injured in a first-round match at 139 with S. Abassy of Iran and was forced to withdraw.

Other Americans who placed were heavyweight Larry Kristoff (fifth) and Jesse Lewis who was sixth at 213.5.

Of special note in freestyle was a much-anticipated match between 1964 light heavyweight Alexander Medved of the Soviet Union and 1960 gold medal heavyweight Wilfried Dietrich of West Germany. The match lasted only seconds when the German was forced to default because of a leg injury.

The American Greco-Roman team was once again prevented from walking up the medal stand as a fifth place (Wayne Baughman, 192) and sixth place (Werner Holzer, 154.5) were the U.S.’s highest finishes.

Baughman, from Colorado Springs, Colo., reached the fifth round where he was pinned by eventual silver medalist Valentin Olenik of Russia. Holzer, a native of Des Plaines, Ill., actually finished in a tie for sixth place with Gennady Sapunov of Russia.